Author: Irina

25.02.2019 13:11

HIV/AIDS: Myths, Misconceptions, and Fears

HIV/AIDS: Myths, Misconceptions, and Fears

HIV/AIDS: Myths, Misconceptions, and Fears


“Bohemian Rhapsody” premiered in 2018, promising to be the biggest biopic of the year. What it succeeded in is bringing Freddie Mercury back in all his greatness: the artist could once again be seen at Wembley, as the brilliant namesake of the movie turned into the most streamed song from the 20th century.

Despite positive critical acclaim and the Oscar win for Rami Malek the film still left me disappointed: It attempted and in a way failed to tackle one of the most prominent issues Freddie Mercury is associated with: AIDS.

Those who’ve seen the footage of “The Great Pretender” can clearly see that there is something wrong with the artist: his face almost expressionless due to the excess of makeup, the usual spark of Mercury that would drive stadiums of crowds wild barely maintained. The end of Freddie Mercury was a simple pneumonia. A perfectly curable disease fuelled and strengthened by AIDS in his case.

Despite the movie’s effort to raise awareness about Mercury’s condition, it merely glossed over the fact without diving too deep into details. And yet, it left me with the big question: what exactly is AIDS?


AIDS is mostly confused with is HIV. Let’s separate the two:

  • Human immunodeficiency virus abbreviated as HIV is a virus that attacks cells in the body’s immune system, weakening the natural defense against illness. As the HIV virus spreads through the cells, it destroys them and copies itself in their place. As a result, a person becomes more vulnerable to diseases and can not respond with natural defense mechanisms our bodies usually possess. 
  • AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome; It is a set of symptoms caused by an advanced HIV infection when a person’s immune system is too severely damaged leaving a person with no defense mechanism whatsoever.

Myths about AIDS debunked:

AIDS only occurs in gay men

The biggest misconception about AIDS is that it only affects men having homosexual encounters.

to be of a sexual character was believedThe origins of this widespread myth can be traced back to the history of the disease as the first unusual and deadly cases of pneumonia started occurring mainly in gay men. The cause of immune deficiency causing it so the disease was initially called gay-related immune deficiency (GRID).

But as cases of female contamination through heterosexual sex were detected, the name was quickly abandoned in favor of acquired immune deficiency syndrome still used today.

Interesting fact: gay men still remain the most vulnerable group to be affected by AIDS. Anal sex is considered to be 18 times riskier than vaginal sex when it comes to HIV. The cells in a person’s rear are more susceptible to the virus and semen carries more virus samples than vaginal fluids. As the pool of available partners for gay men is smaller than for heterosexuals, the cases of mutual contamination are more frequent.


Lessons learned:

It took the world more than 50 years to acknowledge AIDS as a fatal disease. It originated in the 1920s when HIV crossed species from chimpanzees to humans. At first, it remained undetected as symptoms differed from case to case. The detected disease was seen as a subject of stigma, which prevented patients from opening up about their condition.
Despite attempts of the WHO, the disease is still “going strong”, killing 940 000 people worldwide in 2017 alone.  And, despite campaigns, AIDS is still subject to taboo in many communities.

But 28 years after Freddie Mercury’s passing and almost a century after the appearance of HIV, here we are finally discussing AIDS, trying to debunk myths and counter unfounded fears surrounding the disease. And this is a step forward from days of “the Great Pretender” when even the shockingly outspoken Freddie Mercury had to hide his worsening condition.

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