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Author(s): Gregory L. Vogt, EdD, and Nancy P. Moreno, PhD.

Myth or Fact?

Content Advisory
Depending upon students' grade and maturity levels, the essay, ”Myth or Fact?" may be used as teacher background information or as a student reading assignment. It is especially effective when read aloud.


When bad things happen, people naturally search for answers, explanations, and something or someone to blame. This can be helpful. If we know the cause of a tragedy, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we can try to prevent it from happening again, or at least minimize its harmful effects. For example, knowledge of HIV’s origins, and means of transmission has helped researchers to find effective treatments and preventative measures.

Unfortunately, the long process of discovery and development also has produced an abundance of misinformation that is very difficult to correct. Especially these days, when technology allows almost instantaneous global distribution of Internet content—both true and untrue—it can be difficult to tell reliable information from pure fabrication. 

The initial discovery of AIDS in a group of homosexual men led to the belief that only homosexual men were at risk. But then, HIV/AIDS was found in intravenous drug users. Still later, HIV began to spread through minority groups and entire nations. Each new discovery led to new rumors and myths, some motivated by personal bias rather than an interest in the truth. Fear, denial, and misinformation have hindered education efforts and are partially are responsible for the rapid worldwide spread of the virus. HIV/AIDS causes approximately 2 million deaths per year. More than 34 million persons were living with HIV/AIDS as of 2009.


  • AIDS is a punishment from God. 
  • An HIV diagnosis is a death sentence. 
  • HIV/AIDS was created for germ warfare. 
  • Only homosexual males and drug users are affected by HIV/AIDS. 
  • HIV/AIDS is no longer a problem in the United States. 
  • Women cannot give men HIV. 
  • You can get HIV from a kiss, a cough, a sneeze, tears, a toilet or shower, a swimming pool, a mosquito bite, contaminated ketchup bottles, or a hug. 
  • Drug companies are withholding an HIV/AIDS cure to make more money. 
  • HIV prevention does not work. 
  • You can tell if someone has HIV by his or her appearance. 
  • Since there are drugs to treat HIV/ AIDS, people no longer have to worry about being infected. 
  • HIV is the result of a government conspiracy to eliminate certain groups of people. 
  • If someone is taking HIV medications, they can’t spread the virus to others. 


  • Anyone can acquire HIV. 
  • HIV infections are preventable. 
  • HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex with a carrier of HIV. 
  • HIV is transmitted through contaminated blood transfusions and the sharing of needles among drug users. 
  • HIV can be transferred from mother to child during pregnancy and nursing. 
  • Though extremely rare, HIV can be transmitted accidentally to medical workers who are stuck with needles used with patients with HIV/AIDS. 
  • Modern drug therapies can hold HIV at bay indefinitely if administered consistently. 
  • For treatments to be effective, HIV patients must take all of their medications exactly as prescribed, always on time and without missing doses. 
  • Birth control pills do not protect against HIV infection. Condoms, when used properly, reduce the transmission of HIV. Abstinence is 100% effective in preventing sexually transmitted HIV. 
  • Researchers have not yet developed a vaccine to prevent HIV infection. 
  • HIV is not a death sentence. 
  • Education is the best way to prevent HIV/AIDS.

Funded by the following grant(s)

Science Education Partnership Award, NIH

Grant Number: 5R25RR018605