World AIDS Day: Misinformation about the infection continues to spread on several social media platforms, misleading people about the nature of this oft-stigmatised disease.
By Tej Kumar
December 1 is World AIDS Day, an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV/AIDS, a major global public health challenge. Unfortunately, misinformation about the infection continues to spread on several social media platforms, misleading people about the nature of this oft-stigmatised disease.
A Facebook post, for instance, claims that HIV/AIDS is a “scam to destroy gays” and it is not actually a disease, but a “chemical toxin: Zidovudine/Retrovir/Azidothymidine/AZT”. The post further shared an Odysee (a video-sharing platform) link and a video of Eve van Grafhorst (a young Australian girl who contracted HIV from a blood transfusion) to support the claim.
First things first, the video of Eve van Grafhorst is taken from a documentary titled ‘All About Eve’. It is the true-life story of a brave girl who lost the battle with AIDS in 1993 after making outstanding efforts to break stereotypes on HIV/AIDS-affected people. The video has no mention of gays or AZT.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). AZT is a type of anti-HIV (antiretroviral) drug called a nucleoside analog. Although there is no cure for HIV infection yet, AZT was seen as a saviour drug in the late 1980s and ‘90s. It effectively blocks virus replication during the first phase of AIDS.
“AZT is the first step of progress in finding a remedy for AIDS. However, it has side effects and is ineffective in controlling later phases of the disease,” says Dr. Mukut Bhowmik, an HIV physician and Director for the NACO program at the Public Health Foundation of India.
As the virus kept mutating and resisting the drug, a single dose of AZT became unsuccessful in treating AIDS. Later, scientists developed antiretroviral drugs that control virus replications in other phases, increasing the lifespan of the HIV-affected person.
As far as the claim about “scam on gays” is concerned, Dr. Mukut asserts, “There is no such evidence. Although homosexuals are more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, data shows that there are many cases among heterosexuals too (accounting for nearly 24% of the total AIDS cases).”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were an estimated 37.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2020 and 6,80,000 people died from HIV-related causes and 1.5 million people acquired HIV last year.
This World AIDS Day, let’s fight misinformation and raise awareness to eliminate the epidemic.