That's what a hospital consultant asked a colleague of mine (in for a minor operation) last week. And if a highly educated health specialist in a major London hospital's got such a false picture of HIV - still incurable, by the way - what hope do we have with the general public?
Every 90 minutes someone new gets diagnosed with HIV in the UK. More and more of them are gay men, of all ages, but the numbers of heterosexuals infected here in the UK are also rising. Like accidental pregnancy and drunk driving, everybody knows the risks but nobody thinks it can happen to them. Worse, some people don't think it will matter if it does, because they falsely believe there's a cure, or that treatment means HIV doesn't matter any more.
Try telling someone who's been rejected by a string of dates that HIV doesn't matter. Try telling someone who's been turned down for promotion five times in a row that HIV doesn't matter. Try telling someone who can't take a job in any Middle East state, or Russia, or Australia because they have HIV that it doesn't matter. Try telling someone with severe side effects, unable to find a job but dumped off their disability benefits, that HIV doesn't matter.
HIV might not kill you early, but it will still disadvantage you for the rest of your life, financially, socially and in health terms. So why would you want to face that unnecessarily?
Ironically, despite the rising numbers, reducing the spread of HIV has never been easier. Condoms work - without them, far more people would have been infected - but now we also know that if you do have HIV, getting tested and on treatment can also reduce your chances of passing on the virus to almost zero. Four in five people who get HIV do so from someone who had no idea they were infected, because they hadn't tested. If you have HIV, you can now save not only your own life but also others by getting tested and treated.
So to bring HIV transmission down we either need to stop people having sex (yes, because that's always worked so well throughout history) or we need to reinforce twin messages; use condoms and test regularly if you change partners. A new national campaign, It Starts With Me, launches this week to pass those messages on. It's aimed mainly at gay men and African people in the UK - those at highest risk - but it has something for everyone. On www.startswithme.org.uk you can check your HIV risk, find a place to test, find discount condoms and hear real life stories. You can download a video or a poster and pass the message on that together, we can stop HIV.
So, till there really is a cure for "the AIDS", It Starts With Me. Check it out.Suggest a correction