Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). By killing or damaging cells of the body's immune system, HIV progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infections. When someone has one or more of these infections and a low number of T cells, he or she has AIDS.
Whereas there are symptoms of HIV, the only way to know that you are living with the virus is to be tested. Everyone should know their HIV status to protect themselves and others.
Over one million Americans are living with HIV/AIDS today. Worldwide, the figure is over 33 million. Effective HIV care—including antiretroviral drug therapies and regular access to primary health care—can help people manage their HIV disease and live longer.
Prevention & education:
HIV and AIDS are life threatening conditions. There is no cure yet for HIV/AIDS. The transmission of HIV occurs through three well documented means: 1) having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV; 2) sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV; and 3) being exposed (fetus or infant) to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding. HIV transmission can be prevented through avoiding behaviors that expose someone to the means of transmission and by taking preventive measures if identified risk behaviors occur.
To protect yourself, do not inject illicit drugs and remember these ABCs:
HIV is not transmitted through day-to-day activities such as shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. You also cannot get HIV from mosquitoes.
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS yet despite the large efforts underway to develop a preventative and therapeutic vaccine. However, research has advanced HIV/AIDS treatments greatly since the early days of the epidemic, and HIV drugs can slow down the virus’s attack on the human immune system. People with HIV/AIDS can now live healthier, longer lives.
Living with HIV/AIDS requires consultation with an HIV doctor who can help individuals with treatment and drug decisions. The decision to start drug treatment is a very personal decision and one that should only be made in consultation with a health care provider based on clinical status (symptoms), immune system health (CD4 count and viral load), whether a diagnosis of AIDS has been made, and whether a treatment plan can be maintained (treatment adherence). While treatment has its benefits, it also has its risks, such as multiple side effects from HIV drugs and therapies, potential toxicity from drug treatments, as well as possible resistance of HIV to drugs over time.
As HIV attacks the human immune system, the immune system weakens over time and becomes more susceptible to opportunistic infections (OIs). Opportunistic infections are generally illnesses that don’t make people with a healthy immune system sick or don’t occur as often. There are many kinds of opportunistic infections, including other viruses, bacterial infections, and some types of cancers. Even common colds can become more dangerous and the flu is considered a serious condition in persons with HIV/AIDS.
To name just a few, common HIV/AIDS related health issues include:
Pneumocystis carinii pneumosia (PCP)
HIV/AIDS can make treating opportunistic infections more difficult. The longer an individual’s immune system can be kept healthy through diet, exercise, and working with health care providers regarding making treatment decisions and adherence to treatment regimens, the less likely opportunistic infections may occur.
Let’s swear to get this world rid of AIDS, today.