What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a virus that kills off your body's CD4 (or T-helper) cells – the very cells that help your body fight off infection and disease. In the more than two decades since this disease was first reported, AIDS has become a global epidemic. In the US, an estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV. The disease is fatal.
How does one get HIV/AIDS?
Sexual contact and sharing needles with someone who is HIV-positive are the most common ways that the virus is transmitted. Body fluids known
to carry the HIV virus are blood and fluids containing blood, semen, vaginal
fluid, and breast milk. Other body fluids that could transmit the virus to
others include the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, fluid
surrounding the bone joints, and the amniotic fluid surrounding an unborn baby.
What can be the consequences of HIV/AIDS?
- When first infected with HIV, you
may have no symptoms at all, although it's more common to develop a brief
flu-like illness two to six weeks after becoming infected. With or without
symptoms, the virus may be transmitted to sexual partners.
- Once the virus enters your body,
your immune system comes under attack. The virus multiplies in your lymph nodes
and slowly begins to destroy your helper T cells (CD4 lymphocytes) — the white
blood cells that coordinate your entire immune system.
- You may remain symptom-free for 8
or 9 years or more. But the virus continues to multiply and destroy immune
cells. Tests are likely to show a sharp decline in the number of these cells in
- Chronic symptoms usually include
swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, weight loss, fever, cough, and shortness of
- During the last phase of HIV
(approximately 10 or more years after the initial infection) more serious
symptoms may begin to appear, and the infection may then meet the official
definition of AIDS. By the time AIDS develops, your immune system has been
severely damaged, making you susceptible to many devastating opportunistic
infections as well as some cancers.
What treatment, if any, is available for HIV/AIDS?
no cure for AIDS. Drugs have been developed to help, but none of them can cure HIV/AIDS.
Many of the new drugs have side effects that can be quite severe, and most are
expensive. Antiretroviral therapy, is the standard of care for most people living
information about HIV/AIDS visit: CDC Mayo Clinic
For confidential risk counseling, please call 260-422-3544 or
text 224-585-3544 to make an appointment.
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