WHAT DOES "AIDS" MEAN?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:
Acquired means you can get infected with it;
Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body's system that fights diseases.
Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a disease.
AIDS is caused by a virus called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). If you get infected with HIV, your body will try to fight the infection. It will make "antibodies," special immune molecules the body makes to fight HIV.
Tests for HIV look for these antibodies in your blood or mouth lining. If you have them in your blood, it means that you have HIV infection. People who have the HIV antibodies are called "HIV-Positive."
Being HIV-positive, or having HIV disease, is not the same as having AIDS. Many people are HIV-positive but don't get sick for many years. As HIV disease continues, it slowly wears down the immune system. Viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria that usually don't cause any problems can make you very sick if your immune system is damaged. These are called "opportunistic infections."
HOW DO YOU GET AIDS?
You don't actually "get" AIDS. You might get infected with HIV, and later you might develop AIDS. You can get infected with HIV from anyone who's infected, even if they don't look sick and even if they haven't tested HIV-positive yet. The blood, vaginal fluid, semen, and breast milk of people infected with HIV has enough of the virus in it to infect other people. Most people get the HIV virus by: plus size semi formal dresses under 100
having sex with an infected person who is not on treatment and has a detectable viral load.
sharing a needle (shooting drugs) with someone who's infected
being born when their mother is infected, or drinking the breast milk of an infected woman
Getting a transfusion of infected blood used to be a way people got AIDS, but now the blood supply is screened very carefully and the risk is extremely low.
There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted by tears or saliva.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I'M HIV POSITIVE?
You might not know if you are infected by HIV. Within a few weeks of being infected, some people get fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash for one or two weeks. Most people think it's the flu. Some people have no symptoms.
The virus will multiply in your body for a few weeks or even months before your immune system responds. During this time, you won't test positive for HIV, but you can infect other people.
When your immune system responds, it starts to make antibodies. When this happens, you will test positive for HIV.
After the first flu-like symptoms, some people with HIV stay healthy for ten years or longer. But during this time, HIV is damaging your immune system.
One way to measure the damage to your immune system is to count your CD4 cells you have. These cells, also called "T-helper" cells, are an important part of the immune system. Healthy people have between 500 and 1,500 CD4 cells in a milliliter of blood.
Without treatment, your CD4 cell count will most likely go down. You might start having signs of HIV disease like fevers, night sweats, diarrhea, or swollen lymph nodes. If you have HIV disease, these problems will last more than a few days, and probably continue for several weeks.
With treatment, CD4 counts can recover, or remain normal. Life expectancy for people who know their status and take antiretroviral treatment (ART) is nearly normal for people who adhere to their medications.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I HAVE AIDS?
HIV disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is seriously damaged. If you have less than 200 CD4 cells or if your CD4 percentage is less than 14%, you have AIDS. If you get an opportunistic infection, you have AIDS. There is a list of these opportunistic infections.
The most common ones are:
PCP (Pneumocystis pneumonia), a lung infection
KS (Kaposi's sarcoma), a skin cancer
CMV (Cytomegalovirus), an infection that usually affects the eyes
Candida, a fungal infection that can cause thrush (a white film in your mouth) or infections in your throat or vagina
AIDS-related symptoms also includes serious weight loss, brain tumors, and other health problems. Without treatment, these opportunistic infections can kill you.
AIDS is different in every infected person. A few people may die a few months after getting infected, but most live fairly normal lives for many years, even after they "officially" have AIDS. A few HIV-positive people stay healthy for many years even without taking antiretroviral medications (ART).
IS THERE A CURE FOR AIDS?
Though there are two cases of people who have been cured, there is currently no safe cure for HIV .
There is no way to "clear" HIV from the body. Antiretroviral therapy can prevent or reverse the damage to your immune system. Most people stay healthy if they stay adherent to ART.
Other drugs can prevent or treat opportunistic infections (OIs). ART has also reduced the rate of most OIs. In most cases, these drugs work very well. The newer, stronger ARVs have helped reduce the rates of most OIs.