do you gets aids
of HIV test
to correct that/remedy
|What is HIV?.........................................................................................................................-----------------------------------------------...................
is the human immunodeficiency virus that causes
AIDS. A member of a group of viruses called
retroviruses, HIV infects human cells and uses
the energy and nutrients provided by those cells
to grow and reproduce.
What Is AIDS?
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a
disease in which the body's immune system breaks
down and is unable to fight off certain
infections, known as "opportunistic
infections," and other illnesses that take
advantage of a weakened immune system.
When a person is infected with HIV, the virus
enters the body and lives and multiplies
primarily in the white blood cells. These are the
immune cells that normally protect us from
disease. The hallmark of HIV infection is the
progressive loss of a specific type of immune
cell called T-helper or CD4 cells.
As the virus grows, it damages or kills these
and other cells, weakening the immune system and
leaving the individual vulnerable to various
opportunistic infections and other illnesses,
ranging from pneumonia to cancer. The U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
defines someone as having a clinical diagnosis of
AIDS if they have tested positive for HIV and
meet one or both of these conditions:
- They have experienced one or more
AIDS-related infections or illnesses.
- The number of CD4 cells has reached or
fallen below 200 per cubic millimeter of
blood (a measurement known as T-cell
In healthy individuals, the CD4 count normally
ranges from 450 to 1200.
How Quickly Do People Infected with HIV
In some people, the T-cell decline and
opportunistic infections that signal AIDS develop
soon after initial infection with HIV. Most
people remain asymptomatic for 10 to 12 years,
and a few for much longer. As with most diseases,
early medical care can help prolong a person's
How Many People Are Affected By HIV/AIDS?
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
(UNAIDS) estimates that there are now over 34
million people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide.
Most of them do not know they carry HIV and may
be spreading the virus to others. Here in the
U.S., nearly one million people have HIV
infection or AIDS roughly one out of every 250
people. At least 40,000 Americans become newly
infected with HIV each year, and it is estimated
that half of all people with HIV in the U.S. have
not been tested and do not know they are carrying
Since the beginning of the epidemic, AIDS has
killed nearly 19 million people worldwide,
including some 425,000 Americans. AIDS has
replaced malaria and tuberculosis as the world's
deadliest infectious disease among adults and is
the fourth leading cause of death worldwide. Over
13 million children have been orphaned by the
How Is HIV Transmitted?
A person who is HIV-infected carries the virus
in certain body fluids, including blood, semen,
vaginal secretions, and breast milk. The virus
can be transmitted only if such HIV-infected
fluids enter the bloodstream of another person.
This kind of direct entry can occur (1) through
the linings of the vagina, rectum, mouth, and the
opening at the tip of the penis; (2) through
intravenous injection with a syringe; or (3)
through a break in the skin, such as a cut or
sore. Usually, HIV is transmitted through:
- Unprotected sexual intercourse (either
vaginal or anal) with someone who is
Women are at greater risk of HIV
infection through vaginal sex than men,
although the virus can also be
transmitted from women to men. Anal sex
(whether male-male or male-female) poses
a high risk mainly to the receptive
partner, because the lining of the anus
and rectum are extremely thin and filled
with small blood vessels that can be
easily injured during intercourse.
- Unprotected oral sex with someone who
There are far fewer cases of HIV
transmission attributed to oral sex than
to either vaginal or anal intercourse,
but oral-genital contact poses a clear
risk of HIV-infection, particularly when
ejaculation occurs in the mouth. This
risk is increased when either partner has
cuts or sores, such as those caused by
sexually transmitted diseases (STDs),
recent tooth-brushing, or canker sores,
which can allow the virus to enter the
- Sharing needles or syringes with
someone who is HIV-infected.
Laboratory studies show that infectious
HIV can survive in used needles for a
month or more, and should never reuse or
share syringes, water, or drug
preparation equipment. This includes
needles or syringes used to inject
illegal drugs such as heroin, as well as
steroids. Other types of needles, such as
those used for body piercing and tattoos,
can also carry HIV.
- Infection during pregnancy,
childbirth, or breast-feeding
Any woman who is pregnant or considering
becoming pregnant and thinks she may have
been exposed to HIV even if the exposure
occurred years ago should seek testing
and counseling. Mother-to-infant
transmission has been reduced to just a
few cases each year in the U.S., where
pregnant women are tested for HIV, and
those who test positive are provided with
drugs to prevent transmission and
counseled not to breast-feed.
How Is HIV Not Transmitted?
HIV is not an easy virus to pass from one
person to another. It is not transmitted through
food or air (for instance, by coughing or
sneezing). There has never been a case where a
person was infected by a household member,
relative, co-worker, or friend through casual or
everyday contact such as sharing eating utensils
and bathroom facilities or hugging and kissing.
(Most scientists agree that while HIV
transmission through deep or prolonged
"French" kissing may be possible, it
would be extremely unlikely.)
Here in the U.S., screening the blood supply
for HIV has virtually eliminated the risk of
infection through blood transfusions. (And you
cannot get HIV from giving blood at a blood bank
or other established blood collection center.)
Sweat, tears, vomit, feces, and urine do contain
HIV, but have not been reported to transmit the
disease (apart from two cases involving
transmission from feces via cut skin). Mosquitos,
fleas, and other insects do not transmit HIV.
How Can I Reduce My Risk of Becoming Infected
with HIV Through Sexual Contact?
If you are sexually active, protect yourself
from HIV infection by practicing safer sex.
Whenever you have sex, use a condom or
"dental dam" (a square of latex
recommended for use during oral-genital and
oral-anal sex). When used properly and
consistently, condoms are extremely effective.
- Use only latex condoms (or dental dams).
Lambskin products provide little
protection against HIV.
- Use only water-based lubricants. Latex
condoms are virtually useless when
combined with oil- or petroleum-based
lubricants such as Vaseline or hand
lotion. (People with latex allergies can
use polyethylene condoms with oil-based
- Use protection each and every time you
- If needed, consult a nurse, doctor, or
health educator for guidance on the
proper use of latex barriers.
How Can I Avoid Acquiring HIV From a
If you are injecting drugs of any type,
including steroids, do not share syringes or
other injection equipment with anyone else.
(Disinfecting previously used needles and
syringes with bleach can reduce the risk of HIV
transmission.) If you are planning to have any
part of your body pierced or to get a tattoo, be
sure to see a qualified professional who uses
sterile equipment. Detailed HIV prevention
information for drug users who continue to inject
is available from the CDC's National Prevention
Information Network at 1-800-458-5231 or online.
Is There a Link Between HIV and Other STDs?
Having a sexually transmitted disease can
increase your risk of acquiring and transmitting
HIV. This is true whether you have open sores or
breaks in the skin (as with syphilis, herpes,
chancroid) or not (as with chlamydia and
gonorrhea). Where there are breaks in the skin,
HIV can enter and exit the body more easily. Even
when there are no breaks in the skin, STDs can
cause biological changes that may make HIV
transmission more likely. Studies show that
HIV-infected individuals who are infected with
another STD are three to five times more likely
to contract or transmit the virus through sexual
Are There Other Ways to Avoid Getting HIV
The male condom is the only widely available
barrier against sexual transmission of HIV.
Female condoms are fairly unpopular in the U.S.
and still relatively expensive, but they are
gaining acceptance in some developing countries.
Efforts are also underway to develop topical
creams or gels called "microbicides,"
which can be applied prior to sexual intercourse
to kill HIV and block other STDs that facilitate
Are Some People at Greater Risk of HIV
Infection Than Others?
HIV does not discriminate. It is not who you
are, but what you do that determines whether you
can become infected with HIV. Worldwide, sexual
intercourse is by far the most common mode of HIV
transmission, but in the U.S., as many as half of
all new HIV infections are now associated either
directly or indirectly with injection drug use
(i.e., using HIV-contaminated needles to inject
drugs or having sexual contact with an
HIV-infected drug user). Overall, HIV infection
is spreading fastest in this country among young
people, women, African Americans, and Hispanics.
Are Women Especially Vulnerable to HIV?
In western countries, women are four times
more likely to contract HIV through vaginal sex
with infected males than vice versa. This
biological vulnerability is worsened by social
and cultural factors that often undermine women's
ability to avoid sex with partners who are
HIV-infected or to insist on condom use. In the
U.S., the proportion of AIDS cases among women
more than tripled from 7% in 1985 to 23% in 1999.
African American and Hispanic women, who
represent less than one-quarter of U.S. women,
represent nearly 80% of AIDS cases reported among
American women to date.
Are Young People at Significant Risk of HIV
Nearly half of the roughly 40,000 Americans
newly infected with HIV each year are under the
age of 25. Approximately two young Americans
become infected with HIV every hour of every day,
and about 25% of the people now living with HIV
in this country became infected when they were
teenagers. Statistics show that by the age of 19,
at least half of females and 60% of males in this
country have engaged in sexual intercourse, and
one in six sexually experienced teens has
contracted one or more STDs. Many young people
also use drugs and alcohol, which can increase
the likelihood that they will engage in high-risk
Are There Treatments for HIV/AIDS?
For many years, there were no effective
treatments for AIDS. Today, people in the United
States and other developed countries can use a
number of drugs to treat HIV infection and AIDS.
Some of these are designed to treat the
opportunistic infections and illnesses that
affect people with HIV/AIDS. In addition, several
types of drugs seek to prevent HIV from
reproducing and destroying the body's immune
- Reverse transcriptase inhibitors attack
an HIV enzyme called reverse
transcriptase. They include abacavir,
delavirdine, didanosine (ddI), efavirenz,
lamivudine (3TC), nevirapine, stavudine
(d4T), zalcitabine (ddC), and zidovudine
- Protease inhibitors attack the HIV enzyme
protease and include amprenavir,
indinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, and
Many HIV patients are taking several of these
drugs in combination a regimen known as highly
active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). When
successful, combination or "cocktail"
therapy can reduce the level of HIV in the
bloodstream to very low, even undetectable,
levels and sometimes enable the body's CD4 immune
cells to rebound to normal levels.
Researchers are working to develop new drugs
known as fusion inhibitors and entry inhibitors
that can prevent HIV from attaching to and
infecting human immune cells. Efforts are also
underway to identify new targets for anti-HIV
medications and to discover ways of restoring the
ability of damaged immune systems to defend
against HIV and the many illnesses that affect
HIV-infected individuals. Ultimately, advances in
rebuilding the immune system in HIV patients will
benefit people with a number of serious
illnesses, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease,
multiple sclerosis, and immune deficiencies
associated with aging and premature birth.
Is There a Cure for AIDS?
There is still no cure for AIDS. And while new
drugs are helping many people with HIV/AIDS live
longer, healthier lives, there are many problems
associated with them:
- Existing treatments do not work for many
people with HIV/AIDS.
- Anti-HIV drugs are highly toxic and can
cause serious side effects, including
heart damage, kidney failure, and
osteoporosis. Many (perhaps even most)
patients cannot tolerate long-term
treatment with HAART.
- HIV mutates constantly. In as many as 40%
of people on HAART, HIV mutates into new
viral strains that have become highly
resistant to current drugs, and as many
as 10% of newly infected Americans are
acquiring drug-resistant strains of the
- Because treatment regimens are unpleasant
and complex, many patients occasionally
miss doses of their medication. Failure
to take anti-HIV drugs on schedule and in
the prescribed dosage can encourage the
development of new viral strains that are
resistant to current HIV drugs.
- Even among those who do respond well to
treatment, HAART does not eradicate HIV.
The virus continues to replicate at low
levels and often remains hidden in
"reservoirs" in the body, such
as the lymph nodes and brain.
Importantly, roughly 95% of all people with
HIV/AIDS live in the developing world, where
there is virtually no access to antiretroviral
treatments. Here in the U.S., HAART contributed
to a significant decline in the annual number of
AIDS-related deaths between 1996 and 1998. But
the rate of this decline has now slowed markedly,
and some communities are reporting an increase in
Is There a Vaccine to Prevent HIV Infection?
Despite continued intensive research, experts
believe it will be at least a decade before we
have a safe, effective, and affordable AIDS
vaccine. And even after a vaccine is developed,
it will take many years before the millions of
people at risk of HIV infection worldwide can be
immunized. Until then, other HIV prevention
methods, such as using condoms and avoiding
needle-sharing, will remain essential.
Can You Tell Whether Someone Else Has HIV or
You cannot tell by looking at someone whether
he or she is infected with HIV or has AIDS. An
infected person can appear completely healthy.
But anyone infected with HIV can infect other
people, even if no symptoms are present.
How Can I Know Whether I'm HIV-Infected?
Immediately after infection, some people may
develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms or
persistent swollen glands. Even if you look and
feel healthy, you may be infected. The only way
to know your HIV status for sure is to be tested
for HIV antibodies proteins the body produces in
an effort to fight off infection. This usually
requires a blood sample. If a person's blood has
HIV antibodies, that means the person is
Should I Get Tested?
If you think you might have been exposed to
HIV, you should get tested as soon as possible.
- Even in the early stages of infection,
you can take concrete steps to protect
your long-term health. Many physicians
still recommend a "hit early and hit
hard" approach to anti-HIV therapy.
- But even if you don't begin taking
medications right away, regular check-ups
with a doctor who has experience with
HIV/AIDS will enable you (and your family
members or loved ones) to make the best
decisions about how and when to begin
treatment, without waiting until you get
- Taking an active approach to managing HIV
may give you many more years of healthy
life than you would otherwise have.
- If you are HIV-positive, you will be able
to take the precautions necessary to
protect others from becoming infected.
- If you are HIV-positive and pregnant, you
can take medications and other
precautions to significantly reduce the
risk of infecting your infant, including
refraining from breast-feeding.
How Can I Get Tested?
Most people are tested by private physicians,
at local health department facilities, or in
hospitals. In addition, many states offer
anonymous HIV testing. It is important to seek
testing at a place that also provides counseling
about HIV and AIDS. Counselors can answer
questions about high-risk behavior and suggest
ways you can protect yourself and others in the
future. They can also help you understand the
meaning of the test results and refer you to
local AIDS-related resources.
Though less readily available, there is also a
viral load test that can reveal the presence of
HIV in the blood within 3 to 5 days of initial
exposure, as well as highly accurate saliva tests
that are nearly equivalent to blood tests in
determining HIV antibody status. You can also
purchase a kit that allows you to collect your
own blood sample, send it to a lab for testing,
and receive the results anonymously. Only the
"Home Access" brand kit is approved by
the Food and Drug Administration. It can be found
at most drug stores.
Keep in mind that while most blood tests are
able to detect HIV infection within four weeks of
initial exposure, it can sometimes take as long
as three to six months for antibodies to reach
detectable levels. The CDC currently recommend
testing six months after the last possible
exposure to HIV.
The CDC's National AIDS Hotline can answer
questions about HIV testing and refer you to
testing sites in your area. Operators are
available toll-free, 24 hours a day, seven days a
1-888-232-6348 (TTY/deaf access)
Where Can I Get More Information About HIV
There are many valuable sources of HIV/AIDS
information, including your state or local health
department (see your local phonebook), and your
local AIDS service organization (see your local
phonebook). You can also access resources over
the internet. For more information, see
Directory resource list.
How Can I Help Fight HIV/AIDS?
Everyone can play a role in dealing with this
epidemic. Here are just a few suggestions for how
you can make a difference in the fight against
- Volunteer with your local AIDS service
- Talk with the young people you know about
- Urge government officials to provide
adequate funding for AIDS research,
prevention education, medical care, and
- Speak out against AIDS-related
- Support continued research to develop
better treatments and a safe and
effective AIDS vaccine by making a
donation to amfAR.
This article was provided by American Foundation for