Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
HIV damages your immune system and interferes with your body’s ability to fight the organisms that cause disease. You can’t get AIDS if you haven’t contracted HIV.
How it is transmitted
Although HIV is found throughout all the tissues of the body, only certain body fluids—blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit HIV.
These fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to occur. Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, vagina, penis, and mouth.
1. Mother to child
A mother can transmit HIV to her child during childbirth, pregnancy, and also through breastfeeding.
The virus is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It can be spread if you have sex with an infected person without a condom where you come into contact with infected sexual fluids (rectal, genital, or oral mucous membranes).
The risk of transmitting HIV through blood transfusion is high among people who inject drugs, sharing and reusing syringes contaminated with HIV-infected blood.
Also, in the unlikely case that a person who is infected with HIV donates blood products which have not been tested, the person who receives the blood product is likely to develop a HIV infection too.
Although rare, the same can happen in organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- General aches and pains
- Skin rash
- Sore throat
- Upset stomach
Currently there is no cure or vaccine for HIV or AIDS.
However, it can be effectively managed by the use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). ARVs prevent it from multiplying, which reduces the amount of HIV in the body (also called the viral load).
Having less HIV in the body gives the immune system a chance to recover. Even though there is still some HIV in the body, the immune system is strong enough to fight off infections and certain HIV-related cancers.
By reducing the amount of HIV in the body, ARVs improve quality of life of an infected person, extends their life expectancy, and reduces the risk of transmission.
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