What is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome? FAQs
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is the final stage of HIV infection. People in this stage of the disease have badly damaged immune systems and are vulnerable to other infections, called opportunistic infections. These are infections that occur because of a weakened immune system. People are diagnosed with AIDS when they have one or more specific opportunistic infections, certain cancers, or a very low number of CD4 cells, which are important parts of the immune system.
People are generally diagnosed with AIDS when they have both a low CD4 count and one or more opportunistic infections.
How is HIV spread?
There is no cure for HIV, but you can prevent HIV infection. HIV is transmitted from one person to another:
· By having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with a person who has HIV. HIV can be transmitted through blood, pre-seminal fluid, semen, and vaginal fluid.
· By sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment with a person who injects drugs and has HIV.
· Through pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. Women who have HIV can give the disease to their babies before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.
To reduce your risk of getting HIV
· Don’t have sex at all (anal, vaginal, or oral).
· Only have sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) if you are in a mutually monogamous relationship and you have both tested negative for HIV.
· Use a condom every time you have anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
· Do not share needles or other drug “works” (cotton, cookers, etc.) with anyone else.
Who is at risk for HIV?
Anyone can be infected with HIV. However, certain groups of people are disproportionately affected by HIV. This means that these groups have more HIV infections than other groups, even though their overall group size is small. In the United States these groups are disproportionately affected by HIV: gay/bisexual and other men who have sex with men (MSM), blacks/African Americans, and Hispanics/Latinos. Women—including those who are pregnant—also face risk. Those who abuse intravenous drugs and other substances are also at high risk.
If you think you are at high risk for exposure, or you have sex partners who may be, you should be tested for HIV at least once each year. Everyone between ages 13 and 64 should be tested at least once as part of routine health care.
Can you tell if a person has HIV by looking at them?
No. Not everyone with HIV looks sick, and many people have it but don’t know they’re infected.
Some people who are infected with HIV report having flu-like symptoms 2 to 4 weeks after exposure. Specific symptoms can include fever, enlarged lymph nodes, sore throat, and rash. These symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. During this time, HIV infection may not show up on an HIV test, but people who have it are highly infectious and can spread the infection to others.
Is there a cure for HIV?
No. Many researchers continue to work to find a vaccine that will prevent HIV infection, as well as treatments that may one day cure HIV. There are, however, medications that can help many people infected with HIV live with the disease, stay as healthy as possible, and prolong their lives. It is important that individuals get tested for HIV, and start medical care and treatment as soon as possible to have the greatest effect.
Are the HIV cures I read about on the Internet real?
No. There is no cure for HIV infection. Some people have claimed to have discovered a cure for HIV and attempted to sell these cures to people living with HIV. Many of these fake “cures” can do additional physical and mental harm to people living with HIV and prevent them from seeking proven treatments and support that can extend their lives.