HIV/AIDS – The Real Deal
Most of the people around the world who have been
reported with a diagnosis of Acquired Immune Deficiency
Syndrome (AIDS) got infected with HIV through sexual
contact. The next most common way that people have
become infected is through sharing needles.
“HIV” (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and “AIDS”
(Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) mean two different
things. “HIV” refers to the virus that causes AIDS.
When people are said to be “HIV-positive” it means the
virus has been detected in their bodies. Infected
people may not feel sick. When the HIV disease process
becomes more advanced, and certain conditions are
diagnosed, then the person is said to “have AIDS.” The
amount of time varies between when a person is first
infected with HIV until he or she is diagnosed with
AIDS; it can be as little as a few months, or it may
take 10 years or longer.
You can’t tell just by looking at yourself or someone
else whether or not they have HIV. Even when people
feel good and show no physical signs, they can still be
“HIV-positive.” The only way you can be sure if
you’ve been infected with HIV is to get tested. If a
person is infected, early diagnosis and medical care can
help a person stay healthy and can lengthen the time
before AIDS develops.
can be transmitted
through different paths of infection such as:
Unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex.
Direct blood contact, which may occur through needle
sharing, transfusions, accidents in health care
settings, or certain blood products.
Mother to baby; before or during birth or through breast
HIV can be transmitted
from an infected person to another through infectious
fluids such as
(including pre-seminal fluid)
can also be transmitted through breast milk-expressed
through feeding, in limited circumstances where there is
exposure to large quantities.
To become infected with HIV, an individual must be
exposed to the virus for it to gain entry into the
bloodstream. HIV is not spread through casual contact,
such as shaking hands or hugging.
HIV is not transmitted
through saliva, urine, tears, sweat, feces or vomit.
Saliva is NOT considered to be infectious. The only
time saliva would pose a risk would be if it had blood
present in it. There are no documented cases of HIV
transmission through saliva. There is a protein in the
mouth that attaches itself to the surface of blood cells
and blocks infection by HIV that appears to be present
in the mucous membrane in the mouth at a level
sufficient enough to reduce the concentration of HIV in
saliva to non-infectious levels. Urine and Tears are NOT
considered infectious. While HIV has been found in urine
and tears, it is not concentrated in an amount
sufficient for transmission. Sweat, Feces and Vomit are
NOT considered infectious. HIV has never been found in
these materials. The only possible risk would be if
there was blood present.
When is AIDS diagnosed?
are the conditions that must be true for a person to be
diagnosed with AIDS, as defined by the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). First, test
result is “positive” for HIV (shows viral infection has
occurred). Then one or more of the following must
occur, which show that the immune system is now severely
damaged: (1) the CD4+ cell count is less than
200 (a normal CD4+ cell count in a healthy adult is
between 800-1500 mm³), or (2) the T-cell count is
less than 14% of all lymphocytes, or (3) the
person is diagnosed with one or more of the
“opportunistic infections” that are strongly associated
Because the immune system is breaking down, a person who
has HIV is more likely to become infected with one or
more of the over 25 opportunistic infections and
conditions that are associated with AIDS and that can
eventually cause death. Diseases such as Tuberculosis
(TB), Chronic Herpes Simplex, Recurrent Pneumonia,
Wasting Syndrome, Kaposi's sarcoma, Pneumocystis carinii
pneumonia, Toxoplasmosis of brain, along with many other
infections, are called “opportunistic infections”
because they take the opportunity to attack a person’s
body when it is weakened and cannot fight back.
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS.
A prescribed “drug cocktail” is available to people with
HIV, that can stop people them from becoming ill for
many years and increase their life expectancy. Those
drugs need to be taken every day for the rest of the
person’s life. Unfortunately, most of the
medications currently available to treat HIV/AIDS
have undesirable side effects such as fatigue,
anemia, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and changes in body
fat distribution (lipodystrophy), among others.