HIV Infection and AIDS
(Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)
DefinitionHuman immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the white blood cells called helper T cells (CD4). These cells are part of the immune system. They fight off infections and disease. As a result, an HIV infection can leave you vulnerable to severe illnesses.AIDS is a late stage of HIV infection. It reflects severe damage to the immune system. One or more opportunistic infections will also likely exist. Opportunistic infections are a type of infection that only occur in people with compromised immune systems.
CausesHIV is spread through contact with HIV-infected blood or other body fluids. This includes semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. The infection may be the result of HIV-1 or HIV-2 virus.AIDS is caused by the destruction of T cells. The destruction is caused by the HIV virus.
|HIV destroys white blood cells vital to the immune system.|
|Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.|
- Sexual contact with an HIV-infected person, especially vaginal or anal sex
- Transfer of HIV from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding
- Using an HIV-contaminated needle
- A blood transfusion with HIV-infected blood
- Blood from an HIV-infected person getting into an open wound of another person
- Being bitten by someone infected with HIV
- Sharing personal hygiene items with an HIV-infected person
Risk FactorsFactors that increase your chance of getting HIV include:
- Sexual relationship with a high-risk individual or a partner already infected with HIV
- Multiple sexual partners
- Sex without using a condom including vaginal and anal sex
- Having other sexually transmitted diseases
- Injecting illegal drugs, especially with used or dirty needles
- Regular exposure to HIV-contaminated blood or other body fluids
- Being born to an HIV-infected mother
- Living in or being from a geographic locations with high numbers of AIDS patients
- Receiving donor blood products, tissue, organs, or artificial insemination before 1985 (infections from donated tissue after 1985 is unlikely due to strict screening processes)
- Uncircumcised penis—circumcised men are less likely to develop HIV infection than uncircumcised men.
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