HIV Infection and AIDS

(Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)

Definition

Human 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.

Causes

HIV 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.
Immune System
Immune system white blood cell
HIV destroys white blood cells vital to the immune system.
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
HIV is most commonly spread through:
  • 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
Rarely, HIV can be spread through:
  • 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 Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of HIV infection 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 people with AIDS
  • 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
HIV infection increases the chances of getting AIDS.

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