Awareness of AIDS - HIV Disease

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is what happens when a person is infected with HIV.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the actual virus or cause. AIDS is a set of diseases and symptoms that patients get years after being infected. HIV has the ability to wipe out your immune system. When bacteria, viruses, parasites and cancer cells grow in your body, all these invaders cause diseases that together are called the AIDS syndrome. The syndrome is the set of opportunistic infections and symptoms. The HIV virus doesn't kill people, the infections do.

Incubation Period

It takes anywhere between three and fifteen years for a person infected with HIV to develop AIDS. Until they develop AIDS they are considered HIV positive.

Transmission

HIV is found and can be spread thorugh body fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. It is present in saliva and tears, but generally, not enough HIV to cause infection.

The AIDS virus can be transmitted via any of these fluids, but only the first two -- semen and blood -- are likely to be involved. Anal sex is the most commonly perceived method of transfer, but vaginal sex has been repeatedly shown to transmit HIV. Men are less likely than women to be infected through vaginal sex, but there are recorded cases of men having been infected this way. Cunnilingus and fellatio have also been established as capable of transmitting the virus. Sexual activities, not sexual orientation, transmit the virus.

HIV cannot be passed on through casual contact, hugging, hand-shaking, touching the sweat of an infected person, or mosquito bites.

What to Look For: SYMPTOMS

HIV - Other than getting a blood test, there are signs you might be suspicious of. Symptoms that show in the first few months of infection are fever, chills, nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, swollen glands, and rashes. HIV causes the destruction of the immune system. It's most pronounced symptoms, therefore, are opportunistic infections of pneumocystis carinii, fungal infections, tuberculosis, and various herpes forms.

Here are some of the typical symptoms of AIDS - brown and purple bumps on the skin (cancer), extreme weight loss, white patches in the mouth, swollen glands, pneumonia-like symptoms. AIDS victims can die about two years after the symptoms begin to show. Treatment can extend their lives by months at best.

Treatment

There is no cure. New vaccines are always in development stages. Although, most treatment around HIV involves making life easier by dulling the pain, boosting energy levels, and dealing with the symptoms, rather than the cause.

High Risk Behaviors

Sharing drug-needles will spread the virus. If you are an intervenous drug user do not share needles.
Unprotected anal and vaginal sex are high risk. You can get tiny cuts on your genitals and anal passage that allow the virus to seep in from the semen or vaginal fluids. If you have cuts in your mouth and your partner's bodily fluids get on those cuts, the virus can spread. You may not know you have these cuts, so be aware of your health.

People used to get HIV from receiving infected blood during blood transfusions, but the blood supply is cleaner nowadays. You can't get HIV from donating blood.

Testing

The HIV test shows the presence of antibodies to HIV. It does not show the presence of the virus: the body first has to develop antibodies, which normally takes about six weeks. Hence, a positive result means that someone has antibodies and could possibly develop AIDS in the future. A negative result means that someone does not have antibodies at the moment. If there is a reason to think that exposure was more recent than six weeks, then a test taken immediately can only serve as a baseline to compare against a test taken later. Within six months of HIV infection, 99% of the population will test positive. No one should be tested for HIV without first obtaining counselling and ensuring beforehand support from his or her family or friends.

How to avoid AIDS

Always use a condom.
Avoid unprotected anal sex.
Don't share toothbrushes, razors or any other instrument that might transfer blood from cuts or abrasions.

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