HIV and AIDS Summary

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  • (HIV) HUMAN IMMUNODEFICIENCY VIRUS

    HIV is short for human immunodeficiency virus. When Ignored, HIV can lead to the disease commonly known as: AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

    To our current knowledge the human body cannot get rid of HIV.  No safe and effective solution for HIV currently exists, but scientists remain hopeful.

    HIV affects a specific cell type of the immune system, called CD4 cells, also commonly called T cells. Over time, HIV will/most likely will destroy the Majority of these cells so that the body can’t fight off infections and disease.

    The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You can ask your health care provider for an HIV test but a more private method is to test yourself. You can get an FDA-approved home HIV testing kit (the Home Access HIV-1 Test System or the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test) from most drugstores.

    (AIDS) ACQUIRED IMMUNODEFICIENCY SYNDROME

    AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDSis the final stage of HIV infection, and not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage.

    AIDS is the stage of infection that occurs when your immune system is badly damaged and you become vulnerable toopportunistic infections. When the number of your CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3), you are considered to have progressed to AIDS. (Normal CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm3.) You can also be diagnosed with AIDS if you develop one or more opportunistic infections, regardless of your CD4 count.

    Without treatment, people who are diagnosed with AIDS typically survive about 3 years. Once someone has a dangerous opportunistic illness, life expectancy without treatment falls to about 1 year. People with AIDS need medical treatment to prevent death.

    WHERE DID HIV COME FROM?

    Scientists identified a type of chimpanzee in West Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans. They believe that the chimpanzee version of the immunodeficiency virus (called simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV) most likely was transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Studies show that HIV may have jumped from apes to humans as far back as the late 1800s. Over decades, the virus slowly spread across Africa and later into other parts of the world. We know that the virus has existed in the United States since at least the mid- to late 1970s.

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