HIV & AIDS Information
HIV is a virus that makes it difficult for the body to fight off other infections. The letters "HIV" stand for "Human Immunodeficiency Virus". It can only be passed from person to person. The virus is found in four body fluids: blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluids. When any of these fluids are exchanged between an individual who has the virus (HIV+) and an individual who does not have HIV (HIV-), the person without the virus is at risk of contracting it.
Having unprotected sex or sharing intravenous needles are the primary ways the virus is spread from person to person. However, any action where blood, semen, breast milk, or vaginal fluids are exchanged can put an individual at risk of contracting the virus. There is no cure for HIV.
HIV is Not
|HIV is not passed through handshakes, hugging, or even kissing.||HIV is not from monkeys, but only from direct contact of person to person.|
|HIV is not passed by mosquitoes.||HIV is not known to be passed through saliva, sweat, or tears.|
|HIV is not spread through coughing or sneezing.||HIV is not a "gay disease". It's not who you are, it's what you do that puts you at risk.|
|HIV is not a "death sentence". It's possible to live a long, healthy life with HIV.||HIV is not AIDS. HIV can become AIDS, but only a doctor can diagnose someone with AIDS.|
What is AIDS?
"AIDS" is short for "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome". All individuals who have AIDS are HIV+, but an AIDS diagnosis can only be assessed by a doctor. In technical terms, every human has cells in their body to fight off infections. These cells are called "CD4+T cells" or "T-cells". These cells are measured by their volume in a small drop (cubic millimeter) of blood.
Healthy teenagers and adults who do not have HIV typically have a T-cell count of 800 or higher. Once someone becomes HIV+ the virus attacks these cells, making it more difficult for the infected person to resist other illnesses (like pneumonia, or the common cold). When the individuals T-cells drop below 200, or if an "opportunistic infection" develops, that person's health is severely compromised and they may be diagnosed with AIDS.
Most people who are not living with the HIV virus are not at risk for opportunistic infections (OI's). These infections are so named because the pathogens take the opportunity to develop into infections in HIV+ individuals. Here are a few types of opportunistic infections:
- PCP (Pneumocystic Carinii Pneumonia): an inflammation of the lungs (pneumonia)
- Kaposi’s sarcoma: a kind of skin cancer
- CMV (Cytomegalovirus): an infection that usually affects the eyes
- Candida: a fungal infection that can cause thrush (a white film in the mouth) or infections in the throat or vagina
Treatments for HIV & AIDS
Although there is no cure for HIV, today's medications can combat the virus and make it "undetectable". Still, it will not disappear completely. Each year, new treatments are developed to fight the virus, and modern technology rapidly changes the face of the disease. With proper drug therapies and management, it is possible to live a long, healthy life with HIV.
3D Model of an HIV Cell