Human immune deficiency virus (HIV)
HIV is a virus that gets in your body and hurts your immune system. The virus kills cells and your immune system cannot fight off germs. If HIV is not treated, it will lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Special medicines can help control the virus. Sometimes it may take years for AIDS to develop.
- The HIV virus is a germ that attacks certain types of white blood cells in human blood.
- This virus attacks a person's immune system and damages their ability to fight off some diseases.
- Without a functioning immune system to ward off other germs, the person is vulnerable to several infections caused by bacteria, fungi, other viruses, and malignancies. These may cause life-threatening illnesses.
- Some of the most common illnesses are pneumonia, meningitis, and tuberculosis.
- Individuals may also develop certain types of cancers such as Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphomas, Hodgkin's disease, and multiple basal cell carcinomas.
- Treatment of HIV can delay damage to the immune system and progression to AIDS.
Many people with HIV have no symptoms and may not realize they are infected. People who have HIV may have:
- Muscle or joint pain
- Sore throat
- Night sweats
How AIDS is spread
- Sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral) with an infected person
- Blood contamination
- Sharing needles for intravenous drug abuse
- Getting a blood transfusion from an infected blood donor
- Mother to child
- During pregnancy
- During birth
- During breast feeding
You cannot get HIV from:
- Touching, social kissing, coughing, or sneezing
- Contact with eating utensils, water fountains, toilet seats, telephones, typewriters, etc.
- Teardrops, saliva, or sweat
- Using facilities such as public swimming pools, restrooms, or gymnasiums
- Being close to other people such as on a crowded bus, in a classroom, or restaurant
People at risk for HIV are:
- People who have sex with someone who has the virus
- People who have sex with many people
- People who have sex without using a condom
- Men who have sex with men
- Drug users who share needles and syringes to inject drugs
- Paramedics, emergency responders, and health care workers
While there is presently no cure for or vaccine to prevent HIV/AIDS, a number of antiviral drugs are available to treat it. The drugs fall into three main classes:
- Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
- Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, and
- Protease inhibitors
These three classes of drugs attack HIV at different stages in the cellÕs life cycle. People with HIV are given a combination of drugs from different classes for maximum benefit. New drugs and classes of drugs are emerging as research continues.
You can prevent HIV by:
- Protect yourself or your partner by using a condom during sexual intercourse
- If you are a partner are at risk, avoid mouth contact with the penis, vagina, or rectum
- Avoid all sexual activities which could cause cuts or tears in the linings of the rectum, vagina, or penis
- If you have had unprotected intercourse with more than one person and/or your sexual partner has had unprotected sex with more than one person, have a blood test to see if you have been infected with the AIDS virus
- Do not share intravenous drug equipment
- Antiviral medications may be prescribed for unanticipated sexual or injection drug use exposure to HIV. Treatment for the exposed person must begin within 72 hours