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The average person living today does not know very much information about HIV and AIDS. It is very important to first make the distinction between these two medical conditions as they are just that; two conditions. Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV weakens a person’s ability to fight off infections as it targets the immune system.
People who have HIV are only said to have AIDS when they start to get infections or cancers, or when a certain blood cell count is tested and deemed to be lower than a certain amount. When this blood cell count drops below that certain amount, the person does not have the ability to fight off infection any longer. AIDS is said to be the final stage of HIV because once these infections set in or develop within the body, more often than not it is these infections that eventually lead to death.
A little over one million people have been diagnosed with AIDS since it was first diagnosed in 1981 and almost six hundred thousand people in the United States have died from this disease.
So, how do you get HIV?
A person can get HIV in several ways. First, a person can only be infected when another infected person’s body fluids, such as semen or blood, enter the non-infected person’s bloodstream. The virus enters the bloodstream from a variety of sources including linings of the mouth, sex organs, or through a cut on the skin. A few common ways people get HIV are sharing needles when using IV drugs or having unprotected sex with an infected person. Some people believe you can get HIV from touching or hugging someone that is infected, or using public bathrooms or swimming pools. This is not the case. Remember, you can only contract the disease if your body fluids come in contact with the body fluids of someone who is infected. The only way to know if you may have HIV is to get yourself tested. Most HIV tests are simple and just look for signs of HIV in your blood. Because the results are inaccurate, the Federal Drug Administration has not approved any home HIV testing kits as of now. It is recommended that all adults be tested at least once in their lifetime, and if you are a person at more risk than others because you participate in the above-said activities, you should be tested more often to protect yourself against this horrible disease.
When people are first diagnosed with HIV they tend to develop flu-like symptoms that only last for a short time and then go away. A person can have HIV for many years before the disease turns into AIDS. As HIV progresses, common signs that people start to see are fevers that do not go away, sweating profusely while sleeping, feeling tired all the time, feeling nauseated all the time, significant weight loss, and swollen glands in the neck, groin, and armpits. People with AIDS are extremely susceptible to having infection set in. Skin tumors, headaches from brain tumors, difficulty breathing, dementia, severe malnutrition, chronic diarrhea, and death are conditions brought on by AIDS.
There are currently no cures, only treatments for symptoms for people suffering from this terrible disease today. Although we have made great strides from where we were on HIV/AIDS twenty years ago, people are still suffering and dying from this disease. The best way to protect yourself from HIV is to avoid activities that put you at risk. If you have been diagnosed with HIV, help prolong your life by taking good care of yourself and developing a great relationship with your doctor.
Sources: WebMD- http://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/default.htm