What is AIDS
AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV infection. It results from the destruction of the infected person's immune
Your immune system is your body's defense system. Cells of your immune system fight off infection and other
diseases. If your immune system doesn't work well, you are at risk for serious and life-threatening infections and
cancers. HIV attacks and destroys the diesease-fighting cells of the immune system, leaving the body with a
weakened defense against infections and cancer.
How HIV is Transmitted
HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug
injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is
screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to
HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.
In the health care setting, workers have been infected with HIV after being stuck with needles containing
HIV-infected blood or, less frequently, after infected blood gets into a worker’s open cut or a mucous membrane
(for example, the eyes or inside of the nose). There has been only one instance of patients being infected by a
health care worker in the United States; this involved HIV transmission from one infected dentist to six patients.
Investigations have been completed involving more than 22,000 patients of 63 HIV-infected physicians, surgeons, and
dentists, and no other cases of this type of transmission have been identified in the United States.
Some people fear that HIV might be transmitted in other ways; however, no scientific evidence to support any of
these fears has been found. If HIV were being transmitted through other routes (such as through air, water, or
insects), the pattern of reported AIDS cases would be much different from what has been observed. For example, if
mosquitoes could transmit HIV infection, many more young children and preadolescents would have been diagnosed with
Did You Know?
|The signs of symptoms of AIDS or HIV are different depending on what stage the
infection is in. When a person is first infected they may have flu-like symptoms and swollen lymph
nodes but recover quickly.
This flu-like sickness may occur two to six weeks after being infected and is not always associated
with the possibility of HIV infection. Even if you do not have any of these symptoms until years later,
you can still infect other people with the virus.
Once your body is invaded with the HIV or AIDS virus, your immune system is under attack. Even though
you may not be having any symptoms, you can still pass the disease on to another person.
Meanwhile, even if you are symptom free, your cells that coordinate your immune system are slowly being
You can remain this way for as many as ten years but during that time you will begin it experience more
frequent infections as your immune cells are destroyed.
You may experience chronic symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, shortness of breath, cough, fever,
and unexplained weight loss.
At the end of 2003, an estimated 1,039,000 to 1,185,000 persons in the United States were living with HIV/AIDS
.* In 2005, 38,096 cases of HIV/AIDS
in adults, adolescents, and children were diagnosed in the 33 states with long-term, confidential name-based HIV
reporting . CDC has estimated that
approximately 40,000 persons in the United States become infected with HIV each year .
How is HIV passed from one person to another?
HIV transmission can occur when blood, semen (cum), pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum), vaginal fluid, or breast milk
from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person.
HIV can enter the body through a vein (e.g., injection drug use), the lining of the anus or rectum, the lining
of the vagina and/or cervix, the opening to the penis, the mouth, other mucous membranes (e.g., eyes or inside of
the nose), or cuts and sores. Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and
These are the most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another:
- by having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with an HIV-infected person;
- by sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV; or
- from HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth, or through breast-feeding after birth.
HIV also can be transmitted through receipt of infected blood or blood clotting factors. However, since 1985,
all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. Therefore, the risk of infection through
transfusion of blood or blood products is extremely low. The U.S. blood supply is considered to be among the safest
in the world.