White Blood Cells And AIDS
In healthy individuals, white blood cells destroy and attack foreign organisms that attack your body
and cause disease. This response is coordinated by the CD4 lymphocytes, which is the very cell the
HIV virus attacks and destroys. Once the virus is inside your body, it begins
reproducing itself and entering the bloodstream. This cycle is repeated over and again until the body does
enough of the CD4 cells to fight infection.
There are several ways a person can get infected with the HIV virus. The main way is from sexual
transmission. You can be infected during vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected person. They must
transfer semen, blood, or vaginal secretions to their partner during intercourse. You should know that HIV
could be transferred to another person if they share sexual devices that are not washed, sanitized, or covered with
a condom. Small tears that can occur during intercourse allow the secretions to invade your body. If
you already have a sexually transferred disease, the risk for developing HIV is greater. Contrary to what was
previously thought, the spermicide nonoxynol-9 may make a woman more at risk because it irritates the lining of the
Before 1985 when hospitals and blood banks started testing blood supplies, there was a risk of
receiving the virus during a transfusion. This could come from whole blood, fresh-frozen plasma and
platelets, or packed red cells. Donor screening has improved so the risks of receiving the HIV virus
Did You Know?
There are some ways you cannot get AIDS! Many of these myths persisted for years
after scientists proved AIDS could not be transferred in these ways.
You cannot get AIDS from food or water. Again, it is only transferred by sexual
contact or contact with body fluids of an individual who has HIV or AIDS. Yes, I know there was a
myth flying around you could get AIDS by getting a mosquito bite, but again this is not true.
Insects and animals cannot transfer the virus to a human. It is fine to adopt a pet from a person
who has AIDS.
Giving blood cannot give you AIDS. The danger is in receiving tainted blood that
has been donated by someone who has AIDS. Since 1985, this has been rare because all donated blood
is run through tests to insure it is not infected with HIV. It is safe to give blood because all
medical equipment used is sterilized and clean.
Last, you cannot get AIDS from having every-day contact with a person suffering
from AIDS. Shaking hands, giving a hug, or being in the same room with an AIDS patient will not
cause you to be infected.
Drug users are at high risk for being infected because they often share needles and other drug
paraphernalia. Needles and syringes that have been contaminated with infected blood easily
transfer HIV. If you already have hepatitis or engage in sexual related behavior that could put you
at higher risk you are more at risk. You can try to reduce your risk of getting HIV by sterilizing
needles and syringes you are sharing with other drug users. Household bleach is good for
decontaminating these items, or you may find a local program that will exchanged used needles for
Accidental needle sticks is another way of getting the HIV virus. If you are in the health care field,
you should take normal precautions when you are dealing with blood or other bodily fluids. The
patient you are working with may not have symptoms or signs of HIV or AIDS, but we know they are
still infectious. In other rare incidents, a person may receive the HIV virus during an organ or tissue
donor transplant. Another risk is dental or surgical equipment that has not been properly sterilized.
Making sure your immune system is in top shape is the best way to prolong life with HIV and
A mother can infect her unborn child with the HIV virus during delivery or by breast-feeding
baby. The percentage of an HIV mother passing the virus to her unborn child is 40 percent higher in
poorer, underdeveloped countries. If the mother has received treatment for HIV they reduce the
risk for transferring the disease to their unborn child. When treatment for HIV is not available, a
doctor will sometimes deliver a baby by cesarean section to avoid passing the disease to the baby
through a vaginal delivery.