What is HIV?

Despite years of knowledge and understanding, many people are still finding themselves asking, "What is HIV?" HIV is also known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Though many people with HIV have the virus without knowing it, it is ultimately the virus that causes the development of AIDS in many patients. The virus lives in the blood and white blood cells. An HIV infection is untraceable, with no way of knowing its origins in an individual's body. It is responsible for the gradual destruction of the body's immune system. Unfortunately, it allows for the development of many diseases in the body because of weak immunity. People with HIV virus are at high risk for developing other health problems that are unrelated to the HIV virus.

What is AIDS?

AIDS occurs when the breakdown of the immune system has led to a T-Cell count of less than two hundred. This can happen by the development of several diseases that attack a weakened immune system and slowly destroy the body in various ways. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and is not a single disease in itself, but instead a condition of the body.

How does one acquire HIV and AIDS?

HIV AIDS is acquired in a variety of ways. Because HIV AIDS is transmitted through the blood and other body fluids, there are multiple causes of infection. The most obvious causes of HIV are blood transfusions and organ donations. Though tested routinely now, it is still possible to obtain the infection through this avenue if not properly screened. Other causes of HIV include the sharing of drug needles that have not been properly sterilized. Also, unprotected sex both through intercourse, and oral sex, can lead to the transmission of HIV. Perhaps the most unexpected of the causes of HIV include the transmission from mother to baby through pregnancy and nursing.

What are AIDS and HIV symptoms?

The symptoms of HIV and AIDS are hard to detect, and are not localized to any specific area of the body. Generally, the early stages of HIV are mild with little or no symptoms. It is not until a disease attacks the body and the immune system begins to struggle to fight that symptoms begin to arise. However, even these can be misdiagnosed. One of the most well known HIV symptoms is the infamous HIV rash. The HIV rash occurs on the skin and can be a reaction to drugs or a disease within the body. The HIV rash can be uncomfortable, usually goes away on its own. Other symptoms of HIV can include a cough, diarrhea, sudden weight loss, fever, lethargy, depression and white spots on the tongue. Because all of these symptoms can relate to other diseases, it is important to get tested for HIV if there is even a suspicion of infection. The test only takes about a minute, and it can be a life saver.

How do I Know if I Have HIV AIDS?

For the many finding themselves asking "what is HIV?" and "what are HIV symptoms?," the answer to the worries lies in getting tested. HIV testing is a simple blood test that tests for the detection of an HIV infection. Not only is HIV testing a wise decision, but in many cases, HIV testing has prolonged lives, with proper prevention techniques being used to fight off rapid progression to AIDS symptoms. AIDS symptoms are much easier to identify, as the deterioration of immunity becomes clear. The body stops fighting disease and eventually. AIDS symptoms include extreme weakness, weight loss, fatigue and symptoms related to mucous membranes and lesions.

How are HIV and AIDS treated?

Treatment for HIV is limited, but becoming more and more effective at controlling these two infectious diseases. There is a certain treatment for HIV called antiretroviral therapy that aggressively inhibits the amount of the virus and its productivity. Though it sounds complicated, it is actually just a combination of treatments that cause a person's infection to be less oppressive and even less contagious to others. Often times, this can be useful in making the virus almost undetectable. Treatment for HIV should be administered by a physician, as the use of some drugs in combination with others for antiretroviral therapy can be deadly. This option truly makes life more livable and encouraging for those living with the disease. Contrary to popular belief, AIDS does not mean certain death. The treatments available are allowing those with AIDS to live longer lives.

In what ways can HIV and AIDS be prevented?

Because HIV and AIDS are transferred from one person to another through bodily fluids, it is best to abstain from any activity that would lead to unsafe contact with these fluids. It is important to never share needles or other drug tools that may have blood on them. Also, using proper protection during sex is not one hundred percent guaranteed to be safe, but it is better than no protection at all. If a blood transfusion or organ replacement is on the schedule, patients should carefully consider the hospital's track record and history of mistakes and lawsuits. Finding out this information can show some flaws in the system and possibly prevent a deadly mistake through improper screening. Mothers with the HIV infection should be cautious not to breastfeed, instead opting for formula substitutions.

However, there is such a thing as being overly-cautious. One cannot contract AIDS from every day activities such as using a public restroom, kissing or going to the gym. The only fluids that can transmit AIDS and HIV are semen, vaginal fluid, blood, or breast milk. It is generally not spread through saliva, tears and sweat, unless there is blood in any of those fluids.

Education and Facts about AIDS

Without AIDS education and letting people know what causes AIDS, this disease has the ability to become a world wide pandemic quickly. It is already a serious problem in Africa, where safe sex practices are not common and education is limited. Facts about AIDS are widely distributed throughout the United States, with information available not only online, but also in abstinence and sex education programs in schools and communities. HIV and AIDS dangers are generally understood among most target age groups, but there remains a debate as to whether teens, and young people understand all the factors of what causes AIDS.

Though most understand that it is a sexually transmitted disease, many are unaware that it can be transferred through drug practices and from mother to child. Minority populations, both ethnically and by sexual preference, tend to show the highest rates of HIV infections. Free HIV testing is available from many organizations for those who are unable to pay for a test. AIDS awareness has been made a priority by both organizations and government authorities who wish to see the virus virtually eliminated or at least under control in the coming years.

Ongoing AIDS research

The ultimate goal of the science community is to eliminate the HIV virus, thus eliminating AIDS altogether. The answer to the problem still remains quite distant, and the best way to handle the problem right now is to teach proper prevention methods. However, ongoing AIDS research is key to finding a cure. Through the processes of clinical trials, studies, and scientific data, AIDS research is coming a long way and a cure or better treatment option is not out of the question. For those looking to get involved in fighting HIV and AIDS, there are many charities that accept donations both monetarily and through items to auction or sale. The proceeds from these donations go to informing people around the world of what causes AIDS and pertinent facts about AIDS that can save thousands of lives.

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