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The ABCs on HIV/AIDS

November 30, 2010

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It's pretty easy to think that HIV/AIDS is a disease for other people to worry about, but it's a big problem. In 2007, it's estimated that AIDS killed 2.1 million people worldwide, including 330,000 children. So get the facts to be able to protect yourself from HIV and AIDS.

What Is HIV/AIDS?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus and AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a disease. HIV wreaks havoc on the immune system by destroying the T lymphocyte, or T cell (a type of white blood cell that fights off germs and diseases). When your immune system has weakened and the T cells have been completely destroyed, HIV turns into AIDS.

How Does It Spread?

HIV isn't like a cold or flu virus. You can't get it by being sneezed or coughed on, or by holding someone's hand. The only way HIV is passed is through direct contact with an infected person's bodily fluids.

  • Having sex with a person who has HIV
  • Sharing needles or syringes with a person who has HIV
  • Being born to a mother who has HIV

What Are the Symptoms?

People can be infected with HIV without even knowing it because it can take up to a few years until they start to experience any symptoms! But, they will eventually begin to feel sick. Symptoms range from diarrhea and weight loss to infections in the mouth and fevers that come and go. Since the immune system is so weak, other infections and diseases can develop, like skin cancer and pneumonia, which causes coughing and breathing problems.

How Is It Treated?

Unfortunately, there's no cure for HIV or AIDS, but special medications can slow down the disease and help people live longer lives. The good news is that scientists and doctors are currently researching vaccines that may be able to prevent HIV infections in the future.

Did You Know?

  • It's estimated that there are 40,000 new infections in the United States each year. At least half of these infections are among people under 25.
  • Approximately 2,000 children worldwide are infected with HIV each day.
  • More than 95% of people with HIV live in third-world countries.
  • Since the first cases were identified in 1981, more than 25 million people worldwide have died from AIDS.
  • October is World AIDS Awareness Month.
  • World AIDS Day is celebrated on December 1st.
  • People wear red ribbons to support the fight against AIDS.

Head to www.aids.org for more info on HIV and AIDS.

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