Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a long-lasting, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By injuring your immune system, HIV interferes with your body’s ability to fight infection and disease.
HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by interaction with infected blood or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV deteriorates your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that assaults immune cells called CD4 cells, which are a type of T cell.
These are white blood cells that move around the body, detecting errors and anomalies in cells as well as infections. When HIV targets and penetrates these cells, it reduces the body’s ability to combat other diseases.
AIDS is the most cutting-edge stage of HIV infection. Once HIV infection develops into AIDS, infections and cancer pose a greater risk.
Without treatment, HIV infection is likely to develop into AIDS as the immune system gradually wears down. However, advances in ART mean than an ever-decreasing number of people progress to this stage.
If AIDS does develop, it means that the immune system is harshly compromised. It’s weakened to the point where it can no longer fight off most diseases and infections. That makes the person susceptible to a wide range of illnesses, including:
HIV is often spread by people who don’t know they have it. So it’s always important to protect yourself and others by taking these steps:
Practice safer sex. Use a condom every time you have sex (including oral sex) until you are certain that you and your partner aren’t infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infection (STI).
Don’t have more than one sex partner at a time. The safest sex is with one partner who has sex only with you.
Talk to your partner before you have sex the first time. Find out if he or she is at risk for HIV. Get tested together. Use condoms in the meantime.
Don’t drink a lot of alcohol or use illegal drugs before sex. You might let down your guard and not practice safer sex.
Don’t share personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors.
Never share needles or syringes with anyone.
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