We’ve all heard of AIDS, but few of us are familiar with the disease. Understanding HIV and AIDS can help you be more supportive of those who are infected while also lowering your risk of becoming infected. Learn the basics of HIV/AIDS to help you become more aware of the disease.
What is HIV/AIDS and how does it affect people?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an abbreviation for human immunodeficiency virus; the name “HIV” can refer to either the virus or the infection caused by it. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV affects CD4 or T cells, which are key immune cells that combat infections. As HIV eliminates CD4 cells, your body’s ability to fight infections becomes more difficult. If HIV is not treated, it can impair the immune system and lead to AIDS.
The HIV Epidemic
HIV is spread by coming into touch with the bodily fluids of someone who is infected with the virus. Among these fluids are:
- sperm and blood
- Vaginal fluid
- Fluid in the anal cavity
- Breast milk
Sharing drug injection equipment with or having sex with someone infected with HIV is the most prevalent form of HIV transmission in the United States. HIV-positive mothers can spread the virus to their children during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, but with adequate treatment, this risk is considerably reduced.
HIV prevention is important.
Reduce your chances of contracting HIV by engaging in the following healthy habits:
Use condoms correctly every time you have sex and limit the number of sexual partners you have.
Never share drug-injecting equipment.