HIV/AIDS has been a global epidemic for more than 27 years. Most of today's youth have never known a world without it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published national HIV incidence (new infections) that showed much higher numbers that previous estimates. The time is now. Together, we can prevent the spread of this pandemic – through awareness, care, prevention, education and research.
What is AIDS/HIV ?
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, the body’s natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease. Both the virus and the infection it causes are called HIV.
The last stage of HIV infection is AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People with AIDS have a low number of CD4+ cells and get infections or cancers that rarely occur in healthy people. These can be deadly.
But having HIV does not mean you have AIDS. Even without treatment, it takes a long time for HIV to progress to AIDS—usually 10 to 12 years. If HIV is diagnosed before it becomes AIDS, medicines can slow or stop the damage to the immune system. With treatment, many people with HIV are able to live long and active lives.
What causes HIV/AIDS ?
Most people get the virus by having unprotected sex with someone who has HIV
Another common way of getting the virus is by sharing drug needles with someone who is infected with HIV.
The virus can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
You can't get it by kissing or sharing glasses with the infected person.
What are the Symptoms ?
* Sore throat.
* Muscle aches and joint pain.
* Swollen glands (swollen lymph nodes).
* Skin rash.
After the early symptoms go away, an infected person may not have symptoms again for many years. But during this time, the virus continues to grow in the body and attack the immune system. After a certain point, symptoms reappear and then remain. These symptoms usually include:
* Swollen lymph nodes.
* Extreme tiredness.
* Weight loss.
* Night sweats.
How is it diagnosed?
Most doctors use two blood tests, called the ELISA and the Western blot assay. If the first ELISA is positive (meaning that HIV antibodies are found), the blood sample is tested again. If the second test is positive, the doctor will do a Western blot to be sure.
It may take as long as 6 months for HIV antibodies to show up in a blood sample. If you think you have been exposed to HIV but you test negative for it:
* Get tested again in 6 months to be sure you are not infected.
* Meanwhile, take steps to prevent the spread of the virus. If you are infected, you can still pass HIV to another person during this time.
How can it be prevented ?
* Practice safe sex. Use a condom every time you have sex (including oral sex) until you are sure you and your partner are not infected with HIV.
* 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 and retested 6 months later. 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 safe sex.
* Don't share personal items, such as toothbrushes or razors.
* Never share needles or syringes with anyone.
How can you Help?
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