HIV (Human Immunodificiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the cells of your immune system used to fight infections and disease (T-cells). When HIV invades these cells, it uses them to make copies of itself and kills the cells. Without proper treatment for HIV, the virus can destroy so many T-cells your immune system cannot protect you from infections and diseases any longer, leading to AIDS.
AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDificiency Syndrome) is the final stage of HIV. Not everyone who has HIV will advance to develop AIDS. People at this stage of HIV have such badly damaged immune systems, very low or no T-cells, they are at risk for opportunistic infections, such as pneumonia and cancer. If you have AIDS you will need vigorous anti retroviral treatment to prevent death.
HIV is generally transmitted in three ways, by sexual contact, IV drug use and child birth and breast feeding. Although the virus can be contracted from blood transfusion and occupational exposure, they are uncommon with the safety standards set by the United States Government. There is no cure for HIV, and the only way to know if you have it is to get tested!
HIV is transmitted in body fluids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these fluids are:
For transmission to occur, theses fluids must come into contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue, or be directly injected into your blood stream. Mucous membranes are soft moist areas found in the openings to your body. They can be found in the opening of the penis, inside the vagina, mouth and rectum.
Less commonly, HIV may be spread by:
This risk is extremely small because of rigorous testing of the U.S. blood supply and donated organs and tissues.
HIV is not spread by:
Source: AIDS.gov - http://aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/
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