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What are AIDS and HIV?

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). By killing or damaging cells of the body's immune system, HIV progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers. The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection.

How is HIV spread?

There are several common ways that HIV can be passed from person to person, including:

1.      Having unprotected sex with someone who is infected

2.      Using needles or syringes that have been used by people who are infected

3.      Receiving infected blood products or transplanted organs

4.      Transmission from mother to child – An infected mother may pass the virus to her developing fetus during pregnancy, during birth, or through breastfeeding.

If you have a sexually transmitted disease, you may be at higher risk for getting infected with HIV during sex with an HIV-infected partner.
There is no evidence that HIV is spread by contact with saliva or through casual contact, such as shaking hands or hugging, or the sharing of food utensils, towels and bedding, swimming pools, telephones, or toilet seats. HIV is not spread by biting insects such as mosquitoes or bedbugs.

What is the treatment for HIV/AIDS?

Although when AIDS first appeared there were few treatments, researchers have now developed drugs that can help fight both HIV and the related infections and cancers that come with it. Treatment advances have improved the survival rates and decreased progression of HIV disease in developed countries like the United States, where antiretroviral drugs are available.

How does HIV/AIDS affect women?

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), 19.2 million women are living with HIV/AIDS throughout the world. In many countries, the rate of HIV infection in women is rising faster than in any other group.

Worldwide, more than 80 percent of HIV infections are spread by heterosexual sex (vaginal intercourse); women are particularly at risk of contracting HIV through this type of contact. HIV is increasing most dramatically among African American and Hispanic women.

Although most of the signs and symptoms of HIV infection are similar in men and women, some are more specific to females. For example:

·         Vaginal yeast infections may be chronic, more severe, and difficult to treat in women with HIV infection than in women who are uninfected.

·         Pelvic inflammatory disease, an infection of the female reproductive organs, may also be more frequent and severe in women with HIV infection.

·         Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections, which cause genital warts, may occur more frequently in HIV-infected women, and can lead to pre-cancerous lesions of the cervix or cancer of the cervix.


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