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“Alison had gotten sick that summer, and they tested her for everything: lymphoma, Hodgkin's, you name it. But they never tested her for HIV because they never thought this disease could be transmitted through heterosexual sex. And if you were a woman and not an intravenous drug user you couldn't get this disease. We subsequently learned that she'd gotten it from a good friend, who she'd only slept with once.”
-Carol Gertz, mother of Ali Gertz (1966-1992), a New Yorker who died of AIDS at 26.
What is HIV?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. HIV harms the body's immune system by attacking certain kinds of cells, known as helper T cells or CD4 cells, which defend the body against illness.
There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 (the predominant type) and HIV-2 (found primarily in West Africa). HIV-1 is the main type in the United States. Within HIV-1 are subtypes. Most people are HIV-1 subtype B but there is a smaller but significant percentage of people with non-B subtypes in the U.S. If you test positive for HIV, you may want to discuss the different sub-types of HIV with your doctor since there may be different implications for your treatment and clinical management.
What is AIDS?
AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, occurs when an individual's immune system is weakened by HIV to the point where they develop any number of diseases or cancers.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, the most advanced stage of HIV disease. A weakened immune system caused by HIV will allow opportunistic infections (OIs) to develop. A healthy immune system would normally fight these infections while an HIV-weakened immune system is susceptible.
How does someone get HIV?
In the United States, most people get HIV through unprotected sex, including vaginal, anal and oral sex, and through injection drug use. Certain bodily fluids including blood, pre-cum, semen, and vaginal secretions, spread HIV. An HIV infected woman can pass HIV to her baby through pregnancy or delivery, and also through breast milk. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), (hyperlink to www.cdc.gov) contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never resulted in someone getting HIV. You cannot get HIV through casual contact such as hugging or shaking hands.
Who is at risk?
HIV/AIDS does not discriminate. The virus does not single out any age, skin color, faith, sexual orientation or economic status. It is not who you are, but what you do that determines whether you can become infected with HIV. You are at risk for being infected with HIV if you have ever:
• had unprotected sex of any kind
• shared drug needles and syringes
• had a blood transfusion or clotting factor between 1978 and 1985
• had sex with someone whose history of risk-taking behaviors is unknown to you.
What are ways to reduce the risk of getting HIV?
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but it is preventable. Protect yourself.
• Choose not to have sex, or make an agreement with a partner who is not HIV-positive to be sexually faithful to each other, and stick to it.
• Use a condom for vaginal or anal sex, and barrier methods, such as a condom or dental dam, for oral sex.
• If you are HIV-positive and you are pregnant, see your health care provider to get appropriate treatment. Treatments are available to significantly reduce the risk of passing the infection to your child during pregnancy and delivery.
• Do not share needles for any kind of injection drug use.
• Get Tested! And ask partners to do the same.
Is there a cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS?
At this time there is no cure or vaccine for HIV. However, there are new treatments available that have been found to be highly effective in keeping people healthy longer and in delaying the onset of AIDS.
Find Local Resources
AIDS cases have been reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
For a comprehensive health services directory, click here: http://directory.poz.com/nmac/
Find a HIV testing site near you. http://www.kff.org/hivaids/6094.cfm
ABOUT THE EPIDEMIC
AIDS could claim close to 100 million lives worldwide by 2020 if nothing changes. At this rate, AIDS will be the worst epidemic in human history, but HIV is preventable.
HIV/AIDS in the U.S.
Key Trends and Current Cases:
• AIDS cases have been reported in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories.
• The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 500,000 Americans with AIDS have already died, and almost 1 million more are currently living with HIV.
• There is no cure for HIV/AIDS and the number of new infections occurring annually in the U.S. has not decreased in the last decade, remaining constant at approximately 40,000 each year.
• Approximately 1 in 4 of those infected with HIV do not know they are HIV positive and between 42% and 59% of people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S. are not in care.
• Advances in treatment have dramatically decreased the number of people who have died of AIDS.
The Global Epidemic
Key Trends and Current Cases:
• HIV is the leading cause of death worldwide among those ages 15-59.
• There are an estimated 37.8 million people living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, a greater number than ever before.
• During 2005, an estimated 4.9 million people became newly infected with HIV, including approximately 700,000 children under the age of 15.
• 3.1 million people died of AIDS in 2005. Of these, over half a million were children.
• The majority of those newly infected today, both in the United States and abroad, are under the age of 25.
• Worldwide, most people living with HIV are unaware that they are infected.