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HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. There are two types of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2. In the United States, unless otherwise noted, the term “HIV” primarily refers to HIV-1.
The Centers For Disease Control, or “CDC” estimates about 56,000 people in the United States contracted HIV in 2006. While there have been great strides in the prevention of HIV transmission and care of HIV infection and AIDS since AIDS was first recognized in 1981, many people still have questions about HIV and AIDS.
The information below is designed to answer some of these questions based on the best available science.
Basic AIDS FACTS AND STATISTICS
Both types of HIV damage a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases.
AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. Even in my recent memory, people often succumbed to a deleterious progression from HIV to AIDS in a short time span.
Since the development of certain highly active combinations of medications in the 1990’s, people fare better, for far longer. Even people who aren’t in the end stages of HIV or in the throes of AIDS would do well on many of the currently used medications.
Since there are so many other diseases and health risks associated with HIV, left untreated a person could experience cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer.
Support services are also available to many people with HIV. The help of friends, loved ones and family, as well as social workers, medical professionals and psychological counselors are all crucial in treating this disease and maintaining an optimal state of health for the patient.
Finding a good support team can also help with educating the patient and their loved ones about HIV/AIDS and can help prevent its spread.
Currently there is no cure for HIV infection.