HIV is a virus that attacks white blood cells called helper T cells (CD4). These cells are part of the immune system. They fight off infections and disease. As a result, an HIV infection can leave you vulnerable to severe illnesses.
AIDS is a late stage of HIV. It reflects severe damage to the immune system. An opportunistic infection will also exist. This is a type of infection that only occurs in people with compromised immune systems.
The HIV virus is spread through contact with HIV-infected blood or other body fluids. This includes semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk.
AIDS is caused by the destruction of T cells. The destruction is caused by the HIV virus.
HIV is spread through:
Rarely, HIV can be spread through:
Factors that increase your chance of getting HIV include:
The risk factor for AIDS is having HIV.
HIV may not cause symptoms for a number of years.
Early symptoms may appear a month or two after becoming infected. They may last a couple of weeks. These include:
After these initial symptoms pass, there may be no symptoms for months to years. Then, the following symptoms may occur over the course of 1 to 3 years:
It can be 10 years or more before HIV progresses to AIDS. This happens when T helper cell levels fall below certain levels and opportunistic infections arise. Examples of opportunistic infections and other complications of AIDS include:
The doctor will ask about your symptoms, medical history, and risk factors. A physical exam will be done. Your doctor may order the following blood tests:
Medications can prevent, delay, or control the development of AIDS in many people infected with HIV.
These drugs are often given in combination. They are often referred to as AIDS cocktails. They include:
Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors:
Nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors:
To prevent becoming infected with HIV:
Recent studies found that circumcised men were significantly less likely to develop HIV infection compared to uncircumcised men.
To prevent spreading HIV to others if you are HIV infected:
American Foundation for AIDS Research
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
AIDS Committee of Toronto
Canadian AIDS Society
Adult male circumcision significantly reduces risk of acquiring HIV [press release]. National Institutes of Health website. Available at: http://www3.niaid.nih.gov/news/newsreleases/2006/AMC12_06.htm . Accessed June 13, 2008.
Berkow R. The Merck Manual of Medical Information . New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, Inc.; 2000.
HIV/AIDS A-Z index. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/az.htm . Accessed June 13, 2008.
National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nchstp/od/nchstp.html . Accessed June 13, 2008.
Rey D, Krebs M, Partisani M, Hess G, et al. Virologic response of zidovudine, lamivudine, and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate combination in antiretroviral-naive HIV-1-infected patients. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr . 2006;43: 530-534.
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DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance
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Bailey RC, Moses S, Parker CB, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in young men in Kisumu, Kenya: a randomised controlled trial. Lancet. 2007 Feb 24;369(9562):643-656.
Gray RH, Kigozi G, Serwadda D, et al. Male circumcision for HIV prevention in men in Rakai, Uganda: a randomised trial. Lancet. 2007 Feb 24;369(9562):657-666.
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6/11/2010 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Del Romero J, Castilla J, Hernando V, Rodríguez C, García S. Combined antiretroviral treatment and heterosexual transmission of HIV-1: cross sectional and prospective cohort study. BMJ. 2010:c2205.
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Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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