Origin Of HIV
Scientists identified a type of chimpanzee in West Africa as the source of HIV infection in humans. The virus most likely jumped to humans when humans hunted these chimpanzees for meat and came into contact with their infected blood. Over several years, the virus slowly spread across Africa and later into other parts of the world.(CDC)
Brief History Of HIV In The United States
HIV was first identified in the United States in 1981 after a number of gay men started getting sick with a rare type of cancer. It took several years for scientists to develop a test for the virus, to understand how HIV was transmitted between humans, and to determine what people could do to protect themselves.
In 2008, CDC adjusted its estimate of new HIV infections because of new technology developed by the agency. Results shows that new infections increased in the late 1990s, followed by a leveling off since 2000 at about 55,000 per year. In 2006, an estimated 56,300 individuals were infected with HIV.
Today, more people than ever before are living with HIV/AIDS. CDC estimates that about 1.1 million persons in the United States are living with HIV or AIDS. An estimated 21% of these persons do not know that they are infected: not knowing puts them and others at risk.
What Is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.
As scary as this may seem, people, still engage in activities that lay them open to contracting this dangerous virus. This may be due to lack of adequate information, obstinacy, foolishness, or plain ignorance.
What Does HIV Mean?
HIV is the Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus. Once it gets into the human system or body, it can wreak untold havoc, systematically stripping the human body of all resistance to infections and rendering the person susceptible to all kinds of diseases that the body otherwise effectively deals with everyday. When the system is completely weakened, the full blown AIDS which means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome sets in. Once this happens, it may only be a question of time for the person to die.
What Does AIDS Mean?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:
A - Acquired means you can get infected with it;
I D - Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body's system that fights diseases.
S - Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a disease.
AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If one gets infected with HIV, one's body will try to fight the infection. It will make "antibodies," special molecules to fight HIV.
A blood test for HIV looks for these antibodies. If they are in the blood, it means that there is HIV infection. People who have the HIV antibodies are called "HIV-Positive."
Being HIV-positive, or having HIV disease, is not the same as having AIDS. Many people are HIV-positive but don't get sick for many years. As HIV disease continues, it slowly wears down the immune system. Viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria that usually don't cause any problems can make the HIV-positive individual very sick if the immune system is damaged. These are called "opportunistic infections."
How Does One Get HIV?
A person doesn't actually "get" AIDS. One might get infected with HIV, and later may develop AIDS. An individual can get infected with HIV from anyone who's infected, even if they don't look sick and even if they haven't tested HIV-positive yet. The blood, vaginal fluid, semen, and breast milk of people infected with HIV has enough of the virus in it to infect other people. Most people get the HIV virus by:
- having sex with an infected person
sharing a needle (shooting drugs) with someone who's infected
- being born when their mother is infected, or drinking the breast milk of an infected woman
getting a transfusion of infected blood used to be a way people got AIDS, but now blood supply is screened very carefully and the risk is extremely low.
There are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted by tears or saliva, but it is possible to be infected with HIV through oral sex or in rare cases through deep kissing, especially if you have open sores in your mouth or bleeding gums.
In 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 million to 1.2 million U.S. residents are living with HIV infection, about one-quarter of whom are unaware of their infection. Each year, there are about 40,000 new infections. Of these, about 70 percent are among men and 30 percent among women.
In the mid-1990s, AIDS was a leading cause of death. However, newer treatments have cut the AIDS death rate significantly.
How Do I Know If I Have AIDS?
HIV disease becomes AIDS when a person's immune system is seriously damaged. If one has less than 200 CD4 cells or if the CD4 percentage is less than 14%, then the individual has AIDS. If one gets an opportunistic infection, one may have AIDS. There is an "official" list of these opportunistic infections put out by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The most common ones are:
PCP (Pneumocystis pneumonia), a lung infection;
KS (Kaposi's sarcoma), a skin cancer;
CMV (Cytomegalovirus), an infection that usually affects the eyes; and
Candida, a fungal infection that can cause thrush (a white film in your mouth) or infections in your throat or vagina.
AIDS-related diseases also includes serious weight loss, brain tumors, and other health problems. Without
treatment, these opportunistic infections can kill.
AIDS is different in every infected person. Some people die a few months after getting infected, while others live fairly normal lives for many years, even after they "officially" have AIDS. A few HIV-positive people stay healthy for many years even without taking antiretroviral medications (ARVs)
What Happens If I Am HIV Positive?
You might not know if you get infected by HIV. Some people get fever, headache, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, or a skin rash for one or two weeks. Most people think it's the flu. Some people have no symptoms.
The virus will multiply in your body for a few weeks or even months before your immune system responds. During this time, you won't test positive for HIV, but you can infect other people.
When your immune system responds, it starts to make antibodies. When this happens, you will test positive for HIV.
After the first flu-like symptoms, some people with HIV stay healthy for ten years or longer. But during this time, HIV is damaging your immune system.
One way to measure the damage to the immune system is to count the CD4 cells. These cells, also called "T-helper" cells, are an important part of the immune system. Healthy people have between 500 and 1,500 CD4 cells in a milliliter of blood.
Without treatment, the CD4 cell count will most likely go down. You might start having signs of HIV disease like fevers, night sweats, diarrhea, or swollen lymph nodes. If you have HIV disease, these problems will last more than a few days, and probably continue for several weeks
Is There A Cure For HIV/AIDS?
There is no cure for AIDS. There are drugs that can slow down the HIV virus, and slow down the damage to your immune system. There is no way to "clear" the HIV out of your body.
Other drugs can prevent or treat opportunistic infections (OIs). In most cases, these drugs work very well. The newer, stronger ARVs have also helped reduce the rates of most OIs. A few OIs, however, are still very difficult to treat. r concerns.