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Home > Health Care > Others > HIV and AIDS
The History of AIDS and HIV
In 1978, gay men in the United States and Sweden as well as heterosexuals in Tanzania and Haiti, began showing signs of what will later be called AIDS. Three years later, approximately 31 people died of the diseases in the United States.

The term AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is used for the first time on 27 July 1982. Number of people who died of the diseases in USA increased to 853 people.

In 1983, Institut Pasteur in France discovered the virus that causes AIDS, which is called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). In 1987, the first anti-HIV drug, AZT, was approved for use in the United States. But six years later, researchers in Europe proved taking AZT (monotherapy) early in the disease has no benefits.

In 1995, the first anti-HIV drug in the protease inhibitor class, Saquinavir, was approved for use in the United States. The following year, a number of drugs such as Nevirapine, Ritonavir, Indinavir, were also approved for use in USA.

By 1997, approximately 22,000,000 people were HIV-positive and 6,400,000 people had died of the disease throughout the world.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
A virus is a germ that requires a host cell to survive and reproduce. Viruses are highly adaptable, with the potential of remaining alive in their host cells for long period of time.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a highly adaptable virus capable of mutating quickly. It affects only human and needs human cells to thrive and reproduce. Related viruses affect other species in similar ways, for example Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) that affects cats.

HIV weakens the immune system by invading specific healthy white blood cells (T-Cells or CD4 cells), and destroys them in order to reproduce itself. These T-Cells play an important role in the way to fight off the diseases and infections in our body.

When HIV starts reproducing itself in one's body, it destroys the immune defenses, making it easier to get sick and harder to recover from diseases.
HIV Destroys the Immune System
HIV-positive people are the ones who have been tested and found to have signs of the human immunodeficiency virus in their blood. HIV destroys part of the immune system. Specifically, it affects a type of white blood cells called the T lymphocyte (T-cell). T-cells are one type of fighter cell in the blood that help the body fight off all kinds of germs and diseases.

After HIV enters the body, it goes into a T-cell and works its way inside of that cell. Once inside, the virus completely takes over the T-cell and multiplies itself.

The new viruses then leave the T-cell and go on to infect and destroy other healthy T-cells as they continue to multiply inside the body. After the virus invades the T-cells, the T-cells can no longer properly fight infections.

Someone who is infected with the virus is called HIV-positive. But it may take years for the virus to damage enough T-cells for that person to get sick and develop AIDS. Through new medications, someone infected with HIV can stay relatively healthy and symptom-free for many years.

Although the HIV-positive person may feel fine, the HIV virus is silently multiplied itself and destroying T-cells. During this period, the person is still contagious, which means he or she is able to infect others.

When one's immune system has weakened and more of the blood's T cells have been destroyed by the virus, the person can no longer fight off infections and gets very sick. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when he or she has a very low number of T cells and shows signs of a serious infection.
Number of People Who Infected HIV and AIDS
Since the discovery of the HIV virus in 1983, millions of people throughout the world have been infected with HIV. Today, AIDS is still an epidemic, which means that it affects a large number of people and continues to spread rapidly.

At present, approximately 40 million people in the world are living with HIV infection or AIDS. This includes 37 million adults and 2.5 million children.
The Spread of HIV
HIV infection isn't like a cold or flu. A person cannot get HIV by hugging, holding the hand of, or visiting the home of someone who has HIV. HIV is passed only through direct contact with another person's body fluids, such as blood. The majority of people get infected with HIV by:
having sexual contact with a person who has HIV
sharing needles with a person who has HIV
HIV can also spread by following ways:
an HIV-positive pregnant woman who passes it to her unborn child. That is why, every pregnant woman should be tested for HIV
a person who receives a blood transfusion from a fairly large volume of blood that was not tested for HIV
The Symptoms of HIV and AIDS
Most people don't feel any different after they are infected with HIV. In fact, infected people often do not experience symptoms for years. Some people has flu-like symptoms a few days to a few weeks after being infected, but these symptoms usually disappear after several days.

An HIV-positive person will eventually begin to feel sick. The person might begin to have swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fevers that come and go, infections in the mouth, diarrhea, or he or she might always feel tired for no reason.

When a person's T-cell number gets very low, the immune system is so weak that many different diseases and infections by other germs can develop. These can be life threatening. For example, people with AIDS often develop pneumonia, which causes bad coughing and breathing problems. Other infections can affect the eyes, the digestive system's organs, the kidneys, the lungs, and the brain. Some people develop rare kinds of cancers of the skin or immune system.
The Way of Diagnosing HIV and AIDS
A person can be infected with HIV without even knowing it. So, it is recommended that anyone who thinks he or she may have been exposed to the virus get tested.

HIV-positive people need to have more blood tests often. The doctor will check on how many T-cells the person has. The lower the T-cell number, the weaker the immune system, and the greater the risk of getting very sick.
The Treatments of HIV and AIDS
At present, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but new medicines can help people live longer lives. Scientists are also researching vaccines that may one day help to prevent HIV infection. It's up to everyone to prevent AIDS by avoiding the behaviors that lead to HIV infection.
HIV and AIDS Prevention
People can help stopping the spread of HIV by avoiding sexual contact with infected people and by not sharing needles or syringes.

Health care workers such as doctors, nurses, and dentists, help preventing the spread of HIV by wearing plastic gloves when working on a patient.

Hospitals must have strict procedures for handling samples of blood and other body fluids to prevent others from infecting with HIV.
Living With HIV and AIDS
New medications make it possible for HIV-positive people to live for years without getting AIDS. They will have to take certain medicines every day and go to their doctors often, and they may get sick more than other people do because their immune systems are more fragile.

Even though they may look OK, HIV-positive people may sometimes feel scared, angry, unhappy, or depressed. They may feel afraid that other the people could find out and start treating them differently. It is important for us to remember that usual social contact with HIV-positive people does not bring any risk of infection.

When HIV infection gets worse or turns into the disease called AIDS, the person may need to spend a lot of time in bed or in the hospital because of serious illnesses. He or she may feel very tired or weak most of the time and also might lose weight.
Hope for an HIV-Free Future
Maybe one day, a cure for HIV infection will be found and AIDS will no longer exist. Until then, the smartest thing to do is to know the facts and not put yourself at risk.
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