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HIV/AIDS: Introduction

HIV is the acronym for the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is virus that causes the incurable acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Over time, HIV destroys the helper T cells of the body's immune system, resulting in a critical deterioration of the immune system and the ability of the body to fight infection.

HIV is most often a sexually transmitted virus. It is passed from one person another during sexual contact that involves vaginal, oral, or anal sex. HIV can also be passed to another person through other means, such as through contact with blood or body fluids. This can occur through such processes as blood transfusions or sharing needles contaminated with HIV. HIV can also be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.

Early infection with HIV often produces no symptoms. When there are symptoms, they can include flu-like symptoms that occur about four to eight weeks after infection. These symptoms generally go away within several weeks. There then may be no symptoms for months to years. The most serious complication of HIV infection is AIDS. For more details on complications and symptoms, refer to symptoms of HIV.

Any person that engages in sexual activity can contract and pass on HIV. This includes heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual men and women. The more sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of catching and passing on HIV. Having another type of sexually transmitted disease, such as chlamydia, genital herpes, HPV or gonorrhea, also puts a person at greater risk for contracting an HIV infection and AIDS.

The diagnostic test for HIV is a blood test that can reveal the presence of the specific antibodies (infection-fighting substances) that the body makes in response to an HIV infection. However, HIV may not be detectable in the first one to three months after infection.

During or after diagnosis, a physician or licensed health care provider will take a medical and sexual history to determine general health and immune system status. A complete physical and pelvic examination for women and physical and examination of the penis and testicles for men is also done. Additional tests are done to test for the presence of other potential disorders and diseases, including sexually transmitted diseases. Pelvic ultrasound and laparoscopic surgery may also be done in women if other sexually transmitted diseases or complications, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, are also present.

Because there may be no symptoms, some people with HIV may be unaware of a problem, and a diagnosis can be missed or delayed. For more information on misdiagnosis, refer to misdiagnosis of HIV.

Contracting HIV is highly preventable. Prevention of HIV is best accomplished by abstaining from sexual activity or having sex only within a mutually monogamous relationship in which neither partner is infected with HIV. Latex condoms also provide some protection from HIV when used properly.

There currently is no cure for HIV infection. However, prompt diagnosis and treatment can help to reduce or delay the onset of some serious complications, such as opportunistic infections, improve the quality of life, and minimize the spread of the disease to others. Treatment generally includes medication. Hospitalization may be necessary if a person has serious complications, such as meningitis or an opportunistic infection. For more information on treatment, refer to treatment of HIV. ...more »

HIV/AIDS: HIV is a sexually transmitted virus and AIDS is the life-threatening immune failure that occurs late in the progression of HIV. AIDS was once in the top ten cause of death in the USA but has dropped out owing to better treatments and reduced transmission.

Very early stages of HIV just after infection resemble the flu or another viral infection. There then follows a latent stage (often years) with no symptoms, and then an early AIDS stage (also often years) with various symptoms, many of them non-specific and easy to misdiagnose. AIDS becomes much more characteristic in the latter stages of the disease where immune failure becomes almost total. ...more »

HIV/AIDS: Symptoms

The symptoms of HIV infection are the result of HIV attacking the cells of the body's immune system. Early in the disease, many people with HIV infection have no symptoms. Some people may experience flu-like symptoms that occur about four to eight weeks after infection. Symptoms may include swollen glands, fever, headache and fatigue.

These symptoms ...more symptoms »

HIV/AIDS: Treatments

Treatment of HIV starts with prevention. Preventive measures include seeking regular medical care throughout the lifetime. Regular medical care allows a health care professional to best evaluate symptoms and the risks of catching HIV and regularly test for it as needed. These measures greatly increase your chances of catching and treating HIV in its earliest stages before ...more treatments »

HIV/AIDS: Misdiagnosis

A diagnosis of the HIV can easily be missed or delayed because there are often no symptoms in the early stages, and the infected person may be unaware of an HIV infection. Embarrassment and not being honest with a health care provider about sexual activity can also delay a diagnosis. In addition, some symptoms of HIV infection, such as weight loss and flu ...more misdiagnosis »

Symptoms of HIV/AIDS

Treatments for HIV/AIDS

  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors - also called nucleoside analogs
    • Zidovudine (AZT) - also called ZDV
    • Zalcitibine (ddC)
    • Didanosine (ddI)
    • Stavudine (d4T)
  • more treatments...»

Home Diagnostic Testing

Home medical testing related to HIV/AIDS:

Wrongly Diagnosed with HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS: Related Patient Stories

HIV/AIDS: Deaths

Read more about Deaths and HIV/AIDS.

Curable Types of HIV/AIDS

Possibly curable types of HIV/AIDS include:

  • Pneumocystitis carinii pneumonia related HIV
  • Tuberculosis related HIV
  • Toxoplasmosis related HIV
  • Herpes zoster related HIV
  • Hemophiliacs related HIV
  • more types...»

Rare Types of HIV/AIDS:

Rare types of HIV/AIDS include:

  • Pneumocystitis carinii pneumonia related HIV
  • Tuberculosis related HIV
  • Toxoplasmosis related HIV
  • Kaposi sarcoma related HIV
  • Cryptosporidiosis related HIV
  • more types...»

Diagnostic Tests for HIV/AIDS

Test for HIV/AIDS in your own home

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HIV/AIDS: Complications

Review possible medical complications related to HIV/AIDS:

Causes of HIV/AIDS

Read more about causes of HIV/AIDS.

More information about causes of HIV/AIDS:

Disease Topics Related To HIV/AIDS

Research the causes of these diseases that are similar to, or related to, HIV/AIDS:

HIV/AIDS: Undiagnosed Conditions

Commonly undiagnosed diseases in related medical categories:

Misdiagnosis and HIV/AIDS

Sinusitis is overdiagnosed: There is a tendency to give a diagnosis of sinusitis, when the condition is really a harmless complication more »

Whooping cough often undiagnosed: Although most children in the Western world have been immunized against whooping cough (also called "pertussis"), this protection wears off after about 15 years. Thus, any teen or adult with more »

Chronic lung diseases hard to diagnose: Some of the chronic lung diseases are difficult to diagnose. Even the well-knowns conditions such as asthma or lung cancer often fail more »

HIV/AIDS: Research Doctors & Specialists

Research related physicians and medical specialists:

Other doctor, physician and specialist research services:

Hospitals & Clinics: HIV/AIDS

Research quality ratings and patient safety measures for medical facilities in specialties related to HIV/AIDS:

Choosing the Best Hospital: More general information, not necessarily in relation to HIV/AIDS, on hospital performance and surgical care quality:

HIV/AIDS: Animations

Prognosis for HIV/AIDS

Research about HIV/AIDS

Visit our research pages for current research about HIV/AIDS treatments.

Clinical Trials for HIV/AIDS

The US based website lists information on both federally and privately supported clinical trials using human volunteers.

Some of the clinical trials listed on for HIV/AIDS include:

Prevention of HIV/AIDS

Prevention information for HIV/AIDS has been compiled from various data sources and may be inaccurate or incomplete. None of these methods guarantee prevention of HIV/AIDS.

Statistics for HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS: Broader Related Topics

HIV/AIDS Message Boards

Related forums and medical stories:

User Interactive Forums

Read about other experiences, ask a question about HIV/AIDS, or answer someone else's question, on our message boards:

Article Excerpts about HIV/AIDS

HIV Infection and AIDS, An Overview, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection. CDC developed official criteria for the definition of AIDS and is responsible for tracking the spread of AIDS in the United States. (Source: excerpt from HIV Infection and AIDS, An Overview, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID (Excerpt)

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) was first reported in the United States in 1981. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), a virus that destroys the body's ability to fight off infection. (Source: excerpt from Sexually Transmitted Diseases, NIAID Fact Sheet: NIAID)

Definitions of HIV/AIDS:

A syndrome resulting from the acquired deficiency of cellular immunity caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is characterized by the reduction of the Helper T-lymphocytes in the peripheral blood and the lymph nodes; opportunistic infections (usually pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, cytomegalovirus (CMV) infections, tuberculosis, candida infections, and cryptococcosis); and the development of malignant neoplasms (usually non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and Kaposi's sarcoma). The human immunodeficiency virus is transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of contaminated needles, or transfusion of contaminated blood. Generalized lymphadenopathy, fever, weight loss, and chronic diarrhea are common symptoms of AIDS. The patients usually die either of opportunistic infections or malignant neoplasms. -- 2004 - (Source - Diseases Database)


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