stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:
means you can catch it; Immune Deficiency means a weakness
in the body's system that fights diseases.
means a group of health problems that make up a disease.
is caused by a virus called HIV: Human Immunodeficiency
Virus. If you get infected with HIV, your body will
try to fight the infection. It will make "antibodies",
special molecules that are supposed to fight HIV.
When you get a blood test for HIV, the test is really
looking for these antibodies. If you have them in your
blood, it means that you have HIV infection. People
who have the HIV antibodies are called "HIV-Positive".
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 you very sick if your immune system is damaged.
These are called " opportunistic infections".
blood, vaginal fluid, semen, and breast milk of people
infected with HIV has enough of the virus in it to infect
other people. You can get HIV from anyone who's infected,
even if they don't look sick, even if they haven't tested
positive (yet). Most people get the HIV virus by:
sex with an infected person.
a needle (shooting drugs) with someone who's infected
born when the mother is infected, or drinking the
breast milk of an infected woman.
a transfusion of blood from an infected blood donor
used to be a way people got AIDS, but now the blood
supply is screened very carefully and the risk is
are no documented cases of HIV being transmitted by
tears or saliva, but it is possible to catch HIV through
oral sex, especially if you have open sores in your
mouth or bleeding gums.
the United States, there are about 800,000 to 900,000
people who are HIV-positive. Over 300,000 people are
living with AIDS. Each year, there are 50,000 new infections.
In the mid-1990s, AIDS was the leading cause of death.
However, newer treatments have cut the AIDS death rate
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.
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.
your immune system responds, it starts to make antibodies.
When you start making antibodies, you will test positive
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.
way to measure the damage to your immune system is to
see how many CD4+ cells you have. 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 milliliter of blood.
treatment, your 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.
disease becomes AIDS when your immune system is so damaged
that you have less than 200 CD4+ cells or you get an
opportunistic infection. There is an "official"
list of these infections, put out by the Centers for
Disease Control. The most common ones are:
(Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia), a lung infection;
(Kaposi's sarcoma), a skin cancer;
(Cytomegalovirus), an infection that usually affects
a fungal infection that can cause thrush (a white
film in your mouth) or infections in your throat or
AIDS syndrome also includes serious weight loss, brain
tumors, and other health problems. Without treatment,
these opportunistic infections can kill you.
is different in every infected person. Some people die
soon after getting infected, while others live fairly
normal lives for many years, even after they "officially"
is no cure for AIDS. There are drugs that can slow down
the HIV virus, and slow down the damage to your immune
system. But there is no way to get all the HIV out of
are other drugs that you can take to prevent or to treat
some of the opportunistic infections (OIs). In most
cases, these drugs work very well. The newer, stronger
anti-HIV drugs have also helped reduce the rates of
most OIs. A few OIs, however, are still very difficult
of anonymous and unlinked surveys:
countrywide anonymous and unlinked surveys were conducted
in sentinel sites among pregnant women and have shown
increasing HIV trends, from 0.14 percent in 1989 to
0.44 percent in 1992 to 0.6 percent in 1994-95.
prevalence among female commercial sex workers (CSW’s)
in the capital (Kingston) has remained at the same
level, 12 percent in 1989 and 11 percent in 1994-95.
In St. James, screening of female CSW’s (31
percent of whom are cocaine addicts) showed a prevalence
of 22 percent in 1994-95)
rate of HIV infections among blood donors in 1989
was 0.1 as compared to 1997 where it increased to