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A Medical View

What is AIDS?AIDS is the last stage of a long-lasting disease that diminishes the body’s ability to fight-off infections. This disease is caused by infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV progressively destroys the immune system of the body. This destruction is signaled by the loss of a certain type of white blood cell called the CD4 lymphocyte or T-helper cell, which is vital to the functioning of the immune system. People with advanced HIV disease suffer from many kinds of infections, as well as certain cancers, which ultimately leads to their death.

Who Can be Infected with HIV?

In the United States over 1,039,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS. But many who are already HIV+ have never been tested and because the symptoms are so often “flu-like”, do not even realize that they are infected and pass the virus on to someone else. Worldwide, it is estimated that almost 40 million people are infected along including 2.2 million children. Africa alone has over 34 million who are HIV+, while India and Asia have almost 5 million!

HIV is not transmitted by touch or mosquitoes or through the air. The virus is actually very difficult to pass-on except through body fluids such as blood, vaginal fluid, semen, or breast milk. Tears, saliva, and urine in pregnant women all have a protein, which kills most of the virus. Persons infected with HIV often feel sick with flu-like symptoms shortly after being infected. And because the test for HIV infection measures the antibodies produced in response to infection, one should be tested between 3 to 6 months after contact.

Those most likely to be infected today are people who are sexually active with multiple partners; users of illegal intravenous drugs sharing infected needles, and babies born to nursing mothers who are HIV+. Persons who are infected with HIV may transmit the virus to other persons and not know they are carrying it. But, if someone knows that they are HIV+, it is illegal and punishable with jail-time to have sex with someone and not notify their partner that they are HIV+.

Condoms do decrease the risk of transmission but according to condom manufacturers and a United Nations study are 4% to 13.9% ineffective if not properly used. A faithful and monogamous relationship in marriage with an uninfected person is the most effective way of preventing HIV infection.

How Do I Know If I Am Infected, And What Can I Do If I Am?

A simple blood test is available to detect the presence of HIV “antibodies” in the bloodstream. Once diagnosed, it is important to determine the degree of immune suppression. Early infection recognition responds especially well to medical and nutritional treatment. Several antiviral agents such as AZT, d4T, or 3Tc are usually available. Infected women who are pregnant and using AZT reduce the risk of infection for their babies to less than 2%. These drugs slow down the rate of disease progression. Protease Inhibitors, nucleoside analogues, non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) all help to prevent the virus from reproduction. Other treatments, including good diet and exercise also help slowdown the development of the opportunistic infections when the disease is more advanced. There is no cure for HIV infection!! So, be wise! If you believe that you may be HIV+, we encourage you to contact your doctor or health agency and be tested. And if you find that you are HIV+, please contact us. We’re here to help you with the hope of Jesus Christ.

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