What is AIDS: Cause, Symptoms and Prevention

What is AIDS?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is disease in the body’s natural immune (protection) system breaks down, leaving it unable to fight off infection. A person with AIDS gets illnesses that are little or no threat to others with a healthy immune system.

What causes AIDS?

AIDS is caused by the virus called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). HIV is sexually transmitted virus and is present in the blood and other body fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions of an infected person.

How do I get HIV/AIDS?

You can get HIV/AIDS through any of the following ways:

  1. By having unprotected sexual intercourse withdraw infected person.
  2. By using contaminated drugs needles
  3. Through transfusion of blood ( in Jamaica all blood entering the Blood Bank is throughly screened for HIV) or blood produced from an infected source.
  4. An infected mother can pass the virus on to her unborn child either during pregnancy or at birth.

Who are at risk of getting HIV/AIDS?

  1. Person who have unprotected sex.
  2. Person with many sexual partners
  3. Persons who have had repeat infections of STDs
  4. Males and female prostitutes
  5. Sexually active homosexual and bisexual males.
  6. Person who have sex with someone who is HIV positive.
  7. Past or present users of needles to inject illicit drugs, eg. cocaine.

What happens when HIV enters the body?

HIV is a silent virus which slowly destroys the immune system and so a person with HIV can live up to ten (10) years. The majority of persons infected with HIV do not know they have the virus and do not show any signs of the disease, this makes it easier for them to infect others without even knowing. Person who have been infected with HIV will eventually develop AIDS.

NOTE: If you already have HIV and have sex with another person who has HIV, with consent or without knowing, you are at risk of being reinfected. Reinfection means that the disease will be more aggressive and the initial drugs may no longer work. Speak to a doctor immediately if you think you were reinfected with HIV.

How can I know if I am infected with the virus?

You have take an HIV test to know if you are infected. This test should be done after proper pre test. The test is done 3-6 weeks after someone suspects that they have been infected to look for HIV antibodies which mean that the virus is present.

What are some of the symptoms of AIDS?

The symptoms of AIDS resemble that of many other diseases, however, when two or more of the following are present one may be suspect of having HIV/AIDS:

  • Rapid weigh loss
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen glands in the neck, armpit and groin.
  • Diarrhoea and loss of appetite lasting more than a month.

Can I get HIV/AIDS through casual contact?

You cannot get AIDS through casual contact. There is no case of persons getting the disease by shaking hands, sharing the same glass, utensils, toilet, telephone or through any of the regular household or workplace experiences.

Can HIV/AIDS be prevented?

HIV/AIDS can be prevented, because there is no known cure for AIDS, people must be extremely careful to change their sexual behavior. Here are some ways to help prevent the spread of AIDS:

  • Abstain or delay sex
  • Be faithful to one uninfected partner
  • Use latex condom every time you have sex (vaginal, oral, anal) with every partner.
  • Do not do drugs or share injection needles.
  • Do no have sex with prostitutes
  • Seek early and complete treatment for STDs.
  • Get the facts on STDs and AIDS.

REMEMBER

  1. Every STD infection you get increases your chance of getting HIV.
  1. You must use a condom every time in every sexual act.
  1. Call the AIDS/STD Helpline

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