A few statistics about HIV/AIDS:
- AIDS is one of the top ten causes of death among people ages 15 to 44
- Every minute of every day, five people are infected with HIV
- 40 million adults and children are living with HIV/AIDS right now
- AIDS has already claimed more than 20 million lives
- 40 percent of all HIV-positive people don’t know they are infected
- Protect yourself and your loved ones by learning about HIV and AIDS
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Viruses are responsible for many of the hard-to-treat ailments in our society, from the common cold and flu, to more serious conditions like AIDS.
AIDS is a disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The HIV virus is spread from person to person through the exchange of contaminated body fluids, like blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk.
When HIV enters the body, it attaches itself to white blood cells (part of the immune system). The virus contains a protein that causes the white blood cells to produce new HIV cells, which attach to other white blood cells and are carried to all areas of the body.
Just like the virus that causes the common cold, HIV cannot be “cured” with medications. Furthermore, there is no vaccine to prevent infection. However, many medications do exist today that can help to keep the number of viruses in check for long periods of time. Contact your physician to discuss the treatment options that may be available to you.
HIV vs. AIDS
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (T cells or CD4 cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage. Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infections. When someone has one or more of these infections and a low number of T cells, he or she has AIDS.
Please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention link for more information.
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How HIV is transmitted?
HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding after birth.
In the health care setting, workers have been infected with HIV after being stuck with needles containing HIV-infected blood or, less frequently, after infected blood gets into a worker’s open cut or a mucous membrane (for example, the eyes or inside of the nose). There has been only one instance of patients being infected by a health care worker in the United States; this involved HIV transmission from one infected dentist to six patients. Investigations have been completed involving more than 22,000 patients of 63 HIV-infected physicians, surgeons, and dentists, and no other cases of this type of transmission have been identified in the United States.
Some people fear that HIV might be transmitted in other ways; however, no scientific evidence to support any of these fears has been found. If HIV were being transmitted through other routes (such as through air, water, or insects), the pattern of reported AIDS cases would be much different from what has been observed. For example, if mosquitoes could transmit HIV infection, many more young children and preadolescences would have been diagnosed with AIDS.
All reported cases suggesting new or potentially unknown routes of transmission are thoroughly investigated by state and local health departments with the assistance, guidance, and laboratory support from CDC. No additional routes of transmission have been recorded, despite a national sentinel system designed to detect just such an occurrence.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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How to Protect Yourself
In the United States, investments in HIV prevention have paid off. The rate of new HIV infections has slowed from more than 150,000 in the mid-1980s to around 40,000 per year now. Despite the substantial decline, the rate of new infections is still unacceptably high, making prevention as important as ever.
Preventing HIV Infection
The most reliable ways to avoid becoming infected with or transmitting HIV are:
Abstain from sexual intercourse (i.e., oral, vaginal, or anal sex)
Be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner
Abstain from sharing needles and/or syringes for nonprescription drugs
HIV and STDs
All partners should get tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) before initiating sexual intercourse. Having another STD increases, by two to five times, the likelihood a person will become infected with HIV and increases the likelihood an infected person will transmit HIV.
If a person chooses to have sexual intercourse with a partner whose infection status is unknown or who is infected with HIV or another STD, a new condom should be used for each act of insertive intercourse – oral, anal, or vaginal.
HIV and Injection Drug Users
Injection drug users, their partners, and their children account for at least 36% of all AIDS cases reported in the United States through 2000. Beyond abstinence, using a new, sterile needle or syringe with each injection remains the safest, most effective approach for limiting HIV and hepatitis transmission.
HIV and Pregnancy
Pregnant women should be routinely counseled and voluntarily tested for HIV. Early diagnosis allows a woman to receive effective antiviral therapies for her own health and preventive drugs (e.g., Zidovudine, also known as ZDV) to improve the chances that her infant will be born free of infection.
*the following laws were taken directly from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services
Prohibited acts, criminal penalties.
It shall be unlawful for any individual knowingly infected with HIV to:
(1) Be or attempt to be a blood, blood products, organ, sperm or tissue donor except as deemed necessary for medical research;
(2) Act in a reckless manner by exposing another person to HIV without the knowledge and consent of that person to be exposed to HIV.
Violation of this law is a class B felony unless the victim contracts HIV from the contact in which case it is a class A felony.
The use of condoms is not a defense
For additional information regarding HIV/AIDS Laws in the State of Missouri please visit http://health.mo.gov/living/healthcondiseases/communicable/hivaids/lawsregs.php