AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a syndrome that is caused by the virus HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus is known to alter the immune system in a way that makes people more susceptible to infections and diseases. The vulnerability gets progressively worse as the syndrome progresses.
HIV can be found in all tissues found in the human body but can only be transmitted through body fluids of someone who is infected. These body fluids include semen, blood, breast milk, etc. Many people confuse the terms AIDS and HIV and use them interchangeably. But in reality, HIV is the virus that causes the medical condition of AIDS. HIV attacks the immune cells called CD-4 cells and AIDS is the syndrome that can appear when the HIV infection gets to a severe enough level. Not all HIV infections will result in the development of AIDS and it is very much possible to contract HIV without getting AIDS. But if left untreated, HIV can progress to an advanced level and in the majority of the cases develop AIDS in the infected individual.
For a more defined definition, HIV is a retrovirus that infects vital organs and cells of the human immune system. It progresses in advancement in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) which is a type of drug therapy that is used to slow or even prevent the virus’s development. The rate of this growth varies wildly between different people as it depends on many factors. These factors include the age of the individual, the body’s ability to defend against the virus, access to adequate health care, the presence of other infections, and even a person’s genes.
How is HIV transmitted?
There are three main ways that a person can get HIV. They are
- Sexual Transmission: HIV can spread to a healthy person through sexual contact with an infected individual. More specifically, through the exchange of sexual fluids from an infected person to a healthy person. This can happen when having sexual intercourse without using protection in the form of condoms.
- Perinatal Transmission: A mother can transfer the virus to her child during the process of childbirth or during pregnancy. Even breast milk is a medium for the virus to spread so breastfeeding is also a potential way to transfer HIV.
- Blood Transmission: Nowadays, it is extremely rare to see HIV being spread through blood transfusions because of the advanced technology and rigorous screening procedures. However, there is a good chance of transmission when people reuse syringes like with the case of taking drugs.