Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, otherwise known as AIDS, is caused by infection of HIV, human immunodeficiency virus. The HIV virus attacks the T cells located in the immune system. This virus can potentially later advance to AIDS. Once someone is diagnosed with the AIDS virus their immune system becomes incredibly weak. If left untreated, the infected individual will have a life expectancy of around 3 years following diagnosis.
HIV was first identified as a virus that infected African chimpanzees. It is believed that the crossover from animals to humans occurred back in the late 1800s when humans ate the meat of an infected chimpanzee. It was not until the 1970s that HIV began infecting individuals in the United States.
Today, there are three ways that one could get this virus. It can be passed onto a baby from its mother though breastfeeding or during labor. Another cause is sharing or reusing needles that have been contaminated with the virus. It can also happen though blood transfusion but is very unlikely in America. Another way HIV can be passed on is through infected sexual fluids. If someone is having unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an HIV positive person then they too are leaving themselves open to infection. The progression of this virus depends on a number of things such as: healthcare access, age, and any other pre-existing infections. Antiretroviral therapy is meant to slow down the virus. When left untreated the persons CD4 cells count (meant to fight off infections and diseases) drops drastically. Healthy individuals have about 1000 CD4 cells per cubic meter, once an infected persons CD4 count drops to about 200, they then have AIDS. Someone that has over 200 CD4 cells can still get AIDS if they developed an opportunistic infection. This is not as common in today’s world since treatments have gotten better, but those that are living with HIV without knowing it are likely to have this happen to them.
If you are or know someone that is infected with HIV, there are places that offer support. There are many not-for-profit agencies that offer aids treatment and prevention information. These clinics can link its clients to medical treatment options and offer supportive services which can make the world of difference for these individuals just to know they are not alone.