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AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
When a person is infected with HIV, the virus infects and can kill
certain cells in the immune system called T-helper cells. This weakens
the immune system so that other opportunistic infections can occur. The
HIV-infected person is said to have AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency
Syndrome) when they become sick with other specific infections or when
the number of T-helper cells has dropped below 200.
People at highest risk of AIDS and HIV infection are: People who
share needles Men who have sex with other men Babies born to mothers who
have HIV infection People who received blood transfusions or blood
products before 1985 Anyone who has sex with anyone who has or is at
risk for AIDS or HIV infection HIV is in blood and other body fluids
The virus is in the blood, semen, menstrual blood, vaginal
secretions, and breast milk of HIV infected persons. The virus can be
there even if the person has no symptoms of HIV- infection or AIDS.
People who are infected with HIV will carry (and be able to pass on) the
virus for the rest of their lives. HIV is spread by exposure to HIV
infected blood and HIV infected body fluids
HIV can be spread during sex, by sharing needles to inject drugs, or
from mother to baby (before or during birth, or by breast feeding). HIV
is rarely spread by getting stuck by a used needle, or by getting blood
or other infected body fluids onto a mouth, eyes, or broken skin. The
virus is not spread by casual contact like living in the same household,
or working with a person who carries HIV.
Certain symptoms and conditions may be associated with HIV/AIDS
These symptoms and conditions may include: fever, weight loss,
swollen lymph glands in the neck, under arms or groin, white patches in
the mouth (thrush), certain cancers (Kaposi's sarcoma, certain
lymphomas, certain invasive cervical cancers), and infections
(Pneumocystis pneumonia, certain types of meningitis, toxoplasmosis,
certain blood infections, TB, etc.).
blood test may tell if you have HIV infection or AIDS
You can get a HIV blood test at your doctor's office or at Counseling
and Testing Sites throughout Maryland. Call your local health
department or the AIDS Hotline (1-800-638- 6252) for information.
There is treatment for people with HIV infection and AIDS
Many drugs are available to treat the infections and cancers
associated with AIDS. There are also drugs available for people with HIV
infection that can help prevent them from getting sicker.
HIV and AIDS are preventable
Abstaining from sex, monogamy (having sex with one uninfected partner
who only has sex with you), and use of barrier protection (condoms) are
the most protective prevention strategies.
People who use injection drugs should try to quit. Otherwise, never share needles.
People with HIV or AIDS should discuss their HIV status with their
doctors and dentists, and inform their sex and needle sharing partners.
Women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy are encouraged to talk
with their doctor about getting tested for HIV. If a mother is known to
be infected with HIV, there is treatment to decrease the chance that her
baby will become infected.
Practices called Universal Precautions and Standard Precautions, such
as the use of gloves, goggles, gowns, etc., are used by health care
practitioners for prevention of transmission of any communicable disease
Free education and literature are available from 410-799-1940.
201 W. Preston Street, Baltimore, MD 21201-2399
(410) 767-6500 or 1-877-463-3464