What are HIV and AIDS?

HIV and AIDS are closely related but they are not the same thing. HIV is a virus. It attacks the immune system, leaving a person vulnerable to infection. When someone starts to become ill because their immune system is damaged, they are said to have AIDS.

In this way, AIDS is not really a specific illness, but rather a name given to the set of illnesses and symptoms that people who have contracted HIV suffer from.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted when people exchange bodily fluids. This overwhelming happens in one of three ways:

Sex

Contact with blood

From Mother-to-child, at birth

The details of how HIV gets passed on are a little complicated, so click here if you want to know more.

What happens to people who contract HIV?

At first, nothing. It takes time for HIV to make someone ill. In fact, for up to three months after infection, HIV can even be undetectable.

However, sooner or later, HIV will start to make a person ill. Untreated, it will usually be fatal.

Can HIV and AIDS be cured?

There is no cure, nor is their likely to be anytime soon. However, treatment is available: antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). These medicines can be difficult to take, and often have unpleasant side effects. But they do work.

Over several years, the drugs have been proven to be effective. They may not cure AIDS, and may not ultimately prevent death, but they can almost always extend and improve the life of someone living with AIDS.

If HIV and AIDS can be treated reasonably well, what’s the problem?

The problem is money. The anti-AIDS drugs are usually far too expensive for people in Zambia and other poor countries to use. Profit-making drug companies almost never sell the drugs at affordable prices, and so millions of people are ‘priced out of the market’. Put simply, they are too poor to stay alive.

 

Learn more

This page is really just a quick intro to HIV and AIDS. There’s loads of really great stuff on the web, but an especially good place to start is Avert.org. It has loads of readable yet detailed info on everything to do with HIV and AIDS – strongly recommended.

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