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In 1981, the first cases of severe immune system deterioration were recognized developed unusual infections. The new disease was later named "AIDS". At that time, no one knew what was causing the disease. Since then, science has shown that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the cause of AIDS. As HIV infection progresses, it weakens a person's ability to fight off diseases. By attacking the immune system, the virus leaves people more susceptible to other diseases. When a person with HIV contracts one of several additional diseases, or when a person's immune system shows serious deterioration, that person is classified as having AIDS. As of June 1994 over 550,000 Americans had AIDS. I have updated numbers.
Globally, 37.8 million adults and children were living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2003. More than 95% were living in low- and middle-income countries. In 2003, 4.8 million people were newly infected with HIV, and there were 2.9 million adult and child deaths due to HIV/AIDS. Almost 50% of newly infected adults were women. Since the beginning of the epidemic, there have been more than 20 million AIDS deaths.
HIV is transmitted during sex, through significant and direct contact with infected blood (including menstrual blood), from mother to baby, Breast milk, Semen and possibly pre-seminal fluid ("pre-cum"), Vaginal secretions. In order for HIV to be transmitted HIV must be present. HIV must get inside the body. The sexual behaviors that can transmit HIV. Vaginal sex (penis in the vagina), Anal sex (penis in the anus) involving either men or women and Oral sex (mouth on the penis or vagina). Other ways that HIV can be transmitted Sharing needles when shooting drugs Home tattooing and body piercing Accidental needle sticks Blood transfusions Childbirth Breast-feeding. It is important to know, Most people with HIV infection do not look sick. It is important to remember that HIV is NOT transmitted through Saliva, tears, sweat, feces, or urine Hugging Kissing Massage Shaking hands Insect bites Living in the same house with someone who has HIV Sharing showers or toilets with someone with HIV
Some behavior is more risky than others. It is important to recognize that risk factors are not the direct cause of disease. HIV affects people at every point on the risk spectrum and many people who are most "at risk" for HIV infection never become infected. Understanding HIV risk factors can help you better evaluate your own risk.

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Some of the most common behavioral risk factors include:

High Risk

Having unprotected anal or vaginal sex with an HIV-infected person or with a person whose HIV status is unknown Having multiple sexual partners Having sex with sex workers Having sex with IV drug users Sharing syringes or needles Using nonsterile needles for piercing or tattooing

Low Risk

Having vaginal or anal sex with a condom Oral sex

Other factors that may put one at risk for HIV infection include Another sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, trichomoniasis, or hepatitis Having been the victim of sexual assault Having sex while under the influence of drugs or alcohol Having a mother who had HIV when you were born
Protecting yourself against HIV is about knowledge. Understanding how you get (and avoid getting) HIV, and knowing yourself and your partner (or partners), are key to protecting yourself against HIV.
Many people who "know better" engage in risky activities. The reasons for this are numerous and normal: you could be afraid to insist that your partner use a condom; you could make false assumptions about partners (they seem too young, old, healthy-looking, or nice to be HIV positive); you might be a drinker or recreational drug user who does things while under the influence that you wouldn't otherwise consider. The hardest part of protecting yourself can be learning how to apply what you know to your life and behavior.
Be safe and smart with your decisions. Reduce your risk for HIV by avoiding activities that put you at risk and only practicing safer sex. Don't be afraid to get tested or to insist that your partner get tested; knowing your HIV status and that of your partner (or partners) will help you make more informed decisions.

The window period
The window period is the time it takes for your body to produce HIV antibodies after you have been exposed to HIV. In more than 99% of people, this period is between 2 and 12 weeks. In a very small number of people, the process takes up to 6 months.
Is there a cure?
At this time, there is no cure for HIV. But there are things you can do.
Since this is the current reality, it is important that those people who are not infected with HIV stay negative and those living with HIV/AIDS stay healthy.
For people infected with HIV, drug development has helped to change the face of the disease. Whereas HIV infection once implied certain death, drug therapy has helped to prolong and improve the quality of life for many individuals.
HIV is a retrovirus, so drugs that target the virus are called antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. There are many different types of ARVs, but they all work by slowing the growth or inhibiting the replication of the virus. Although these drugs do not kill the virus, they effectively reduce the levels of HIV in the blood.
In choosing to begin drug therapy to treat HIV, it is important to discuss your options with a doctor. The doctor will perform blood tests to determine your viral load (how much HIV is in your blood) and your T cell (CD4+) levels (how strong your immune system is). Knowing these test results and the symptoms you have experienced will allow the two of you to decide

Role of drugs in HIV transmission
Alcohol and drugs can alter people's judgment. They may take risks that might expose them to HIV that they would not take when sober.
Sharing needles to inject drugs (such as heroin, speed, or anabolic steroids) is VERY dangerous and can easily spread HIV (and other serious diseases) from one person to another.
Some people who are addicted to drugs may trade sex for drugs or money to get more drugs. This may put them at greater risk for HIV, especially if they do not always practice safe sex. Some drugs can harm the body's immune system, which fights infections. This is especially dangerous for people with HIV. Using needles to take drugs may also expose people with HIV to harmful bacteria or viruses, which can also make them very sick. People addicted to drugs or alcohol are often malnourished. Poor nutrition can be a serious problem for people with HIV, and may make them become sick faster. Alcohol and other drugs can have dangerous interactions with the medicines that people with HIV take to stay well. Drug use can disrupt people's lives. When this happens to people with HIV, they may forget to take their medications, see their doctor, or take other steps to stay well.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, and yes, left untreated, it can lead to death. This is why it is so important to get medical care if you find out you have HIV. Do not be afraid to seek a doctor or other health care provider--he or she can help you to stay well and, hopefully, not get sick. Treatments for HIV are not perfect, and are not available to everyone around the world, but can be very effective for many people. A doctor or other health care provider can explain the best options for you and help you to stay well.
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