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Quickly, AIDS awareness became critical to our health education as we learned that the disease existed and how it spread.
While we have learned a lot about AIDS over the past four decades, World AIDS Day is a time to reflect on the disease and how much it has shaped our culture in the last generation. Every Dec. 1, we take a look at what we know about AIDS — what causes it and how to prevent it.
AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
HIV attacks the body’s immune system, destroying the blood cells that help fight off infection. If HIV destroys enough of these cells, known as CD4 or T-cells, it can trigger AIDS.
Thanks to treatment, some people live long lives with HIV and never develop AIDS. But once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body for life. While there is no cure, there are medicines that can help you stay healthy. Just as important, HIV medicine lowers or may stop your chances of spreading the virus to other people.
Not everyone who contracts HIV experiences symptoms right away. Some may feel tired or have a fever within the first two months after they are infected. Others may feel nothing at all. Testing is the only way to know if you are infected. Testing is available at doctor’s offices and local public health clinics. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information about testing center locations across the United States through a toll-free number: 800-342-AIDS.
People with HIV may also experience one or more of these symptoms:
To protect yourself from the virus, you need to understand the ways HIV and AIDS spread.
HIV can also be transmitted in other ways:
While scientists continue to make advances that help people who are HIV positive live longer, it’s important to take steps to protect yourself.
Still have questions? Ask us here for more information.
Originally published 12/1/2015; Revised 2017, 2022
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