HIV is a very small infectious agent that needs another living cell (called a host cell) in order to reproduce. This is known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus weakens theimmune system to the point where the body is not adequately able to protect itself from infection. The body is then open to infections that are often unusual and life threatening. HIV is not a fatal agent itself but it makes the body very susceptible to fatal illness and disease.
HIV/AIDS is not transmitted by casual contact. The virus is commonly spread through intimate sexual contact, the sharing of blood, semen, or vaginal secretions. Mother to child transmission can also occur if the mother is infected because the baby is at high risk during birth and breast feeding. This is of concern because many babies infected with HIV will develop full blown AIDS very early, and most die before the age of three. An older person has a stronger immune system which takes more time to break down. 10% to 30% of young adults infected with HIV will develop AIDS within 5 – 10 years while 75% will develop AIDS between 10 – 15 years
The virus has to be present in a person’s body before it can be transmitted and the infected person must accumulate a certain concentration of the virus before transmission is possible. Also the virus must be transmitted to the right place in another person’s body because the virus must enter the bloodstream to infect a host cell. It is possible to contract HIV through sexual transmission, sharing needles, blood transfusions, and from mother to child. However, you can not be infected with HIV by such things as insects, casual contact, blood donations, public pools, saliva, or tears because the concentration of any virus would be far too weak.
If you or someone you know is infected with HIV/AIDS please contact us for “A Handbook for Caregivers”. This guide addresses special risks for the caregiver, do’s and don’ts, precautions, and nutrition.
Symptoms of HIV Infection
Unexplained persistent fatigue.
Unexplained fever, chills, nightsweats lasting more than a couple of weeks.
Unexplained weight lost of more than 10 lbs or more than 10% of body weight within two months.
Swollen glands in the armpits, neck, or groin lasting more than two months.
Purple, brown, pink raised bumps or splotches under the skin, inside the mouth, nose, eyes, or rectum.
Persistent white spots or blotches inside the mouth.
Persistent dry cough especially accompanied by shortness of breath.