HIV/AIDS

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It harms your immune system by destroying a type of white blood cell that helps your body fight infection. This puts you at risk for serious infections and certain cancers.What is AIDS?

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the final stage of infection with HIV. It happens when the body’s immune system is badly damaged because of the virus. Not everyone with HIV develops AIDS.How does HIV spread?

HIV can spread in different ways:

  • Through unprotected sex with a person with HIV. This is the most common way that it spreads.
  • By sharing drug needles
  • Through contact with the blood of a person with HIV
  • From mother to baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding

Who is at risk for HIV infection?

Anyone can get HIV, but certain groups have a higher risk of getting it:

  • People who have another sexually transmitted disease (STD). Having an STD can increase your risk of getting or spreading HIV.
  • People who inject drugs with shared needles
  • • Gay and bisexual men, especially those who are Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino American
  • People who engage in risky sexual behaviors, such as not using condoms

What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

The first signs of HIV infection may be flu-like symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches
  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Mouth ulcers

These symptoms may come and go within two to four weeks. This stage is called acute HIV infection.

If the infection is not treated, it becomes chronic HIV infection. Often, there are no symptoms during this stage. If it is not treated, eventually the virus will weaken your body’s immune system. Then the infection will progress to AIDS. This is the late stage of HIV infection. With AIDS, your immune system is badly damaged. You can get more and more severe infections. These are known as opportunistic infections (OIs).

Some people may not feel sick during the earlier stages of HIV infection. So the only way to know for sure whether you have HIV is to get tested.How do I know if I have HIV?

A blood test can tell if you have HIV infection. Your health care provider can do the test, or you can use a home testing kit. You can also use the CDC Testing Locator to find free testing sites.What are the treatments for HIV/AIDS?

There is no cure for HIV infection, but it can be treated with medicines. This is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART can make HIV infection a manageable chronic condition. It also reduces the risk of spreading the virus to others.

Most people with HIV live long and healthy lives if they get and stay on ART. It’s also important to take care of yourself. Making sure that you have the support you need, living a healthy lifestyle, and getting regular medical care can help you enjoy a better quality of life.Can HIV/AIDS be prevented?

You can reduce the risk of spreading HIV by

  • Getting tested for HIV
  • Choosing less risky sexual behaviors. This includes limiting the number of sexual partners you have and using latex condoms every time you have sex. If your or your partner is allergic to latex, you can use polyurethane condoms.
  • Getting tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
  • Not injecting drugs
  • Talking to your health care provider about medicines to prevent HIV:
    • PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is for people who don’t already have HIV but are at very high risk of getting it. PrEP is daily medicine that can reduce this risk.
    • PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is for people who have possibly been exposed to HIV. It is only for emergency situations. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV.

NIH: National Institutes of Health

Immune System and Disorders

What is the immune system?

Your immune system is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs. Together they help the body fight infections and other diseases.

When germs such as bacteria or viruses invade your body, they attack and multiply. This is called an infection. The infection causes the disease that makes you sick. Your immune system protects you from the disease by fighting off the germs.What are the parts of the immune system?

The immune system has many different parts, including

  • Your skin, which can help prevent germs from getting into the body
  • Mucous membranes, which are the moist, inner linings of some organs and body cavities. They make mucus and other substances which can trap and fight germs.
  • White blood cells, which fight germs
  • Organs and tissues of the lymph system, such as the thymus, spleen, tonsils, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, and bone marrow. They produce, store, and carry white blood cells.

How does the immune system work?

Your immune system defends your body against substances it sees as harmful or foreign. These substances are called antigens. They may be germs such as bacteria and viruses. They might be chemicals or toxins. They could also be cells that are damaged from things like cancer or sunburn.

When your immune system recognizes an antigen, it attacks it. This is called an immune response. Part of this response is to make antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that work to attack, weaken, and destroy antigens. Your body also makes other cells to fight the antigen.

Afterwards, your immune system remembers the antigen. If it sees the antigen again, it can recognize it. It will quickly send out the right antibodies, so in most cases, you don’t get sick. This protection against a certain disease is called immunity.What are the types of immunity?

There are three different types of immunity:

  • Innate immunity is the protection that you are born with. It is your body’s first line of defense. It includes barriers such as the skin and mucous membranes. They keep harmful substances from entering the body. It also includes some cells and chemicals which can attack foreign substances.
  • Active immunity, also called adaptive immunity, develops when you are infected with or vaccinated against a foreign substance. Active immunity is usually long-lasting. For many diseases, it can last your entire life.
  • Passive immunity happens when you receive antibodies to a disease instead of making them through your own immune system. For example, newborn babies have antibodies from their mothers. People can also get passive immunity through blood products that contain antibodies. This kind of immunity gives you protection right away. But it only lasts a few weeks or months.

What can go wrong with the immune system?

Sometimes a person may have an immune response even though there is no real threat. This can lead to problems such as allergies, asthma, and autoimmune diseases. If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.

Other immune system problems happen when your immune system does not work correctly. These problems include immunodeficiency diseases. If you have an immunodeficiency disease, you get sick more often. Your infections may last longer and can be more serious and harder to treat. They are often genetic disorders.

There are other diseases that can affect your immune system. For example, HIV is a virus that harms your immune system by destroying your white blood cells. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People with AIDS have badly damaged immune systems. They get an increasing number of severe illnesses.

Infection Control

Every year, lives are lost because of the spread of infections in hospitals. Health care workers can take steps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. These steps are part of infection control.

Proper hand washing is the most effective way to prevent the spread of infections in hospitals. If you are a patient, don’t be afraid to remind friends, family and health care providers to wash their hands before getting close to you.

Other steps health care workers can take include

  • Covering coughs and sneezes
  • Staying up to date with vaccinations
  • Using gloves, masks and protective clothing
  • Making tissues and hand cleaners available
  • Following hospital guidelines when dealing with blood or contaminated items

Kidney Transplantation

A kidney transplant is an operation that places a healthy kidney in your body. The transplanted kidney takes over the work of the two kidneys that failed, so you no longer need dialysis.

During a transplant, the surgeon places the new kidney in your lower abdomen and connects the artery and vein of the new kidney to your artery and vein. Often, the new kidney will start making urine as soon as your blood starts flowing through it. But sometimes it takes a few weeks to start working.

Many transplanted kidneys come from donors who have died. Some come from a living family member. The wait for a new kidney can be long.

If you have a transplant, you must take drugs for the rest of your life, to keep your body from rejecting the new kidney.

NIH: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

Malaria

Malaria is a serious disease caused by a parasite. You get it when an infected mosquito bites you. Malaria is a major cause of death worldwide, but it is almost wiped out in the United States. The disease is mostly a problem in developing countries with warm climates. If you travel to these countries, you are at risk. There are four different types of malaria caused by four related parasites. The most deadly type occurs in Africa south of the Sahara Desert.

Malaria symptoms include chills, flu-like symptoms, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and jaundice. A blood test can diagnose it. It can be life-threatening. However, you can treat malaria with drugs. The type of drug depends on which kind of malaria you have and where you were infected.

Malaria can be prevented. When traveling to areas where malaria is found

  • See your doctor for medicines that protect you
  • Wear insect repellent with DEET
  • Cover up
  • Sleep under mosquito netting

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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