AIDS and HIV infection " Q & A
QUESTION: What is AIDS?
AIDS is a disease caused by a virus that can break down the body's immune system and lead to fatal infections and some forms of cancer.
Before this brief answer is given more detail, six abbreviations that are often used need to be explained (some are used more often in Thailand than in other countries):
• AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.
• ARC stands for AIDS Related Complex.
• HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which causes the disease. In other words, HIV is the AIDS virus.
• HIV infection (HIV positive) means infection with the AIDS virus or AIDS virus infection.
• PWA stands for Person with AIDS.
• STDs stands for all Sexually Transmitted Diseases (formerly VD).
QUESTION: How does the virus cause AIDS?
The virus causes AIDS by disabling or destroying certain kinds of white blood cells that normally help the body fight disease. This system of cells is called the immune defence system. Without a healthy immune system the body can't defend itself against infections and other diseases.
Because of this, within 10 years of being infected with the virus, at least 50 percent of HIV-infected persons will have developed AIDS. Persons with AIDS are open to attack from infections and cancers that a healthy person who does not have AIDS can resist.
A diagnosis of AIDS is based on symptoms and illnesses, as well as an examination of the blood cells to determine the condition of the immune system.
People with AIDS may lose more than 10 percent of their weight and may have chronic diarrhea, and have fever for more than a month. They may suffer with problems of the skin, glands or throat. More critically, they are very vulnerable to deadly diseases like pneumonia and some cancers.
Although they may get different illnesses, all persons with AIDS have something in common: their immune defence systems are not working because of infection with the AIDS virus.
People do not die of AIDS. They die of the diseases acquired because their immune system does not protect them any longer.
The majority of people who have been diagnosed with AIDS die within two years of the diagnosis. A few have survived longer.
QUESTION: What happens to people infected with the AIDS virus?
After infection with the virus most people have a prolonged period without AIDS virus-related illnesses. They are considered to be HIV positive or infected with the AIDS virus. It is important to realize that at this stage they do not have AIDS.
They may, however, experience other symptoms and illnesses as the immune system loses its ability to protect the body. This stage is sometimes referred to as ARC or AIDS Related Complex.
It is important to understand that although the HIV-infected person may show no signs of illness, he or she can transmit the virus to others through shared needles, sexual intercourse or from infected mother to unborn child.
QUESTION: Can you tell who has HIV infection by looking at them?
No, there is no way of telling if a person has the AIDS virus just by looking at him or her. Many people who have HIV infection look and feel healthy for a long time, but they are carrying the virus and can pass it on to others.
QUESTION: Can you have HIV infection (AIDS virus infection) and not be sick?
Yes, some people have HIV infection but are not sick for as long as ten years. Almost all will eventually start to show symptoms of AIDS at some point.