Infection – A Basic Overview
Infection is caused by microbes – or tiny organisms – that enter the body and multiply more quickly than the body’s immune system can stop them. Types of Infection There More...
AIDS begins with an infection with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, a virus transmitted through bodily fluids. The transition from HIV infection to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) may take several years. Once the syndrome is acquired, people living with AIDS have decreased immune systems that make them more susceptible to other diseases.
HIV infection is often asymptomatic, which means infected individuals can spread the disease without knowing they are infected. Once AIDS develops, symptoms include fever, muscle aches, joint aches, rashes, sore throat and oral thrush infections, headaches, genital sores, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, night sweats, and diarrhea with accompanying weight loss. AIDS patients are susceptible to infections from germs that are harmless to most of the population, such as toxoplasmosis, AIDS is ultimately fatal; eventually, infections overwhelm the body.
AIDS is a relatively recent phenomenon. The first cases may have appeared in the 1970s, but the syndrome was not recognized until the 1980s. Some researchers believe the HIV virus originally affected primates, such as chimpanzees and gorillas, and hunting these animals eventually exposed humans to the primate blood, which carried the virus.
People infected with the HIV virus have the virus present in most bodily fluids, but in greatest concentration in the blood. People spread the virus from one to another through sexual intercourse, birth, breastfeeding, sharing hypodermic needles, and in situations where infected blood or other bodily fluid enters an exposed, open wound on someone else’s body.
South Africa is estimated as having the world’s largest HIV-infected population; almost 6 million people were infected in 2010. The South African AIDS epidemic caused some major concerns for the 2010 World Cup, which was held in South Africa. The fear was that some of the 300,000 tourists at the World Cup might contract HIV through sexual intercourse with local residents, although that didn’t happen. HIV is not transmitted through simple contact, so sitting near an infected person at a sporting event would not spread the virus.
There is no cure for AIDS. Treatments are aimed at relieving the symptoms of AIDS by bolstering the immune system. Pharmaceutical drugs may help to prolong the length of time between HIV exposure and full-blown AIDS. Some treatments aim to help prevent a person with AIDS from developing other illnesses.
In a recently published study in Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Ashli Owen-Smith and colleagues found that 53% of people living with AIDS used vitamins, 47% used supplements, 10% used herbal remedies, and 36% used meditation. The participants in this study also said they used massage, chiropractic, home non-herbal remedies, marijuana, yoga, aroma therapy, Tai chi, acupuncture, and prayer.
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