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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a systemic viral infection that weakens the body's ability to fight infection and can cause acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS, the last stage of HIV disease). HIV preventative measures are a set of procedures that lower the risk of health care professionals being exposed to the virus.
HIV is the most dangerous sexually transmitted disease (STD), affecting people of all ages. In 1999, HIV was considered the fifth cause of death among American men and women between 25 and 44 years of age. It is
Most HIV-positive people are men. According to a 2001 survey by the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (www.cdc.gov), of 3,000 gay and bisexual men in six major U.S. cities (interviewed in public places, such as gay clubs and bars), 4.4% of gay and bisexual men, ages 23 to 29, are infected with HIV every year. Another study in 2001, also conducted by the CDC, reported that HIV infections among gay men of all races in their 20s were common in large American cities. Thirty percent of blacks, 15% of Hispanics, 7% of whites, and 3% of Asians were affected with HIV. In the general population, one in seven blacks becomes HIV-positive each year.
HIV infection can present no clinical symptoms, cause a spectrum of conditions, or appear as full-blown AIDS. A unique virus, HIV continually reproduces after it enters the body, eventually overwhelming the immune system and weakening the body's ability to fight lethal infections and cancers.
Most people infected with HIV are not ill. Some are without symptoms for more than 10 years. A "carrier" can host the virus and pass it on to other people without knowing it. Once the virus is established in the body, the chances of getting AIDS increase.
Some of the frequently reported symptoms of HIV/AIDS infections are:
Many HIV/AIDS symptoms are similar to those of tuberculosis, influenza, pneumonia, minor yeast infections, and other STDs. Basically healthy people tend to ignore their symptoms until they are ill enough to seeks medical care.
HIV is found in bodily fluids. It is most prevalent in blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. HIV infection cannot be transmitted through casual contact. Rather, HIV is transmitted by sexual contact with an infected person, exposure to contaminated blood (e.g., by sharing needles or accidental exposure to contaminated needles) and maternal-fetal transfer.
Activities that spread HIV/AIDS to others are:
Author Info: Aliene S. Linwood B.S.N., R.N., D.P.A., F.A.C.H.E., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Nursing and Allied Health, 2002
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