• AIDS or HIV Positive

AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome:

A - Acquired. This condition is acquired, meaning that a person becomes infected with it.

I - Immuno. HIV affects a person's immune system, the part of the body that fights off germs such as bacteria or viruses.

D - Deficiency. The immune system becomes deficient and does not work properly.

S - Syndrome. A person with AIDS may experience other diseases and infections because of a weakened immune system.

AIDS was first reported in the United States in 1981 and has since become a major worldwide epidemic. AIDS is the most advanced stage of infection caused by HIV. The names HIV and AIDS can be confusing because both terms describe the same disease. But most people who are HIV positive do not have AIDS. An HIV-positive person is said to have AIDS when his or her immune system becomes so weak it can't fight off certain kinds of infections and cancers, such as PCP (a type of pneumonia) or KS (Kaposi sarcoma, a type of cancer that affects the skin and internal organs in HIV), wasting syndrome (involuntary weight loss), memory impairment, or tuberculosis.

Even without one of these infections, an HIV-positive person is diagnosed with AIDS if his or her immune system weakens, as indicated by the number of CD4 cells in his or her blood. A CD4 cell count less than 200 in an HIV-infected person counts as a diagnosis of AIDS. It can take between 2 to 10 years, or longer, for an HIV-positive person to develop AIDS if he or she is not treated. Most people who start treatment (with medicines called antiretroviral therapy or ART) soon after an HIV infection will not develop AIDS.

Once a person has been diagnosed with AIDS, she or he is always considered to have AIDS, even if that person's CD4 count goes up again and/or they recover from the disease that defined their AIDS diagnosis.

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AIDS or HIV Positive

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