Acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome

July 28, 2011

(AIDS) AIDS is a medical diagnosis by a physician of a set of symptoms or conditions based on specific criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These criteria include infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and either the presence of one or more defined AIDS indicator diseases or other indicators of a suppressed immune system based on certain blood tests (CD4+ counts). The “opportunistic” diseases associated with AIDS occur following the depression of an individual’s immune system, allowing susceptibility to unusual infections or malignancies.

AIDS, the end stage of HIV disease, is caused by the infection and spread of HIV within the body. A positive HIV test result alone does not mean that a person has AIDS, only that HIV infection has occurred. HIV destroys CD4+ T blood cells that are crucial to the normal function of the human immune system. Most HIV-infected people carry the virus for years before the immune system is damaged enough for AIDS to develop. There is a direct correlation between the amount of HIV in the blood, the decline in CD4+ T cell numbers, and the onset of AIDS. Progression from initial HIV infection to AIDS may take 10 years or more, but varies greatly depending on many factors, including a person’s health status and their health-related behaviors. Reducing the amount of virus in the body with anti-HIV drugs can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens and destroys the immune system.

The natural history of HIV infection in adults is well documented in the medical literature. The impact of gender on the outcome of HIV infection is still being investigated. HIV appears to progress more rapidly in women than men and to present with a different array of opportunistic conditions. These factors may also be compounded by the tendency of women to receive less care and to present with more advanced disease.

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Category: A, Acquired immunodeficiency Syndrome