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AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome)

Dealing with an HIV diagnosis can be challenging. But it's still important to process your emotions and learn about HIV and the treatment options available—then prioritize treatment.

What is AIDS?

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). By damaging your immune system, HIV interferes with your body's ability to fight infection and disease.

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can also be spread by contact with infected blood and from illicit injection drug use or sharing needles. It can also be spread from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Without medication, it may take years before HIV weakens your immune system to the point that you have AIDS.

There's no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medications can control the infection and prevent progression of the disease. Antiviral treatments for HIV have reduced AIDS deaths around the world, and international organizations are working to increase the availability of prevention measures and treatment in resource-poor countries.

How is AIDS Treated?

HIV treatment (antiretroviral therapy or ART) involves taking medicine as prescribed by a health care provider. HIV treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your body and helps you stay healthy.

  • There is no cure for HIV, but you can control it with HIV treatment.

  • Most people can get the virus under control within six months.

  • HIV treatment does not prevent transmission of other sexually transmitted diseases.

There are two types of HIV treatment: pills and shots.

  • Pills are recommended for people who are just starting HIV treatment. There are many FDA-approved single pill and combination medicines available.

  • People who have had an undetectable viral load (or have been virally suppressed) for at least three months may consider shots.

What are signs & symptoms of AIDS?

Symptoms of AIDS are caused by the deterioration of the immune system and the decline of CD4+ T cells, which are the immune system's key infection fighters. As soon as HIV enters the body, it begins to destroy these cells. Some common symptoms include:

  • Diarrhea that lasts for more than a week

  • Dry cough

  • Memory loss, depression and neurological disorders

  • Pneumonia

  • Profound, unexplained fatigue

  • Rapid weight loss

  • Recurring fever or profuse night sweats

  • Red, brown, pink or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose or eyelids

  • Swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin or neck

  • White spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat

AIDS Quick Facts

  • In 2020, 30,635 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States and dependent areas. The annual number of new diagnoses decreased 8% from 2016 to 2019.

  • An estimated 1,189,700 people in the United Statesc had HIV at the end of 2019, the most recent year for which this information is available. Of those people, about 87% knew they had HIV.

  • In 2020, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 68% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas. In the same year, heterosexual contact accounted for 22% of all HIV diagnoses.

How does HIV affect different groups of people?

In 2020, male-to-male sexual contactd accounted for 68% of all new HIV diagnoses in the United States and dependent areas. In the same year, heterosexual contact accounted for 22% of all HIV diagnoses.


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