HIV/AIDS: A Worldwide Deadly Sexually Transmitted Disease Epidemic

HIV/AIDS has become a worldwide epidemic and number of infected people continues to grow rapidly. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the HIV virus, which kills or damages the cells of the body’s immune system, making people more susceptible to life-threatening diseases. AVERT, an international AIDS charity, states that the number of people with HIV/AIDS worldwide is 38.6 million, and in the United States numbers varies between 900,000 and 1.2 million, depending upon which estimate used for reference. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), over 950,000 people in the United States have been infected with HIV/AIDS since 1981, when it was first reported. HIV/AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease (STD), entering the body through the vagina, penis, rectal cavity (anus), or oral cavity (mouth), or through other risky behaviors, including sharing drug needles with someone who is infected with HIV/AIDS. There is no evidence, however, to support the rumors that HIV/AIDS can be spread through tears, sweat, urine, or feces. Nor is it spread through casual contact such as sharing towels and clothing, bath tubs, toilet seats, swimming pools, or hot tubs. An untreated mother with HIV/AIDS can spread the disease to her baby during pregnancy, birth, and/or through breast milk. HIV/AIDS can also be spread through contact with infected blood; however, this is not as prevalent as it used to be, because blood is now screened for HIV/AIDS infection before donation. Medical practitioners use precautions including latex gloves, face shields, and other protection to avoid accidental contact with potentially infected blood whenever possible. When accidental exposure by a medical practitioner occurs, tests are performed to ensure that the person becomes aware of any infection should they have experienced exposure. It is quite interesting that not everyone who is exposed to the HIV/AIDS virus will get HIV or AIDS and that some people that get HIV never develop full-blown AIDS. However, there are far too many cases of these deadly STDs to take any chances whatsoever! Many people show no symptoms when first infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. After one to two months, however, flu-like symptoms may appear. These symptoms may include headache, fever, fatigue, and enlarged lymph nodes. These symptoms will usually be gone within one week to one month, and are often missed or mistaken for the flu. Some people may begin to have more noticeable symptoms within a few weeks, while others may not show symptoms for ten years or more, while HIV/AIDS is still present within their body. Even without symptoms, there will be a decrease in T-cells, and a blood test can be done for this to determine if someone has HIV/AIDS. Other symptoms often experienced by those exposed to HIV, months or even years before the onset of full-blown AIDS include swollen glands for more than three months, lack of energy, fever, sweating, frequent vaginal infections, weight loss, skin rashes, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) in women, and short-term memory loss. The only way to ensure that you are not exposed to HIV/AIDS is to avoid high-risk sexual behaviors or to limit sexual activity to a long-term, monogamous relationship where both partners have been tested and proven to be free from HIV and AIDS. Using a condom during sex, when used correctly, can lessen the risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS, but condoms can break and all too often, in the “heat of the moment” may not be used properly or may not be used at all. Condoms also offer some degree of protection against other common STDs such as Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Genital Herpes, Chlamydia, and others, so remember to always practice safe sex and choose sexual partners with care. Treatment for HIV/AIDS includes medications to fight HIV infection as well as other opportunistic infections that may develop as a result. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several drugs, such as Azidothymidine (AZT), that slow down the spread of the HIV virus in the infected person’s body. Research continues in hopes of finding a cure for this tragic two-pronged STD, but to date, no cure has been found.