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What is HIV?
How Is HIV transmitted?
What is AIDS?
Where did HIV come from?
How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV and what are the symptoms?
How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?
What are the treatment options?
Prevention Tips.
References and Resources

What is HIV?
HIV/AIDS is something that everyone should know about. In June of 2000 the CDC reported that there were 753,907 total AIDS cases in the United States with 124,911 of them in females.(2) Although more cases are reported in males than females, college women still need to be aware of the disease and its consequences, especially during such a crucial time of life as college when they are embarking upon new experiences (1). HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency syndrome). Because men were the main focus of treatment for this epidemic, women with HIV were often diagnosed and treated later during the infection than men. Additionally, a woman's reproductive system presented new issues for doctors to consider when evaluating women patients (3). Therefore it is important for women to be educated about the disease and how it specifically affects females in order to prevent future infection. [ To Top ]
How Is HIV transmitted?

This virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood and sexual contact. In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their babies during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. Many people who acquire an HIV infection will develop AIDS as a result.

HIV can be spread through contact with the following body fluids:

  • blood
  • semen
  • vaginal fluid
  • breast milk
  • other body fluids containing blood

These are additional body fluids that may transmit the virus; health care workers are at increased risk:

  • cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and the spinal cord
  • synovial fluid surrounding bone joints
  • amniotic fluid surrounding a fetus
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What is AIDS?

An HIV-infected person receives a diagnosis of AIDS after developing one of the Center for Disease Control-defined AIDS indicator illnesses. An HIV-positive person who has not had any serious illnesses also can receive an AIDS diagnosis from a doctor on the basis of certain criteria, including blood tests (CD4+ counts) that tell how many of a certain kind of white blood cell are present in addition to other tests performed by physicians (5).

AIDS is characterized by the presence of "opportunistic infections" because the presence of HIV is able to weaken the body's responses to illnesses and allow diseases commonly considered as less dangerous to damage the body much more easily (6). This can create a life-threatening situation that requires medical attention. [ To Top ]

Where did HIV come from?
Scientists are not sure, but there are several different theories. The first instance of HIV infection occurred in a man from Africa. His blood was taken in 1959 and researchers later found that he was probably infected with one type of the virus (HIV-1) that is thought to have occurred during the late 1940s to early 1950s.

The United States has been home to HIV since the 1970s and was originally found in urban areas predominantly among the gay populations. Later the virus was found to infect all types of people, especially young women and minorities, allowing opportunistic infections such as Kaposi's sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia to take hold in previously healthy people. [ To Top ]

How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV and what are the symptoms?
The only way to know for sure if you are infected with HIV is to be diagnosed by a medical expert. You should not rely upon the presence of symptoms to tell you whether you are infected since many people who live with HIV exhibit no symptoms at all.

However, certain warning signs include (7):

  • rapid weight loss
  • dry cough
  • recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  • profound and unexplained fatigue
  • swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • diarrhea that lasts for more than a week
  • white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
  • pneumonia
  • red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  • memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders

However, do not jump to conclusions if you show any of these signs since the only way to tell for sure if you are infected is to be tested. [ To Top ]

How long does it take for HIV to cause AIDS?

The time it takes for HIV to cause AIDS varies among individuals, though scientists estimate that the average length is approximately 10 years. Additionally, with the new medications on the market today, people can live with HIV longer before developing AIDS. (8) [ To Top ]

What are the treatment options?
There is no cure for the HIV infection but here are some treatment options:

Learn more about the various treatments....

Learn more about possible drug interactions... [ To Top ]

Prevention Tips.
Remember, HIV/AIDS prevention is linked to our behavior. By practicing all the following, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting HIV/AIDS:
  • If you are having sex, make sure your partner is HIV negative. (Go get tested together - if you're sexually active you should be getting tested for STD's every 6 months)
  • Abstinence is foolproof, but if you decide to have sex, whether it's oral, vaginal, or anal sex, use male or female condoms (latex or polyurethane) every time you have sex.
  • Do not do drugs. If you are, however, addicted to intravenous drugs, do NOT share needles. Sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia can spread the disease to you.
  • If you or your partner had a blood transfusion between 1978 and 1985 or an operation or blood transfusion in a developing country at any time, get tested.
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References and Resources

1 Adapted from



4 Adapted from




8 [ To Top ]

This website is an information resource center and does not provide medical advice.
Information from website should not be a substitute
for medical advice from a health care professional.