Home » SCI Data Center » Hiv/Aids



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 the organ­isms that cause dis­ease.

HIV is a sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tion. It can also be spread by con­tact with infect­ed blood, or from moth­er to child dur­ing preg­nan­cy, child­birth or breast-feed­ing. It can take years before HIV weak­ens your immune sys­tem to the point that you have AIDS.

There’s no cure for HIV/AIDS, but there are med­ica­tions that can dra­mat­i­cal­ly slow the pro­gres­sion of the dis­ease. These drugs have reduced AIDS deaths in many devel­oped nations. But HIV con­tin­ues to dec­i­mate pop­u­la­tions in Africa, Haiti and parts of Asia.


The symp­toms of HIV and AIDS vary, depend­ing on the phase of infec­tion.

Pri­ma­ry infec­tion 
The major­i­ty of peo­ple infect­ed by HIV devel­op a flu-like ill­ness with­in a month or two after the virus enters the body. This ill­ness, known as pri­ma­ry or acute HIV infec­tion, may last for a few weeks. Pos­si­ble symp­toms include: Fever, Mus­cle sore­ness, Rash, Headache, Sore throat, Mouth or gen­i­tal ulcers, Swollen lymph glands, main­ly on the neck, Joint pain, Night sweats, Diar­rhea.

Although the symp­toms of pri­ma­ry HIV infec­tion may be mild enough to go unno­ticed, the amount of virus in the blood stream (viral load) is par­tic­u­lar­ly high at this time. As a result, HIV infec­tion spreads more effi­cient­ly dur­ing pri­ma­ry infec­tion than dur­ing the next stage of infec­tion.

Clin­i­cal latent infec­tion 
In some peo­ple, per­sis­tent swelling of lymph nodes occurs dur­ing clin­i­cal latent HIV. Oth­er­wise, there are no spe­cif­ic signs and symp­toms. HIV remains in the body, how­ev­er, as free virus and in infect­ed white blood cells. Clin­i­cal latent infec­tion typ­i­cal­ly lasts eight to 10 years. A few peo­ple stay in this stage even longer, but oth­ers progress to more-severe dis­ease much soon­er.

Ear­ly symp­to­matic HIV infec­tion 
As the virus con­tin­ues to mul­ti­ply and destroy immune cells, you may devel­op mild infec­tions or chron­ic symp­toms such as: Fever, Fatigue, Swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infec­tion, Diar­rhea, Weight loss, Cough and short­ness of breath.

Pro­gres­sion to AIDS
If you receive no treat­ment for your HIV infec­tion, the dis­ease typ­i­cal­ly pro­gress­es to AIDS in about 10 years. By the time AIDS devel­ops, your immune sys­tem has been severe­ly dam­aged, mak­ing you sus­cep­ti­ble to oppor­tunis­tic infec­tions — dis­eases that would­n’t trou­ble a per­son with a healthy immune sys­tem. The signs and symp­toms of some of these infec­tions may include: Soak­ing night sweats, Shak­ing chills or fever high­er than 38 C for sev­er­al weeks, Cough and short­ness of breath, Chron­ic diar­rhea, Per­sis­tent white spots or unusu­al lesions on your tongue or in your mouth, Headaches, Per­sis­tent, Unex­plained fatigue, Blurred and dis­tort­ed vision, Weight loss, Skin rash­es or bumps.

When to see a doc­tor 
If you think you may have been infect­ed with HIV or are at risk of con­tract­ing the virus, see a health care provider as soon as pos­si­ble.


Sci­en­tists believe a virus sim­i­lar to HIV first occurred in some pop­u­la­tions of chimps and mon­keys in Africa, where they’re hunt­ed for food. Con­tact with an infect­ed mon­key’s blood dur­ing butcher­ing or cook­ing may have allowed the virus to cross into humans and become HIV.

How does HIV become AIDS? 
HIV destroys CD4 cells — a spe­cif­ic type of white blood cell that plays a large role in help­ing your body fight dis­ease. Your immune sys­tem weak­ens as more CD4 cells are killed. You can have an HIV infec­tion for years before it pro­gress­es to AIDS. Peo­ple infect­ed with HIV progress to AIDS when their CD4 count falls below 200 or they expe­ri­ence an AIDS-defin­ing com­pli­ca­tion, such as: Pneu­mo­cys­tis pneu­mo­nia, Cytomegalovirus, Tuber­cu­lo­sis, Tox­o­plas­mo­sis, Cryp­tosporidio­sis.

How HIV is trans­mit­ted
To become infect­ed with HIV, infect­ed blood, semen or vagi­nal secre­tions must enter your body. You can’t become infect­ed through ordi­nary con­tact — hug­ging, kiss­ing, danc­ing or shak­ing hands — with some­one who has HIV or AIDS. HIV can’t be trans­mit­ted through the air, water or via insect bites.

You can become infect­ed with HIV in sev­er­al ways, includ­ing:

  • Dur­ing sex. You may become infect­ed if you have vagi­nal, anal or oral sex with an infect­ed part­ner whose blood, semen or vagi­nal secre­tions enter your body. The virus can enter your body through mouth sores or small tears that some­times devel­op in the rec­tum or vagi­na dur­ing sex­u­al activ­i­ty.
  • Blood trans­fu­sions. In some cas­es, the virus may be trans­mit­ted through blood trans­fu­sions. Amer­i­can hos­pi­tals and blood banks now screen the blood sup­ply for HIV anti­bod­ies, so this risk is very small.
  • Shar­ing nee­dles. HIV can be trans­mit­ted through nee­dles and syringes con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with infect­ed blood. Shar­ing intra­venous drug para­pher­na­lia puts you at high risk of HIV and oth­er infec­tious dis­eases such as hepati­tis.
  • From moth­er to child. Infect­ed moth­ers can infect their babies dur­ing preg­nan­cy or deliv­ery, or through breast-feed­ing. But if women receive treat­ment for HIV infec­tion dur­ing preg­nan­cy, the risk to their babies is sig­nif­i­cant­ly reduced.


When HIV/AIDS first sur­faced in the Unit­ed States, it pre­dom­i­nant­ly affect­ed homo­sex­u­al men. How­ev­er, now it is clear that HIV is also spread through het­ero­sex­u­al sex. Any­one of any age, race, sex or sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion can be infect­ed, but you’re at great­est risk of HIV/AIDS if you:

  • Have unpro­tect­ed sex. Unpro­tect­ed sex means hav­ing sex with­out using a new latex or polyurethane con­dom every time. Anal sex is more risky than is vagi­nal sex. The risk increas­es if you have mul­ti­ple sex­u­al part­ners.
  • Have anoth­er STI. Many sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tions (STIs) pro­duce open sores on your gen­i­tals. These sores act as door­ways for HIV to enter your body.
  • Use intra­venous drugs. Peo­ple who use intra­venous drugs often share nee­dles and syringes. This expos­es them to droplets of oth­er peo­ple’s blood.
  • Are an uncir­cum­cised man. Stud­ies indi­cate that lack of cir­cum­ci­sion increas­es the risk for het­ero­sex­u­al trans­mis­sion of HIV.

Down­load­able Doc­u­ments: