HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically targeting CD4 cells (T cells), which are crucial for the body’s defense against infections and diseases. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and diseases effectively. When the immune system becomes severely compromised, the person is said to have AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

HIV is primarily transmitted through:

  1. Unprotected sexual intercourse: Particularly anal or vaginal sex without a condom with an infected person.
  2. Sharing needles: HIV can be transmitted through the sharing of needles and syringes contaminated with the blood of an infected person.
  3. Mother to child: HIV can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
  4. Blood transfusions and organ transplants: Although this is rare in countries with stringent screening procedures, it was a significant mode of transmission in the early years of the epidemic.

The symptoms of HIV can vary widely. Some people may not have any symptoms for many years, while others may experience flu-like symptoms shortly after infection. Without treatment, HIV can progress to AIDS, characterized by the development of severe opportunistic infections or certain cancers.

However, with proper medical care, HIV can be managed effectively. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the primary treatment for HIV infection. ART works by slowing down the replication of the virus, allowing the immune system to repair itself and prevent further damage. When taken consistently and correctly, ART can dramatically prolong the lives of people living with HIV and reduce the risk of transmission to others.

Prevention is also key in the fight against HIV/AIDS. This includes practicing safe sex, using clean needles and syringes, getting tested and knowing your partner’s HIV status, and, for pregnant women, seeking early prenatal care and HIV testing to prevent mother-to-child transmission.

Efforts to combat HIV/AIDS have made significant progress over the years, but the disease remains a global health challenge, particularly in regions with limited access to healthcare and resources. Ongoing research, education, and access to treatment and prevention measures are crucial in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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