As AIDS spreads throughout the population, it also affects people who have never had the disease. The CDC estimates that about one third of the world's population is living with HIV. While the disease is not contagious, the disease is often passed on through contact with the infected. For many who are infected, the illness can lead to an increased risk of death, with the most common causes of death being complications of HIV. Infection with AIDS, despite its early onset in late adolescence, can often be detected during adolescence or adulthood, even in children who do not have symptoms. Those who develop AIDS typically experience a progressive loss of their immune system function that leads to the development of AIDS-related complications.
HIV/AIDS is a lifelong disease with no cure. There is no vaccine for HIV/AIDS. Currently, there are only two approved medications for the treatment of HIV infection: PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate).
For more information about HIV/AIDS and the CDC AIDS fact sheet, visit our HIV fact sheet.
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In a study conducted jointly by sociologists from UCLA and Columbia, the team found that while people who say they are spiritual have higher levels of physical performance and stress tolerance, the same is not true for healthy people who are members of traditional communities.
"There are differences in the relationships between religiosity and health, but they're not as dramatic as people think," said Sarah Breen, a PhD candidate in sociology, and one of the co-authors of the study. "Religiosity and physical performance seem to be relatively stable across the whole population. But that doesn't mean those spiritual individuals are healthier from a mental health perspective."
The team, in a study published in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior, gathered data from 2,062 people who were part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The participants answered survey questions that examined variables including their religiosity, physical activity behaviors, social support, mental health behaviors and personality traits, but they did not answer questions about their health history.
When they analyzed the data, the researchers found that people who describe themselves as spiritual are significantly more likely to receive regular exercise services such as religious counseling, yoga classes and physical fitness classes than people who are not religious. But what these religious behaviors were, the researchers were not able to pinpoint.
HIV infection is a major risk factor for HIV/AIDS and other opportunistic diseases, and the symptoms of HIV infection are often mistaken for AIDS if untreated, and if not treated early, HIV infection does not always clear itself.
The main cause of HIV disease is the viral replicating genome of the virus, which must replicate within a human cell. The cells need to have the genetic information to build and copy the virus in order to replicate. Unfortunately it is now common knowledge that HIV cannot be replicated by a cell's genetic information alone. Therefore, HIV/AIDS is often caused by infection either of the patient's own immune system (e.g. AIDS, HIV-1) or infection of an exposed or unvaccinated person who has been exposed to HIV/AIDS or HIV-infected blood transfusion recipients, such as a pregnant or postpartum nursing mother or a blood transfusion recipient. A third category of persons with HIV infection are those who develop opportunistic infections of the blood clotting system, such as thrombocytopenia.
HIV disease is a progressive disease, which means that, like a cancer in humans, HIV disease advances over time. Since the initial exposure to HIV is usually acquired in the initial symptoms, one can predict how long the disease will take to manifest. The progression of a patient's disease and the length of time to complete cure should be closely monitored. Symptoms do not last long during HIV disease; rather, the disease begins to diminish. The symptoms include fever, severe weight loss, pain, weakness, joint pain, blurred vision, headache, and loss of appetite. During the disease, immune systems are damaged and cells may fail to make enough healthy protein to produce the antibodies necessary to fight off the virus.
An acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a condition in which a person has an impairment of the immune system so severe that they are unable to function normally, either from the infection of HIV or other immune-compromised diseases. A person who has AIDS is at very high risk of developing other diseases as well. This diagnosis, because it has been made after the signs and symptoms of disease have begun, can help identify individuals who may have an inherited predisposition to other diseases. This can help explain the high rate of cancer in those who have been exposed to HIV infection.
Infections that cause AIDS are caused primarily by HIV or by AIDS-associated viruses (AIDS-associated viruses or AIDS-caused viruses). Other viruses also may cause complications; these include hepatitis, hepatitis C, Epstein-Barr virus, or hepatitis A. The type of virus most commonly associated with AIDS is HIV, which is the form of HIV that has been transmitted to all individuals who have HIV infection. This virus infects and then replicates among all cell types in the body. It continues to multiply until the infected person has no functioning immune system to fight against it.