What Are Hiv And Aids?

A description of HIV and AIDS, including their relationship and how they are transmitted.

The HIV virus (an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is perhaps today's best-known sexually-transmitted disease, largely as a result of a worldwide education effort that has to date been highly successful in industrialized nations. It is one of the only viral infections that has a near-perfect rate of mortality, as it is at this time entirely incurable. However, treatments have progressed to such a degree that the disease itself can be staved off for years or decades, depending upon the health of the individual and the extent of treatment available.

HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) are not synonymous; AIDS is merely the condition caused by advanced infection by the virus. An immunodeficiency syndrome is, as its name might suggest, a condition of hampered immunity. Patients with advanced AIDS are prone to infection by any number of opportunistic illnesses, and even minor infections may become severe in a short time. Bacterial infections can be managed with antibiotics, as with any patient, and mycoses (fungal infections), which can become common and sometimes very serious can be handled with antifungal drugs. Despite short-term solutions, the weak immune response in AIDS patients frequently leads to premature death to peripheral illnesses, like those mentioned. Cancer is a common cause of concern to AIDS patients, as the immune response of the body is one factor which normally helps to keep unhealthy cell mutation in check.

Information on HIV and AIDS is diverse and plentiful, but the most important things to know about the disease are practical. Testing is simple, and usually free; prevention is absolutely necessary, and quite achievable. While abstinence until marriage is touted as the ultimate preventative measure by most public sources, the only really reliable methods are celibacy and thorough testing. Barring celebacy (as it is not exactly in correspondence to the behavior of the average individual), even marriage will not save you from HIV; a religious pact is not a medical vaccine.

The ideal would be thorough monogamy, and mutual HIV testing prior to sexual contact. Second to this, use a condom. Oral and vaginal contraceptives do not protect against HIV infection and other sexually-transmitted diseases, even if they include a spermicide. A condom keeps all sexual fluids seperate, when undamaged and used properly, and thus eliminates virtually any risk for infection. The word 'virtually' is key, however. Only about 94% of couples who use condoms use them correctly, and some small fraction of condoms are likely to be defective. Condoms can tear within seconds if vaginal lubrication is insufficient, and can slip if applied improperly or if an erection is not maintained throughout the duration of the encounter. Condoms are absolutely an excellent start, and can be found for free at most Planned Parenthood locations and from university sources. Testing is similarly readily found, and inexpensive.

Male-to-male intercourse is at an exceptionally high risk for transmission, because sexual fluids are retained the longest and are closest to sources of internal bloodflow in the rectum. Anal sex in a male-to-female fashion produces a similarly high risk for infection; distrust quickly any claims that anal sex is "not really sex", or does not put anyone at risk, because this should be clearly false. Oral sex has a decreased risk of transmission, especially female-to-male, due to the fact that sexual fluid exposure occurs in non-vascular regions, like the mouth. However, a cut or other exposed region on the mouth or genitals could cause transmission, so this is not really a safe method, either. Non-spermicidal and flavored condoms designed especially for oral sex are available, and may greatly reduce the risk of transmission. Testing along with strict monogomy is the only sure method of prevention, and should be done readily between and during relationships; one should not rely on a partner's fidelity, no matter how trustworthy they may be. Remember, your life is at stake.

© High Speed Ventures 2011