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What ARe HIV And AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a germ that causes AIDS (Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndrome) by weakening the immune system, the part
of the body that fights off infection and disease.
A person is said to have AIDS when he or she starts to get many common
health problems more often than usual and stays sick longer. Some of these
problems are losing weight, sores that will not heal, a bad cough, sweating
at night, diarrhea, skin rashes, a fever, or feeling very tired all the time.
Without treatment the immune system of a person with AIDS gets weaker
and weaker and the person is less able to fight these health problems.
Most people with AIDS die from diseases their bodies are no longer strong
enough to fight.
Many people who are infected with HIV do not get sick for several years.
This means that a person can be infected with HIV and not know they have
it because they feel healthy. But HIV can be passed from one person to
another as soon as a person is infected. So, the only way to know if you are
infected is to take a blood test called an HIV test. This test can be done at
many clinics, hospitals, and other locations.
Medicines called anti-retrovirals, or ARVs,
can help people with HIV regain their
health or stay healthy for many years.
ARVs can also help prevent the spread
of HIV to a baby or to people who are
exposed accidentally. ARVs cannot cure
HIV, however. So these medicines must be
taken every day, for life.
Medicines for HIV are expensive, though
people affected by HIV have organized to
make them available in more countries and
at lower prices. Many governments and organizations provide ARVs for free
either through their own funding or with the support of international donors.
Talk to a health worker who has experience working with HIV to find out
where to go for treatment for HIV.