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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

What is it?

"HIV" stands for human immunodeficiency (ih-mew-no-d-FISH-in-c) virus. Once you are infected with this virus, you will probably be infected for life. "AIDS" stands for acquired immune deficiency (d-FISH-in-c) syndrome (SIN-drome). To get AIDS, you must be infected with HIV and have a weakened immune system. Scientists are making progress with treatments for HIV so people with AIDS are living longer and healthier lives.


Your immune system protects your body from infection. The HIV virus weakens part of your immune system by damaging the helper T-cells (also called CD4+ cells), a type of white blood cell (WBC). T-cells help your body fight certain kinds of infections. With AIDS, the number of T-cells is low and cannot help fight these infections. The HIV virus can also cause certain types of cancers. It is these infections and cancers that actually make people with HIV or AIDS sick.

Signs and Symptoms:

There are 2 ways that doctors can diagnose AIDS. A positive HIV test and either a T-cell count less than 200 or an infection that only affects people with weakened immunity. A healthy adult's T-cell count should be more than 500. You may have HIV in your body for some time and not know it. You may have one or more of the following symptoms:

With AIDS, your body has trouble fighting off germs. You can get infected with germs that do not bother most people, often in the lungs or brain. You may also get some rare kinds of pneumonia. One of these is pneumocystis (new-mo-SIS-tis) carinii (KUH-rih-nee-i) pneumonia (new-MOAN-yuh). This is also called PCP and is a lung infection. You may also get Kaposi's (kuh-PO-zees) sarcoma (KS), a form of cancer.

How is HIV spread from person to person? The following are ways that HIV can be spread:

How is HIV not spread? There are many false beliefs about how HIV may be spread from person to person. Following are the ways HIV is not spread:

What are the infections and cancers I could get because I have AIDS?

Wellness Recommendations:

Medical Care:

Dietary Measures:

Herbs and Supplements:

Before taking any herbs or supplements, ask your caregiver if it is OK. Talk to your caregiver about how much you should take. If you are using this medicine without instructions from your caregiver, follow the directions on the label. Do not take more medicine or take it more often than the directions tell you to. The herbs and supplements listed may or may not help treat your condition.



Complementary Therapies:

Other ways of treating your symptoms:

Other ways to treat your symptoms are available to you.

Talk to your caregiver if:


Care Agreement:

You have the right to help plan your care. To help with this plan, you must learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. You can then discuss treatment options with your caregivers. Work with them to decide what care may be used to treat you. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


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Last Updated: 9/15/2016

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