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Ten Facts About HIV

Ten Important Facts About HIV Everyone Should Know

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Updated March 03, 2011

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

HIV is a complex disease that continues to take its toll around the world. For those living with the disease, understanding it is key to staying healthy. For those of us who aren't infected, an important key to staying that way is to understand how the disease spreads from person to person. This feature presents ten facts about HIV that everyone should know.

1. The Biology of HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); the epidemic of the 20th Century. But what exactly is HIV and what does it do to our bodies? Understanding HIV could mean the difference between being infected or not infected; the difference between being healthy and being sick.

2. HIV Transmission - How Does it Happen?

In the beginning, people believed HIV was limited to one group of people: gay men. Obviously we now know that isn't true at all. We know that anyone can be infected with HIV if precautions are not taken. But in order to know which precautions to take, we must know how HIV is spread from person to person.

3. Who Can Get Infected with HIV?

The simple answer to this question is: anyone can get infected with HIV if they're exposed to it. People from all races, ethnicities, genders, and sexual orientations can get the virus. Young, old, teens, babies, married and single; in short, we are all at risk if we don't take the proper precautions. How do people get infected? Among other ways, babies born to HIV-infected women can, anyone who has sex with an infected person can, people who share needles with an infected person can, or someone who's received a transfusion from an un-screened blood supply can.

4. People are Still Dying from HIV and AIDS

In the developed countries of the world, great strides have been made, and as a result fewer people are dying of HIV-related illnesses. However, in some parts of the world; in countries where resources for education, prevention, and treatment are limited, people are still dying. These numbers show just how many.

5. People are Living - Thanks to HIV Medications

People are living near-normal life spans despite being infected with HIV. Over the years, medications have come and gone; being in and out of favor or replaced by newer, more effective and easier-to-take combinations. With these meds, people are living long, healthy lives. Take a look at the current list of HIV drugs available.

6. PEPFAR is Helping People Around the World Live with HIV

The President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) is what some believe to be President George W. Bush's most worthwhile accomplishment as President. The funding provided by PEPFAR has arguably saved millions of lives around the world. Let's get the lowdown on PEPFAR.

7. Breastfeeding and HIV Just Don't Mix

The benefits of breastfeeding are undisputed, but unfortunately women who are living with HIV should not breastfeed; the risk to their babies is just too high. For some women, though, there is no choice. Without clean water or resources for baby formula, breast feeding is the only option; a fact that has contributed to the HIV problem in places like Sub-Sahara Africa. Click through to read why breastfeeding with HIV is so risky.

8. Mother-to-Baby Transmission Can Be Avoided

HIV transmission from mother to unborn child is relatively common if steps aren't taken to decrease that risk. In fact, without proper prenatal and postnatal care of mother and baby, the infection rate is about 1 in 4. Luckily, there are steps that can be taken to reduce the risk of HIV transmission during pregnancy dramatically.

9. HIV and Tuberculosis - A Deadly Combination

Tuberculosis (TB) is a disease that is spread from person to person through the air, and it is particularly dangerous for people infected with HIV. Tuberculosis and HIV is a deadly combination. In fact, worldwide TB is the leading cause of death among people infected with HIV. Find out more about why TB is so deadly; especially when combined with HIV.

10. Great News - HIV Can Be Prevented!

The correct and consistent use of latex condoms during sexual intercourse- vaginal, anal, or oral-can greatly reduce a person's risk of acquiring or transmitting most STDs, including HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, trichomonas, human papilloma virus infection (HPV), and hepatitis B.

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