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What is AIDS and What Causes It?

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Updated June 19, 2014

Question: What is AIDS and What Causes It?
I am sure everyone has asked the question at least once in their life; what is AIDS? So how do I answer that question; what is AIDS? This answer to a very frequently asked question should provide you with the information you need to know. What is AIDS? Let's find out.
Answer: To answer the question what is AIDS, let's first define the term. AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. An HIV-infected person receives a diagnosis of AIDS after developing one of the CDC-defined AIDS defining illnesses. An HIV-positive person who has not had any serious illnesses also can receive an AIDS diagnosis on the basis of certain blood tests; specifically the CD4 counts.

A positive HIV test result DOES NOT mean that a person has AIDS. A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using certain clinical criteria (e.g., AIDS defining illnesses).

Infection with HIV can weaken the immune system to the point that it has difficulty fighting off certain infections. These types of infections are known as opportunistic infections because they take the opportunity a weakened immune system gives to cause illness.

Many of the infections that cause problems or may be life-threatening for people with AIDS are usually controlled by a healthy immune system. The immune system of a person with AIDS is weakened to the point that medical intervention may be necessary to prevent or treat serious illness.

Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or cure some of the illnesses associated with AIDS. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment and preventative care.

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