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Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS)

Definition:
Disorder in which the immune system is weakened gradually until it is eventually broken down by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
 
Background:
The prevalence of AIDS continues to increase. In the very early period following infection, there may be signs of an acute, brief, non-specific viral infection. After this infection, the patient may remain an asymptomatic carrier for years. The time from infection to clinical diagnosis varies from several years to more than a decade. Being HIV positive does not mean you have AIDS. However, a patient typically dies 18-24 months after the AIDS syndrome becomes obvious. The HIV virus is transmitted via the exchange of bodily fluid between people (e.g. semen, blood). The virus is also passed on through sexual contact or the sharing of needles between IV drug users. Heterosexual, not homosexual transmission is more often the case in the world. Even today, with extensive education regarding the disease, myths about AIDS continue to persist (e.g. the belief that it can be transmitted through casual contact (e.g. handshake). More education is needed to prevent the transmission of this syndrome.
 
Further Reading:

Libman, H. (1992). Pathogenesis, natural history, and classificant of HIV infection. Primary Care. 19 (1), 1-17.

Friedman, L. S., & Goodman, E. (1992). Adolescents at risk for HIV infection. Primary Care. 19 (1), 171-190.

 
Related Terms:
Health psychology

Self-Instructional Resources:
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