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AIDS is a fatal disease.  The best way to combat the disease is knowledge about how to prevent it.  There is not a cure nor a vaccine.

What is AIDS?

We need to start with a couple of acronyms and their definitions:

1) AIDS- acquired immunodeficiency syndrome   
2) HIV-  human immunodeficiency virus. 

AIDS is not actually a virus. It is the disease caused by HIV.  In a two-step process, HIV uses a protein on its surface, gp120, to bind to a pair of receptors on the surface of T-cells, allowing the virus to enter the cell. Once inside, the HIV virus fuses with the cellís genetic machinery and begins to multiply, producing thousands more HIV virus particles. In time, the T-cell bursts like a seedpod, scattering new HIV virus to infect and kill other cells. The cycle is then repeated countless times. Once this happens many times over and the T-cell level drops to a certain point, the last stage of HIV sets in and an individual is considered to have AIDS.  AIDS is a disease that impairs you immune system by lowering the lymphocyte count, eventually rendering white blood cell functions almost useless. 

How do you get AIDS?

HIV can be contracted a variety of different ways.  However, 97% of all cases can be traced to one of three routes:

1) sexual intercourse
2) contact with body fluids, especially blood ( blood transfusion, needle sharing)
3) mother to fetus transmission.

To know if you have contracted AIDS, a blood test is typically conducted to find out if you have HIV antibodies circulating in your blood.  But, the antibodies may not be present for up to 3 months after transmission, so you may actually have HIV and still test negative because not enough time has passed to produce the antibodies. 


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