Facts About HIV And AIDS

Facts about HIV and AIDS, which will help you understand your loved one’s illness.

If you’re going to be caring for a loved one with HIV infection, you need to understand the basics about HIV and AIDS. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). People infected with HIV can look and feel healthy and may not know for years that they are infected. No matter how healthy they seem, however, they can infect other people. As HIV gradually wipes out parts of the body’s immune system, an infected person gets sick because his or her body can’t fight off disease.

Different people have different symptoms, and many HIV warning signs are similar to those of other common illnesses:

  • Swollen Glands
  • Fatigue
  • Weight Loss
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

The virus lives in bodily fluid: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. A blood test is the only way to diagnose HIV.

Despite ongoing research, there is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection and no cure for AIDS. Treatments are available, however, that can keep infected people healthy longer and prevent common AIDS-related diseases.

Without proper preventive care, HIV slowly makes an infected person sicker and sicker. Diseases and infections will cause serious illness, but people often get better—until the next illness. Sometimes, HIV can damage the brain and cause changes in feelings and moods. Someone with AIDS can feel fine in the morning and be sick in the afternoon. Living with the ups and downs of HIV and AIDS can seem like riding a roller coaster, slowly climbing up to feeling good, then plunging down into another illness.

© Copyright FamilyCare America, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Adapted from Caring for Someone with AIDS at Home: A Guide, ACTIS Publication No. D817, United States Department of Health and Human Services, AIDS Clinical Trial Information Service.

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