HIV/AIDS

What is AIDS and HIV

AIDS is the most severe form of disease caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), a virus that damages the immune system, leaving a person open to many life-threatening infections.
Less than 20 years later, that mysterious disease had become one of the worst epidemics ever to strike humanity. AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) had killed almost 14 million people worldwide, including more than 3 million children, by the end of 1998. In the United States, AIDS had killed more than 400,000 people, including almost 5,000 children younger than age 15. 

Even greater numbers of people are infected with the virus that causes AIDS, but have not yet developed the disease. In the United States, almost a million people are thought to be infected with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, and most do not know they are carrying the virus that causes AIDS. Within 10 years of becoming infected, about half of them will have developed AIDS. Worldwide, more than 33 million people are living with HIV infection, mostly in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

How Does HIV Spread

HIV infection can spread only when an infected person’s body fluid (blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, or any body fluid containing blood) enters the bloodstream or contacts the mucous membrane * of another person.
 Sexual intercourse, either homosexual (between men) or heterosexual (between men and women), is responsible for most cases of HIV infection. The virus also commonly spreads among people who share contaminated needles when they inject drugs. Infected mothers may pass it on to their babies during pregnancy, childbirth, or breast-feeding.

 If blood is infected, transfusions can spread HIV. But in the United States, blood transfusions have been tested for HIV since 1985, and the risk of infection from a transfusion is extremely low.

 Oral sex also can spread the virus, and at least one case has been reported in which the virus is thought to have spread there is some evidence that there is virus in pre-ejaculate, although probably low titer in a relatively small volume. One situation in which you might think that infection without ejaculation could occur orally would be, for instance, if someone had a urethral discharge. In cases of urethral gonorrhea or other inflammatory STDs or potentially ulcerative STDs–where you have an open wound on the penis–you could hypothesize that transmission could occur by that route. In the absence of those types of cofactors, I think I would agree though that transmission of HIV by receptive fellatio without ejaculation is exceedingly rare.

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