What is aIDS?

AIDS is the clinical state caused by infection with a strain of the human immunodeficiency virus. The HIV infection, acquired by sexual contact or from contaminated blood products or body parts, progresses as follows: Acute stage, viruses enter lymphocytes and, from this point on, the infected person can transmit the disease to others. About three to five weeks later, symptoms may develop, lasting two to three weeks before disappearing. T cells produce antibodies to kill the virus from the beginning, but they cannot be detected in blood tests until about three months later. Asymptomatic stage, the infected person may have no symptoms for several years
but the virus population increases and destroys T cells, slowly at first, rapidly later; the immune system becomes compromised. A helper T cell population of less than 500 cells/mm3 is a bad prognostic sign. Defenses begin to fail and symptoms, formerly called AIDS-related complex or ARC, begin to appear. Full-blown AIDS, final stage of the disease, immune defenses break down completely and secondary diseases attack the body. Death usually follows a few years later. Those at greatest risk for contacting AIDS are homosexual and bisexual men and intravenous drug users who share needles. Others include infants born to HIV-infected women and those who receive blood or body parts. See also HIV infection, under infection; HIV disease.

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