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Asian American Medical Society

HIV is not a death sentence, and people can still live with it as long as they stick to their HIV treatment. HIV is not the same thing as AIDS, but it can develop into aids. HIV can cause inflammation and damage inside the body, leading to a weaker immune system. A weaker immune system then can lead to AIDs (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of a patient who has HIV. Viral load is highest during the acute phase of HIV. Taking HIV medicines can make the viral load very low. There are 3 stages of HIV: acute HIV infection, chronic HIV infection, and AIDS. In the first stage, people have a large amount of HIV in their blood and are highly contagious. They also have flu-like symptoms. The CDC defines this stage as the patient having CD4 cells more than 500+ per microliter or at least 29% of all lymphocytes (white blood cells that identify and destroy cells infected by a virus). CD4 cells, or T-cells, are lymphocytes that guard the body against bacteria, viruses, and other germs. In the second stage, chronic HIV infection, HIV is still active and reproduces in the body. The patient might not show any symptoms but can still transmit HIV. This stage can last around a decade with HIV treatment. At the end of this stage, virus load increases and the patient moves to stage 3. CDC defines this stage as the patient having CD4 cells between 200-499 or 14%-28% of all lymphocytes. In the last stage, the most severe stage with high virus load, people can easily transmit to others. People with AIDS can easily get other infectious diseases, and they normally survive 3 years. CDC defines this stage as the patients having CD4 cells less than 200 or 14% of all lymphocytes.

HIV cannot be transmitted between people through touch, tears, sweat, or air, but it can be transmitted through semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and rectal fluid. Also, HIV can be transmitted between mother and baby, called perinatal transmission, during pregnancy, birth, or breast feeding. Staying undetectable is one way to treat HIV. Undetectable means the virus level in the blood is so low that it can not be detected.

In the United States, 36,000 people had HIV in 2021, decreased by 7% from 2017 to 2021. In 2021, 67% of the people got HIV through male-to-male sexual contact. On the other hand, heterosexual contact accounted for 22% of all HIV diagnoses in 2021. The best way to control HIV is to develop a safe, easily accessible, cost efficient vaccine, but, even after 30 years of HIV research and vaccine trials, there is no licensed vaccine for HIV currently in the market.


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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Basics. (accessed 2024-02-11)

Harvard medical school, Harvard Health publishing. HIV/AIDS. (accessed 2024-02-11).

Kaiser Permanente, HIV: Stages of Infection. https://healthy.kaiserpermanen...f-infection.hw182771 (accessed 2024-02-11).

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