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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is an illness that weakens the body's immune system. The immune system of a person with AIDS is not able to fight off certain infections and cancers.

The Immune System

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which destroys important immune system cells. HIV is spread through contact with HIV-infected blood or other body fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Unprotected sex is the most common mode of transmission. Sharing needles for injecting drugs is another common way the virus is transferred.

References:

HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Accessed May 15, 2013.

HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Accessed May 15, 2013.

A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed May 15, 2013.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.

Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.


 
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