About Aids


For more information, please visit Center for Disease Control and Prevention


What is AIDS?
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the disease caused by the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The virus progressively weakens the body's immune system, making the person susceptible to many unusual diseases, often called opportunistic infections. The stages of an HIV infection are:

First stage: Initial infection of the virus and development of antibodies which unsuccessfully attempt to fight and destroy the virus.
Second stage: Carrier state without symptoms: the person carries the virus in their body but has no outward symptoms of an infection and is otherwise healthy.
Third stage: The pre-AIDS stage during which the patient begins to develop certain infections that are symptomatic of full-blown AIDS.
Fourth stage: Full-blown AIDS. At this stage, the patient has been infected for a substantial time and is exhibiting almost all of the manifestations of the disease.

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Transmission of HIV
The HIV virus is transmitted via the blood (and body fluids that contain blood), semen, and vaginal secretions of an infected person. The virus can be spread to another person by:
  • Any form of sexual contact with an infected person. Even protected sexual contact is not 100% effective in preventing the spread of HIV.
  • Sharing a contaminated needle or other piercing instrument with a person infected with HIV.
  • Infected blood or blood products.
  • From the infected mother to her child, either before or shortly after birth.
  • Contact with HIV infected blood or body fluids through the mucous membranes or any non-intact skin (such as an unprotected open cut or wound) of an uninfected person. This type of exposure usually occurs in the occupational setting (nurses, physicians, etc.) and carries a risk factor of less than 1% to contract the HIV virus in this manner depending on length of exposure, HIV titer, and volume of blood.

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Who is at risk?
There is no known risk for getting AIDS from an infected person by household situations or casual contact such as:
  • touching, hugging, shaking hands.
  • sharing bathroom facilities.
  • clothing or telephones used by an infected person.
  • eating food prepared by the infected person.
  • a drinking glass or eating utensils.
  • sneezing, coughing, spitting.
  • swimming with a person infected with HIV.
  • insect bite transmission (e.g. mosquitoes).
You can become infected with HIV by:
  • Having any sexual contact, protected or unprotected with an infected person.
  • Sharing needles and syringes with an infected person.
  • Receiving HIV infected blood or blood products.
  • A baby can get HIV from its infected mother before, during, or shortly after birth.
  • Coming in contact with HIV infected blood or body fluids on non-intact skin or mucous membranes without wearing personal protection (e.g. wearing gloves while providing medical care involving potentially infectious body fluids).
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    Who should be tested?
    Persons who have reason to think that they have been infected by HIV should seek counseling and testing. There are two types of testing, anonymous and confidential. With anonymous testing, your name or other personal identifier is not taken, thus no one knows the results of the test but whomever you choose to tell. However, the testing site is required by Ohio law to report any confirmed positive HIV tests to the local health department. Confidential testing means that your test results or visit to the health facility for testing will remain confidential between yourself and the health care provider.

    Confidential counseling and test site:
    University Medical Services
    @ Cedarville University
    Phone: (937) 766-7863
    Anonymous counseling and test site:
    Greene County Combined Health District
    360 Wilson Dr.
    Xenia, OH 45385
    Phone: (937) 374-5600
    There are two categories of tests for HIV:

    1. The most commonly chosen and usually the first category of testing performed when an HIV infection is suspected are tests used to determine if antibodies to HIV are present. The testing is considered confirmed positive when two positive ELISA (enzyme-linked immunoabsorbent assay) tests are confirmed by a positive Western Blot test for antibodies to HIV.

    2. The newest type of testing on the market is called the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test which tests for the antigen itself (the HIV virus).

    Neither test is a confirmation for the disease of AIDS but rather a test for the HIV virus. A positive result means that the person has been infected with the HIV virus and can infect others as well as contract AIDS. Since it can take up to 6 months or longer after infection with the HIV virus for a person to develop antibodies, a negative result within the 6 months is not a confirmation that a person has not been infected with HIV. Persons who suspect or know that they have been infected with HIV should avoid risky or unsafe behaviors and practices that might infect others.

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    Symptoms
    • Fatigue
    • Weight loss
    • Diarrhea
    • Fever and chills
    • Night sweats
    • Swollen glands
    Patients with AIDS may begin with the symptoms above, commonly referred to as the AIDS-related complex (ARC), and progress to other severe, rare, and often fatal diseases. Another infection frequently seen in patients with AIDS is a type of skin cancer known as Kaposi's sarcoma (may appear as purplish patches on the skin or inside the mouth).

    It is important to keep in mind that, although patients with AIDS are infectious to others by the methods discussed above, they are still human beings in need of love and care which can be safely administered if the caregiver is knowledgeable about methods of transmission and practices the correct precautionary measures.

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    Treatment
    The treatment for patients who have been diagnosed with AIDS is geared towards the infections and symptoms present. However, there is now a protocol for preventative treatment for people who are HIV positive, in some situations causing sero-conversion of the patient, depending on the mode of transmission, amount of HIV exposure, and the haste with which the treatment is begun. Drug therapy includes using a combination of antiretroviral agents along with protease inhibitors, all with potent side effects and a hefty cost. The best way to prevent an HIV infection is to avoid behaviors that carry a high risk of HIV transmission, and to use good infection control practices if you have to come in contact with potentially infectious body fluids.

    Infection Control:
    The principals of good infection control practices can be performed anywhere and will help protect ourselves as well as our families and those that we care for against many types of unwanted infections. Key practices in infection control include:

    1. Washing your hands:
    1. before and after eating.
    2. after using the toilet.
    3. after you blow your nose.
    4. after you cough or sneeze.
    5. before and after giving direct hands-on care.
    6. after handling someone's personal belongings.
    7. after handling used bandages or other personal care (hospital or sick room) items.
    8. after handling soiled linens or clothing.
    9. whenever your hands are noticeably soiled, especially with blood or other body fluids.
    *NOTE* Many department stores now carry waterless antimicrobial soap in small personal sized containers that can be easily slipped into a bookbag, pocket, or purse.

    2. Use Universal Precautions when working or volunteering in an area that has the potential for contact with blood or body fluids such as hospitals, EMS units, athletic meets or training rooms, etc.

    The term Universal Precautions means: "Guidelines for preventing infection in any workplace where the potential for contracting an infectious disease exists for the worker." The guidelines were published by the Centers for Disease Control in conjunction with OSHA in 1987, and were called "universal precaution" because they apply to all patients or clients no matter what their infectious status is.

    Universal Precautions treats all body fluids as potentially infectious and calls for the use of personal protection equipment as follows:
    • Gloves: when your hands are going to have contact with body fluids
    • Gown: when a procedure might cause splashing onto your clothing or uniform.
    • Mask and eye protection: when droplets of blood or other body fluids might be splattered.
    3. How to protect yourself outside of a formal setting where personal protection is readily available, e.g. street ministries, the Amazon jungle, home ministries, etc.
    • Wash hands immediately or as soon as possible if you accidentally come in contact with blood or other body fluids.
    • Do not touch blood or body fluids without proper protection (gloves, waterproof barrier in an emergency, etc.).
    • Don't panic or overreact and put yourself at risk unnecessarily if help is on the way in an emergency, e.g. doing CPR without a barrier between your mouth and the person you are trying to help, trying to dress a wound without gloves, etc.
    • Surfaces that have been contaminated with potentially contaminated body fluids can be disinfected using a freshly prepared 1:10 household bleach solution.
    • Use common sense!
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References
  1. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, June 7, 1996
  2. HIV/Surveillance Report, Vol. 8, No. 1
  3. Roche Biomedical Laboratories, RBL Center for Molecular Biology 1-(800)-8RBL-PCR, The HIV LINK SERVICE pamphlet
  4. Some Facts About AIDS pamphlet from the Ohio Department of Health, #0813.11
  5. How You Won't Get AIDS pamphlet from the Centers for Disease Control, #D049
  6. Cedarville University Wellness Policy Concerning HIV Infection and Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
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