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HIV and AIDS Overview

It is estimated over a million people in the United States, and almost 40 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV.

These alarming statistics and how quickly the virus continues to spread worldwide have pushed HIV and AIDS to the top of the list of healthcare priorities in the United States.

HIV is a viral infection that affects a person's immune system by destroying certain white blood cells called CD4+ (helper) T cells. These are the cells that help to defend the body against certain infections and cancers. When HIV weakens the immune system, a person is unable to fight off these infections, which include viruses, bacteria, parasites, and some types of cancer.

AIDS is the final and most serious stage of HIV disease, which causes severe damage to the immune system. A person with HIV is diagnosed with AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) when:

Knowledge is Power

Billions of dollars are currently being spent to try to help develop more successful treatments for those living with the disease, discover better methods of testing, and, hopefully, to eventually find a cure. To date this research has lead to important new knowledge about HIV disease and immunity and has resulted in the development of effective medications which have dramatically improved the health of persons living with HIV. Much remains unknown, however, and new HIV infections continue at an alarming rate (approximately 4 million people are infected with HIV each year, 40,000 of whom live in the US).

The best weapon against AIDS and HIV is education. The more people understand about how to protect themselves against the disease, the more it will be contained.

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Last Reviewed: Jul 20, 2008

Associate Professor of Medicine
School of Medicine
Case Western Reserve University