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What is AIDS??
By Crystal S., Grade 10, Crescent Collegiate, Blaketown, NF

AIDS stands for a disease called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Let's look at exactly what the word AIDS stands for. The word Acquired tells us that AIDS is something that a person gets from another person. Immunodeficiency is another word that refers to the immune system. It means that a person's immune system is not strong enough to work correctly and is lacking the ability to fight off disease-causing organisms that normally it wouldn't destroy easily. Syndrome means a group of conditions or symptoms that show that something is wrong.

AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency virus. A virus is a very small organism that invades a person's body and causes disease. Different viruses cause different illnesses. AIDS is a result of an infection.

HIV invades and destroys T-lymocytes and macrophages, two types of white blood cells that are very important in fighting off infections. A virus is much smaller than a blood cell, so HIV is able to enter T-cells and macrophages and love inside them. The T-cell count falls lower and lower as the AIDS virus destroys more and more healthy cells. Because the T4-cell is an important part of the immune system the body's ability to fight off infections is decreased. Because the immune system is weakened this condition is called immunosuppression. Organisms that normally would be destroyed by the immune system are able to infect the body.

As HIV destroys more and more cells in the immune system, it is easier for infections and cancers to invade the body. People with AIDS may get many opportunistic infections during the course of their illness, either one at a time or several at once. Eventually, the immune system is so weak that one or more of these infections or cancers develops and can not be treated successfully. When we say that someone has died of AIDS, we mean that he or she has died as a result of these opportunistic infections or cancers.

AIDS is transmitted only when the virus comes into direct contact with someone's bloodstream. This can happen through sexual intercourse, by using infected needles and syringes to inject intravenous drugs or steroids, from an infected mother to her unborn baby, or by receiving infected blood or blood products.

AIDS can be prevented by not using needles for drugs or tattoos, and by not having sex. But since these things are being done every day you should throw away needles or sterilize them when you are finished. So you won't get AIDS from having sex you should wear a condom, not only to prevent AIDS but to prevent pregnancy and other STD'S (Sexually Transmitted Diseases).

In addition to the physical and emotional trauma people infected with HIV face because of their illness, they face much discrimination. Some have lost or been denied jobs, housing, medical care, and health insurance. Children with AIDS have been kept from attending school. This discrimination is a result of fear of how the disease is transmitted. Fear of getting the disease through contact with a person carrying the HIV virus.

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