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
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AIDS is caused by the
, 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.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually Transmitted Diseases Treatment Guidelines, 2010.
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.
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. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at:
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Accessed May 15, 2013.
Last reviewed September 2014 by David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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