AIDS and HIV Infection
AIDS—acquired immunodeficiency (ih-myoo-no-dih-FIH-shen-see)
syndrome—is the condition caused by infection with HIV, the human
immunodeficiency virus. HIV attacks the body’s immune system*, leaving
one susceptible to life-threatening illnesses. Spread primarily through
unprotected sexual activity or needles contaminated with infected
blood, AIDS and HIV Infection in United states had become a worldwide epidemic* by the end of the
HIV can mutate (change its genetic characteristics) with amazing
speed, so that a single individual may be infected with different strains of
the virus. Furthermore, HIV can quickly become resistant to antiretroviral
medications (ARVs), rendering them ineffective. These are among the
reasons that no vaccine or cure for HIV had been found as of the early
AIDS It can take 5 to 15 years for HIV infection to develop into fullblown
AIDS. During most of this period, people usually look and feel
healthy. Unless they have been tested for HIV, they may not know that
they are infected. However, if their condition is left untreated, most people
with HIV eventually develop AIDS.
AIDS occurs when HIV has destroyed so many CD4+ cells that a
person’s T-cell count falls below a critical level, and the immune system can
no longer fight off common infections. Many of these are opportunistic
infections* (OIs) that rarely occur in people with healthy immune systems
but which can be life-threatening in AIDS patients. People with AIDS
often repeatedly contract the same OI. AIDS patients are also more likely
to develop certain cancers.
How Common Is HIV/AIDS?
Although effective measures for preventing HIV infection have been
known since the early 1980s, AIDS and HIV Infection in United states continued in the early 2000s
to spread throughout the world. Education about the disease and its
prevention has played a crucial role in slowing the epidemic. However,
changing human behavior to prevent HIV infection proved to be a more
intractable problem. New treatments for slowing or preventing the onset of AIDS in HIV-infected people led to some complacency about HIV/AIDS prevention.
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The United States Between 1981 and 2006 there were 982,498 diagnosed
cases of AIDS in the United States and 545,805 deaths; thus, by
2006 there were 436,693 Americans living with AIDS. The CDC estimates
that there were approximately 56,300 new HIV infections in the
United States in 2006. This rate is higher than previous estimates, not
because the number of new infections increased but because the technology
for tracking new infections improved. The CDC suspected that the
number of new HIV infections in the United States remained relatively
stable between the late 1990s and the early 2000s.
In the United States, in the early 2000s, gay and bisexual* men
remained the population that was most severely affected by HIV/AIDS.
Although men accounted for 73 percent of new infections in 2006,
women of color infected through heterosexual activity constituted the
fastest-growing group of HIV-infected Americans. Young people between
the ages of 13 and 29 accounted for more new infections than any other age group.
The CDC estimated that new infections in 2006 were contracted
in the following ways:
■ 53 percent resulted from male-to-male sexual contact
■ 31 percent resulted from high-risk heterosexual contact
■ 12 percent resulted from injected drug use.
As of the early 2000s African Americans were disproportionately and
more severely affected by HIV/AIDS than any other racial or ethnic group
in the United States. Blacks accounted for almost half of all Americans
living with HIV/AIDS, and they did not survive as long as patients in other
racial and ethnic groups. In 2006 black men accounted for 41 percent of
all male Americans living with HIV/AIDS, and black women accounted
for 64 percent of all female Americans with HIV/AIDS. Blacks accounted
for 45 percent of new infections in 2006, seven times the rate among
white Americans. Hispanic Americans had three times the rate of new
HIV infections as white Americans.