The State Hospital HIV / AIDS

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1 The State Hospital HIV / AIDS The red ribbon is the international symbol of HIV & AIDS awareness.

2 What is HIV? HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus: H is for Human - This virus infects human beings. I is for Immunodeficiency - This virus attacks your immune system. Your immune system is your body's defence against infections such as bacteria and viruses. Once attacked by HIV, your immune system becomes deficient and doesn't work properly. V is for Virus - A virus is a type of germ too small to be seen even with a microscope. HIV is a virus. Some viruses, like the ones that cause colds or flu, stay in the body for only a few days. HIV however, never goes away. If you are infected with HIV you are said to be HIV positive. If you are HIV positive, you will always be HIV positive. What does the virus do? All viruses must infect living cells to reproduce. HIV takes over certain immune system cells that are supposed to defend the body. These cells are called CD4 cells, or T cells. When HIV takes over a CD4 cell, it turns the cell into a virus factory. It forces the cell to produce thousands of copies of the virus.

3 These copies infect other CD4 cells. Infected cells don t work well and die early. Over time, the loss of CD4 cells weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to stay healthy. What is AIDS? AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: A is for Acquired The condition is acquired, meaning that you become infected with it. I is for Immuno It affects your immune system, the part of the body that fights off germs such as bacteria or viruses. D is for Deficiency - The immune system becomes deficient and does not work properly. S is for Syndrome If you have AIDS you may experience other diseases and infections because of a weakened immune system. AIDS is the most advanced stage of infection caused by HIV. Most people who are HIV positive do not have AIDS. If you are HIV-positive you will have AIDS when your immune system becomes so weak it can't fight off certain kinds of infections and cancers.

4 Even without one of these infections, if you are HIV-positive, you will be diagnosed with AIDS if your immune system becomes severely weakened. This is measured by a lab test that determines the number of CD4 cells you have. If you are HIV-infected and have a CD4 cell count less than 200, this counts as a diagnosis of AIDS. If you are HIV-positive, it can take between 2 to 10 years, or longer, to develop AIDS even without treatment. How is HIV spread? HIV is spread though four body fluids: Semen Vaginal fluid Blood Breast milk HIV is NOT spread through: Tears Sweat Faeces Urine You can get infected from sexual contact with someone who is infected with HIV. If you have sex, the best thing to do is to practice safer sex all the time. To do so, always use a condom.

5 How is HIV spread through blood? You can become infected if you have contact with the blood of someone who is infected with HIV. Blood-borne infection with HIV can occur through: Sharing needles when injecting drugs. Tattoos or body piercings with unsterilised needles. Accidental needlesticks. Blood transfusions. Splashing blood in your eyes. HIV is NOT spread by blood passed through insect bites. Pregnant women who are HIV positive can give the virus to their babies in the womb and during birth. What are the symptoms? You can t tell if a person is HIV positive by looking at them. Most people with HIV infection don t look sick. Even so, when a person first becomes infected, they may get certain symptoms. This period of early infection is called acute HIV infection. Symptoms can be different for each person. Sometimes there are no symptoms at all. Other times symptoms are strong. You may feel as if you have a cold or the flu.

6 What is a HIV test? The HIV test is designed to determine whether you have been infected with HIV - the virus that causes AIDS. When you get infected with HIV, your body sees the virus as an invader and begins to produce cells and particles to fight it. These particles are called antibodies. The HIV antibodies are different from antibodies for the flu, a cold, or other infections. If you have HIV antibodies, then you have been infected with HIV. Should you get tested? Most experts recommend that everyone who is sexually active should be tested for HIV. If you are infected you will be diagnosed early. That way, you can get the most benefit from treatment and can take steps to avoid spreading the disease to others. How is HIV treated? There are many treatments now that can help people with HIV. As a result, many people with HIV are living much longer and healthier lives than before. For further information, please contact the Hospital s Infection Control Department. The State Hospital Carstairs, Lanark ML11 8RP Tel: Fax: Web: Version 2

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