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What is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome?

By Meshell Powell
Updated May 17, 2024
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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, also known as AIDS, is a disease that weakens the immune system. The weakened immune system leaves the patient at risk of becoming very ill from any illness, even common infections. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is caused by a virus known as the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. HIV is contagious and is spread through contact with infected bodily fluids such as blood or semen. Treatment for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome involves the use of very strong prescription medications known as anti-retroviral medications.

People who have acquired immunodeficiency syndrome have a much greater risk than the remainder of the population of developing various types of infections and forms of cancer. Due to the compromised immune system in these people, these illnesses are particularly brutal. In fact, without proper treatment, even a relatively minor infection can be life-threatening to the person with this disease.

A person who has acquired immunodeficiency syndrome must realize that AIDS is a highly contagious disease and that proper precautions should be taken to prevent the spread of the disease. This disease is spread primarily through unprotected sex and sharing needles with an infected person. Any potential sex partners should be notified of the condition, and safe sex practices are vital. While illicit drug use is strongly discouraged, it is important for those who do choose to use drugs to use a clean needle each time.

Anti-retroviral medications are very important to the person with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. These medications are often very successful in prolonging the life and improving the quality of life of the patient. There are several medication combinations that are available, so the patient should inform the doctor of any negative side effects so the combination can be changed if necessary. These medications do not cure the disease, but they can help to suppress the virus, often for many years.

If left untreated, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is almost always fatal owing to the body's inability to fight off foreign invaders. While medical treatment often helps prolong the life of the patient, it is important to note that some patients do eventually become immune to all available anti-retroviral medications. When this happens, the disease usually becomes fatal for these patients as well. It is important to remember that a person with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is always contagious to others, even when being treated with prescription medications. Proper precautions should always be taken to prevent the disease from being transmitted to others.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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