AIDS Basics

AIDS HIVwas first reported in the United States in 1981 and has since become a major worldwide epidemic. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. By destroying or harming cells of the body’s immune system, HIV eventually destroys the body’s ability to fight off infection. People who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS can get dangerous infections called opportunistic infections. These infections are caused by microbes such as viruses or bacteria that usually do not make healthy people sick.


Since 1981, more than 980,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the United States to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC states that more then 1,000,000 Americans have been infected with HIV, 25% of which are unaware of their infection. The HIV epidemic is increasing the most amoung minority populations and is leading killer of black males between age 25 and 44. According to CDC, AIDS affects nearly seven times more African Americans and three times more Hispanics than whites. In recent years, an increasing number of African-American women and children are being affected by AIDS HIV.

HIV kills CD4 + cells, which are white blood cells that help maintain the immune system. As the virus kills those cells, the patient infected with HIV is less able to fight off new infections and diseases, this ultmately results in AIDS.

Generally people who are infected with HIV can have the viruses for a realtively long period before the immune system starts to fail. There is a strong connection between HIV in the blood and the decline of CD4 cells and the onset of AIDS. Antiretroviral medications can help slow the infection, save CD4+ T cells and ramatically slow the advance of HIV infection.