AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome and applies to any situation where a person's immune system is seriously suppressed and made incapable of fighting infections. The term has become associated with the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) virus, which invades people's bodies and cripples their immune system. While the HIV virus does not kill the infected individual on its own, it opens the door for other diseases. A person infected with HIV can potentially be killed by things that wouldn't even phase a healthy person, including the common cold and bacteria such as E. Coli.

The HIV virus was first discovered in 1959, seeming to indicate that the virus did not exist beforehand. It was initially found in the blood of a man from Congo, but spread to the rest of the world over the next decade. Although AIDS was previously a very rare disorder, it became a common problem after the introduction of the HIV virus. AIDS was initially depicted as a virus spread by homosexual sex, but it became clear that the disease could be transmitted by any sexual contact, not just anal sex. A 1999 study reported that the HIV virus appeared to have first infected a subspecies of chimpanzee, then was somehow transmitted to African hunters via exposed blood. In spite of this, some conspiracy theorists claim that the virus was engineered to wipe out the homosexual population.

The HIV virus is transmitted mainly through bodily fluids, such as blood and sexual secretions. It can also be transmitted through saliva, although instances of transmission via this medium are rare and typically only occur when there is an open wound in the oral cavity. AIDS infections are best prevented by using sexual contraceptives, such as condoms, that prevent mixing of bodily fluids during sexual activity. Since donated blood is tested for AIDS before transfusions, you are pretty safe in the hospital, but you should always wear rubber gloves when dealing with other people's blood. Lastly, pregnant mothers infected with HIV often transmit the virus to their child.

Once the HIV virus enters a person's bloodstream, it begins to reproduce and inhibit the production of T-cell antibodies. Prior to the introduction of anti-retroviral therapies, HIV infections caused AIDS within 10 years in half of the infected people studied. Now, with the presence of anti-retroviral therapies, which slow the reproduction of the virus, AIDs can be delayed much longer. Since the treatment is relatively new, no statistics exist on how much this type of therapy delays AIDs.

There is currently no cure for AIDS, although its symptoms can be treated and you can prevent yourself from getting it by being careful. If you are infected with bacteria, you can still take antibiotics, but they won't help you with a viral infection. Unsurprisingly, most victims of AIDS die after contraction of a viral disease.

Fortunately for humans, the HIV virus does not easily survive once outside the body. In most cases, 90-100% of the viruses become non-infectious after only several hours outside the body. This destruction of the virus occurs when it dries, showing that the virus requires some sort of liquid medium to exist in. In spite of this evidence, care should always be taken when dealing with blood and you should always wear rubber gloves at the very least.

Some of the symptoms for HIV infections include rapid weight loss, dry coughs, night sweats, excessive fatigue, swollen lymph glands, diarrhea, white spots in the throat, pneumonia, brown or purple blotches on the skin, and memory loss. However, most of these symptoms are shared with other diseases, therefore one should not assume that they have an HIV infection on the basis of the symptoms. The only way to truly determine if you are infected is to take a blood, oral fluid, or urine test. Home testing kits are also available to purchase, although only the Home Access HIV-1 Test is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

If you find out that you are infected, do not despair. It does not mean that you are going to die tomorrow, but you should seek anti-retroviral treatments as soon as possible to slow the spread of the virus through your system. You should also contact any sexual partners to inform them that they could possibly be infected as well. If you do not tell these people, they might have the virus and unknowingly spread it to other victims. Some unethical people continue to have unprotected sex even though they know that they are infected, without informing their partners, therefore it is a good idea to always use a condom or make sure that your partner is wearing one.

As of this moment, there are about 40 million known cases of HIV infection in the world. Since the virus is so vulnerable outside of animals, it could easily be eradicated if people took the proper steps to protect themselves from it. Unfortunately, despite numerous efforts by the global community and the provision of free condoms to people worldwide, people are still taking risks and getting infected. Do your part to stop this disease for the sake of yourself and the world at large. If you decide to act irresponsibly and manage to contract the disease, it is nobody's fault but your own.