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What are some facts about AIDS?

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Quick Answer

AIDS is caused by a viral infection, HIV, that destroys white blood cells called CD4 cells, according to Mayo Clinic. CD4 cells help the body fend off disease, which is why HIV/AIDS weakens the immune system. HIV becomes AIDS when the CD4 count falls below 200, or when an AIDS-defining complication occurs. It takes approximately 10 years for HIV to progress into AIDS, if left untreated, and some people live with HIV for many years before it becomes AIDS.

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By the time HIV turns into AIDS, the immune system has been damaged significantly, leaving the body open to infections and diseases that would not normally be problematic for an uninfected person, notes Mayo Clinic. Signs and symptoms of conditions associated with AIDS include recurring fever, skin bumps or rashes, soaking night sweats and chronic diarrhea. Other side effects that may occur include unexplained, persistent fatigue, weight loss and unusual lesions or white spots around the tongue or mouth area.

HIV, and eventually AIDS, is caused by infected semen, vaginal secretions or blood entering the body, states Mayo Clinic. HIV can be contracted through sexual intercourse, by sharing needles, from blood transfusions and through childbirth or breast-feeding. It is important to seek immediate medical treatment if a potential or suspected infection occurs.

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