In biological terms, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) have very complicated definitions that are confusing to someone not trained in medical science. However, the United States’ Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a more simplified explanation of the disease and its mode of transmission. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS may be passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood or sexual contact. According to the CDC (n. d.
), there are three main modes of infection: 1) When infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions from an infected person comes in contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin (cut or sore) or mucous membranes (A mucous membrane is a wet and thin tissue found in certain openings to the human body. These include the mouth, eyes, nose, vagina, rectum, and opening of the penis); 2) HIV can also enter the body through a vein, for example through receiving an injection with contaminated or non-sterilised syringes; and 3) A mother can also pass the virus to her child during pregnancy, delivery, and breast-feeding.
Although HIV infection can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) some individuals never develop AIDS. Instead, they become carriers of the virus. After getting infected with HIV, there is no specific time span for the infected person to develop AIDS. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) (2004), the median time span from infection with HIV to the development of AIDS is approximately 10 to 12 years (¶ 4).
HIV weakens the immune system of its victim and disables the body from fighting diseases. This weakened state of the body leads to the condition referred to as AIDS. AIDS exhibits itself as a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterise a disease or certain infections and/or cancers. People with AIDS suffer from infections of the lungs (pneumonia, tuberculosis), intestinal tract (diarrhea), brain, eyes, and other organs (CDC n. d. ; NIAID 2004).
In addition, AIDS also exacerbates sexually transmitted infections and/or cancers and decreases the number of key infection fighting cells in the blood. Thus, AIDS victims become prone to various infections—usually referred to as opportunistic infections. They are called opportunistic because they take advantage of the weakened state of the body by further weakening the body through various diseases. In addition, some studies have shown that HIV victims living in malaria prone areas also become more susceptible to malaria infection (Whitworth et al. 2000).