October 7, 2022

About Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)

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What are AIDS?

In the United States and dependent areas, 19% of new HIV diagnoses in 2018 were among women. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus which attacks the immune system and if left untreated it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It is a sexually transmitted infection that can spread in various ways that can potentially lead to AIDS. 

There are three stages of HIV

  • Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection
  • Stage 2: Chronic HIV Infection
  • Stage 3: Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome AIDS


HIV can be spread through:

  • Unprotected sex
  • Have STI
  • Sharing injection needles
  • Blood transfusions
  • During pregnancy or delivery
  • Breastfeeding

Most people do not develop AIDS due to HIV medicine that stops the progression of the disease, in the U.S. However, AIDS develop when HIV progress by:

  • CD4 cells which are a type of white blood cell fall below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3). 
  • One or more opportunistic infections develop regardless of the number of CD4 cells. 

What is the normal amount of CD4?

A healthy individual has a CD4 count between 500 and 1,6000 cells/mm3.

What are opportunistic infections?

Opportunistic infections (OIs) are less common now, however, they are considered AIDS- defining conditions. This means that if an individual has these conditions, they are diagnosed with AIDS. OIs are infections that are more severe and frequent. 

Examples of Opportunistic Infections

  • Candidiasis (thrush)
  • Herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1)
  • Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP)
  • Salmonella Infection
  • Tuberculosis
  • Toxoplasmosis


  • Memory Loss
  • Depression
  • Sores of the mouth, genitals, or anus
  • Diarrhea that lasts more than a week
  • Unexplained and extreme tiredness
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Recurring fever
  • Profuse night sweats
  • Pink, Purplish, red, or brown blotches under the skin, on the skin, or inside the eyelids mouth, or nose

In order to know if someone with these symptoms has aids, they must test for HIV. If they are HIV-positive a healthcare provider will determine if they have progressed to stage three (AIDS).

How AIDS affects women?

There are different complications that women have that men do not. Some include:

  • Increase risk of osteoporosis
  • Issues with menstrual cycle
  • Increase risk of cervical cancer
  • Severe Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Repeated vaginal yeast infections
  • Having severe hot flashes
  • Entering menopause younger


Currently there is no cure for AIDS, however, there are highly effective medications in fighting and reducing complications. Some AIDS medications include:

  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTI)
  • Protease inhibitors (PI)
  • Fusion Inhibitors
  • Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART)
  • Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NNRTI)

It’s Fetch is a community that provides a safe space for members to discuss health and wellness topics. We provide access to archived health related content, note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content shared, regardless of date should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

-Written by Karen Manalac


About hiv/aids | hiv basics | hiv/aids | cdc. (2022, June 30). https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html

Aids treatment. (n.d.). Ucsfhealth.Org. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/Conditions/AIDS/Treatment

Hiv/aids in women. (n.d.). [Text]. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://medlineplus.gov/hivaidsinwomen.html

What are hiv and aids? (n.d.). HIV.Gov. Retrieved September 25, 2022, from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/what-are-hiv-and-aids

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