Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a syndrome caused by a virus called HIV.

  • Acquired means that people get the disease from others who already have it.
  • Immune or Immuno- talks about the immune system. The immune system is the part of the body that fights infectious disease.
  • Deficiency means not enough. An immuno-deficiency is a problem where the immune system is damaged and cannot fight disease well.
  • Syndrome is a disease that makes many different problems in the body.

  • 1 How many people have AIDS
  • 2 Where HIV started
  • 3 How HIV can harm the body
  • 4 HIV and AIDS
    • 4.1 AIDS defining illnesses
    • 4.2 CD4 T-cell count
  • 5 Treatment of HIV and AIDS
  • 6 Poverty and HIV
  • 7 Ways to stop AIDS
    • 7.1 Education
    • 7.2 Safe sex and needle exchange
    • 7.3 HIV vaccine
  • 8 Different ideas
  • 9 Other websites
    • 9.1 Different ideas
  • 10 References

How many people have AIDS

Number of people in the world with HIV from 1979-1995

About 3,000,000 people died because of AIDS in 2004. About 500,000 of these people were children. About 40,000,000 people in the world had HIV in 2004.

Most of the people who have HIV live in Africa. Most of the children who die from AIDS live in Africa.

Many people with HIV do not know they have it. The number of people with HIV is unknown.

Where HIV started

Scientists believe the first person who got HIV was a person in Africa. This happened when Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) went from chimpanzees to humans

How HIV can harm the body

HIV attacks the immune system. This is how the body fights infections. This is also how the body helps stop cancers. So people with HIV are more likely to have infections and cancers. They may even die of minor illnesses like the common cold, which normally healthy people can recover from.


Not every person who has HIV has AIDS. When people first get HIV they are not very sick. They can be healthy for years. When they get sick from HIV it is called AIDS.

If someone has HIV they are called HIV positive.

Someone has AIDS if they have HIV and either:

  • Blood tests that show very low numbers of special cells that fight infections
  • AIDS defining illnesses (illness is another word for disease.)

AIDS defining illnesses

Some of the infections and cancers that people with AIDS get are not common. People who have good immune systems do not get these diseases. Many of these diseases are called AIDS defining illnesses. Some AIDS defining illnesses are:

  • Kaposi’s sarcoma – a cancer that usually is on the skin
  • CMV retinitis – a virus that infects the back of the eye
  • Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (acronym PCP) – an infectious disease of the lung. PCP is the most common infection in AIDS patients.
  • Toxoplasmosis – an infectious disease that can be in the brain
  • Invasive cervical cancer – this is cancer of the bottom part of a woman’s uterus. Invasive means the cancer has spread.

CD4 T-cell count

The blood test that defines AIDS is the CD4 T-cell count. T-cells are white blood cells. These are cells that fight infection. HIV goes into T-cells and kills them. When HIV infection gets very bad the number of CD4 T-cells in the blood goes down. CD4 is a protein outside of the T-cell. Some T-cells have this protein. They are called CD4 positive T-cells, CD4 T-cells or sometimes T4 cells.

When someone has HIV and their CD4 T-cell count (number of cells in the blood) is below 200 cells/microliter it means they have AIDS.

Treatment of HIV and AIDS

There are medicines that help people with AIDS. These are called antiretroviral medicines (or antiretrovirals.) Anti- means against. HIV is a retrovirus. So antiretroviral means fights retroviruses.

Antiretrovirals cannot cure AIDS. This means they cannot make all of the virus leave a person’s body. But they can make people with AIDS more healthy. Antiretrovirals help people fight the HIV virus. This makes their immune systems work better. So antiretrovirals are a treatment but not a cure for HIV.

People with HIV/AIDS who take antiretroviral medicines live longer. They live longer without getting AIDS defining illnesses. But after a long time, the HIV virus learns how to fight the antiretrovirals. The HIV virus is not killed by this medicine. HIV becomes resistant to the medicine. Then the resistant HIV hurts the immune system and the person may get AIDS.

Sometimes when HIV is resistant to one medicine, another medicine can be used. To make less resistance happen, people with AIDS take more than one medicine at the same time. They may take 2-4 medicines at once. This is sometimes called a cocktail or AIDS cocktail.

When HIV gets resistant to one medicine, this is changed to another medicine. So the AIDS cocktail that people with AIDS take changes over time. But after a long time, the HIV learns to be resistant to many drugs. This is called multi-drug-resistant (acronym MDR) HIV. After the HIV in a person has MDR-HIV there may be no more medicines to treat them. So scientists keep trying to find new medicines to fight HIV. The five most important HIV medicines are:

  • D4T (stavudine)
  • 3TC (Lamivudine)
  • NVP (nevirapine)
  • AZT (zidovudine)
  • EFZ (efavirenz)

Poverty and HIV

Percent of people with HIV in Africa in 1999-2001

Many people who die of AIDS, especially in Africa, leave behind children who are still alive, and who may need help being taken care of. These children are called AIDS orphans.

Ways to stop AIDS

There are many ways people fight the AIDS epidemic.


The most important way to stop HIV/AIDS is education. People can get HIV from sex and from blood. Children can also get HIV from their mothers (when they grow inside pregnant mothers and when they drink breast milk.) Sex is one way to get HIV. If people use condoms when they have sex, there is a much smaller chance of catching HIV.

AIDS education posters from Côte d’Ivoire

A person can also get HIV by sharing needles. This means using a needle that has not been cleaned after someone else has used it. Some people who take illegal drugs like heroin and cocaine take these drugs by needle. Some of these people share needles. If one person has HIV and he shares his needles, he can give HIV to other people. But if people have clean needles or if they know how to clean needles, they do not get HIV as much.

Many people do not know that condoms and clean needles help stop HIV. They may not even know that sharing needles and sex with someone who has HIV can make them get HIV. Even if people know about condoms and clean needles, they may not have condoms and clean needles.

Safe sex and needle exchange

This page or section does not have any sources. You can help Wikipedia by finding sources, and adding them. Tagged since March 2009

There are some people who do not want people to know about condoms or clean needles, or do not want people to have condoms or clean needles. They believe that if people know about condoms and have condoms they will have more sex. They believe that if people have clean needles they will use illegal drugs more. Many of these people think this because of their religion. For example, the Catholic church does not want people to have or use condoms. They do not want people to have condoms because they do not think people should have sex unless they are married. They also think that married people should not use condoms, because they believe that if people have sex, it should only be to make a baby.

Scientists who study (look at and learn about) people who use condoms, see that if teenagers (children 13-19) learn about condoms (and other birth control) they have less unsafe sex. Scientists see that learning about these things does not make teenagers start having sex earlier. The teenagers also have safer sex. Safer sex means doing things (like wearing condoms) to try not to get pregnant or get sexually transmitted diseases (STDs or STIs) like HIV, gonorrhea, and syphilis. Using a condom works veryuse a condom the right way.[1] [2] well for keeping people from getting pregnant or getting STDs if people know how to

Scientists have also learned that if a city has a needle exchange program it will have fewer people who use illegal drugs. Needle exchange programs are where people can come in and trade dirty needles for clean needles. This means that if they use drugs they will be more safe. But needle exchange programs do more than give people clean needles. They teach people about drugs. If people want to stop using drugs, they help them. [3]

HIV vaccine

The best way to stop HIV is a vaccine. There is no vaccine for HIV yet. Many scientists are looking for an HIV vaccine. Even one that protected some people from HIV would save millions of people’s lives.

Red Ribbon – the symbol of the fight against AIDS

Different ideas

Some scientists think that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. They think AIDS is the result of illegal drug use, drugs used to treat HIV infection, malnutrition, poverty, multiple infections, and other assaults on the immune system. Most scientists disagree with this viewpoint and feel the evidence for HIV as the cause of AIDS is overwhelming. See the other websites below.

Other websites

These sites may not be simple.

  • World Health Organizations 3 by 5 Initiative
  • Médecins Sans Frontières: Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines
  • WHO HIV/AIDS Programme
  • AIDS Education Global Information System
  • From the US National Institutes of Health
  • New England Journal of Medicine Article “Patents versus Patients? Antiretroviral Therapy in India”
  • AIDSPortal knowledge network
  • Piedmont Care
  • AIDS portal

Different ideas

These may be unsimple.

  • Peter Duesberg thinks drugs cause AIDS
  • AIDS Wiki


  • ^ “Survey shows intervention crucial to halt HIV in youth.” AIDS Policy Law. 2005 Mar 11;20(5):4.
  • ^ “Sexual possibility situations and sexual behaviors among young adolescents: the moderating role of protective factors.” J Adolesc Health. 2004 Dec;35(6):528.e11-20.
  • ^ “Update: syringe exchange programs–United States, 2002.” Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2005 Jul 15;54(27):673-6. (MMWR is published by the Centers for Disease Control.

Leave a Reply