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WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America
WHO CARES: Chronic Illness in America

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Description: HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). By killing or impairing cells of the immune system, HIV progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers. HIV is spread most commonly by sexual contact with an infected partner. AIDS was first reported in the United States in 1981 and has since become a major worldwide epidemic.

Symptoms: As the immune system deteriorates, one of the first symptoms is large lymph nodes or "swollen glands" that may be enlarged for more than three months. Other symptoms often experienced months to years before the onset of AIDS include a lack of energy, weight loss, frequent fevers and sweats, persistent skin rashes or flaky skin, pelvic inflammatory disease that does not respond to treatment, or short-term memory loss. Some people develop frequent herpes infections or a painful nerve disease known as shingles.

Number of Americans diagnosed: As many as 900,000 Americans may be infected with HIV.

Long-term problems/treatments: Individuals diagnosed with AIDS are susceptible to life-threatening diseases called opportunistic infections, which are caused by microbes that usually do not cause illness in healthy people. New treatments have greatly improved the survival rates of people with AIDS.
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