ACNBA provides a wide range of services under the HIV/AIDS program. The program was originally set up in 1990 through the formation of the AIDS Committee of North Bay & Area which was established to assist those infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS in North Bay but had no support or service to deal directly with their needs. Since then the HIV/AIDS program has expanded to continue to address the changing needs of clients.
What is AIDS?
AIDS is an acronym which stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is the result of acquiring a virus (HIV), which eventually destroys regulator cells of the immune system so that it becomes weak and is not able to fight off infections and diseases it normally would. When there are a number of diseases or infections that are part of one medical problem, the process is called a syndrome.
What is HIV?
HIV is an acronym which stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The cells HIV infects include regulator cells of the immune system (T-4 lymphocytes). In simple terms, these are ‘alarm clock’ cells which wake up the immune system to fight off infections. HIV begins a complex process by which these regulator cells are destroyed. As these regulator cells become more and more depleted, the immune system is less and less able to fight off infections and diseases.
How is HIV Transmitted?
There are only five body fluids that contain enough HIV to cause infection:
- Vaginal Fluids
- Anal Secretions
- Breast Milk
One of these fluids from someone infected with HIV must come in contact with your blood system for the possibility of infection to occur. Remember, there is not enough virus in other body fluids to cause infection. Therefore, saliva, urine, tears and sweat do not present a risk.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
The first symptoms to appear are signals that the immune system is responding to an infection, Most of us have experienced similar symptoms as a result of infections other than HIV: things like swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, weight loss, night sweats. Symptoms gradually become more severe and include a variety of viral, bacterial and fungal infections. A person is diagnosed with AIDS only after particular symptoms and diseases occur that fit an elaborate clinical definition. These AIDS-identifying diseases can include:
- a parasitical pneumonia (pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, “PCP”)
- a cancer of the blood vessels and connective tissue (Kaposi’s sarcoma, “KS”)
- a non-Hodgkin’s lymph node cancer
- combinations of viral, bacterial and fungal infections ranging in seriousness from thrush, which is a yeast infection, to tuberculosis and meningitis
- wasting syndrome
Many of the diseases are the result of organisms the person had been exposed to before they were infected with HIV. Those pathogens or illness-producing agents were controlled by the healthy immune system. A person with a damaged immune system is also susceptible to new infections which can be life-threatening. A person usually dies as a direct result of the diseases that take over the body because of AIDS, not as a direct result of HIV itself. The symptoms of AIDS vary widely from person to person and from time to time because so many different infections and diseases are involved.
The symptoms can include purple or brown lesions, harsh dry cough, confusion, motor function impairment, severe weakness, blindness, and severe digestion problems. There can be many other symptoms and medical problems.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
It is useful to make a distinction between HIV and AIDS. A person does not get AIDS from another person. The most available test is an HIV antibody test. This test tells you if your body has produced antibodies in reaction to the virus, which tells if you have been infected. A person can feel and look completely healthy and have HIV. They must also take into consideration that they could infect other people through unprotected sexual intercourse and/or sharing needles or other injection equipment when using drugs (including steroids). It is also reasonable to assume that if a person with HIV is infected more than once, their risk of developing AIDS sooner will increase.
For more information on HIV & AIDS refer to the CATIE.ca (Canada’s source for HIV and Hepatitis C information)