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What is HIV and AIDS?
Irish Examiner 28/02/2007
By Conor Kane

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which slowly destroys CD4+ white blood cells in the body. These cells help to fight infections and diseases caused by viruses and bacteria. When somebody's immune system is no longer working properly, because of HIV's destruction of the CD4+ cells, they may be diagnosed with AIDS.

How is HIV contracted?
Blood, semen and vaginal fluids can spread HIV during sex, in the sharing of needles or syringes contaminated with HIV-infected blood; through blood transfusions where blood is not screened (it has been screened in Ireland for many years), and, in some cases, from a HIV positive mother to her unborn child.

How is it diagnosed?
HIV antibodies can be detected in blood, saliva, and urine. How is it prevented? AIDS is preventable through precautions like not sharing needles or syringes; avoiding unprotected sex with anyone of an unknown sexual history and using condoms.

What are the gender issues?
Myths that men are more likely to be infected with HIV than women were exploded by the World Health Organisation (WHO), which found that, worldwide, approximately as many women as men suffer from HIV. Biological factors mean that "women are probably more susceptible than men to HIV infection in any given heterosexual encounter", the WHO has said. Customs allow men in some cultures to have more sexual partners than women and to have sexual relations with much younger women. This, and biological factors, mean that, rates of heterosexual infection of HIV are "much higher" globally among young women than young men.

AIDS: Some Global Realities
" Someone, somewhere is infected with HIV every 8 seconds. " 39.5 million people worldwide are living with HIV. " About 4.3 million people were newly infected in 2006. " 2.9 million people died of AIDS last year. " Every day, 8,000 people die of AIDS-related illness - equivalent to half the population of Ireland each year. " About 65% of new infections occurred in sub-Saharan Africa