HIV infection

   HIV infection

Health Information Patient Handout

HIV infection is caused by human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS is the most progressed stage of HIV infection.  Human immunodeficiency virus is what is abbreviated by HIV, which is the cause virus of HIV infection (Gancczak, Barss, alfaresi,Al Mazrouei, Muraddad & Al-Maskari, 2007). Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is what is abbreviated by AIDS and it is the most progressed stage of human immunodeficiency virus infection. The virus attacks and damages the CD4 which are in the immune system and fight infections. When the CD4 cells are destroyed, it becomes almost impossible for the immune systems to perform its duties and certain forms of cancer (Ganczak et al., 2007). When the treatment of HIV infection lacks, it gradually advances and damages the immune system of the body and finally advances to AIDS.

HIV cannot be transmitted through shaking hands or hugging an individual that is infected with the virus as it is widely thought (Ganczak et al., 2007). The HIV virus cannot also be transmitted through contact with objects like seats, doorknobs, toilets or utensils used by people who are infected with the HIV virus. The HIV virus is also not transmissible via the air or bites from insects like mosquitoes or ticks (Ganczak et al., 2007).

Why HIV/AIDS education?

Every year, the number of new HIV infections keeps increasing; this is an indication that the masses are either not getting the message about the adversities of HIV, or are not able or willing to act on the message. A lot of people are ignorant when it comes to the virus- a study indicated that nearly a third of teenagers thought that HIV/AIDS has a cure. Education is a vital component of fighting against the spread of HIV infection.

One of the major reasons for the education of HIV/AIDS is for the prevention of new infections of the virus (Ganczak et al., 2007). When people are informed about HIV, what are HIV and AIDS and how are they transmitted from one person to another. People also taught how they can protect themselves against the infection. The masses are also taught on how they can use the information gained to practically to protect themselves. The education on HIV/AIDS ranges from teaching people how to practice sex that is safer, how to access condoms and on the prevention of the infection in medical environs or when sharing injecting materials.

Improvement of life quality of individuals who are HIV positive is also another reason why education on HIV/AIDS is vital. Most of the times the education on HIV/AIDS is viewed as targeted to people who are not infected and how they can prevent themselves from being infected (Mahajan, Sayles, Patel, Remien, Oritz, Szekeres & Coates, 2008). When education on AIDS with people who are HIV positive is considered, it is mostly seen as prevention on new infections by educating them why it is important not to spread the virus to other people. A fundamental and mostly overlooked aspect of education of AIDS with people who are HIV positive is equipping them with knowledge that will enable them to enhance their life quality. People who are HIV positive have different educational requirements, but among the educational requirements are the ability to access medical services and provisions of drugs (Mahajan et al., 2008). There is also the need to locate emotional and practical support that is appropriate and also assistance.

Education on HIV/AIDS also plays a vital role in the reduction of stigmatization and discrimination of people infected with human immunodeficiency virus. In a lot of nations, the fear and stigmatization of individuals infected with human immunodeficiency virus is great. The fear is most of the times accompanied by resentment, ignorance and finally anger (Mahajan et al., 2008). In other occasions, the outcome of fear and prejudice can be big, in countries like India there have been occasions where HIV victims have been burnt to death and in the United States families have been forced to vacate their homes due to HIV infections. The discrimination of HIV positive people can play a role in facilitating the spread of HIV because people are afraid of being tested and are more likely to spread the infection without their knowledge (Mahajan et al., 2008).

A description of the audience you are addressing

Everyone is vulnerable to HIV/AIDS unless a person knows the means of protection. HIV/AIDS des not only affect the youths, the virus has affected people of different ages and different social classes across the society hence education has to be focused at all parties of the society (Kirby, Laris & Rolleri, 2007). The people who think they cannot get infected are the ones who need the education most. Individuals who have not received the education on HIV/AIDS are at risk of being infected. In most cases, this has an indication to young individuals who need to be informed on the risks of unprotected sex and use of drugs before they are affected at a personal level.

There are people who have been educated on HIV/AIDS but the education was not effective. If the education was thoroughly effective, there would be less victims of the infection. The number of people who get infected and have received AIDS education is still high (Kirby et al., 2007). Everyone requires knowing the disadvantages of discriminating people who are HIV positive. Individuals who are HIV negative need to acquire information on how the virus is transmitted so as to protect themselves and also learn ways in which the infection cannot be transmitted. With the knowledge of these aspects of the infection, discrimination will be reduced against HIV positive individuals via reducing fear and ignorance (Kirby et al., 2007). AIDS education is also important to people who are already infected. They need to be counseled and supported and must also be taught how they might still live a healthy life with HIV, tests needed to be conducted and the required medications.

A description of health issues

Human immunodeficiency virus attacks the immune system of the body which is naturally the body defense system. When the immune system is weak, it is almost impossible for the body to fight diseases (De Walque, 2007). The White blood cells are a vital element in the immune system. HIV virus attacks and damages particular white blood cells known as the CD4+ cells. It becomes impossible for the body to defend itself against infections when too many CD4+ cells are destroyed. AIDS is the final level of the infection of HIV. Individuals who have AIDS get diseases and cancers rarely occurring in healthy people due to the low number of CD4+ cells (De Walque, 2007). However, having HIV does not necessarily mean an individual has AIDS. A long period of time is taken for HIV to advance to AIDS even without treatment. The diagnoses of HIV before it progresses to AIDS helps in the administration of medicines that assist the immune system regain its healthy state.

The spread of HIV is credited to contact of body fluids from an infected person. Breast milk, blood, vaginal fluids and semen are some of the body fluids that when they come in contact with from a person who is infected with HIV causes its spread (De Walque, 2007). HIV transmission is the spread of the HIV virus from one person to another. When a woman is infected with HIV and spreads it to her baby during the process of the birth of a child, pregnancy or while breastfeeding, it is referred to as mother-to-child HIV transmission. In many countries, the spread of HIV is mainly through sexual intercourse and sharing injection equipment with people who are infected with HIV (De Walque, 2007). The problem of drug addiction also plays a vital role in the spread of HIV due to victims sharing the drug injection materials. However, there are some HIV medicines that are administered to women during the pregnancy period and during childbirth that assists in reducing the chances of transmitting the virus to children. Babies are also given HIV medicines after birth and greatly reduce mother-to-child transmission risk of HIV.

Early on in HIV infection, symptoms are not seen. The most known symptoms are

  1. Extreme tiredness
  2. Joint pains
  • Muscle aches
  1. Weight loss
  2. Swollen lymph nodes
  3. Fever

When an individual is exposed to HIV, there is production of antibodies by the immune system that fight the virus (Visser, 2007). Tests are carried out to find the antibodies in saliva, blood or urine. A lot of doctors use ELISA and the Western blot to carry out blood tests.

HIV standard treatment is medicines combinations referred to as antiretroviral therapy. The ART medicines reduce the virus multiplication rate. Consumption of these medicines helps in the reduction of the virus amount in the body and maintains the health of the individual (Visser, 2007). A viral load test is regularly carried out to know the virus amount in the blood and a CD4+ count is carried out regularly too to indicate the working of the immune system.

Recommend sites that provide clear, valuable and reliable information on HIV/AIDS

For more information on HIV/AIDS, sources of great importance include:

  • Association of information sources and knowledge on HIV/AIDS
  • Welcome to
  • Information on HIV on
  • AIDS Information Resource Fact Sheet- National Library


De Walque, D. (2007). How does the impact of an HIV/AIDS information campaign vary with educational attainment? Evidence from rural Uganda. Journal of Development Economics, 84(2), 686-714.

Gańczak, M., Barss, P., Alfaresi, F., Almazrouei, S., Muraddad, A., & Al-Maskari, F. (2007). Break the silence: HIV/AIDS knowledge, attitudes, and educational needs among Arab university students in United Arab Emirates. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(6), 572-e1.

Kirby, D. B., Laris, B. A., & Rolleri, L. A. (2007). Sex and HIV education programs: their impact on sexual behaviors of young people throughout the world. Journal of Adolescent Health, 40(3), 206-217.

Mahajan, A. P., Sayles, J. N., Patel, V. A., Remien, R. H., Ortiz, D., Szekeres, G., & Coates, T. J. (2008). Stigma in the HIV/AIDS epidemic: a review of the literature and recommendations for the way forward. AIDS (London, England), 22(Suppl 2), S67.

Visser, M. J. (2007). HIV/AIDS prevention through peer education and support in secondary schools in South Africa. SAHARA-J: Journal of Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS, 4(3), 678-694.

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