Is HIV AIDS a Contagious Disease? | Blog

Is AIDS a contagious disease?

Is AIDS a contagious disease?

by: Dr. Nupur Gupta
Consultant and Unit Head Gynecology

Contagious disease refers to a communicable disease that can spread rapidly from person to person through direct contact (touching an infected person), indirect contact (touching a contaminated object), or droplet contact (inhaling droplets made when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks). HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, gradually destroying its ability to fight infections and certain cancers. If it is left untreated, HIV can develop into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). This is the most severe stage of HIV and is usually fatal. In the past, HIV infection was commonly considered a death sentence.

Today, AIDS is considered a chronic, life-threatening illness. AIDS symptoms include soaking night sweats, fever (for several weeks), persistent diarrhea,  cough and shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue, blurred vision, white spots in the mouth, skin rashes and weight loss. It can be detected simply by a blood test. Unprotected sex with an infected partner is the most common route of infection for women.

Ways through which HIV can transmit:  

HIV/AIDS can also be spread via blood. Some women become infected after sharing needles to inject drugs. A lack of knowledge about the virus and how it is spread is the main reason for the incredible spike of infections during the past three decades.

  • Sexual contact (unprotected): The virus is easily transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids during vaginal, oral or anal contact with an infected person. Fluids the virus infects are semen, blood, and vaginal secretions. Once these enter the body, infection is spread from one person to another. Sometimes an infection can be transmitted through mouth sores or small tears that can sometimes occur during sexual activity.
  • Blood transfusions and organs: Infection via a blood transfusion occurs less frequently as all blood products are screened for HIV infections before being used for medical purposes. It can happen, in very rare instances, that infected blood transmits the virus to an otherwise negative status individual during a transfusion procedure.
  • Pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding: A woman infected with HIV can pass on the disease to her unborn baby during pregnancy, through childbirth or while breastfeeding (breast milk).
  • Use of needles and syringes: The use of needles, whether for illicit drug use, piercings or tattoos, that are not hygienically maintained can transmit the virus through contaminated blood. Healthcare workers are frequently at risk for possible infection when handling needles in medical environments.
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