Arizona State University College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Chicana and Chicano StudiesLatino Health Issues







AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It was first discovered in 1981, in central Africa. Since then, it has been the cause of death for millions of people. By the end of 2001, AIDS had claimed more than 28 million lives and counting.

To learn more about the virus, you must first know how it works. When a person contracts the virus, he/she is said to be HIV positive. When your body detects the virus, it creates antibodies to try and fight it. When these antibodies are detected, it is said that that person is HIV positive. When the virus enters the body, it attacks, attaches to, and changes a certain kind of cell. The cell that is aimed for by the virus is the CD4+ cell, also known as the T-helper cell. These cells then change and become small HIV producing factories, making your immune system weaker. The virus needs to attach itself to this cell because it cannot stay alive without it. Unfortunately, the virus has also been shown to mutate, making treating the virus almost impossible.


This document was provided by the New Mexico AIDS InfoNet

When the number of CD4+ cells in the body reaches or goes below 200 per cubic milliliter of blood, it is diagnosed as having AIDS. A healthy person's CD4+ count usually ranges from 450 to 1,200. A common misconception is that people die because of the virus itself, the reality is the virus itself doesn't kill you, the infections and diseases you contract when your immune system is so weak is what kills you.

There are several ways the virus is transmitted. Some ways are to practice unprotected sex with someone who is HIV infected. Both vaginal and anal sex can transmit the virus. Although both men and women can contract the virus, women have a higher chance of getting infected through vaginal sex than men. In regards to anal sex, the receptive partner has the higher chance of contracting the virus, whether it be male or female, because of the thin lining of the anus which can be easily injured.

It is also possible to transmit the virus through oral sex. Although there is a lower chance of contracting it this way than anal or vaginal sex, the risk is high. The risk is even higher in instances where ejaculation occurs in the mouth or when there is an open wound or sore and even when there was a recent tooth brushing.

Sharing needles or syringes can also pose a great chance of contracting the virus for the obvious reasons. Studies have shown that the virus can survive in used syringes up to a month or more.

Mothers infected with the virus also run a risk of transmitting the virus to the children during pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding. Although the occurrences are not high, there is still a risk.

There are many misconceptions of the virus and of how it can and can't be transmitted. Some ways in which people think that it is transmitted and have no scientific backing are the ability to transmit the virus through saliva, sweat and tears. Although saliva and tears do contain trace amounts of the virus, no one has contracted the virus this way. And in regards to sweat, scientists have not been able to detect any amount of the virus in it.

Studies have also shown that the virus cannot be transmitted through blood sucking insects either. Other ways in which the virus is not transmitted are: using the same toilet, swimming in the same pool, touching, hugging, or shaking hands.


Accessibility | Privacy | ASU Disclaimer This site was created by Juan Espinoza in fulfillment of requirements for the course CSS 335: Latino Health Issues taught by Dr. Szkupinski Quiroga at Arizona State University, Spring 2005.