Officer & Drivers Safety (Lesson 6 of 25)
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is caused by a virus called the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Once a person has been infected with HIV, it may be many years before AIDS actually develops. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, weakening it so that it cannot fight other deadly diseases. AIDS is a fatal disease, and while treatment for it is improving, there is no known cure.
Estimates on the number of people infected with HIV vary, but some estimates suggest that an average of 35,000 people are infected every year in the US (in 2000, 45,000 new infections were reported). It is believed that as of 2000, 920,000 persons were living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. These numbers could be higher, as many people who are infected with HIV may be completely unaware of it.
The HIV virus is very fragile and will not survive very long outside of the human body. It is primarily of concern to employees providing first aid or medical care in situations involving fresh blood or other potentially infectious materials. It is estimated that the chances of contracting HIV in a workplace environment are only 0.4%. However, because it is such a devastating disease, all precautions must be taken to avoid exposure.
AIDS infection essentially occurs in three broad stages. The first stage happens when a person is actually infected with HIV. After the initial infection, a person may show few or no signs of illness for many years. Eventually, in the second stage, an individual may begin to suffer swollen lymph glands or other lesser diseases, which begin to take advantage of the body’s weakened immune system. The second stage is believed to eventually lead to AIDS, the third and final stage, in all cases. In this stage, the body becomes completely unable to fight off life-threatening diseases and infections.
Symptoms of HIV infection can vary, but often include weakness, fever, sore throat, nausea, headaches, diarrhea, a white coating on the tongue, weight loss, and swollen lymph glands.
If you believe you have been exposed to HBV or HIV, especially if you have experienced any of the signs or symptoms of these diseases, you should consult your physician or doctor as soon as possible.