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What Is AIDS?
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV destroys cells in the body's immune system, crippling the defensive power of the body.
Eighty percent of all HIV-infected people acquire infection through sexual contact. Because of conditions in some developing countries, there is a significant risk of contracting HIV infection through blood transfusions and injections with contaminated needles that haven't been properly sterilized.
In the U.S., annual infections of HIV have been reduced by more than two-thirds since the mid-1980s, but AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases are still common in developing countries, so international travelers should be very cautious about sexual contact wherever they go. There is currently no immunization available for the prevention of AIDS.
Other ways to prevent contracting HIV and AIDS include:
- Avoiding casual sexual contact
- Using latex condoms correctly with a spermicidal jelly for every sexual interaction
- Never using needles and syringes used by other people
- Never using another person's razor, shaver, or toothbrush
- Not getting tattoos or body piercings when traveling abroad
- Ensuring donor blood has been tested if you need a blood transfusion
Also, if you're traveling abroad and need a blood transfusion for a non-emergency reason, request to be flown home if blood can't be adequately screened before transfusion.
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