ELIZABETH — More than 1,000 people in Elizabeth are infected with HIV or AIDS, according to data from the state health department, and almost 90 were diagnosed 20 or more years ago.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening infections and cancers to thrive.
The infectious agent – or in colloquial terms, a germ — is characterized by a long incubation period.
HIV progresses to AIDS at a variable rate affected by viral, host, and environmental factors; most will progress to AIDS within 10 years of HIV infection: some will have progressed much sooner, and some will take much longer.
The majority of HIV infections are acquired through unprotected sexual relations but the virus can also be transmitted among intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and recipients of blood transfusions as well as between a mother and child.
Social advances, such as educating people to practice safe sex and blood product screening, have reduced the threat from HIV, as prevention is the best way to stop the disease.
In July 2010, a vaginal gel containing tenofovir was shown to reduce HIV infection rates by 39 percent in a trial conducted in South Africa, but there is no cure for viral infections.
Without treatment, the net median survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years.
The number of people newly infected with HIV has been in decline since 1996.
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