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Video 6 of 31
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Now let’s talk about HIV and AIDS. HIV, otherwise known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, attacks the body’s ability to protect itself against disease. HIV eventually will progress to AIDS (or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). On average within 10 years of HIV infection this occurs. This time varies greatly from person to person and can depend on many factors including a person’s health status, behaviors and the medications that they take. Since 1996, the introduction of powerful antiretroviral therapies has changed the natural progression of HIV infection to the development of AIDS. Approximately 1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV infection. It’s estimated that over 18% do not know they have it because they’ve not been tested and they don’t have any symptoms. To put the numbers in perspective of what causes the spread of HIV in the United States, less than one percent or around 51 cases are actually related to other exposures like work related incidences. So what am I trying to say? That out of all the ways that we’ve discussed on how a person contracts HIV infection, very few will ever become infected or become sick from HIV due to a work related incident as long as proper infection control policies are followed. HIV is a deadly virus that causes AIDS. Symptoms, unfortunately, are unreliable and may or may not be present. A person can be infected with HIV or AIDS for many years and not even know they have it. Only proper testing can determine the infection. If symptoms were present they could include: fever, fatigue, night sweats, weight loss, rashes, or a dry cough. The HIV virus is fragile, fortunately though, and it dies within seconds outside the body when it’s exposed to air. The amount of HIV present in the body fluid and the conditions will determine how long the virus lives. HIV is primarily spread by sexual contact with an infected person or by sharing needles and/or syringes. Babies may become infected before or during birth or through breast-feeding. Only a fraction of the less than one percent of the people contract the virus from providing medical care. And, that small number is mostly from needle sticks. HIV it is not spread by casual contact like handshakes, hugging, doorknobs, or using the same equipment, or toilets, or water fountains, which is very good for us. There is no vaccine, as of today, and there’s no cure.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It attacks the body and harms the immune system by destroying the white blood cells that fight infection. Which in turn diminishes the body's ability to protect itself against disease. If left untreated, HIV will eventually progress into AIDS – acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.

In this lesson, we'll take a look at transmission rates, symptoms (though very problematic and unreliable), and how you can better protect yourself from infection.

Pro Tip #1: On average, it takes 10 years for the HIV virus to progress into AIDS. However, this average varies greatly person to person, and is affected by a number of factors like health status, behavioral characteristics, medications taken, etc.

Since 1996, with the introduction of powerful retroviral therapies, the natural progression of HIV to AIDS has been slowed.

AIDS Statistics in the U.S.

There are around 1.1 million people living with HIV in the United States. What is perhaps even more troubling is that around 18 percent aren't even aware they have been infected, as they haven't been tested and symptoms don't exist or aren't noticeable.

Around 50,000 people become infected with HIV each year and approximately 15,000 each year die from AIDS.

HIV Infection Rates by Category According to CDC

From highest to lowest, these are the ways in which people are infected with HIV each year in the U.S.

Category 2011 2018
Male to male sexual contact 62% 66%
Heterosexual contact (females) 18% 16%
Heterosexual contact (males) 10% 8%
Injection drug use (male) 5% 4%
Injection drug use (female)


Male to male sexual contact and IDU 3% 4%
Other 1% 1%

Other includes babies who are born from infected mothers, blood transfusions, and needle sticks, among other less common reasons. Of the babies that contract HIV, this can occur before birth, during birth, or during breastfeeding.

Pro Tip #2: Out of the estimated 50,000 people per year infected with HIV, less than one percent is due to a work-related incident. What does this mean for you? Of all the ways people contract HIV, very few will become infected in the workplace, even in professions (like yours) where the risk is higher.

Warning: Don't let that lull you into a false sense of security. Part of the reason that number is so low is because proper infection control policies are routinely put in place for many professions who are around bloodborne pathogens and OPIM. Follow your policies and procedures, and your chances will likely go well below that one percent.

HIV Signs and Symptoms

If left unchecked, HIV is a deadly virus that eventually will spread to AIDS. But how do you know if you've been infected with HIV?

Get tested! That's the only sure way to know. However, sometimes there are signs. (Often there are no symptoms, which is why it's a good idea to get tested if there's any question or doubt.)

Symptoms, when present, can include:

  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Rash
  • Dry cough

Pro Tip #3: The HIV virus is actually quite fragile (outside the body) and will die within seconds after being exposed to air. Inside the body, the amount of the virus present in body fluid and the physiological condition of the host will determine how long the virus lives.

It's important to note – There is currently no vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS.

Some Important HIV/AIDS Takeaways

How HIV is spread is important, as this happens mostly through unprotected sex and from sharing needles or syringes. Only a very small fraction of one percent of people are infected while providing medical care, and most of these are due to sticks from dirty needles.

While this may seem obvious to many, particularly medical professionals, HIV (like other bloodborne pathogens and OPIM) cannot be spread by casual contact, such as hugging, handshaking, doorknobs, toilet seats, etc.

Pro Tip #4: Remember, symptoms are not reliable and may not be present for many years, which means numerous people infected with HIV will never know they have it until those symptoms appear or … through proper testing.

A Word About Pathogens and the Diseases and Conditions They Cause

Let's take a quick look at the variety of pathogens that exist and the conditions and diseases they cause.


Hepatitis, measles, mumps, chicken pox, meningitis, rubella, influenza, warts, colds, herpes, HIV (which causes AIDS), genital warts, smallpox, avian flu, Ebola, and Zika.


Tetanus, meningitis, scarlet fever, strep throat, tuberculosis, gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, toxic shock syndrome, Legionnaires' disease, diphtheria, food poisoning, Lyme disease, and anthrax.


Athlete's foot, ringworm, and histoplasmosis.


Malaria, dysentery, Cyclospora, and giardiasis.


Typhus and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

Parasitic Worms

Abdominal pain, anemia, lymphatic vessel blockage, lowered antibody response, and respiratory and circulatory complications.


Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease).


Candidiasis (also known as thrush).