AIDS, the unstoppable pandemic

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Tuesday, 23 November 2010 13:00 GMT

Nov 23 (Reuters) - The AIDS virus infects 33 million people globally and has killed 25 million since the pandemic began in the 1980s. Here are some other facts about it:

* The human immunodeficiency virus or HIV caused AIDS -- acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

* There is no cure and no commercially available vaccine but combinations of drugs called antiretrovirals can keep patients healthy. However, the virus stays in the body forever and can reactivate if people stop taking drugs.

* The virus is transmitted in bodily fluids -- blood, semen and breast milk. Sexual activity is by far the most common means of transmission but mothers can pass it to newborns and needles used to inject medicines or drugs can transmit it. People can also be infected by blood transfusions.

* HIV causes no immediate symptoms although people often have a flu-like illness when they are first infected. A blood or saliva test is necessary to show if someone has HIV.

* People who take HIV drugs are far less likely to infect someone else such as a sex partner or their newborn babies.

* AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, and soon after that it spread around the world. Researchers have evidence it had been circulating for decades in a few people.

* In 2008, 2.7 million people were newly infected with HIV worldwide, down from a peak of 3.5 million in 1996.

* 1.2 million people started HIV treatment in 2009 according to the World Health Organization [ID:nLDE68Q0FQ]

* Globally, an estimated 14.6 million people require AIDS drugs, 8.7 per cent of then children under 15.

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