AIDS is an abbreviation for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a disease that destroys the body’s immune system.
AIDS occurs due to the HIV virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which damages the body’s ability to resist diseases. Infections that are not dangerous for healthy people can be deadly for people with AIDS.
HIV can lead to AIDS, and is spread in several ways: by sexual contact, by blood products, and from mother to child at birth. In some European countries the disease is mostly spread by semen from infected men coming in contact with their partner’s mucous membrane. The risk is much greater during anal sex as the mucous membrane in the anus is thin and tears easily. Normal sexual intercourse also carries a risk of infection. Condoms reduce the risk of infection during sex, but the best way to avoid infection is never to have sex with someone who is HIV positive.
HIV is not spread by normal bodily contact, so it is not dangerous to hold an infected person’s hand, or hug them. There is treatment available now which has led to a reduction in the risk of developing AIDS, and a lot of people who have AIDS today will probably live almost as long as those without it.