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(human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This
virus is passed from one person to another through blood-to-blood
contact (blood transfusions, HIV-infected needles) and sexual contact.
In addition, an infected pregnant woman can pass HIV to her baby during
pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) occurs when the HIV infection has weakened one's immune system to the point that it has difficulty fighting off certain illnesses and infections. "Opportunistic" infections also occur, taking the opportunity a weakened immune system gives to cause illness.
Dental problems such as sore bleeding gums, herpes sores in the mouth, and fungal and candida (yeast) infections may be among the first signs of AIDS. However, you should not assume you are infected if you have any of these symptoms as these occur in the general population as well. The only way to determine whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. Consult with your physician or other healthcare professional.
A positive HIV test result does not mean that you have AIDS. AIDS is a medical diagnosis made by a doctor based on specific criteria. You also cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected with HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for many years.
The following may be warning signs of infection with HIV:
transmission can occur when blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or breast milk
from an infected person enters your body. The best way to prevent HIV
is to avoid activities that allow the virus to enter your body. For
more information on HIV/AIDS prevention, consult with a physician or
other healthcare professional.
Many people worry about the risk of infection through a blood transfusion. Since 1985, all donated blood in the United States has been tested for HIV. The U.S. blood supply is considered to be among the safest in the world.
to the nature of dental treatment, many people fear that HIV may be
transmitted during treatment. Universal precautions are used between
each and every patient to prevent the transmission of HIV and other
These precautions require dentists, hygienists and dental assistants to wear gloves, facemasks and eye protection, and to sterilize all handpieces (drills) and other dental instruments for every patient, using specific sterilization procedures outlined by the Centers for Disease Control. Items that cannot be sterilized are discarded in special containers. After each patient visit, gloves are discarded, hands are washed and a new pair of gloves is used for the next patient.
If you are anxious, spending a few minutes asking your dentist any questions you may have about health and safety precautions can put your mind at ease.
Today there are medical treatments that can slow down the rate at which HIV weakens the immune system. There are other treatments that can prevent or treat some of the illnesses associated with AIDS. As with other diseases, early detection offers more options for treatment.