An alarming increase in the number of HIV/AIDS cases among Malaysian youths, especially those aged between 20 and 30. 78.8 per cent of new cases involves youths who are between 20 and 30 years old.

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, making it weak and less able to fight off diseases. When a person is confirmed to have been infected by HIV, the person is said to be HIV positive (HIV+). This does not necessarily mean that the person has AIDS.

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name given to a group of illnesses, which occur in HIV+ people as a result of a weakened immune system.

THE human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks other living cells and makes copies of itself. Although an infected individual feels well, the virus actively infects and destroys cells of the immune system, which are constantly being produced.

The number of cells of the immune system are slowly reduced, and after a number of years, the immune system is weakened and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) develops. A person infected by HIV can infect other people, irrespective of whether there are symptoms or not.

The methods of transmission of HIV infection are blood-to-blood-infection with contaminated syringes and needles; unsafe sexual practices, i.e. sex without condoms; a mother infecting her baby during pregnancy, labour or through breast milk after childbirth; and transfusions of contaminated blood. All donated blood in Malaysia is tested for HIV, so this route of infection is extremely unlikely.

Serious illnesses that may result from HIV infection include those that are normally prevented by the body’s immune system. They include tuberculosis (TB), pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalovirus, fungal infections, and cancers. These are called opportunistic infections because they take advantage of the weakened immune system.

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