The deadly HIV/AIDS pandemic — a pandemic is an epidemic that crosses international boundaries — has been most severe in sub-Saharan Africa. HIV/AIDS has so far claimed the lives of 36 million of the 75 million people infected worldwide, according to the mostrecent WHO counts. Among infectious diseases, HIV/AIDS is the No.1 killer in the world. In the United States, more than one million people are HIV-positive and 650,000 Americans have died from AIDS, the CDC reports.

Infection with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). People infected with HIV may notice flu-like symptomsfairly quickly, in only a few weeks. It can take as long as 10 years after the initial infection to see immune system failure symptoms. The virus spreads from person to person via contact with infected blood, and body fluids like semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk. No vaccine is available, but consistent use of condoms and pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis with antiviral medication can limit the spread of infection. HIV/AIDS is treatable with effective antiviral drugs, but it cannot be cured.

Prevention tip: Practice safe sex, use condoms, don’t share needles for injection drugs, and limit the number of sexual partners you have to help lower your risk of getting — or spreading — an HIV infection.

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