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The immunodeficiency disease AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is caused by the HI virus. The pathogen is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated hypodermic needles and contaminated blood supplies. HIV-positive women can infect their children during pregnancy, but especially during childbirth and while breastfeeding.

In 2007, according to UN figures, 33 million people worldwide were living with the HI virus. About 2.7 million became newly infected, 2 million died of the disease that year. More than two thirds of all infected people and almost 90 percent of HIV-positive children live in sub-Saharan Africa.If a person is infected with HIV, the virus attacks his defense cells – the T4 helper cells – and destroys them. The disease is as yet incurable. Without further treatment, the immune system breaks down after a few years. Since the body is then no longer able to fight off actually harmless pathogens, AIDS leads to death.Antiretroviral drugs, on the market since 1996, inhibit viral replication and prolong the lives of infected people. However, the treatment is often associated with strong side effects. Resistances also threaten. For people in developing countries, treatment with antiretroviral drugs is often too expensive.In Germany lived in 2007 according to estimates of the Robert Koch Institute 59.000 people infected with HIV. Among these, homosexual men with 34.000 the largest group. 2.752 new infections were registered in2007. The number of reported new diagnoses has been rising for years. But this is only partly due to rising infection rates, the institute says. Improved testing procedures and increased willingness to test also contributed.

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Christina Cherry
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