AIDS

AIDS is the acronym for "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome". It is the late sequela of an infection with HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. According to an estimate by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there are currently roughly 37 million (range between 34 and 41 million) people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide.  

Pathogen and transmission

AIDS is the acronym for "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome". It is the late sequela of an infection with HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is transmitted through unprotected sex as well as shared syringes and needles for injecting drugs or through injuries involving injection needles in clinical settings. Transmission from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy or later, while breastfeeding is also possible. There is an increased risk of transmission during blood transfusions in countries with a lower technical standard of medical care than that of industrialised countries.

Clinical picture

HIV destroys specific cells of the immune system, leading to a gradual impairment of the body's defences. There are several stages in the progression of an HIV infection. AIDS denotes the stage in which the immune system is weakened to the point that at least one of the infections or tumours required to establish an AIDS diagnosis is present. Even infections that do not lead to illness in healthy people with an intact immune system can become life-threatening for AIDS patients.

Thanks to medical therapies, ideally in the early stages of the disease, there is now a real chance that immune deficiency regresses or is prevented from developing. However, an HIV infection is still life-threatening if the therapies are not consistently adhered to for the rest of a patient's life.

Frequency and distribution

According to an estimate by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there are currently roughly 37 million (range between 34 and 41 million) people living with HIV or AIDS worldwide. According to recent estimates, around 16'600 HIV-infected people live in Switzerland. Up to the end of 2015, a total of almost 9,800 people have received the late-stage diagnosis of AIDS, about 60% of whom have died as a result of the disease. About 100 new AIDS cases are diagnosed each year, primarily in people where HIV infection was discovered late.

Prevention

In order to protect oneself against an infection one has to observe the Safer Sex rules and to avoid sharing syringes and infected needles.

Safer sex rules:
1. Use a condom for vaginal and anal sex.
2. And because everybody loves different things: do your own personalised

People who experience flu-like symptoms after a high-risk situation for HIV (after unprotected vaginal or anal sex, especially in regions of the world where HIV is widespread or with a partner from one of those regions) should seek advice from a doctor on whether an HIV test makes sense.

Those who do not experience flu-like symptoms after a high risk situation can do the Risk Check to help them better assess their situation.

In either case it would be beneficial for them to talk to their doctor about their sex life and about protection against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

An HIV test is also recommended as the standard of care during pregnancy.

Further Information

National Programme for HIV and Other Sexually Transmitted Infections (NPHS)

The NPHS aims to reduce the number of new infections with HIV and other STIs and to avoid consequences with an adverse effect on health. Information on the programme can be found here.

Last modification 07.12.2018

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Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division Communicable diseases
Schwarzenburgstrasse 157
3003 Berne
Switzerland
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