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.
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.
In order to protect oneself against an infection one has to observe the Safer Sex rules and to avoid sharing syringes and infected needles.
If you have changing or multiple sexual partners during the same time period, talk to your doctor or another specialist about sexually transmitted infections (including HIV) and get advice on whether tests may be necessary.
And for everyone having sex:
Because everybody likes it differently, do the personalised Safer Sex Check at www.lovelife.ch.
During pregnancy, regular check-ups with the gynaecologist are essential. In case of an infection, you will discuss measures that can be taken to protect your child.
Last modification 19.04.2022
Federal Office of Public Health FOPH
Division Communicable diseases
Tel. +41 58 463 87 06