Understanding the Causes of AIDS: Unraveling the Complex Web

Amoha Jha
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Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
Dr. Akansha is a licensed Clinical Pharmacologist. She possesses remarkable knowledge in Pharmacovigilance, prescription analysis, drug information, and drug safety services. Additionally, she is a keen learner and an educator.

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causes of aids

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) remains a global health concern. As of 2022, worldwide 39 million people were living with HIV. 

First identified as a disease in 1981, AIDS is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

It is a retrovirus that attacks the immune system. 

The spread of HIV/AIDS is complex, involving a combination of biological, social, economic, and behavioral factors. 

In this article, we will delve into the multifaceted causes of AIDS to gain a comprehensive understanding of this global health challenge.

What causes AIDS

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the primary cause of AIDS. 

HIV weakens the immune system by attacking and destroying CD4 cells, which are crucial for the body’s defense against infections. 

It leaves the individual susceptible to opportunistic infections and cancers. 

As per the World Health Organization, globally, approximately 5% of Cervical cancer cases are linked to HIV.

Transmission of HIV/AIDS

AIDS is caused by HIV, and it can be spread in the following ways:

Unprotected sexual practices

couple hugging on bedSource: Getty_images
Unprotected sexual activity

Engaging in unprotected sex with an infected (HIV-positive) partner is a primary risk factor.

Lack of access to education on safe sex practices and contraception contributes to the spread of the virus.

Contaminated medical equipment

The use of contaminated medical equipment can contribute to the transmission of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. 

HIV can spread through unsafe blood transfusions and the use of inadequately sterilized medical instruments.

Substance abuse and addiction may lead to risky behaviors, further increasing the risk of spread of the virus.

Mother-to-child transmission

Without proper medical interventions, an HIV-positive mother can transmit the virus to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) has significantly reduced mother-to-child transmission rates when administered appropriately.

Recommended Article
Read HIV/AIDS Treatment: An Early Guide to Prevent Severe Consequences to learn about the treatment options for HIV.

Factors contributing to the spread of HIV/AIDS

Certain social, economic, and cultural factors further contribute to the spread of HIV/AIDS. 

Some of these factors are:

Stigma and discrimination

Stigma and discrimination against individuals living with HIV/AIDS can discourage people from seeking testing, treatment, and support.

Fear of social repercussions (unpleasant consequences) may lead to hidden or unreported cases, hindering efforts to control the spread of the virus.

Lack of awareness and education

Limited knowledge about HIV/AIDS and its transmission can contribute to high-risk behaviors.

Insufficient awareness programs and sex education may fail to empower individuals to make informed decisions.

Socio-economic factors

Poverty, lack of access to healthcare, and inadequate resources can limit individuals’ ability to protect themselves against HIV.

Socioeconomic disparities can also affect access to education and prevention programs.

Cultural and behavioral factors

Cultural norms and practices may contribute to the spread of HIV, such as gender inequalities and traditional practices.

Risky sexual behaviors, including multiple sexual partners and inconsistent condom use, play a role in transmission.

Who are at a higher risk of AIDS

Certain people are at a higher risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. 

Here’s a list of them:

  • Individuals who have a current or previous partner with HIV
  • Individuals with a current or past partner from an area where HIV is widespread
  • People from regions with high rates of HIV
  • Those involved in chemsex, using drugs to enhance sex
  • Men engaging in unprotected sex with other men
  • Women having unprotected sex with men who have sex with men
  • Individuals having unprotected sex with someone who injects drugs and shares equipment
  • Those sharing sex toys with someone infected with HIV
  • Individuals with a history of Sexually Transmitted Infections, such as Hepatitis B or Hepatitis C
  • People with multiple sexual partners
  • Survivors of rape
  • Individuals who underwent medical procedures in countries with inadequate HIV screening
  • Healthcare workers who may accidentally have needle pricks with infected needles

Ways in which HIV is not spread

couple holding handsSource: Signature_images
Shaking hands

There are always questions, such as can kissing causes HIV or hugging causes HIV, and the list is never-ending.

People want to know about how some daily activities may or may not spread HIV. 

So, here are ways, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in which HIV is not transmitted:

  • Saliva
  • Tears
  • Sweat
  • Hugging
  • Shaking hands
  • Sharing toilets
  • Sharing dishes
  • Through the air
  • By mosquitoes, ticks, or other insects
  • Closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who has HIV
  • Other sexual activities that don’t involve the exchange of body fluids, such as touching


Knowing the causes behind Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is crucial for global health efforts. 

HIV, a retrovirus that weakens the immune system, is the primary culprit. 

The multifaceted spread of HIV/AIDS involves biological, social, economic, and behavioral factors. 

Unprotected sexual practices, contaminated medical equipment, and mother-to-child transmission are key modes. 

Social stigma, lack of awareness, and socioeconomic disparities further contribute to the spread of AIDS. 

Certain populations face higher risks, emphasizing the need for targeted interventions. 

Moreover, it is crucial to learn that HIV is not transmitted through kissing, hugging, or any such activities. 

Comprehensive understanding and prevention strategies are important in combating this pervasive global health challenge.

Spreading or believing in rumors about the spread of HIV deepens the repercussions of unreported HIV cases. Thus, it is crucial to trust only reliable and authoritative sources.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can kissing cause HIV?

No, kissing cannot transmit HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HIV is not spread through saliva or closed-mouth (“social”) kissing. The virus is primarily transmitted through specific bodily fluids such as blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

What caused AIDS to start?

AIDS originated when the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) jumped from a type of chimpanzee to humans in Central Africa, likely in the late 1800s. The virus spread through human activities like hunting and consumption of bushmeat.

Can you get AIDS from smoking with someone who has it?

No, smoking with someone who has AIDS does not transmit the virus. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is not spread through activities like sharing cigarettes. It is mostly transmitted through specific bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

Why does anal sex cause HIV?

Engaging in anal sex can pose a higher risk of HIV transmission compared to other sexual activities. The rectal lining is more susceptible to tearing, providing direct access for the virus to enter. Correct condom use, along with other preventive measures, decreases the risk of HIV transmission during anal intercourse.

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