Byline: Miriam Stoppard
AIDS stands for "acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
While HIV is infectious, it isn't as contagious as some other viruses, such as the common cold or influenza.
It cannot, for example, be caught simply by touching and normal social contact, and isn't spread by coughs and sneezes. It's usually transmitted by the "mixing of body fluids" - mainly blood, semen and vaginal secretions.
The most common route of transmission is through sexual intercourse but, rarely, it may also be passed on via blood transfusions and the sharing of needles by intravenous drug users.
The virus is found in saliva and tears, but not in sufficient numbers to be infectious. HIV affects everyone, both heterosexuals and homosexuals. There are two types of HIV, types one and two. Infection with either can lead to Aids, although HIV-2 seems to be a less aggressive form of the virus.
As a disease, Aids weakens the body's natural immune system to such an …