HIV / AIDS Course > Chapter 1 - Introduction


Presented by
Lance J. Parks, LCSW


This course is recognized by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences.
This program is Approved by the the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) (Approval #886463870-6290) for 7 Clinical Social Work continuing education contact hours.
This program is approved for 7 continuing education hours by:
The California Board of Registered Nursing # CEP 14462
The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) # 886463870
The Florida Board of Clinical Social Work, Marriage and Family Therapy and Mental Health Counseling #50-14000
Texas Board of Examiners of Marriage and Family Therapists # 628
Texas State Board of Examiners of Professional Counselors #1646
The Texas Board of Social Worker Examiners # 5547
The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) # 6412


After completing this training the professional healthcare provider will be able to:

1. Explain to clients the HIV/AIDS disease.
2. Discuss a brief history of the epidemic.
3. Identify the physiological characteristics of HIV/AIDS
4. Explain the psychosocial issues seropositive patients present.
5. Assess and provide psychosocial services for people living with HIV and AIDS.
6. Distinguish between typical myths and misconceptions versus knowledge and facts about HIV/AIDS
7. Recognize and integrate into treatment the changing biopsychosocial impact of AIDS as people live longer due to increased knowledge and improved treatment.


In 1981 the first known case of HIV / AIDS was diagnosed in the United States. Since that time, our country has gone through many phases of fear, misinformation, prejudice, sorrow, anger, compassion and apathy. It would be difficult to find a more polarizing disease. When debated, it is a topic that brings up moral, physical, social and not least, political issues. Along with the debates are millions of victims who have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, many who have died from the effects of the virus, and many others who still live with it.

[QN.No.#4. What year was the first known case of AIDS diagnosed in the United States:]

This course will define HIV/AIDS and discuss the history of its origin and how it has spread. This course will also address the biopsychosocial assessment and treatment of the virus, clear up some of the myths and misinformation about the virus and help the professional health practitioner attach clients to meaningful resources in combating this disease.

A. Defining HIV/AIDS and its Symptoms

The healthcare professional needs to have sufficient knowledge and understanding of HIV and AIDS in order to educate the infected individual. Making sure the infected individual understands what the disease is, how it affects the body and other facts will help dispel myths and help the client feel they can define and manage their illness. This section provides basic knowledge of the disease, its symptoms, and the stages of its progression.

The United Nations established, in cooperation with the World Health Organization, the organized study of HIV/AIDS, and is a comprehensive resource for information regarding the virus. The following is from the United Nations AIDS organization website. To view their w ebsite click here:

B. What is HIV?

"HIV stands for 'human immunodeficiency virus'. HIV is a retrovirus that infects cells of the human immune system (mainly CD4 positive T cells and macrophages (key components of the cellular immune system), and destroys or impairs their function. Infection with this virus results in the progressive depletion of the immune system, leading to 'immune deficiency'.

[QN.No.#1. The retrovirus HIV has which of the following effects on the human body:]

The immune system is considered deficient when it can no longer fulfill its role of fighting off infection and diseases. Immunodeficient people are much more vulnerable to a wide range of infections, most of which are very rare among people without immune deficiency. Diseases associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as 'opportunistic infections', because they take advantage of a weakened immune system." (UNAIDS, 2005)

(Aegis, 2005)

"HIV doesn't kill anybody directly. Instead, it weakens the body's ability to fight disease. Infections which are rarely seen in those with normal immune systems are deadly to those with HIV. People with HIV can get many infections (called opportunistic infections, or OIs). Many of these illnesses are very serious, and they need to be treated. Some can be prevented."

This web page has information about opportunistic infections and some other disorders common with HIV Disease. This and the next two websites noted provide a thorough list of the diseases contributing to a diagnosis of AIDS.

C. What is AIDS?

When an individual has been infected with HIV and, as a result, "acquires" certain opportunistic symptoms and infections somewhat peculiar to having a weakened immune system, they are diagnosed with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS.

The opportunistic infections that indicate a patient has progressed in the disease to having AIDS include a range of diseases such as types of pneumonia, cancer and tuberculosis.

The following list can be found at AIDS Project LA (2005):

D. AIDS Defining Conditions

Below is a list of AIDS Defining Conditions as determined by the Centers for Disease Control in its 1993 AIDS Surveillance Case Definition. Assuming that a person is HIV-positive, that person would be diagnosed with AIDS if he/she had one or more of the following:

  • Candidiasis of bronchi, trachea, or lungs
  • Candidiasis, esophageal
  • CD4 lymphocyte counts below 200, or a CD4 percent of total lymphocytes less than 14 if the absolute count is not available
  • Cervical cancer, invasive
  • Coccidiomycosis, disseminated or extrapulmonary (Valley Fever)
  • Cryptococcosis, extrapulmonary
  • Cryptosporidiosis, chronic intestinal (>1 month duration)
  • Cytomegalovirus disease (CMV); other than liver, spleen or nodes
  • Cytomegalovirus retinitis (with loss of vision)
  • HIV encephalopathy
  • Herpes simplex: chronic ulcer(s) (>1 month duration); or bronchitis, pneumonitis, or esophagitis
  • Histoplasmosis, disseminated or extrapulmonary
  • Isosporiasis, chronic intestinal (>1 month duration)
  • Kaposi's Sarcoma (KS)
  • Lymphoma, Burkitt's (or equivalent term)
  • Lymphoma, immunoblastic (or equivalent term)
  • Lymphoma, primary in brain
  • Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) or M. kansasii, disseminated or extrapulmonary
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis, any site (pulmonary or extrapulmonary)
  • Mycobacterium, other species or unidentified species, disseminated or extrapulmonary
  • Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP)
  • Pneumonia, recurrent
  • Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML)
  • Salmonella septicemia, recurrent
  • Toxoplasmosis of brain
  • Wasting syndrome due to HIV

[QN.No.#2. A seropositive person receives a diagnosis of AIDS when:]

E. What are the symptoms of HIV?

Most people infected with HIV do not know that they have become infected, because no symptoms develop immediately after the initial infection. Some people have a glandular fever-like illness (with fever, rash, joint pains and enlarged lymph nodes), which can occur at the time of seroconversion. Seroconversion refers to the development of antibodies to HIV and usually takes place between 6 weeks and 3 months after an infection has occurred.

[QN.No.#3. People usually know when they have become HIV Positive because symptoms appear within a few weeks.]

Despite the fact that HIV infection does not cause any initial symptoms, an HIV-infected person is highly infectious and can transmit the virus to another person. The only way to determine whether HIV is present in a person's body is by taking an HIV test. HIV infection causes a gradual depletion and weakening of the immune system. This results in an increased susceptibility of the body to infections and can lead to the development of AIDS. (UNAIDS, 2005)

F. When does a person have AIDS?

The term AIDS applies to the most advanced stages of HIV infection.

The majority of people infected with HIV, if not treated, develop signs of AIDS within 8-10 years. AIDS is identified on the basis of certain infections, grouped by the World Health Organization:

Stage I HIV disease is asymptomatic and not categorized as AIDS

Stage II includes minor mucocutaneous manifestations and recurrent upper respiratory tract infections

Stage III includes unexplained chronic diarrhea for longer than a month, severe bacterial infections and pulmonary tuberculosis or

Stage IV includes Toxoplasmosis of the brain, Candidiasis of the oesophagus, trachea, bronchi or lungs and Kaposi's Sarcoma HIV disease are used as indicators of AIDS.

Most of these conditions are opportunistic infections that can be treated easily in healthy people.

How quickly do people infected with HIV develop AIDS?
The length of time can vary widely between individuals. With a healthy lifestyle, the time between infection with HIV and becoming ill with AIDS can be "10 to 15 years, sometimes longer. Antiretroviral therapy can slow down the progression of AIDS by decreasing viral load in an infected body." (UNAIDS organization, 2005)

Question No.1. The retrovirus HIV has which of the following effects on the human body:

a. Eliminates physical growth
b. Attacks hearing and vision capabilities
c. Depletes the immune system
d. It is a unique and deadly type of cancer

Question No.2. A seropositive person receives a diagnosis of AIDS when:

a. They are first diagnosed as being HIV positive.
b. They acquire certain opportunistic diseases
c. They start to lose weight
d. They have a CD4 lymphocyte count below 200
e. Either B or D

Question No.3. People usually know when they have become HIV Positive because symptoms appear within a few weeks.

Question No.4. What year was the first known case of AIDS diagnosed in the United States:

a. 1971
b. 1981
c. 1987
d. 1995
HIV / AIDS Course > Chapter 1 - Introduction
Page Last Modified On: June 1, 2017, 10:45 AM