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Mountains Beyond Mountains: HIV/AIDS

Written by Tracy Kidder, Mountains Beyond Mountains focuses on the quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, an infectious disease specialist, who still strives to diagnose and cure infectious diseases in such places as Haiti, Cuba, Peru, and Russia.

Definition of HIV and AIDS

Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV) is a retrovirus that infects and destroys helper T cells of the immune system, causing the marked reduction in their numbers.  Once the level of helper T cells drops low enough, the disease progresses from HIV to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).  This stage is marked by:

  • swollen lymph nodes
  • weight loss
  • fevers
  • infections in the mouth
  • diarrhea
  • fatique
  • memory loss

HIV and AIDS are spread through:

  • sexual contact with an infected person
  • contact with infected blood
  • breast milk passed from mother to child

Definition from MedlinePlus Meriam Webster:


Photo taken by Jon Rawlinson Source: