Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, is a new illness that occurs in previously healthy individuals. It is characterized by immunodeficiency, opportunistic infections and unusual malignant diseases. Life-threatening single or multiple infections with viruses, mycobacteria, fungi or protozoa are common. A rare neoplasm, Kaposi's sarcoma, has developed in approximately one third of patients with AIDS. More than 800 cases of AIDS have been reported in North America, over 24 of them in Canada. The majority of patients are male homosexuals, although AIDS has also developed in abusers of intravenously administered drugs, Haitian immigrants, individuals with hemophilia, recipients of blood transfusions, prostitutes, and infants, spouses and partners of patients with AIDS. The cause of AIDS is unknown, but the features are consistent with an infectious process. Early diagnosis can be difficult owing to the nonspecific symptoms and signs of the infections and malignant diseases. Therefore, vigilance by physicians is of the utmost importance
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