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HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus.

It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. CDC estimates that about 56,000 people in the United States contracted HIV in 2006.

HIV damages a person's body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases.HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.



Not using a condom when having sex with a person who has HIV. All unprotected sex with someone who has HIV contains some risk.

Having multiple sex partners or the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase the risk of infection during sex..

Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for injection.

Being born to an infected mother-HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.

HIV is spread primarily by:

AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

Acquired - means that the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease-causing agent (in this case, HIV).

Immunodeficiency - means that the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system.

Syndrome - refers to a group of symptoms that indicate or characterize a disease. In the case of AIDS, this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight disease.

How can I tell if I'm infected with HIV?

The only way to know if you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether or not you are infected. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for 10 years or more.

The following may be warning signs of advanced HIV infection:

**However, no one should assume they are infected if they have any of these symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be related to other illnesses. Again, the only way to determine whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV infection.

How HIV Works

Your body has a type of white blood cell called a CD4+ T-helper cell (also called T-cell or CD4 cell). CD4 cells protect you from infection. They are a big part of your immune system. HIV destroys these cells.

When HIV has killed too many CD4 cells, your body can no longer fight off certain infections. These infections are called opportunistic infections.

When HIV-1 enters a healthy CD4+T-cell in the blood, it takes over the “machinery” of the cell to make more copies of itself. This process is called the HIV life cycle.

HIV Treatment

HIV-1 medicines help stop HIV from using the CD4 cell’s machinery to make more copies of the HIV virus. The different HIV-1 medicines do this by interfering with different steps of the HIV life cycle.

The use of multiple HIV-1 medicines is called antiretroviral therapy, or ART.

ART can reduce the viral load and increase the number of infection-fighting CD4 cells in a person’s blood.