Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Medically Reviewed on 3/5/2020
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection left untreated causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). Still incurable, AIDS describes immune system collapse that opens the way for opportunistic infections and cancers to kill the patient. Early symptoms and signs of HIV infection include flu-like symptoms and fungal infections, but some people may not show any symptoms for years. Highly active antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the standard treatment for HIV infection. These combination drug regimens have made HIV much less deadly, but a cure or vaccine for the pandemic remains out of reach. HIV is usually transmitted through sexual contact or sharing IV drug needles, but can also infect someone through contact with infected blood. Sexual abstinence, safe sex practices, quitting IV drugs (or at least using clean needles), and proper safety equipment by clinicians and first responders can drastically reduce transmission rates for HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS Facts: What Is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the precursor infection to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV is transmitted through blood and genital secretions; most people get it through sexual contact or sharing needles for illegal IV drug use. HIV can be controlled by a strict drug regimen, but left unchecked, it leads to AIDS. In AIDS, the immune system collapses and the body falls prey to secondary, opportunistic infections and cancers that typically kill the person.

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