What is HIV?

            HIV is a virus that attacks cells in the immune system, our body’s natural defense against disease. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system, called a T-cell, and multiplies inside these cells. T cells are also called CD4 cells.

Because HIV destroys many CD4 cells and multiplies, it gradually weakens a person’s immune system, which means that someone who has HIV and does not take antiretroviral treatment will find it increasingly difficult to fight infection and disease.

If HIV is left untreated, it can take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so badly damaged that it can no longer defend the body at all. However, the rate at which HIV progresses varies according to age, general health and medical history.

Basic facts about HIV

  • HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
  • People with HIV can live long and healthy lives by taking antiretroviral treatment that is effective and available to all.
  • Once a person has HIV, the earlier they are diagnosed, the sooner they can start treatment, which means they will enjoy good health for longer.
  • Antiretroviral treatment reduces the level of HIV in the body so much that blood tests can no longer detect it. People living with HIV whose viral load is confirmed as undetectable cannot transmit HIV.
  • Regular HIV testing is important to know your status.
  • HIV is found in semen, blood, anal and vaginal secretions, and breast milk.
  • HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva, or urine.
  • Using external (male) condoms or internal (female) condoms during sex is the best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
  • If you use injectable drugs, always use a clean needle and syringe and never share preparation and injection equipment.

What is AIDS?

            AIDS is a set of symptoms (or syndrome) caused by HIV. A person is said to have AIDS when the immune system is too weak to fight the infection and develops certain symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced and, if left untreated, will lead to death.

Basic information about AIDS

  • AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome; it is also called advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV.
  • AIDS is a set of symptoms and illnesses that occur as a result of advanced HIV infection that has destroyed the immune system.
  • Today, fewer people develop AIDS, thanks to effective antiretroviral treatment, which makes it possible for infected people to live long and healthy lives.

Although HIV infection is not curable, with proper treatment and support, people living with HIV can enjoy long and healthy lives. For this it is particularly important that treatment is taken correctly, as prescribed by the doctor.