What is AIDS (H.I.V.)?
HIV infection is a condition that can gradually destroy the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight infections. When this happens, the person has AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes HIV infection and AIDS. The virus attacks the immune system. As the immune system weakens, the body is vulnerable to life-threatening infections and cancers. Once a person has the virus, it stays inside the body for life.
The virus is spread (transmitted) person-to-person in any of the following ways:
Through sexual contact - including oral, vaginal, and anal sex Through blood - via blood transfusions (now extremely rare in the U.S.) or needle sharing From mother to child - a pregnant woman can spread the virus to her fetus through their shared blood circulation, or a nursing mother can transmit it to her baby through her breast milk.
There is no cure for AIDS at this time. But treatments are available to manage symptoms. Treatment can also improve the quality
and length of life for those who have already developed symptoms.
Antiretroviral therapy suppresses the replication of the HIV virus in the body. A combination of antiretroviral drugs, called antiretroviral therapy (ART), also known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), is very effective in reducing the amount of HIV in the bloodstream. This is measured by the viral load (how much free virus is found in the blood). Preventing the virus from reproducing (replicating) can improve T-cell counts and help the immune system recover from HIV infection.