HIV Center

HIV virus

What is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and affects more than 1,000,000 Americans.  HIV attacks the body's immune system by killing CD4 positive T cells.  T-cells are white blood cells that are critical to the functioning of the immune system. 

HIV is a progressive disease that ultimately results in an immune system that is less and less strong to fight infection, disease, and cancer.  People with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to 'opportunistic infections' by viruses and bacteria which many health persons without HIV/AIDS have no difficulty in fighting. 

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medication can reduce the amount of the virus in the body, hence hampering the virus' destruction of the immune system.  An HIV-infected person may carry the virus for up to 10 years before AIDS develops. 

How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be contracted by anyone, regardless of ethnicity, age group, sexual orientation, and sex.  HIV can be specifically transmitted by vaginal, oral, anal intercourse. However, HIV cannot be spread by mosquitoes, phones, saliva, shaking hands, sharing eating utensils, swimming pools, and toilet seats.   Having a sexually transmitted disease can increase the likelihood of contracting HIV.  But most cases of HIV are transmitted during heterosexual sex.  In many countries, women are more rapidly becoming infected with the HIV virus than men.  To learn more about causes of HIV click here.

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