Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus, like a cold or the flu, that effects the immune system. Our immune system is a collection of cells and organs in our body that protect our body from germs and disease. When you get sick and have a runny nose or a fever that is your immune system fighting off the cold or whatever other sickness that you have. Without our immune system our body would get taken over by foreign pathogens (germs) and we would die. (2)
HIV is carried in the blood, semen and vaginal secretions. Therefore, you can get infected by having unprotected sex, with men or women, who are infected or by intravenous drug use. More on how you actually get the disease can be found in the How do you get it? section of the page.
When you do get the disease it attacks the immune system right away and you will get flu like symptoms. The virus is undetectable at this time and so HIV tests will come back negative. After three to six weeks you will lose the symptoms and feel better, but you will still have HIV, at this point you will test positive for HIV. Because of this you should always get tested around six weeks after you engage in a risky behavior (see How do you get it? ). (2)
Because HIV slowly attacks the immune system people can go many years without even knowing they have it. It slowly kills the cell in your body called CD4 cell, which defend your body against germs, and eventually you loose so many that your body can no longer fight off infection. At this point you have AIDS ( Acquired Immune Deficiency S yndrome), o SIDA en Espa?ol, and many infections and diseases like a cold or the flu will be a lot worse for you than a person with a healthy immune system. This is how people die from an HIV infection, their immune system gets too weak to fight off sickness and they die.
With modern technology there are many treatments to HIV to prevent people who are infected with HIV from ever getting AIDS. There is no cure but the sooner an infected person gets on medication for the disease the more likely they will live a normal healthy life. (2)