What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that damages the immune system. The immune system helps the body fight off infections. Untreated HIV infects and kills CD4 cells, which are a type of immune cell called T cells. Over time, as HIV kills more CD4 cells, the body is more likely to get various types of infections and cancers.

It is transmitted through bodily fluids that include:

  • blood
  • semen
  • vaginal and rectal fluids
  • breast milk

The virus doesn’t spread in air or water, or through casual contact.

HIV is a lifelong condition and currently, there is no cure, although many scientists are working to find one. However, with medical care, including a treatment called antiretroviral therapy, it’s possible to manage it and live with the virus for many years.

Without treatment, a person with HIV is likely to develop a serious condition called AIDS. At that time, the immune system is too weak to fight off other diseases and infections. Untreated, life expectancy with AIDS is about three years. With antiretroviral therapy, It will be well-controlled and life expectancy will be nearly the same as someone who has not contracted HIV.

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