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Diseases & Topics

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection

HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV damages a person's body by destroying specific blood cells the body needs to fight diseases. HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Many people with HIV, including those who feel healthy, can benefit greatly from current medications used to treat HIV infection. These medications can limit or slow down the destruction of the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, and may reduce their ability to transmit HIV to others.

AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person's immune system is severely damaged and has difficulty fighting diseases and certain cancers. While there is no cure for either HIV or AIDS at this time, with careful treatment people with HIV can live for many years before the disease progresses to AIDS.

HIV is spread primarily by unprotected sex (especially with multiple partners), sharing needles and other illegal-drug paraphernalia, or from an infected mother to her baby. Health care workers are also at risk from accidental needle sticks and other exposure to blood from infected persons. It is not spread through casual contact or by insect bites.

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