What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS is the acronym for the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, which is incurable.

More than 1 million people in the United States currently are living with HIV/AIDS, and more than half a million people have died of AIDS since the U.S. epidemic began in 1981, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Source: NIAID).

HIV/AIDS attacks the body’s immune system and is most often contracted through sexual contact. HIV/AIDS can also be passed to another person through contact with blood or body fluids, such as through blood transfusions, sharing needles contaminated with HIV, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Currently there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, and it is eventually fatal. However, prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce or delay the onset of some serious complications, such as opportunistic infections, and can improve quality of life. Prompt diagnosis can also minimize the spread of the disease to others. In some cases, rapid treatment with medication can prevent the development of HIV/AIDS after exposure to the HIV virus. This prophylactic treatment needs to begin within 72 hours after exposure to HIV/AIDS.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

The symptoms of HIV/AIDS infection result from the HIV attacking the cells of the body’s immune system. Early in the disease, many people with HIV infection have no symptoms. Some people may experience flu-like symptoms that occur about four to eight weeks after infection. Early symptoms of HIV/AIDS can include: Read more about hiv/aidssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes HIV/AIDS?

HIV/AIDS is caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV/AIDS is most often contracted through sexual contact. Any person who engages in sexual activity, including vaginal, oral, or anal sex, can contract and pass on an HIV infection. This includes heterosexual, homosexual, and bisexual men and women. The more sexual partners a person has, the greater the risk of catchin... Read more about hiv/aidscauses

TREATMENTS

How is HIV/AIDS treated?

Treatment of HIV starts with seeking regular medical care. This allows your health care professional to best evaluate your symptoms and risks and provide behavior counseling and regular testing for HIV infection as appropriate.

Regular medical care can increase your chances of catching and treating HIV in its earliest stages before serious complications occur. In some cases, rapid... Read more about hiv/aidstreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.