HIV: General Information
General Information About HIV
HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus.” It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV. That means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.
HIV affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS.
The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to be tested. You cannot rely on symptoms to know whether you have HIV. Many people who are infected with HIV do not have any symptoms at all for 10 years or more.
No cure currently exists for HIV, but scientists are working hard to find one. In the meantime, HIV can be controlled with proper medical care. Treatment for HIV is often called antiretroviral therapy or ART. It can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV and lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is advanced can have a nearly normal life expectancy.
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