HIV/AIDS Virus

HIV/AIDS

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is transmitted via blood, semen, and vaginal fluids and causes a range of symptoms that present soon after infection, including fever and swollen glands. After a latent period—during which HIV progresses to AIDS (HIV/AIDS)—those infected are faced with more serious concerns, including extreme weight loss and opportunistic infections.

When AIDS first appeared in 1981, most cases were fatal. Once it was determined that HIV was the cause of AIDS, researchers were able to develop testing and treatments. A protocol called antiretroviral therapy (ART) helps prevent HIV from replicating in the body. This effective treatment allows many people who test HIV-positive to live otherwise long and healthy lives.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It has three distinct phases. The initial stage is marked by fever, chills, and flu-like symptoms. In the second stage, the virus lays clinically dormant. The third stage is HIV/AIDS, with symptoms of recurring fever, persistent and extreme fatigue, chronic diarrhea, and neurological disorders.

  • When does HIV become AIDS?

    Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is the late stage of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Without treatment, it takes about 10 years for HIV to develop into AIDS. Fortunately, there are treatments available that work to stop the virus from replicating, preventing the infection from progressing to AIDS.

  • How does HIV turn into AIDS?

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that destroys CD4 T-cells, blood cells that play a key role in the immune system. The virus progressively eliminates these cells, leaving the body less able to defend itself against opportunistic infections. This ultimately leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), the fatal stage of HIV. Left untreated, HIV takes about 10 years to progress to AIDS.

  • What are the symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections have three distinct phases. In the initial stage, symptoms include fever, chills, diarrhea, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. The second stage has no symptoms. The third stage is progression to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS symptoms include recurring fever, persistent and extreme fatigue, chronic diarrhea, and neurological disorders.

  • What is used to treat HIV/AIDS?

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), which suppresses the virus with the goal of reaching undetectable levels. The type of ART prescribed depends on the patient's treatment history. HIV medications may be used in combination with medications for other chronic health conditions.

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), is treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART), which suppresses the virus with the goal of reaching undetectable levels. The type of ART prescribed depends on the patient's treatment history. HIV medications may be used in combination with medications for other chronic health conditions.

  • How is HIV spread?

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is spread through contact with infected blood, semen, and vaginal fluids. This can occur during unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex, sharing needles, accidental blood exposure, or passed from mother to baby during pregnancy. It is not transmitted through sweat, tears, saliva, feces, or urine.

  • How can I avoid contracting HIV?

    Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections can be prevented through abstinence, not sharing needles, limiting your number of sexual partners, and using condoms correctly every time you have sex. There are also prophylactic medicines that can help prevent infection if you have been or are at-risk for HIV infection.

Key Terms

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Page Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Cancer Society. Key statistics for cervical cancer. Updated July 30, 2020.

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV treatment. Updated October 17, 2019.

Additional Reading