HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes AIDS. It can only be passed from one human to another. When the virus is in the human body, it attacks the immune system.
The immune system is very important. It protects the body by fighting off germs and infections. Your immune system is able to fight off most infections, but not HIV. This means that once you have HIV, you have it for life.
Once you have HIV in your body, you are said to be HIV positive.
HIV hides in the cells of your immune system, the T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body needs these cells to fight infections and disease. But HIV invades them and then destroys them.
Without treatment, over time, HIV will destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body cannot fight infections and diseases anymore. This puts them at risk of opportunistic infections (OIs) like tuberculosis (TB). When that happens, the person has AIDS, the final stage of HIV infection.
Not everyone who has HIV gets AIDS. With proper treatment, called antiretroviral therapy (ART), you can keep the level of HIV in your body low and your immune system healthy.
HIV is treatable, but it can’t be cured. The first step is to take an HIV test and know your status. The test is voluntary and confidential. If you are HIV positive, you can take medicines to help you live a long and healthy life.