What is HIV
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that can really mess up the body’s immune system. The immune system fights diseases; HIV weakens this system and viruses and bacteria that normally present no problem to the immune system can make someone with HIV very sick.
What is AIDS
You’ve probably heard of AIDS. It stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a severe stage of HIV, when the body’s immune system is seriously weakened. HIV can develop into AIDS after a period of time without treatment, and you can have HIV without having AIDS.
How you get it
HIV is usually a sexually transmitted disease passed through bodily fluids and blood. HIV can be passed on during unprotected sex with a person who is infected or by sharing a needle (injecting drugs) with someone who is infected. The only way to avoid contracting HIV through sexual activity is to make sure you always use a condom. Babies can be born with HIV if their mother is infected.
Many people might show no symptoms of HIV for several years. Some people get fevers, headaches, sore muscles, a stomach ache, swollen lymph glands or a skin rash. But the only way to tell if you have HIV is to have a blood test, and this can be done confidentially.
At present there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but there are certain antiviral treatments available that attack infections and help to manage the illness.
The advice provided in this material is general in nature and is not intended as medical advice. If you need medical advice, please consult your health care professional.