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What is HIV and AIDS?

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  • What is HIV and AIDS?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is the name given to the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Once a person first gets infected with HIV, the virus can stay inactive for many years and the person has no signs or symptoms of infection. Eventually HIV starts attacking the defense cells in the body called lymphocytes and weakens the immune system (the body’s defense system that fights infections). The final stage of HIV infection, known as AIDS, occurs when the immune system becomes so weak and badly damaged that it is unable to fight against infection or disease and the person dies as a result. Although there is no cure for HIV, people infected with the virus today can be treated with medications that interferes with the viruses growth by preventing it from multiplying (making more copies of itself) within the body. This treatment, known as antiretroviral therapy, or ART, now means HIV infection is no longer a death sentence. Today, people are living longer and healthier lives and HIV infection is now considered by some to be a ‘chronic disease’. This highlights even more the importance of getting tested for HIV. A positive result means treatment is available!