What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that’s passed from person to person through the blood stream. Once HIV is in the blood stream, it begins to attack a person’s immune system and works to kill off healthy immune system cells.

There’s currently no cure for HIV; once a person is diagnosed with the virus it stays in their system for life. There are, however, many quality medications available to help people who live with HIV.

How does HIV work?

HIV belongs to a group of viruses called Retroviruses which work by invading the genetic material of cells within your body. Normally, the body’s immune system would fight off such a virus, but HIV stops this from happening by infecting CD4, or T-cells, which are the cells that fight off infection. The virus can live in the body for years without causing obvious damage, though it will continue replicating over this time.

What happens if you are infected with HIV?

A person infected with HIV is described as "HIV positive", meaning that they receive a "positive" result from a blood test for HIV infection.
Many people with HIV continue to look and feel well throughout their lifetime. They may not even be aware that they are living with the virus. However, many HIV positive people do eventually develop different infections and cancers that the body would otherwise normally be able to fight. This can lead to an HIV positive person being diagnosed with AIDS.