What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and it sometimes also referred to as the 'AIDS virus.' AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV disease.
When HIV enters the body it begins to attack the immune system. Over time, if left untreated, HIV can damaged the immune system so badly that it can no longer fight off infections and cancers that don’t usually cause problems in people with a healthy immune system. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the term used to describe these unusual symptoms or cancers in HIV positive people.
Having HIV does not mean someone has AIDS. In fact, with proper care and treatment most people with HIV will never progress to this advanced stage of the disease. That doesn't mean that living with HIV is easy or without health problems. While treatments today are much more effective and have fewer side effects than the treatments available 10 or 15 years ago, they still must be taken every day for the rest of your life. Some people experience severe side effects from their HIV drugs or other complications from HIV itself. We don't know all of the long-term effects of taking these medications but there are some indications they can cause damage to the liver or the kidneys, premature bone loss and diseases usually associated with much older people.