AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. It is the most advanced stages of infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV is a virus that kills or damages cells of the body’s immune system.
HIV most often spreads through unprotected sex with an infected person. AIDS may also spread by sharing drug needles or through contact with the blood of an infected person. Women can give it to their babies during pregnancy or childbirth.
The first signs of HIV infection may be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. These may come and go a month or two after infection. Severe symptoms may not appear until months or years later.
A blood test can tell if you have HIV infection. Your health care provider can perform the test, or call the National AIDS hotline for a referral at (800) 342-AIDS (1-800-342-2437). There is no cure, but there are many medicines to fight both HIV infection and the infections and cancers that come with it. People can live with the disease for many years.
HIV/AIDS infects an estimated 5 million people worldwide each year. Up to 950,000 people live with HIV in the U.S. alone. Find articles here about HIV/AIDS treatment, transmission, and prevention, as well as information on safe sex and daily support.