What is HIV?

hivHIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that affects certain white blood cells—CD4 T cells—that manage human immune system responses. When these blood cells are damaged, it becomes difficult for people to fight off infections or diseases. This condition is called “HIV disease.”

Human – the virus can only infect human beings. Although similar diseases exist in other animals, such as monkeys and cats, those viruses cannot infect humans nor can HIV infect other animals.


Immunodeficiency – the virus creates a deficiency with the body’s immune system, causing it to stop working properly.


Virus – the organism is a virus which is incapable of reproducing by itself; it must use a human cell as a host to reproduce.

What is AIDS?

When HIV disease was first recognized in the early 1980s, it was called AIDS. Today, the term “HIV disease” is a more accurate description of the condition. However, term AIDS stillused, primarily for the purpose of counting infections and as a description for docs_chartadvanced-stages of HIV disease. AIDS refers to individuals who have particular AIDS-defining conditions such as a very low CD4 white blood cell or specific opportunisticillnesses.


Acquired – the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent (in this case, HIV). HIV is not a condition passed on genetically; a person has to become infected with it.

Immunodeficiency – the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system.

Syndrome – a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease. In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells (CD4 T cells) in a person’s immune system.

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