HIV is a virus that attacks a person’s immune system, which is the body’s natural defence against infections.
HIV targets and destroys important cells in the immune system called CD4 cells. CD4 cells are white blood cells that fight infections. HIV enters these cells and uses them to make copies of itself. Over time, HIV destroys more and more of these CD4 cells, which weaken the immune system, making it harder to fight off infections.
If HIV is not controlled by treatment, eventually the immune system is severely weakened and body becomes unable to fight off serious infections and diseases, which can cause death.
These serious infections and diseases are the most advanced stage of HIV, and this is when a person is then also diagnosed with AIDS.
Many people confuse HIV and AIDS. HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a collection of serious infections and diseases caused by HIV.
HIV does not always mean AIDS. In fact, as treatment improves, a person living with HIV who is on treatment can live a long and healthy life and may never develop AIDS.
Once you are diagnosed with HIV you have it for life. There is no cure for HIV, but treatment supresses the virus and stops it from making copies of itself and weakening the immune system.