AIDS/HIV Definitions and Basics

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HIV is the virus which causes AIDS. A person without symptoms of AIDS who has the virus will eventually develop AIDS. A person with the virus is called HIV positive. HIV is transmitted sexually, and through exchange of blood (e.g. thorugh transfusions, blood splatter, or sharing needles used to inject drugs). It is also transmitted from mother to child during child birth.


AIDS stands for acquired immuno-deficiency syndrome. The disease has a long dormancy period during which a person is HIV positive but shows no symptoms. It has no cure. Everyone who develops AIDS dies of it, unless they die of something else first. But, AIDS is never the sole cause of death. AIDS destroys the human immune system making the person with the disease vulnerable to every other disease, when person without AIDS would often not get sick at all or would quickly overcome an illness.

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