HIV Basics

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it is important to look for a confidential HIV test in your region.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks the immune system and can eventually cause AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

Over time, and without treatment, HIV gradually weakens the body's defenses against disease, leaving it vulnerable to many infections and cancers that do not normally develop.

Some people living with HIV have no symptoms even without treatment. Some have mild health problems, while others rapidly develop severe health problems associated with AIDS.

AIDS is a late stage of HIV disease. Not everyone who has HIV advances to this stage of infection. AIDS is defined by a level of damage to the immune system that may leave a person vulnerable to opportunistic infections. An AIDS diagnosis occurs when  an individual’s CD4 cell (a type of immune system cell) count drops to less than 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, or an opportunistic infection (that can include pneumonia and certain types of cancer) develops.    

Proper medical treatment can significantly slow down HIV and decrease its impact on the immune system. Some people now living with HIV may never develop AIDS and can live a normal life span.  Studies show that starting treatment as soon as possible after infection makes a significant difference.


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