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The World Health Organization established World AIDS Day in 1988 as a time when governments, national AIDS programs, health care organizations, community organizations, health care providers, and individuals can raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Learn more »

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is primarily a bloodborne virus.

What is HIV?

HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus:

H - Human. This virus infects human beings.

I - Immunodeficiency. This virus attacks a person's immune system. The immune system is the body's defense against infections, such as bacteria and viruses. Once attacked by HIV, the immune system becomes deficient and doesn't work properly.

V - Virus. A virus is a type of germ too small to be seen even with a microscope.

HIV is a virus. Some viruses, like the ones that cause colds or flu, stay in the body for only a few days. HIV, however, never goes away. A person who is infected with HIV is said to be "HIV positive." Once a person is HIV positive, that person will always be HIV positive. What does the virus do?

What is AIDS?

AIDS was first reported in the United States in 1981 and has since become a major worldwide epidemic. AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome:

A - Acquired. This condition is acquired, meaning that a person becomes infected with it.

I - Immuno. This condition affects a person's immune system, the part of the body that fights off germs such as bacteria or viruses.

D - Deficiency. The immune system becomes deficient and does not work properly.

S - Syndrome. A person with AIDS may experience other diseases and infections because of a weakened immune system.

AIDS is the most advanced stage of infection caused by HIV. Most people who are HIV positive do not have AIDS. An HIV-positive person is said to have AIDS when his or her immune system becomes so weak it can't fight off certain kinds of infections and cancers.

Even without one of these infections, an HIV-positive person is diagnosed with AIDS if his or her immune system becomes severely weakened. This is measured by a lab test that determines the number of CD4 cells a person has. A CD4 cell count less than 200 in an HIV-infected person counts as a diagnosis of AIDS. It can take between 2 to 10 years, or longer, for an HIV-positive person to develop AIDS, even without treatment. Getting Started

World AIDS Day - December 1, 2009

General Information: An overview of the condition, including symptoms, risk factors, diagnosis, treatment and medications.

Self-Management: Understand and track the condition through use of various health tools

Caregiver Information: Caregiver resources and when to get additional help

Seeking Advanced Information: A wide range of information, research and clinical trials

Related Topics: Complimentary and alternative approaches to the condition

Reviewed/Updated Date: December 1 , 2009

Clinical Advisory Board Sponsor: Dr. William Duncan

Clinical Subject Matter Experts: Dr. John Davison

Patient Education Subject Matter Experts: Patricia Long