Basic Information about HIV/AIDS
 

 

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What Is HIV?


To understand what HIV is, let’s break it down:

H – Human – This particular virus can only infect human beings.

I – Immunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A "deficient" immune system can't protect you.

V – Virus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the "flu" or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn't the case with HIV – the human immune system can't seem to get rid of it. Scientists are still trying to figure out why.
We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can't fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.
 
How Do You Get HIV?
HIV is found in specific human body fluids. If any of those fluids enter your body, you can become infected with HIV.
Which Body Fluids Contain HIV?
HIV lives and reproduces in blood and other body fluids. We know that the following fluids can contain high levels of HIV:
Blood
Semen (cum)
Pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
Breast milk
Vaginal fluids
Rectal (anal) mucous
Other body fluids and waste products-like feces, nasal fluid, saliva, sweat, tears, urine, or vomit-don’t contain enough HIV to infect you, unless they have blood mixed in them and you have significant and direct contact with them.
Structure of HIV

 

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