[Skip to Content]

What Is HIV?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. HIV destroys CD4 cells (also called T cells). These cells fight germs and help prevent some kinds of cancers. In HIV, the immune system becomes weaker, making it harder for the body to fight off infections and some kinds of cancers.

Most people who get treatment early and take medicines for HIV can live long, healthy lives.

What Is AIDS?

AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) can happen after someone has had HIV for many years. In AIDS, the immune system gets very weak. So, serious infections and health problems can happen.

Medicines can help prevent HIV from developing into AIDS.

What Do Doctors Do?

Health care providers usually can tell if someone has HIV through blood tests. People who do are said to be "HIV positive."

If the immune system becomes very weak, someone is said to have AIDS.

How Are HIV and AIDS Treated?

Medicines can help people with HIV stay healthy. They can also prevent HIV from becoming AIDS. People with HIV and AIDS usually need to take a few different medicines. The medicines must be taken exactly as prescribed.

Regular blood tests will check to see how well the medicines are working.

Medically reviewed by: Amy W. Anzilotti, MD
Date reviewed: January 2022