HIV stands for “human immunodeficiency virus.” It’s a virus that can only infect humans and leads to the weakening of the immune system. The immune system is the body’s system for fighting disease. When it’s compromised or weakened, a person becomes vulnerable to all kinds of bacteria, viruses, or other agents that cause disease.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It damages your immune system, making it easier for you to get sick. HIV is spread during sex, but condoms can help protect you.


When HIV is left untreated, it can wreak havoc on a person’s immune system. As this happens, the body is less able to fight off infections. AIDS stands for “Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome,” which means the immune system has been made less effective by HIV. When this happens, a person is considered to have an acquired immune deficiency or AIDS.

It’s important to note that you cannot have AIDS without being infected with HIV. But people can, and do, live long lives (on treatment) with HIV and never develop AIDS.

Once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body for life. There’s no cure for HIV, but medicines can help you stay healthy. HIV medicine lowers or even stops your chances of spreading the virus to other people. When your viral load is “undetectable” or you can no longer detect the virus in your body, you can’t pass HIV to your partner(s).

That’s why treatment (and getting tested) is so important. With the proper care and medication, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.