General Facts

What does HIV stand for?
Human immunodeficiency virus

What does AIDS stand for?

Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

What are HIV and AIDS?

The human immunodeficiency virus causes a chronic infection that leads to AIDS, a slow loss of immune cells called CD4 helper T cells. It will eventually result in death from an infection or cancer.

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. When someone is infected with the HIV virus they are HIV positive. They can be HIV positive and not have AIDS. They develop AIDS later when HIV has severely weakened their immune system such that they have fewer than 200 CD4 T cells. The normal range for CD4 T cells is 700-1000 cells/ml.

What is the history of HIV?

HIV is a relatively new disease. The first cases occurred in the US in 1982, but the virus has been identified in a plasma sample from 1959, leading scientists to believe that the first infection actually occurred in West Africa around 1930. It is now believed that HIV may have evolved from a similar virus in monkeys that was spread to humans. This transfer could have been caused by humans eating monkeys, from medical experiments with monkeys, or from using monkey tissue to make vaccines.

At first, the disease was noticed in young men of homosexual communities, raising the possibility that it was caused by a gay lifestyle. However, it was soon confirmed that HIV is also spread through heterosexual intercourse. When the disease occurred in hemophilia patients after a blood transfusion, it became clear that HIV is an infectious agent that can be spread by intimate contact with several types of bodily fluid.

Who gets HIV/AIDS?

AIDS does not discriminate. All of us are susceptible to the HIV virus. Since there is no cure for AIDS, the best way to avoid the disease is to prevent it.