HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, and AIDS, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, are diseases that attack infected human bodies by progressively weakening the immune system, according to AIDS.gov. HIV is a sexually transmitted virus and spreads through contact with infected bodily fluids. There is no cure for the disease, but it is preventable, and treatments have improved providing those afflicted with longer life expectancy than in the past.
HIV attacks the body by invading cells of the immune system, called CD4 or T cells, which the virus uses for replication, destroying the body’s healthy cells. Once the level of healthy T cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter, the body becomes more susceptible to infections, and the disease progresses into AIDS. HIV spreads through direct contact with bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, rectal or vaginal fluids and breast milk, according to AIDS.gov. People become infected with the virus through unprotected sexual contact, injectable drug use, childbirth and breastfeeding, occupational exposure to infected patients or by blood transfusion.
Practicing safe sex and using condoms, limiting the number of sexual partners, taking a medication called pre-exposure prophylaxis, PrEP, not using injectable drugs and using sterile needles when injecting drugs prevents exposure to HIV, states AIDS info. Advances in treatments and medical care of HIV and AIDS patients has lengthened expected life spans. Early diagnosis of the disease and continuous treatment with antiretroviral therapy helps patients to live a nearly normal life span, notes AIDS.gov.