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What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that causes the disease known as AIDS.

HIV is a lentivirus, and like all viruses under this category, it attacks the immune system. Lentiviruses are so named because they take an extended period of time to before they produce any adverse effect on the body. Lentivirus are also found in a number of different animals including cats, horses, cattle, and sheep.(1)

The human immune system ordinarily controls or kill off viruses which attack the body. However, is unique because it targets and infects the immune system cells, called CD4 cells, making it too weak to fight off infection, and the body's ability to protect itself from illness or disease.(2)

Once HIV takes over the CD4 cells, it spreads throughout the body by forceing them to replicate similar diseased cells. As the HIV virus grows, it severely damages or kills off the cells thereby weakening the body's immune system.(3)

What is AIDS?

Aids stands for Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.

HIV causses AIDS by attacking the immune system's CD4 cells. With the loss of too many CD4 cells the immune system is less able to fight off infection and the body develops serious, often deadly, infections called opportunistic infections (OI's) because they take advantage of the body's weakened immune system.

Most AIDS related dearths are often caused by opportunistic infections or other long-term effects of HIV infection. AIDS refers to the body's compromised state making it unable to stop OI's from developing and becoming deadly.(4)