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What is HIV/AIDS?

one view of HIV under a microscope

HIV under an electron microscope
Photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

HIV is a virus that weakens the body's immune system, which is the body's defense system. HIV causes AIDS, a disease that hurts the body's ability to fight infection and certain cancers. More and more women have become infected with HIV since it was first reported in the early 1980s. Having sex is the main way HIV is spread. It is also spread through injection drug use or from mother to baby during pregnancy, labor, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

HIV is still a serious health threat, but there is good news. There are many simple steps you can take to avoid getting HIV. If you already have HIV, there are many things you can do to stay healthy and to not spread the virus. And, in 2010, the U.S. government made a new national plan to fight against HIV and AIDS in our country. The national plan aims to decrease the number of new HIV infections and increase access to care for people who have HIV.

Testing positive for HIV can bring a range of feelings, such as panic, fear, and anger. But many HIV-positive women find that, after some time, they are able to manage their condition and live life to its fullest. Thanks to many new treatments, people with HIV/AIDS are living longer and stronger lives. If you or someone you love is infected, don't give up hope. See Living with HIV/AIDS to learn more about treatment and about managing HIV/AIDS in your daily life. You should know that there are many resources for Americans with HIV and AIDS, even if you have no insurance or money. Learn more about the basics of HIV and AIDS:

Content last updated: July 01, 2011.

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