What is HIV and AIDS?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV is a virus that takes over certain immune system cells to make many copies of itself. HIV causes slow but constant damage to the immune system.AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the condition diagnosed when there are a group of related symptoms that are caused by advanced HIV infection or when someone has less than 200 CD4 cells (immune cells). AIDS makes the body vulnerable to life-threatening illnesses called opportunistic infections.Normally, the human immune system is the body’s protection against bacteria, viruses, etc. It acts like a coat of armor. When HIV enters the body, it starts poking holes in the armor. Eventually, the armor becomes very weak and unable to protect the body. Once the armor is very weak or is gone, the person is said to have AIDS.An AIDS diagnosis is generally made when either the body's protective T-cells drop below a certain level, or the HIV-positive individual begins to experience opportunistic infections. An opportunistic infection is an infection that would not be life-threatening to an otherwise healthy person. Oftentimes, it's these infections that are the cause of illness or death in HIV-positive individuals -- not the virus itself. If people do not get any treatment for HIV disease, it takes an average of 8-10 years to progress from HIV to AIDS.