HIV Facts FAQs

Know the Facts

Understanding HIV

Human: HIV is a virus that replicates within the human body; it is transmitted from one person to another person, regardless of race, religion, age, sexual orientation, or social status. 

Immunodeficiency: HIV weakens a person’s immune system; the immune system is designed to fight disease and keep the body healthy. As the immune system weakens or becomes deficient, a person can easily become sick because the body has decreased defense against disease-causing agents. 

Virus: A virus is a very small, simple organism that infects living cells. Once infected, the cell ceases its normal functions and produces more copies of the virus. HIV specifically infects and destroys CD4+ T-cells. 

Understanding AIDS

Acquired: The word “acquire” means “to get”, so an individual can be diagnosed with AIDS after they are infected with HIV because they contracted the virus from another person. HIV/AIDS is not transmitted through genes; a baby can only be infected after conception.

Immune Deficiency: The disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system; the immune system is designed to fight disease and keep the body healthy. Therefore, when the immune system is weakened a person can easily become sick because the body has no defense against disease-causing agents. 

Syndrome: This refers to a collection of symptoms that occur and characterize a particular abnormality or disease.

CDC Defined AIDS

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) definition of AIDS includes all HIV-infected people who have less than 200 CD4+ T-cells per cubic millimeter of blood (or a CD4+ T-cell percentage of total lymphocytes of less than 14%). In addition, the definition includes 26 AIDS-defining conditions (known as opportunistic infections) that affect people with advanced HIV disease. A diagnosis of AIDS is given by a medical doctor based on specific clinical tests, including an HIV positive test result, the individual having a T-cell count of 200 or below and/or the onset of one Opportunistic Infection (OI).