Causes of HIV and AIDS
Learn about the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Also find out how HIV is spread.
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What causes HIV infection and AIDS?
HIV infection is caused by a virus. AIDS is a disease that can result from HIV infection.
HIV attacks your body's immune system, making it unable to fight certain illnesses. If you are HIV-positive (infected with HIV):
- your infection could progress to AIDS if you develop a serious illness, such as pneumonia (a lung infection)
- you may develop AIDS in 5 to 10 years if you do not get treatment for HIV infection
- you can live a near-normal lifespan if you start treatment early for HIV infection
How is HIV spread?
HIV is spread by infected body fluids, such as:
- fluid from the rectum
- fluid from the vagina
- breast milk
HIV can only spread when infected fluid from a person with HIV gets into the bloodstream of another person through:
- broken skin
- wet linings of the body, such as the:
- the opening of the penis
HIV cannot spread through:
- healthy, unbroken skin
- casual contact, such as:
- shaking hands
- sharing food
- mosquito bites
- toilet seats
If you have HIV, you can pass the virus to your baby during:
You can only spread HIV, not AIDS. That is, whether you have HIV or AIDS, you can only infect others with HIV.
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