This is a disease of your immune system. It begins as an infection by the human immunodeficiency virus, which we call "HIV." Over time, this virus can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. That's the syndrome we call "AIDS."


The HIV virus is found in the body fluids of infected people. It can live in blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. It can pass from one person to another through sexual contact. Vaginal, anal and oral sex can allow the virus to spread. It can be spread when drug abusers share needles. It can pass from a pregnant woman to her baby while the baby is in the womb. Or, she can pass it to her baby during delivery or when the baby drinks her milk.

Symptoms of HIV

Early symptoms of an HIV infection can include fever, chills and night sweats. You may have a rash, muscle aches and fatigue. You may have swollen lymph nodes, mouth ulcers and a sore throat. These symptoms can last for days to weeks. The virus then enters a new stage. It's still in your body, and it's still active, but it reproduces at low levels. During this phase, your symptoms may go away. Proper treatment can keep the virus in this stage for decades. But you can still pass the virus to others, even if you have no symptoms.

Symptoms of AIDS

If your infection progresses to AIDS, you will have other symptoms. You may feel extremely tired, and you may lose weight quickly. You may have diarrhea, persistent fever and night sweats. You may have blotches on your skin and sores on your body. Your lymph nodes in your armpits, groin or neck may swell. And you may experience depression and other problems.


There is no cure for HIV, but it can be managed with medications. For some people, medicine can drop the amount of virus in your blood to levels that can't be detected. This can let you live an active life, even though you still carry the virus and you must be careful not to infect others. Your healthcare provider can create a plan that is right for you.