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Enhancing the health and social wellbeing of children and young people living with HIV

HIV: The Facts

It’s really important to know and understand all the facts about HIV. This will help reduce any fears and worries, about anyone you know who may be living with HIV. 

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus, but unlike flu, it is a ‘blood-born virus’, which means it can only live insode fluids in the body.

HIV stands for: Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

Human is our species name, to be human is to be a person.

Immunodeficiency is when our 'immune system' (the way our body fights off illness) stops working properly, so it becomes deficient- in other words, it is lacking or not functioning as it should.

Virus is a very small infectious unit that copies itself to make more of itself, and it lives inside the living cells of organisms.

It is important to know that HIV is not the same thing as AIDS.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Acquired means getting something that you didn’t have before- so you didn’t always have it. Syndrome means a group of different illnesses. Deficiency was mentioned above, when there is a lack of something. So AIDS means a group of illnesses you get when your immune system hasn’t been working properly for a long time.

Without medication, people with the HIV virus can become very ill because their immune system doesn't work properly and the HIV virus keeps multiplying and taking over the healthy cells. When medication is taken properly, doctors can help people with HIV stay well and lead normal lives. By taking medication and looking after yourself a person with HIV can stay well, live a normal life and may never get what is termed, an AIDS defining illness. People with HIV now have an equivalent life expectancy to HIV negative people.