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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. That way you won’t be afraid of it, or worry too much about any of your family members. You can find out lots of information in this area of the site.

What is HIV?

This might seem a simple question to ask, but it’s good to know what the right answer is. HIV is a virus, but unlike flu (or other viruses like that) it is a ‘blood-born virus’, which means it can only live in fluids in the body.

HIV stands for
Human
Immunodeficiency
Virus.

Human is what all people are, it is our species name.

Immunodeficiency is when our 'immune system' (how our bodies fights off illnesses) stops working properly, so it becomes deficient- or in other words lacking in something.

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

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 about, 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 and may never get an AIDS defining illness. People with HIV now have an equivalent life expectancy to HIV negative people.