HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system (the body’s defence against diseases). Without effective treatment the immune system will become very weak and no longer be able to fight off illnesses.

It is a common misconception that HIV and AIDS are the same thing, they are not. When someone is described as living with HIV, they have the HIV virus in their body. A person is considered to have developed AIDS when the immune system is so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope.

There is currently no cure for HIV but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. People on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life, although they may experience side effects from the treatment. If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment may be less effective in preventing AIDS.

HIV can be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk.

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