What is HIV?
To Understand what HIV is, Let’s break it down:
H – Human – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
I – Immunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight disease and infection. A "deficient" immune system can't protect you.
V – Virus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the "flu" or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn't the case with HIV – the human immune system can't seem to get rid of it. Scientists are still trying to figure out why.
We know that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of your body and that it attacks a key part of your immune system – your T-cells or CD4 cells. Your body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to reproduce itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that your body can't fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.
Medications + a Healthy Lifestyle
Medications & Therapies
The most effective form of HIV/AIDS treatment is medication called antiretroviral therapy (ART). There are a number of ART medications that work directly on the virus and stop it from replicating itself in your body.
Most people on ART take a combination of several medications to keep their HIV disease under control. If the medications are successful, the amount of HIV in your body goes down significantly, and your immune system can stay healthy. For more information, see NIH’s AIDS Medicines.
Treatment for HIV/AIDS is more than just taking pills every day. While medications are essential for treating HIV, a well-balanced and nutritious diet, daily exercise, plenty of rest, and staying current with your medical care are all important pieces of successful treatment. Each of these things helps to boost your immune system and prevent other chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.