Human immunodeficiency virus infection
Definition of HIV infection
HIV infection is a condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The condition gradually destroys the immune system, which makes it harder for the body to fight infections.
Causes, incidence, and risk factors
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be spread by the following:
Symptoms related to HIV are usually due to an infection in part of the body. Some symptoms related to HIV infection include:
Signs and tests
The tests detect antibodies to the HIV virus in the blood. Both tests must be positive to confirm an HIV infection. Having these antibodies means you are infected with HIV.
Doctors often recommend drug therapy for patients who are committed to taking all their medications and have a CD4 count below 500 cells/mm (indicating their immune system is suppressed). Some people, including pregnant women and people with kidney or neurological problems related to HIV, may need treatment regardless of their CD4 count.
HIV is a chronic medical condition that can be treated, but not yet cured. There are effective ways to prevent complications and delay, but not always prevent, progression to AIDS.
David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc. – 5/25/2010