HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a virus that kills off your body’s CD4 cells (or T-helper cells) that help your body fight off infection and disease. You might have the HIV virus and feel completely healthy. You may have flu-like symptoms after the initial infection, and then the virus may remain undetected in your system for months or years before you are diagnosed.

If you are sexually active during that period, you could be infecting others. There is no cure for HIV. The breakdown of your immune could result in the development of various infections in your body over time, any of which could develop complications because of your body’s decreased ability to fight them off.

The body fluids that are known to carry the HIV virus are blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and other body fluids containing blood. Sexual contact and/or sharing needles with someone who is HIV positive are the most common ways that the virus is transmitted. Other body fluids that could transmit the virus to others would include the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord, fluid surrounding the bone joints, and the amniotic fluid surrounding an unborn baby.

All pregnant women should be tested for the HIV virus. If the test is positive, there are medications that can be taken during the pregnancy to decrease the chance that the virus will be passed on to her unborn child.

A diagnosis of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is made if an HIV positive person declines in their health to the point that their T-helper cell count drops below 200. They also may begin having fevers, night sweats, weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, difficulty swallowing, persistent cough, rashes or purplish spots. Pneumonias and cancers can develop, and although medications can help fight off the illnesses for a while, eventually the fight will be lost.