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what you should know

Everyone who is infected with HIV is considered to be HIV positive. AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a special term that is used to describe HIV positive patients who have developed severe immune deficiency as a result of their HIV infection. Many people living with HIV may never develop AIDS, if they're diagnosed early enough and follow their treatment plan.

If HIV progresses to AIDS, symptoms get worse and your body is less and less able to fight infections, such as pneumonia. People with AIDS:

  • Have a low number of CD4+ cells (below 200 cells per microliter (μL) of blood)
  • Get infections or cancers that that are usually seen only in people who have problems with their immune systems. These can be life threatening.

Photo of a couple readingEven without treatment, it usually takes a long time for HIV to progress to AIDS. With early testing and proper treatment, safe and effective medications can slow or stop the damage to the immune system. These medications don't cure HIV, but most people with HIV who follow their treatment plan live long, active lives.

Reviewed by: Michael A. Horberg, MD, October 2018

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HIV testing saves lives

One-third of the people newly infected with HIV are under age 30Kaiser Permanente is not responsible for the content or policies of external Internet sites..  HIV expert Michael Horberg, MD, talks about why everyone should be tested.