For more information and further statistics on specific population groups, visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at www.cdc.gov/hiv and UN AIDS, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS at www.unaids.org.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks and breaks down a person’s immune system. When our immune systems become compromised, we lose our ability to fight off illness and infection.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the name of the life-threatening disease that people with the HIV have if they develop one of the infections connected with HIV, or if blood tests show that their immune system has been badly damaged by the virus.
HIV can be transmitted from person to person when certain body fluids (blood, semen, vaginal fluids, or breast milk) from an infected person pass into another’s body. There are three main ways that this can be done:
HIV is absolutely not transmitted through casual contact. It is safe to hold hands, kiss, and work with someone who has HIV or AIDS. Since HIV cannot live outside the human body, you cannot be infected from toilet seats, phones, or water fountains. The virus cannot be transmitted through the air by sneezing or coughing.
Although there have been many recent advances in HIV/AIDS treatment and medication since the 1980s, there is still no cure. If you need more information about how the virus is transmitted, existing treatments, free testing, or other services available in the Philadelphia region for people affected by or living with HIV, please call 1-800-985-AIDS.