AIDS is an illness that weakens the body's immune system. The immune system of a person with AIDS is not able to fight off certain infections and cancers.
AIDS is caused by the HIV, which destroys important immune system cells. HIV is spread through contact with HIV-infected blood or other body fluids, including semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Unprotected sex is the most common mode of transmission. Sharing needles for injecting drugs is another common way the virus is transferred.
A guide to primary care of people with HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Health and Human Services website. Available at: http://hab.hrsa.gov/deliverhivaidscare/files/primary2004ed.pdf. Accessed August 10, 2016.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Sexually transmitted diseases treatment guidelines, 2010. MMWR. 2010;59(No. RR-12):1-110.
HIV/AIDS. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease website. Available at: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/topics/HIVAIDS/Understanding/Pages/whatAreHIVAIDS.aspx. Updated April 3, 2012. Accessed August 10, 2016.
HIV basics. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/index.html. Updated July 6, 2016. Accessed August 10, 2016.
HIV infection. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114424/HIV-infection. Updated September 19, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
Last reviewed September 2016 by David L. Horn, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.