Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus damages or kills cells in the body's immune system. This eventually prevents the body from being able to fight infections and certain cancers.
Research has shown that as many as 950,000 Americans may be infected with HIV; one-quarter of these people are unaware they even have the infection.
The AIDS epidemic is growing more rapidly among minority populations, and affects nearly seven times more African Americans and three times more Hispanics than Caucasians.
(Click AIDS for more information, including additional statistics on who is affected by HIV and AIDS.)