AIDS Home > HIV Information

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This virus is the cause of AIDS, and it is often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner or through contact with contaminated blood. What makes this virus significant is that it gradually makes the body unable to fight certain cancers and infections. No vaccine for HIV is available, so the only way to prevent infection with the virus is to avoid behaviors that put a person at risk of infection, such as sharing needles and having unprotected sex.
There are often no symptoms in the early stages of infection, so lab tests (such as blood tests) are often used to make a diagnosis. It's important to note that it may take as long as six months for HIV antibodies to be produced in quantities large enough to show up in standard blood tests.
(For more information on this virus, including a list of complications associated with it, click HIV.)
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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