HIV/AIDS

HIV/AIDS has already killed over 35 million people worldwide. Left untreated, the disease progressively weakens the body's immune system, usually for up to 10 years after infection.

A person with HIV is considered to have developed AIDS when their immune system has become so weak that they can no longer fight off certain infections and opportunistic diseases such as pneumonia, meningitis and some cancers. According to the World Health Organization, over 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

HIV is most often transmitted through sexual activity and the exchange of bodily fluids, for example by sharing needles among intravenous drug users. It can also be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or through breast milk.

Symptoms

While some people may experience flu-like symptoms within the first two to six weeks of infection with the virus, others may remain symptom-free for many years as the virus slowly spreads. Once the initial flu-like symptoms have subsided, HIV may not cause any further symptoms for many years.

Treatments 

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, even if treatments are much more effective than they used to be. A combination of drugs called antiretrovirals (ARVs) help fight the virus and enable people to live longer, healthier lives.