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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system. If left untreated, HIV develops into acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).


HIV belongs to the family of retroviruses. The retrovirus works by converting its RNA into DNA once it is in the host cell, and then incorporates that DNA into the host cell's DNA, allowing the virus to replicate.

In normal cells, your DNA tells the cells in your body which RNA you should make.

RNA then synthesizes different proteins that have different functions in the body. Retroviruses act in the opposite way, hence the name "retrograde" meaning backwards.

Once a person is infected with HIV, they use their RNA to guide the cells to make DNA that tells the cells to replicate the virus.

Then, once that cell divides as part of normal cell production, that DNA is present in the new cell, and that DNA now tells the cell that the RNA and proteins that make up the virus are formed.

What is the origin of AIDS?

HIV infection in humans came from a species of chimpanzee in Central Africa.

Studies suggest that HIV may have jumped from chimpanzees to humans in the late nineteenth century, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Control.

The chimpanzee version of the virus is called the simian immunodeficiency virus, and it was likely transmitted to humans when humans hunted chimpanzees for meat and touched their contaminated blood.

For decades, HIV slowly spread throughout Africa and later to other parts of the world.

The virus has been present in the United States since at least the mid and late seventies.

How do I know if I have HIV?

The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.

Symptoms of HIV

Most people experience flu-like symptoms within 2 to 4 weeks after infection, and symptoms may persist for a few days or several weeks.

Having these symptoms alone doesn't mean you have HIV, as there are other diseases that can cause similar symptoms.

Some people have no symptoms at all, and the only way to tell if a person has HIV is to get tested.

What are the stages of HIV?

Acute HIV infection

  • People have a large amount of HIV in their blood and are very contagious.
  • Many people experience flu-like symptoms.

If you have flu-like symptoms and think you may have been exposed to HIV, get tested.

Chronic HIV Infection

This stage is also called asymptomatic HIV infection or clinical latency.

  • HIV is still active and continues to multiply in the body.
  • People may not show any symptoms or get sick during this stage but can transmit HIV.
  • People who take HIV treatment as prescribed may never move on to stage III (AIDS).
  • Without HIV treatment, this stage may last for a decade or more, or it may progress faster. At the end of this stage, the amount of HIV in the blood (viral load) rises and the person may move to stage III (AIDS).

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

The most severe stages of HIV infection.

  • People with AIDS can have a high viral load (a large amount of virus) and may easily transmit HIV to others.
  • People with AIDS suffer severe damage to their immune systems and can develop an increasing number of opportunistic infections or other serious illnesses.
  • Without HIV treatment, people with AIDS usually live about 3 years.

World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is celebrated on 1 December each year and is intended to urge people around the world to raise awareness of the HIV/AIDS epidemic and to show international solidarity to tackle the epidemic, according to the World Health Organization.

World AIDS Day 2023 was themed as Giving Leadership to Communities, to point to the pivotal impact that societies have had in shaping the HIV response and global health in general.

World AIDS Day is an opportunity to reflect on the progress made so far, raise awareness of the challenges that remain to achieve the goals of ending AIDS by 2030, and mobilize all stakeholders to jointly redouble efforts to ensure the success of the HIV response.

HIV has killed 40.4 million people, and it is estimated that the number of people infected with the virus reached 39 million at the end of 2022.

In 2022, 630,1 people died from HIV-related causes and 3.<> million people became infected with the virus.

WHO, the Global Fund and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) have global HIV strategies in line with the Sustainable Development Goals of ending the HIV pandemic by 2030.

By 2025, 95% of all people living with HIV should be diagnosed, and 95% of those infected should receive life-saving antiretroviral therapy.

HIV targets white blood cells in the body, weakening the immune system. This facilitates diseases such as tuberculosis, infections and some cancers.

People living with HIV, if not treated, may develop severe diseases such as:

  • Tuberculosis
  • Meningitis
  • Severe bacterial infections
  • Some cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma.

HIV exacerbates other infections, such as hepatitis C, hepatitis B and monkeypox.


The virus can be transmitted through the body fluids of an infected person, such as blood, breast milk, semen and vaginal discharge. It can also be transmitted during pregnancy and childbirth of a child. The infection is not transmitted through regular daily contact, such as kissing, hugging, shaking hands, or sharing personal items, food or water.


HIV is a preventable disease.

Reduce the risk of HIV infection by:

  • Use male or female condoms to protect against infection.
  • Testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections.
  • Perform voluntary medical circumcision for males


The World Health Organization says there is no cure for HIV infection. This infection is treated with antiretroviral treatment, which prevents the virus from replicating in the body.

WHO adds that current antiretroviral therapy does not cure HIV infection but allows a person's immune system to become stronger. This helps him fight other infections.

Currently, ART must be taken daily for the remainder of the infected person's life.

Antiretroviral therapy reduces the amount of virus in a person's body. This stops symptoms and allows the person to live a full and healthy life.

Source : Al Jazeera + Agencies + World Health Organization