HIV is a virus spread through body fluids that affects specific cells of the immune system, called CD4 cells, or T cells. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. When this happens, HIV infection leads to AIDS.
It has been almost 35 years since the world was introduced to the term AIDS. In the 1980s, researchers and physicians were trying to understand what was causing waves of strange infections and discovered it was a new virus called the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Since that time, HIV has gone from a death sentence to a manageable chronic disease. Today, it is estimated that 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the United States and 50,000 Americans are infected with HIV every year.
Thanks to treatment advances, people with HIV can and do live long and full lives. Today, people are generally treated with a single, once-a-day, fixed-dose tablet that combines multiple drugs. Now, people living with HIV are going to college, working, volunteering, getting married and having children. The disease has progressed from a death sentence to a treatable chronic disease.