Acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease caused by infection with the Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus penetrates and damages the immune system. As a result, the body is no longer protected from infections and diseases. If these occur, we speak of AIDS. AIDS is a serious disease, which can ultimately lead to death.


AIDS is caused by the HIV virus. A person with a HIV infection can infect others. The transfer of HIV takes place over contaminated body fluids, such as blood, sperm and vaginal fluid. The virus can be spread as follows:

The HIV virus can not be transferred via saliva, French kisses, shaking hands or toilet seats. After infection, it takes nine to ten years before the first symptoms occur. After this period, the patient gets reallly sick and has AIDS.


If someone is infected with HIV, it is also said that he or she is seropositive. Many people with HIV have spent years with none to few symptoms. During this period, however, the virus is still active. It reproduces, infects the body and destroys the cells of the immune system. Thereby weakening the immune system and creating the AIDS disease.
Possible signs and symptoms are:

Without treatment, a person with HIV will eventually die of AIDS.


HIV infection can be determined by a blood test. The diagnosis can be made with certainty only three months after infection. Before that time, no antibodies may be visible, despite the fact that a person is infected. Once a HIV infection is determined, blood samples are regularly examined to look at what stage the infection has developed. Therefore, two determinations are performed:

Pregnant women are standard tested for HIV, unless they object. This test is done in the first three months of pregnancy.


People with HIV and AIDS are treated with a combination of HIV inhibitors, also known as antiretroviral drugs. Although this treatment does not cure HIV or AIDS, the HIV inhibitors do make HIV spreading less rapidly and less damage is done to the immune system.
Taking these drugs is not easy. The drugs have different side effects. Moreover, the intake is delicate and must be done according to a strict regime. Patients will therefore be supervised by a nurse specialist.


HIV infection cannot be cured, but with the medicines available in Western countries, it is possible to regard the disease rather as a long-term chronic condition than as a rapid fatal disease. However, most people with HIV live in a developing country and their prognosis is poor, because they rarely have access to the necessary medications. Of the infected people who are not treated, half of them gets AIDS within ten years and dies.