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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus)

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HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, specifically the CD4 cells which are responsible for fighting off infections. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body becomes vulnerable to infections and cancers that would not normally occur.

HIV is spread through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. This can occur through sexual contact, sharing needles or other injection equipment, and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

The symptoms of HIV can vary widely, and many people may not have any symptoms at all during the initial stages of the infection. However, some common symptoms that may occur include flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, and muscle aches, as well as rash, swollen glands, and sore throat.

If left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), a more advanced stage of the disease where the immune system is severely weakened and opportunistic infections can occur.

HIV can be diagnosed through blood tests that detect antibodies to the virus. There is currently no cure for HIV, but with early diagnosis and treatment, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the standard treatment for HIV, which involves taking a combination of medications to control the virus and prevent it from progressing to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

Prevention of HIV involves practicing safe sex, using condoms, getting tested regularly, avoiding sharing needles, and taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for individuals at higher risk for acquiring HIV.

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