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Human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is a virus that attacks your immune system. This makes it hard for your body to fight infection and disease. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). But having HIV does not mean that you have AIDS. Treatment of HIV may prevent or delay HIV from developing into AIDS.
HIV often causes flu-like symptoms soon after a person gets infected. These early symptoms go away in a few weeks. After that, you may not have signs of illness for many years. But as the virus multiplies in your body, symptoms reappear and then remain. Fatigue, weight loss, fever, night sweats, diarrhea, and other symptoms are common. If HIV is not treated and progresses to AIDS, your symptoms get worse and your body is less and less able to fight infections like pneumonia and tuberculosis.
Medicines are the main treatment for HIV. You will likely have to take several medicines. By fighting the virus, these medicines can help your immune system stay healthy and delay or prevent AIDS, and may help you live longer. Medicines for HIV are called antiretrovirals.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:
Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:
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Current as of: October 31, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.
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