Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks a part of the immune system. It targets white blood cells called CD4 (T cells). They are needed to fight off infections and other diseases. Low levels of CD4 cells make it harder for the body to stop or control infections and diseases.
AIDS is a late stage of HIV infection. It is a sign of severe damage to the immune system. This level of damage can allow infections that do not usually occur in healthy people. It also allows the growth of some cancers.
HIV destroys white blood cells vital to the immune system.
There may be no additional symptoms for months to years. Symptoms that do occur over the years may include:
Lack of appetite
Swollen lymph glands all over the body
Development of lots of warts
Fungal infections of the mouth, fingernails, toes
Repeated vaginal infections
Flare-ups of prior conditions, such as eczema, psoriasis, or herpes
If left untreated, HIV infection may progress to AIDS. This may happen when the number of CD4 cells fall below certain levels. Infections that are rare in healthy people, begin to arise. Examples include:
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