What is HIV? - HIV
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What is HIV?

What is HIV?

HIV stands for the human immunodeficiency virus:

H - Human. This virus infects human beings.

I - Immunodeficiency. This virus attacks a person's immune system. The immune system is the body's defense against infections, such as bacteria and viruses.

V - Virus. A virus is a type of germ too small to be seen even with a microscope.

What does the virus do?

All viruses must infect living cells to reproduce. HIV takes over certain immune system cells that are supposed to defend the body. These cells are called CD4 cells, or T cells.

When HIV takes over a CD4 cell, it turns the cell into a virus factory. It forces the cell to produce thousands of copies of the virus. These copies then infect other CD4 cells. Infected cells don't work well and they die early. Over time, the loss of CD4 cells weakens the immune system, making it harder for the body to stay healthy.

Pop question: True or false: CD4 cells are cells in the body that fight HIV.

Answer: TRUE. CD4 cells are cells in the body that fight HIV. They are part of the body's immune system.