What is HIV and what does HIV stand for?

By: Ann Avery, Infectious Disease Physician at Metrohealth Medical Center

Let’s look at each word:


Viruses attack all sorts of living things. HIV attacks people.


HIV prevents the immune system from doing its job —fighting diseases. When our immune system slows down or stops altogether, scientists say we have an immunodeficiency.


HIV is called a retrovirus. That’s why drugs that fight HIV are called anti-retrovirals.

what is hiv-positive peers

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS (which means Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome).

Though HIV and AIDS get mentioned together, they are not the same thing.

HIV invades the bloodstream, attacks the immune system and eventually causes AIDS. This is why you can be HIV-positive and not have AIDS.

The trouble with HIV is once it gets into your body, you can’t get it out — not ever. There is no cure for HIV, but there is very good treatment.

A person diagnosed with HIV will be prescribed medication (anti-retroviral drugs) that attack HIV and keep it from spreading.


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If you stay on your anti-retroviral meds and do exactly as your doctors tell you, HIV can stay in your body for years, even decades, without leading to AIDS. You can lead a long, healthy life. If you already have AIDS when you’re diagnosed, anti-retroviral meds can still suppress HIV so your body can build your immune system back up to healthy levels over time.

If you let HIV run wild in your blood by not taking meds you’ll get AIDS, and an AIDS-related illness can be deadly.

what is hiv-positive peers

It’s that simple.

The sooner you get tested and find out about HIV in your system, the sooner you can start attacking HIV and saving your life.

Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative.
Positive Peers is a private app for young people living with HIV. Learn how you can earn rewards for your participation.