Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus, meaning that once an individual is infected, the virus begins to take over the cells' genetic material and the cells themselves begin to produce more retrovirus. This process of infection may take 8 to 15 years. During this time, the person generally looks and feels perfectly healthy; however, the virus slowly begins to weaken the person's immune system. The individual becomes increasingly vulnerable to a multitude of secondary infections and diseases. Once an individual has a very severely impaired immune system and/or begins to develop a series of illnesses common to people infected with HIV, the person is diagnosed with acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

HIV is transmitted only through the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, ...

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