What is AIDS?

The virus caused by HIV.

About the Virus

IDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome:

  • Acquired means you can get infected with it;
  • Immune Deficiency means a weakness in the body's system that fights diseases.
  • Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a disease.

AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If you get infected with HIV, your body will try to fight the infection. It will make "antibodies," special molecules to fight HIV.

Tests for HIV look for these antibodies in your blood or mouth lining. If you have them in your blood, it means that you have HIV infection. People who have the HIV antibodies are called "HIV-Positive."

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AIDS by the Numbers

  • About 35 million people worldwide have HIV/AIDS, according to 2013 WHO ​figures. Of these, 3.2 million were children under age 15.
  • Africa is most affected by HIV, with 24.7 million people living with the virus 2013. This means that 71 percent of all people who have HIV are living in Africa.
  • Despite lower rates of newly infected people, and the fact that fewer people are dying of AIDS, the number of people who currently are HIV-positive has grown from 29.8 million in 2001 because of new infections, people living longer with HIV and general population growth, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. ​​