Synonyms: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, Advanced HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection

Medical Specialties: Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, most commonly called AIDS, is a serious infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. The body cannot get rid of HIV. There are treatments but there is still no cure. The virus is transmitted when an infected person's bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk, enter the blood stream of another person. Among the common routes of infection are sharing a needle to take drugs or having sex with a person infected with the virus.

In Our Own Words

AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is the later stage of infection with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. The immune system is so badly damaged (low CD4 cells or T cells) that it becomes vulnerable to infections and to infection-related cancers. Those with AIDS need medical treatment to avoid dying from the infection and complications. Testing is advised if HIV is suspected, since many people infected do not suffer any symptoms for 10 years or longer.

Relevant Conditions
  • Pneumocystis pneumonia
  • Opportunistic infections
  • Kaposi’s sarcoma (infection-related cancer)
  • Depression
Share this article
  • The Cleveland Clinic. "HIV/AIDS." Diseases & Conditions. Jan. 2010. Accessed July 2013.
  • The Cleveland Clinic. “AIDS and Women” 2011. Accessed July 2013.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "What is HIV?" A-Z Topics. May 2013. Accessed July 2013.
  • "What is AIDS?" 2011. Accessed July 2013.

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