HIV is a virus that primarily attacks CD4 T-cells, white blood cells that allow the body to protect itself from infections caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and even cancerous cells.

A person who is HIV positive is a person who has been infected with HIV.

The initial period following the entry of the virus into the body is called primary HIV. This is sometimes accompanied by flu-like symptoms (fever, sore throat, muscle soreness, fatigue…), but not always. After a few weeks, these symptoms disappear, and a period follows where there are no clinical signs of disease. This phase, known as asymptomatic HIV, can sometimes last as long as ten years. However the virus is still very much present in the body, and can be transmitted to other people.

The next stage, in the absence of effective treatment for HIV, brings a weakening of the immune system of the infected person. Symptoms of infection begin to appear, such as chronic fatigue, fever, significant weight loss, etc. These are signs that the organism is no longer able to properly protect itself. Even microbes that would normally be rapidly eliminated and present no threat can become dangerous intruders causing serious illness. These are known as opportunistic infections, because they take advantage of the weakened immune system.

AIDS is the most severe and advanced stage of HIV infection. It appears as a set of illnesses, cancers or infections that have taken advantage of the low-functioning immune system to thrive. It is these opportunistic infections, and not AIDS itself, that most often takes the lives of people who have not received treatment.

Compassion campaign run by BLITS – Centre-du-Québec,
to foster greater solidarity with HIV positive people

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