Term: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
Last Updated: 2012-12-03
"A virus that attacks the immune system, resulting in a chronic, progressive illness that leaves people vulnerable to opportunistic infections and cancers. When the body can no longer fight infection, the disease is known as AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. On average, it takes more than 10 years to progress from initial HIV infection to AIDS ... In order to be infected, the virus must enter a person's bloodstream (HIV cannot survive outside the body). HIV is transmitted from one person to another through: unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal, anal or oral); shared needles or equipment for injecting drugs; unsterilized needles for tattooing, skin piercing or acupuncture; pregnancy, delivery and breast feeding (i.e., from an HIV-infected mother to her infant); occupational exposure in health care settings."
Source: Public Health Agency of Canada. What is HIV/AIDS? 2008. http://www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/aids-sida/info/index-eng.php - accessed October 15, 2012.