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Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV affects a person's immune system and makes them more susceptible to the threats of bacteria and viruses. As the disease progresses from HIV to AIDS, the immune system fails and susceptibility to illness and infection increases.
The HIV virus is transmitted through bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. The virus cannot be transmitted through saliva, sweat, or tears. Symptoms of HIV are similar to symptoms of a common cold and include persistent fever, swollen lymph nodes, a skin rash, infection of the mouth or throat, and diarrhea. In some cases, these symptoms do not occur until several years after the initial infection. This is why it's important for those who are sexually active to be screened regularly for HIV, especially if they have multiple partners.