Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is similar to other viruses, including those that cause the “flu” or the common cold. But there is an important difference – over time, your immune system can clear most viruses out of your body. That isn’t the case with HIV – the human immune system can’t seem to get rid of it.
HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of the body and it attacks a key part of the immune system – T-cells or CD4 cells. The body has to have these cells to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to reproduce itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many CD4 cells that the body can’t fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection can lead to AIDS.
At this pint in time, with proper care and treatment, an HIV+ person is expected to live their normal life-span. People with a supressed viral load are unlikely to transmit HIV.