The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that affects the immune system. It gradually destroys cells called CD4 cells, which usually help the body stay healthy by fighting off disease.
If HIV is not treated, most people will develop severe immune deficiency within 10 years. At this point, the body is no longer able to fight infection and stop cancer from developing. This late stage of HIV infection is called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Prevention, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment
The best way to prevent HIV infection is to:
- use condoms and a water-based lubricant for anal and vaginal sex
- never share needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
- make sure all tattooing, piercing and other procedures use sterilised equipment
For information about prevention, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment, see healthdirect's HIV page.
Surveillance and reporting
HIV is a nationally notifiable disease.
We monitor cases through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System.
For more on HIV in Australia, you can search Communicable Diseases Intelligence.