What is HIV/AIDS? HIV/AIDS is the acronym for the human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, which is incurable. More than 1 million people in the United States currently are living with HIV/AIDS, and more than half a million people have died of AIDS since the U.S. epidemic began in 1981, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Source: NIAID). HIV/AIDS attacks the body’s immune system and is most often contracted through sexual contact. HIV/AIDS can also be passed to another person through contact with blood or body fluids, such as through blood transfusions, sharing needles contaminated with HIV, and during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Currently there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, and it is eventually fatal. However, prompt diagnosis and treatment can reduce or delay the onset of some serious complications, such as opportunistic infections, and can improve quality of life. Prompt diagnosis can also minimize the spread of the disease to others. In some cases, rapid treatment with medication can prevent the development of HIV/AIDS after exposure to the HIV virus. This prophylactic treatment needs to begin within 72 hours after exposure to HIV/AIDS.