What you should know about HIV

What is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that causes HIV infection in humans. The body cannot get rid of HIV the way it can with other viruses. So once a person is infected with HIV, they are infected for life.

How can HIV affect your body?

HIV attacks and kills CD4 T-cells. These are cells in the immune system that help to fight infections. When the number of CD4 T-cells decreases, your immune system becomes weaker, and it becomes harder for your body to fight infections. This can make you more likely to get HIV-related illnesses.

Does having HIV mean that you have AIDS?

Having HIV does not always mean that you have AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). However, over time, HIV can become AIDS. This happens when so many CD4 T-cells are killed that the body can no longer fight infections and certain diseases.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is passed between people through contact with certain body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal or anal fluid, and breast milk. This can happen during unprotected sex or by sharing needles. HIV can also be passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or by breastfeeding. HIV is not passed through saliva, tears, sweat, or water, or by shaking hands, hugging, or sharing dishes or drinking glasses.

How can you help protect your health while living with HIV?

There is no cure for HIV, but HIV medicines can help protect your health by lowering your viral load and helping your immune system.

You can also ask your healthcare provider about other steps you can take to protect your health, such as:

  • eating well and exercising
  • quitting smoking, which may be harmful to people living with HIV
  • managing stress, depression, or substance abuse
  • protecting yourself from sexually transmitted diseases
  • always practicing safer sex
  • never sharing or reusing needles
See how HIV treatment can help

Get more information about HIV

Browse resources on HIV, AIDS, and treatment »


What is the most important information I should know about COMPLERA?

COMPLERA can cause serious side effects:

  • Build-up of an acid in your blood (lactic acidosis), which is a serious medical emergency. Symptoms of lactic acidosis include feeling very weak or tired, unusual (not normal) muscle pain, trouble breathing, stomach pain with nausea or vomiting, feeling cold especially in your arms and legs, feeling dizzy or lightheaded, and/or a fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Serious liver problems. The liver may become large (hepatomegaly) and fatty (steatosis). Symptoms of liver problems include your skin or the white part of your eyes turns yellow (jaundice); dark or “tea-colored” urine; light-colored stools (bowel movements); loss of appetite; nausea; and/or pain, aching, or tenderness on the right side of your stomach area.
  • You may be more likely to get lactic acidosis or serious liver problems if you are female, very overweight (obese), or have been taking COMPLERA or a similar medicine for a long time. In some cases, lactic acidosis and serious liver problems have led to death. Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any symptoms of these conditions.
  • Worsening of hepatitis B (HBV) infection. COMPLERA is not approved to treat HBV. If you have HBV and stop taking COMPLERA, your HBV may suddenly get worse. Do not stop taking COMPLERA without first talking to your healthcare provider, as they will need to monitor your health.


COMPLERA is a prescription medicine used to treat HIV-1 in people 12 years and older. It can be used in people who have never taken HIV-1 medicines before and who have an amount of HIV-1 in their blood (“viral load”) that is no more than 100,000 copies/mL. It can also replace current HIV-1 medicines for some people who have an undetectable viral load (less than 50 copies/mL) and whose healthcare provider determines that they meet certain other requirements. COMPLERA combines 3 medicines into 1 pill taken once a day with food. COMPLERA is a complete HIV-1 treatment and should not be used with other HIV-1 medicines.

COMPLERA does not cure HIV-1 infection or AIDS. To control HIV-1 infection and decrease HIV-related illnesses, you must keep taking COMPLERA. Ask your healthcare provider if you have questions about how to reduce the risk of passing HIV-1 to others. Always practice safer sex and use condoms to lower the chance of sexual contact with body fluids. Never reuse or share needles or other items that have body fluids on them.

Please click here to view additional Important Safety Information
for COMPLERA, including important warnings »

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