What is HIV infection?
HIV infection is a viral infection sustained by a retrovirus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV)
that infects and kills a type of cells of the immune system (CD4+ lymphocytes), causing the progressive impairment of the immune defences.
The appearance of an HIV-related immunodeficiency increases the risk of both infectious and neoplastic diseases and, when severe, leads to
the diagnosis of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
How is HIV infection transmitted?
HIV infection can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, syringe sharing among drug users, vertical
transmission (from mother to child) or through transfusions of infected blood, hemocomponents and hemoderivatives.
In Italy, syringe sharing and sexual transmission are the two main transmission routes; trasmission related to transfusion and vertical transmission
have long been a rare event thanks to the introduction of HIV screening.
What is the life expectancy of an HIV-infected patient?
The introduction of antiretroviral therapy has dramatically improved the life expectancy of people with
HIV infection. Those who scrupulously follow the "therapeutic pact" defined with their doctor and regularly take effective antiretroviral
therapy, have a life expectancy close to that of the general population.