Do you also think HIV and AIDS are the same? Get your facts straight

Published on: 10 December 2021, 12:00 pm IST
HIV and AIDS are two leading diseases. Both are linked to each other, but they have some key differences. Read on to know.
Aayushi Gupta
HIV targets the immune system. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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HIV is often thought of in conjunction with AIDS, but they’re two different diseases. These two diseases go hand in hand and are interlinked with each other in some ways, but like we said, they are still different.

There is a lot of information about HIV and AIDS which can cause confusion. So today, HealthShots is going to help you understand how to differentiate between HIV and AIDS.

Don’t be scared, and get yourself tested. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

So what is HIV?

We reached out to Dr Aditya S Chowti, Senior Consultant Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, Cunningham Road, Bengaluru, to understand it.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It belongs to a group of viruses called the retrovirus, which causes all the trouble. When a person is infected with HIV, the virus attacks cells and makes a person very vulnerable to other infections and diseases,” says Dr Chowti. Also, it weakens the immune system to a large extent. 

How does it spread from one to another?

We already know that HIV is spread by contact of bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected intercourse or through sharing of injection drug equipment. It can also have a vertical transmission from mother to child.

Is there any treatment for HIV?

Once people get infected with HIV, they have it for life. But, according to Dr Chowti, with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective treatment can live a long healthy life and protect their partners.

How do you know if you have HIV?

The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Though it may show some symptoms which include:

  • Fever
  • Night sweat
  • Rash
  • Fatigue
  • Sore throat
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Muscle aches

How is AIDS different from HIV?

AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. 

If left untreated, HIV can lead to a disease that we now call AIDS (Acquired immune deficiency syndrome). AIDS is an injection caused by HIV, which weakens the body’s immune system, according to Dr Chowti. 

So what’s the difference anyway?

HIV and AIDS are related, but they are not the same. AIDS is a medical condition, and HIV is a virus that attacks the human immune system.

No cure exists for AIDS, but it can be controlled and prevented. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Dr Chowti says, “HIV is a virus that may cause AIDS after being infected for several years and weakening the immune system. Not everyone with HIV will get AIDS, but the infection will advance to AIDS, usually in 10-15 years, especially if you don’t get treatment with specific drugs called antiretroviral drugs. So many people with the virus don’t know that they have it.”

AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection. People who have AIDS were either never diagnosed with HIV or didn’t get treatment early enough to keep the infection from getting worse.

What does immuno-deficiency mean? 

It means the systems that fight illness in the body aren’t working effectively in the way they should. The immune system has cells called the CD4 or T-cells that keep an individual healthy. HIV attacks these cells, and the virus copies itself repeatedly, killing these CD4 cells. Without these cells, you are likely to get infections from bacteria, viruses, and fungi. The treatment is an antiretroviral therapy that stops the destruction of these cells.

How to prevent HIV infection from advancing to AIDS?

“The best way to avoid AIDS is to start antiretroviral therapy as soon as possible, taking it diligently as it has been prescribed. These drugs will keep you healthy and make your viral level low, which can be detected. Sticking to the proper treatment can keep AIDS at bay for many years and decades. It practically eliminates the chances of passing HIV to your partners, says Dr Chowti. 

So, you must know that many HIV people live normal life spans.

Aayushi Gupta

Candid, outspoken, but prudent--Aayushi is exploring her place in media world.

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