HIV and AIDs are two dreaded words that are feared as much as other ailments such as cancer, kidney failure or stroke. And they are indeed dangerous and lethal and people have to be on red alert to avoid falling victim to them. But prevention starts with knowledge. Read on to know more about the difference between HIV and AIDs.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. When it enters the body, it begins to attack the CD4, a type of White Blood Corpuscle (WBC). This leads to a deterioration of the body’s immune system. Your immune system shields you from a myriad of different ailments but when it takes a beating, the body naturally becomes vulnerable.
Even though the immune system can completely flush out most germs, bacteria and virus, HIV is something that it cannot fight off.
How does the transmission of HIV take place?
HIV is contagious. You might get it if you exchange the following with a person who is HIV positive-
- Breast milk
- Vaginal fluid
If you share a needle for activities such as getting a tattoo, you might get HIV if an HIV positive person had used the needle before you.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It actually is a medical condition or an ailment. In a way the difference between HIV and AIDs can be summed up as – HIV is the cause and AIDS is the effect. So there is a causality relation between the two.
AIDS goes by another name – Stage 3 HIV, the other stages being Acute HIV and Chronic HIV. It is the final stage of HIV infection. It develops when HIV has wreaked severe damage to the immune system. The CD4 count, which normally ranges from 500-1600 cells/cubic millimetre of blood, plummets to below 200 cells/cubic millimetre during this stage.
AIDS is not one particular disease but rather a cluster of diseases that the body contracts because of a weak immune system. These are ‘opportunistic infections’ or infections that occur very frequently and when they do, the intensity is much stronger than it would be in a person with a healthy immune system.
Once you contract HIV, it might be 2-15 years before AIDS materialises.
Here are a few opportunistic diseases that affect a person who has HIV in their bloodstream-
- Cytomegalovirus – a viral infection that can lead to blindness
- Cervical/lung cancers, carcinoma and lymphoma
- Candidiasis – an infection of the throat
- Toxoplasmosis which affects the brain
- Cryptococcosis – an infection that is the precursor to pneumonia
Some of the opportunistic infections may exist along with other infections making the disorder even more complicated.
Difference between HIV and AIDs when it comes to treatment
Treatment can curb HIV. Antiretroviral therapy is effective in slowing down the progress of the virus and even halting it. This therapy will shrink the amount of virus in the system to such an extent that blood tests won’t detect the presence of HIV in a person’s body. So this means that HIV won’t be a magnet for multiple diseases. And an HIV positive person won’t transmit the virus to others. Antiretroviral therapy can help a person lead a healthy and normal life.
So far, scientists have not managed a breakthrough in the research to find a cure for AIDs.
The chief difference between HIV and AIDs lies in the fact that the former causes the latter. AIDs can be life-threatening. That is why you should do everything possible to ensure you do not expose yourself to the deadly HIV.