What is HIV?

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a kind of viral infection that damages the immune system of the body. It attacks and kills immune system’s CD4 cells, making the body weak and prone to many other related diseases and condition. HIV, if not detected and treated at an early stage, can turn into a fatal condition. HIV is typically transmitted through bodily fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids and milk of a feeding mother. The virus of HIV does spread through aid, water or through casual contact.

As a lesser known fact, HIV is a lifelong condition. At present, there are no such cures available with medical science to completely eradicate the infection from the human system. Though many scientists across the world are working to find one soon. There are, however, some treatments including antiretroviral therapies, which help in managing the HIV condition and preventing it from worsening with time.

Treating HIV at the earliest is imperative. If left unattended, a person with this virus may develop AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which makes it even more difficult for the body to stay healthy and fight against other infections and diseases. With AIDS, a person’s life expectancy reduces to about three years.

As per a recent report published by one of the leading medical houses of the world, it is estimated that nearly 10% of the global populationare currently living given HIV. Of these, nearly 30% do not know that they have been affected by the virus.

What is AIDS?

AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is a disease that develops when HIV is left untreated. It is typically the most advanced stage of HIV, post which a person loses his/her life to the disease.

Please note – if a person with HIV, it doesn’t mean he/she also has or will AIDS.

The virus of HIV typically kills immune system’s CD4 cells. These cells range between 500 and 1,500 per cubic millimeter in a healthy human. An individual whose count falls below 200 per cubic millimeter is likely to develop AIDS.

An individual may also have AIDS if they have HIV as well as develop some kind of opportunistic infection or a kind of cancer that rare and hard to treat. Opportunistic infections include pneumonia, etc. which take advantage of such a unique situation and turn fatal in nature.

An untreated HIV condition turn into AIDS within a decade of the virus’ presence in the human body. There are no such cures available for AIDS as well (just like HIV) and the life expectancy of a person reduces manifold – usually to about two to three years at max. AIDS also makes a person vulnerable to several other illnesses. These include:

  • pneumonia
  • tuberculosis
  • oral thrush, a kind of fungal infection that develops in the mouth or throat
  • cytomegalovirus (CMV), a kind of herpes virus
  • cryptococcal meningitis, a kind of fungal infection that affects the brain
  • toxoplasmosis, a parasitic infection that affects the brain
  • cryptosporidiosis, an infection that develops in the intestines
  • cancer, including lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS)

HIV and AIDS: What’s the connection?

An individual is likely to develop AIDS only when he/she comes in contact the HIV virus. At the same time, having HIV doesn’t really mean that they will definitely develop AIDS.

Progressive stages of HIV are as follows:

  • Stage 1 or the acute stage. It is when the infection first enters the human body.
  • Stage 2 or clinical latency. This is when the infection starts to spread across the body and kills immune system’s healthy CD4 cells.
  • Stage 3 or AIDS. When HIV is left untreated, it ultimately turns into AIDS. This is the last and most chronic stage of HIV.

The progression of HIV from its early state to chronic one varies from one person to another. Without treatment, the infection can stay intact for about a decade before advancing to AIDS. With treatment, it can last for an indefinite time.

HIV v/s AIDS – What’s the Difference?

Although HIV and AIDS are interrelated, they are not the same thing. Listed below are some points of difference between HIV and AIDS.

  1. HIV doesn’t always progress to stage 3

Understand the fact that HIV is a kind of virus and AIDS is a condition caused by a virus. An HIV infection may or may not progress to its advanced stage. In fact, most people with HIV live for many years without developing AIDS. Though there aren’t any concrete cures available with medical science to completely remove HIV virus from the body, there are certain treatments and therapies which subside the virus’ effect allowing the immune system to stay healthy and strong.

  1. The infection of HIV is easy to Diagnose

When the HIV virus invades the human body, the immune system produces antibodies against the virus. A simple blood or saliva test can easily detect the presence of these antibodies, further determining if the existence of HIV virus in the human system. Most physicians state that it may take many weeks after viral transmission for the HIV antibody test to come back positive.

In addition to blood and saliva test, there’s another test that looks for antigens in the body. These are proteins produced by the virus as well as the antibodies. This test can effectively detect HIV within a couple of days after the invasion of the infection in the body.

  1. The Diagnosis of AIDS is Comparatively Complicated

As stated above, AIDS is the advanced stage of the HIV infection. Since HIV destroys the CD4 immune cells of the body, physicians diagnose AIDS by counting these number of cells. While the normal range of these cells falls between 500 and 1,500 CD4 cells, any number noted below 200 CD4 cells per cubic millimetermeans the condition has advanced to AIDS.

  1. HIV, unlike AIDS, can be transmitted from one Person to Another

Since HIV is a kind of virus, it can be transmitted from one person to another. AIDS, on the other hand, can only develop when a person has acquired the virus of HIV. If a person doesn’t have HIV, he/she cannot have AIDS.