HIV And AIDS: Causes And Differences

HIV And AIDS: Causes  And Differences
HIV is a virus that targets and alters the immune system. It increases the risk and impact of other infections and diseases. Without treatment, the infection might progress to an advanced disease stage called AIDS. However, modern advances in treatment mean that people living with HIV in countries with good access to healthcare very rarely develop AIDS once they are receiving treatment. In this article, we explain HIV and AIDS, their symptoms, causes, and treatment.

The life expectancy of a person who carries the virus is now almost the same with that of a non carrier, as long as they adhere to a combination of medications called antiretroviral therapy (ART) on an ongoing basis.

A 2016 study in suggested that between 1996 and 2016, the gap in life expectancy between HIV positive people and their negative counterparts closed from 44 years to 12 years. The World Health Organization (WHO) also advises that a person living with the virus can resume a high quality of life with treatment. And that 20.9 million people worldwide were receiving ART as of mid-2017.

HIV Is An Infection That Can Lead To AIDS.

HIV And AIDS: Causes  And Differences

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that breaks down certain cells in your immune system. They are your body’s defense against diseases that helps you stay healthy. When the virus damages your immune system, it’s easier to get really sick and even die from infections that your body could normally fight off.

Once you have HIV, the virus stays in your body for life. There’s no cure for this infection, but medicines can help you stay healthy. HIV medicine lowers or even stops your chances of spreading the virus to other people. Studies show that using treatment as directed can lower the amount of the virus in your blood so much that it might not even show up on a test. When this happens, you can’t transmit the virus through sex. Treatment is really important. Without treatment, the infection can lead to AIDS. But with medicine, people with the virus can live long, healthy lives and stop the spread of the virus to others.

What’s the difference between HIV and AIDS?

what is HIV

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. And people with the virus do not always have AIDS.

HIV is the virus that’s passed from person to person. Over time, the virus destroys an important kind of the cell in your immune system (called CD4 cells or T cells) that help protect you from infections. When you don’t have enough of these CD4 cells, your body can’t fight off infections the way it normally can.

AIDS is the result of the damage that HIV does to your immune system. You have AIDS when you get dangerous infections or have a super low number of CD4 cells. AIDS is the most serious stage of HIV, and it leads to death over time.

Without treatment, it usually takes about 10 years for someone with HIV to develop AIDS. Treatment slows down the damage the virus causes and can help people stay healthy for several decades.

How do you get the virus?

HIV And AIDS: Causes  And Differences

HIV is carried in semen, vaginal fluids, anal mucus, blood, and breast milk. The virus gets in your body through cuts or sores in your skin, and through mucous membranes (like the inside of the vagina, rectum, and opening of the penis).

You can get HIV from:

  • having vaginal or anal sex
  • sharing needles or syringes for shooting drugs, piercings, tattoos, etc.
  • getting stuck with a needle that has HIV-infected blood on it
  • getting HIV-infected blood, semen (cum), or vaginal fluids into open cuts or sores on your body

HIV usually spreads through having unprotected sex. Using condoms and/or dental dams every time you have sex and not sharing needles can help protect you and your partners from the virus. If you do have HIV, treatment can lower or even stop the chances of spreading the virus to other people during sex. If you don’t have the virus, there’s also a daily medicine called PrEP that can protect you from HIV.

Babies can also get the virus during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. A pregnant woman with the virus can take medicine to greatly reduce the chance that her baby will get infected with the virus.

HIV isn’t spread through saliva (spit), so you CAN’T get the virus from kissing, sharing food or drinks, or using the same fork or spoon.  You also do not get the virus through hugging, holding hands, coughing, or sneezing. And you can’t get it from a toilet seat.

A long time ago, some people got the virus from infected blood transfusions. But now, giving or getting blood in medical centers is totally safe. Doctors, hospitals, and blood donation centers don’t use needles more than once. And they also test donated blood for HIV and other infections.

Resource: Planned Parenthood

Also read: How is Ebola spread?


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