HIV V/s AIDS – What's The Difference?
It's very easy to confuse HIV with AIDS. Trust me when I say, they are two different diagnoses but they go hand-in-hand; and that's probably why they're often used interchangeably to describe a disease. Sadly, we live in a society that's terribly ignorant. I am not saying illiterate, I'm saying ignorant. Almost half of the educated lot out there is easily confused about what HIV and AIDS are. All they really can tell is that they are both deadly. Doesn't that scare you? If you answered in the positive then it's time to change some things. So here we are, telling the difference between the two.
What is HIV?
HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a virus. Exposure to it can lead to infection. It does exactly what the name suggests – infects humans and attacks the immune system making it totally difficult or unable to do what it's meant to. Our immune system is not capable of fighting and clearing away all types of viruses completely. However, we have medications that can control it with huge success. I bet you're happy to hear that. But in order to control the virus we need to diagnose it in time.
What is AIDS?
Now that you know what HIV is, let's see what it does. At times, HIV can lead to a condition which is called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Note it down: HIV is virus, AIDS is a condition possibly caused by it. AIDS develops when HIV causes serious damage to our immune system. It's a complex syndrome, and its symptoms vary from person to person. These may include tuberculosis, pneumonia, certain types of cancer, and other infections. But it isn't necessary that if you've got HIV, you will get AIDS.
HIV without AIDS
Now that we know that you could have an HIV infection without AIDS, let's see what it would be like. Thanks to advanced medicine, people with HIV can live for years without developing AIDS at all. Although the HIV infection never goes away, AIDS may never develop in your body if treated properly. So that means you can continue to live a normal life!
Transmission, Symptoms and Diagnosis
Since HIV is a virus, it can be transmitted from people to people. AIDS isn't transmitted as some people conclude. But the infection that could lead to the condition surely can. HIV is transmitted through exchange of bodily fluids – unprotected sex, contaminated needles, tainted blood transfusion, or during pregnancy. When a pregnant woman has HIV, she could pass it on to the child in her womb; but that too can be prevented if proper care is taken while pregnancy and delivery. HIV doesn't always necessarily produce symptoms because the body tries its best to fight the virus, but when you develop AIDS you may start noticing the symptoms. HIV can be diagnosed by way of blood and/or saliva tests that check for antibodies and antigens. These tests are mostly accurate.
When to test or go for diagnosis?
Since HIV majorly does not produce any symptoms, it is important to go for a regular check up annually. Once you get infected with HIV your body may develop flu-like symptoms which it would be swift to fight by producing antibodies against the virus. So you may not even realize that you are infected. Hence an annual blood or saliva test is imperative. HIV can be detected by a simple test, but diagnosing AIDS can be difficult. AIDS is the final stage of the HIV infection, and there are a few factors that determine when a patient's diagnosis has crossed from HIV latency to AIDS. When HIV destroys our immune cells to a certain level beyond which it's next to impossible to fight the virus, then a person is said to have AIDS.
In today's times, while one can live a normal life with the virus for years and maybe even decades without developing AIDS, while undergoing the treatment for HIV it is important to understand that you can still pass the infection to someone else.