World AIDS Day: A Common Man’s Guide to Know About the Difference Between HIV and AIDS. 

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New Delhi, December 1- A very common misconception among the people is that there is no difference between HIV and AIDS and we see many among us mention both HIV and AIDS interchangeably.

Not long ago, if someone would be diagnosed with HIV, people would interpret it as the person’s death was going to die. Today, due to the discovery of newer molecules and profound strides amde by medical sciences people with HIV can live a long and productive life.

HIV and AIDS

As it is called HIV, which stands for  human immunodeficiency virus, it means that only humans can contract it, and it attacks the immune system. While HIV is a virus that may cause an infection, AIDS (which is short for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a condition. Contracting HIV can lead to the development of AIDS.

Stages

Provided quality treatment, an HIV infection doesn’t necessarily progress to stage 3. Adherence to antiretroviral therapy can prevent stage 3 HIV from developing. AIDS or stage 3 HIV, develops when HIV has caused serious damage to the immune system. It is a complex condition with symptoms that vary from person to person.

Transmission

An HIV virus can only be transmitted from am infected person to a person who doesn’t have HIV through sex without condoms or shared needles. Less so, a mother can transmit the virus to their child during pregnancy. AIDS, on the other hand, is a condition a person acquires only after they’ve contracted HIV.

Symptoms

It takes time for HIV to develop a range of symptoms including diahrrea, skin infections, nightsweating, weight loss etc. in about two to four weeks after transmission. In some cases, immune system in a body may put a string fight against HIV virus and bring the infection under control or what is called acute infection. It is known as a period of latency, during which the virus can last for years, a person with HIV may experience no symptoms at all. Without antiretroviral therapy, however, that person may develop AIDS and as a result will experience many symptoms associated with the condition.

Diagnosis

There are a range of tests which can diagnose HIV. One of them is a blood or saliva test that can detect the antibodies which produced by the immune system to determine if the virus is present. Another test looks for antigens, which are proteins produced by the virus, and antibodies. This test can detect HIV just days after infection.

In AIDS, a count of immune cells called CD4 cells destroyed by HIV is one way healthcare providers diagnose the disease. An HIV infected person can have anywhere from 500 to 1,200 CD4 cells. A person with HIV is considered to have stage 3 HIV, when the cells have dropped to 200.

Treatment

With today’s treatments for HIV infection, people can live with HIV and never have AIDS develop. It’s also important to note that successful antiretroviral treatment and a sustained undetectable viral load greatly lowers the risk of transmitting the virus to a partner.

However, If HIV develops into stage 3 HIV, life expectancy drops significantly. It’s difficult to repair damage to the immune system at this point. Infections and other conditions, such as certain cancers, resulting from severe immune system impairment are common. However, with successful antiretroviral therapy and some immune system recovery, many people with stage 3 HIV live long lives.

Also, while a person can have an HIV infection without having AIDS, anyone diagnosed with AIDS has already contracted HIV. Because there is no cure, the HIV infection never goes away, even if AIDS never develops.

Speaking to HealthwireDr. V Sam Prasad, Country Program Director, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), an NGO which provides cost-free drugs to people with HIV, said “HIV is a virus, not a disease in itself. HIV is already prevalent in people having diagnosed as postive having the virus. It can only be transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids like, semen, anal or vaginal. On the other hand, AIDS is a disease that the virus brings to the body by severely decreasing the immunity of the body making it a gateway for the entry of multiple infections. So the only connection between HIV and AIDS is that when HIV virus is left untreated, it is developed into AIDS.”

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