The two terms are often confused, as they are both caused by the same virus.
But they’re not the same, and medical breakthroughs now mean that one never has to turn into the other.
Today is World Aids Day, so a good time to look into some of the myths and stigma surrounding the diagnosis.
So, what is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
HIV is the name of the virus.
A person could become HIV positive, but never develop symptoms.
If the virus isn’t treated and they do become ill, the condition is known as Aids, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
If someone has Aids, their immune system is weakened so they become more seriously affected by ordinary germs like coughs and colds, so badly that they can develop into things like pneumonia.
Someone with AIDS has to have the HIV virus, but someone with HIV doesn’t have to have Aids.
It can now be treated with anti-retroviral drugs, available on the NHS. These can reduce the levels of the virus in the blood to such low levels that they are not detectable, and cannot be passed on to somebody else.
How is HIV spread?
The most common way HIV is caught is via unprotected sex.
It can also be spread using shared needles, for example injecting heroin.
Mothers can also spread the virus to babies during pregnancy or birth, if they are not being treated.
By the way, here are several ways you can NOT catch HIV:
- Touching someone, for example hugging
- Insect bites
- Sharing things like towels or food utensils
- French kissing (except the unlikely possibility if both people have a cut in their mouth)
- Using a toilet seat
‘If you are on HIV treatment, the level of the virus in your blood is generally very low and it is unlikely that you will pass HIV on to someone else,’ the NHS say.