You may have heard of HIV and AIDS, but many people don’t understand the difference between them. The more you know about these sexually transmitted infections or STIs, the better you can protect yourself and others – so read on!
HIV and AIDS: What You Need to Know
HIV and AIDS are sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that can be passed from one person to another through unprotected sex (including vaginal, anal, or oral), sharing needles of any kind, or birth and breastfeeding. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS – but they can be treated with medication.
The only way to know if you have HIV or AIDS is to get tested!
Testing is extremely important because the earlier you find out you’re positive, the sooner you can start treatment (Anti-retroviral therapy or ART), so the infection doesn’t get worse. It’s also important to know that even if someone doesn’t know they are living with HIV or AIDS, they can still pass the infection to others.
What is HIV?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.
It is an infection caused by HIV which attacks the body’s immune system. Our immune system helps to keep us healthy by attacking any infection that enters our body. Because HIV weakens the immune system, people who are HIV positive have a harder time fighting off various infections.
What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
It is the sickness that results from HIV damaging the body’s immune system until it can no longer fight off infections. In other words – when left untreated, HIV can progress into AIDS. AIDS occurs when the amount of HIV in the body (viral load) has increased so much that the immune system can no longer fight off infection. Individuals with AIDS are much more likely to experience severe symptoms or even death from curable infections such as pneumonia because the immune system has become so damaged.
What’s the Difference?
HIV is the germ, when left untreated develops into AIDS, the sickness.
HIV is the virus people become infected with, and AIDS is the syndrome the infection can progress into. People can pass HIV, the virus, to others but cannot pass AIDS, the sickness that develops after an individual has become infected.
Though there is no cure for HIV or AIDS, current medications work extremely well, helping those who are positive to live long, healthy lives. Remember – the only way to know if you have HIV or AIDS is to get tested!
Take control of your health by knowing your status and finding a healthcare provider to get tested.