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World AIDS Day 2022: What’s the difference between AIDS and HIV

World AIDS Day 2022: HIV stands for Human immunodeficiency virus that attacks infection-fighting cells of the body and makes it susceptible to deadly complications. When exposed to the virus, acute HIV infection starts to develop after 2-4 weeks of infection and symptoms such as fever, headache, rash are reported. During this stage the virus multiplies rapidly spreading through the body and causing damage to immune system. This is also the time when a person is infectious. If not treated timely, HIV can develop into AIDS in the due course of time. In this final stage of the disease, viral load is high, symptoms are severe, and without treatment, a person will not be able to survive beyond a couple of years. In between acute HIV infection and AIDS, there is a second stage called chronic HIV infection where the virus multiples but at a slower pace. The advance of the disease can be slowed down during this stage although it cannot be cured. Taking ART or antiretroviral therapy can help a person with HIV live a longer and healthier life. On the occasion of World AIDS Day 2022 (December 1), here’s all you want to know about the difference between AIDS and HIV.

HIV is an epidemic in India, with about 23 lakh people infected with the virus. Approximately 23 lakh people are living with HIV (PLHIV) at this time. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Karnataka are the top states in the country with the highest percentage of PLHIV.

“HIV diagnosis is considered a stigma in India. This causes a delay in the treatment and possible spread of the virus. Despite strong efforts by the National Aids Control Organisation and other organisations, there continues to be a severe lack of awareness about HIV and its spread in some parts of the country,” says Dr Saranya Narayan, Chief Technical Director & Microbiologist, Neuberg Diagnostics.

What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that targets immune system cells, making an individual more susceptible to various illnesses and infections.

“It is transmitted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual, most frequently during unprotected sex (sex without the use of appropriate protection like condoms or HIV medication to prevent or treat HIV) and also through using needles contaminated with an infected person’s blood and unsterilized needles. Mother to child transmission through pregnancy can also happen though this can be controlled,” says Dr Narayan.

HIV remains in the body for the rest of a person’s life after entry. While HIV cannot be cured, it can be kept under control through medications. HIV medication is lifelong and reduces or even eliminates your ability to transmit the virus to others.

What is AIDS?

HIV can cause AIDS if not treated timely (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).

“The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the primary cause of the chronic, potentially fatal illness known as acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV interferes with your body’s capacity to fight disease and infection by weakening your immune system,” says Dr Narayan.

Difference between AIDS and HIV

Dr Narayan says if a person infected with HIV does not receive treatment, they may eventually develop AIDS, a syndrome, or a set of symptoms. Although it is possible to get infected with HIV without ever developing AIDS, the reverse is not possible.

“Early HIV diagnosis and treatment are crucial because they lower patient mortality and stop HIV from being transmitted in the future. There are a variety of HIV diagnostic tests like detection of the virus, quantification of the virus, detection of the protein (Antigen) and the antibody. There are also tests to assess the immune status of an individual with HIV infection – these are blood tests which are available in advanced diagnostic centres; and can assist in an early diagnosis followed by a timely treatment,” says the expert.

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