Difference Between HIV and AIDS

Main Difference – HIV vs AIDS

HIV (Human deficiency virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) are two acronyms which are often used interchangeably by several people, mostly due to a lack of knowledge about what they really refer to. The main difference between HIV and AIDS is that HIV is a virus which invades the human immunity system whereas AIDS is a condition which is caused by HIV.

In this article, we are going to describe

1. What is HIV? – Definition, Pathology, Diagnosis 

2. What is AIDS? – Definition, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis 

3. What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?Difference Between HIV and AIDS - HIV vs AIDS Comparison Summary

What is HIV

HIV is the acronym for Human Deficiency Virus, which is a form of lentivirus, falling into the subgroup of retroviruses. It invades the immunity system and weakens its ability to fight against opportunistic infections progressively, increasing the risk of getting susceptible to cancers and failure to thrive. This virus only attacks human beings.

As far as the origin of this virus is considered, it is thought to be transferred to humans from non-human primates in west-central Africa, in the early 20th century.

It is usually transmitted by infected blood transfusions, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculation or breast milk. HIV can be present either as free viral particles or aggressive virus within infected immune cells. These viral particles tend to infect vital cells of the immune system such as T-helper cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, resulting in a progressive loss of cell-mediated immunity in the human body.

HIV is mainly diagnosed by an enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay (ELISA), which detects antibodies against HIV organisms. In addition, other specific supplemental tests such as western blot or immunofluorescence assay (IFA) can be used even though they are not widely used nowadays.

Untreated HIV patients only have a survival rate of 9-11 years, so it is highly important to diagnose the signs and symptoms related to possible immune suppression (recurrent infections), as soon as possible.Main Difference - HIV vs AIDS

What is AIDS

AIDS is the acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which is defined as the last stage of a spectrum of conditions (HIV/AIDS), initially caused by the infection of Human immune deficiency virus (HIV).

The clinical diagnosis is made in terms of either a CD4+ T cell count below 200 cells per µL or the occurrence of specific diseases associated with an HIV infection.

The initial presentation of an infected individual with HIV/AIDS will mainly be limited to flu-like signs and symptoms followed by a period with no notable symptoms. However, as the viral invasion progress gradually, the immune system will be affected big time, resulting in getting prone to common infections like Tuberculosis, opportunistic infections caused by bacteria, other viruses, parasites, fungi and malignancies (Kaposi’s sarcoma, Burkitt’s lymphoma)

The last stage of this condition, referred to as AIDS will often be associated with loss of weight, chills, night sweats, loss of appetite, diarrhea, lethargy, weakness, and fatigue.

The above-mentioned conditions related to immune suppression and reduced CD4 count are the main diagnostic features of AIDS. It can be further confirmed by testing for antibodies against HIV using the method called enzyme-linked immune sorbent assay (ELISA), with the use of body fluids such as saliva or blood.

Even though there is no permanent cure or vaccines developed for this condition yet, anti-retroviral treatment can be used to slow down the progression of the disease and improve the quality of life as much as possible.Difference Between HIV and AIDS

Difference Between HIV and AIDS

The main difference between HIV and AIDS lies in the fact that HIV is a virus whereas AIDS is a condition which is caused by HIV. In fact, a person can get infected by HIV without showing signs of AIDS for many years, but for someone to acquire AIDS, he should definitely get infected by Human deficiency virus at first.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. In fact,  a person getting exposed to HIV will initially develop signs and symptoms similar to the flu. Acute HIV infection present with minor difficulties whereas if the infection is severe enough to weaken the immune system only it will give rise to AIDS with severe and remarkable signs and symptoms, disrupting the quality of life of an individual.

Furthermore, once HIV invades the human body and attacks the immune system, it can never be removed out the system by any mean, even though it may never cause AIDS. However, the symptomatic changes of AIDS can be improved with medications like anti-retroviral drugs.

Image Courtesy:

“Symptoms of acute HIV infection” By Mikael Häggström (Public Domain) via

“Symptoms of AIDS” By Mikael Häggström.Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014″. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. – (CC0) via

About the Author: Embogama

Embogama is a passionate freelance writer for several years. Her areas of interest include general medicine, clinical medicine, health and fitness, Ayurveda medicine, psychology, counseling and piano music


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