Facts about the difference between HIV and AIDS:World AIDS Day

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Earlier in November, actor Charlie Sheen publicly disclosed that he is HIV positive. According to UNAIDS, in 2014, 36.9 million people were living with HIVand two million people became infected with HIV.

Most people assume being HIV positive is the same as having AIDS. However, that is not the case. According to the WorldHealth Organisation (WHO), HIV is a virus that infects a person and AIDS is the disease that later develops in people with HIV.

HIV, which stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, infects cells of the immune system, which is the body’s defence against infections and diseases. When the infection of the virus “results in progressive deterioration of the immune system”, it leads to “immune deficiency”, states the WHO. The immune system is considered deficient when it can no longer fight the infection and disease. Infections that take advantage of a weakened system are known as “opportunistic infections”. WHO urges people living with HIV to start antiretroviral treatment as soon as they are diagnosed.

When HIV develops into Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which is the final stage of the HIV infection, it can lead to health issues like pneumonia, fungal infections and tuberculosis. According to WHO, AIDS is defined by “the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers”. The most common life-threatening opportunistic infection that people with HIV/AIDS suffer is Tuberculosis, which kills nearly 36,0 000 people living with HIV every year.

In the past, people who were infected with HIV also developed AIDS. However, with advanced medications, people with HIV can now be protected from getting AIDS.

 

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