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What Is the Difference Between HIV and AIDS?

What Is HIV?

Many people confuse HIV and AIDS. While they go together, it is important to know that HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which is known to cause AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). When a person develops AIDS, it is classified as Stage 3 HIV.

HIV is known to suppress and damage the immune system. Without a healthy immune system, a person is not able to fight off any infection; even a simple cold can lead to serious complications.

However, just because an individual acquires HIV does not mean they have AIDS. Many patients with HIV do not progress to Stage 3, mainly due to advances in the treatment of HIV. With current drug therapy, the life expectancy of HIV patients is essentially normal. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV or AIDS.

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What Is AIDS?

AIDS, on the other hand, is a disease caused by HIV. Patients with AIDS have a damaged immune system and are not able to fight off infections. They are prone to infections like pneumonia, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, herpes and many others. Additionally, because the immune system is damaged or weak, people are at higher risk of developing cancer, such as Kaposi Sarcoma. It’s important that all HIV/AIDS patients take medication to manage their infection.

Preventing HIV

HIV can be transferred from person to person during sex, blood transfusion (before 1985), and sharing of contaminated syringes. However, HIV dies in contact with oxygen and can only be passed through a fluid to fluid transfer (like condomless sex). HIV can NEVER be transmitted through saliva, touching/hugs, using the same utensils/plates, or sharing a bathroom. It is now possible to prevent HIV by using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).  PrEP which is known to be 99% effective at preventing HIV.

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