What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus which attacks your immune system. The immune system is what helps you to fight sicknesses such as colds and other infections. If not treated, HIV will kill the immune system. When the body has no immune system it will start to get sick, this is called AIDS .

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

People with AIDS can die, but even when you have AIDS, you can still take HIV medication to help to get your immune system back and to be well again.

Being on medication, is the best way not to get AIDS. That is why it is important to get tested so you know if you have HIV, and if you do, to take medications so you cannot pass HIV on to anyone else and so you can have a good and long life.

HIV facts

  • HIV is mainly passed on from having vaginal or anal sex without a condom, sharing needles or syringes, and breastfeeding.
  • You cannot get HIV from hugging, kissing, sharing cups, eating food made by someone who has HIV, or from a toilet seat.
  • HIV cannot be passed on when having oral sex unless one or both people have sore or bleeding gums and they person living with HIV is not on HIV medication.
  • There is very good medication for HIV. When a person living with HIV takes the medication it reduces the HIV in the blood to an ‘undetectable’ level. When the virus is ‘undetectable’, HIV cannot be passed on when having sex or from a pregnant mother to her baby.
  • If a person with HIV does not take medication, HIV can lead to AIDS, and they can die.

How do I know if I have HIV?

It is not always easy to know. You can feel fine and still have HIV. Some people can have HIV for years and not know it.

That is why getting tested for HIV is so important.

Even though you may not have symptoms the virus will still be damaging your immune system. It might take time, but at some stage you will get sick.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Some people may not have any symptoms and can live with HIV for many years not knowing they have it.

Others may have flu like symptoms, a fever or a sore throat, a few weeks, or months after being in contact with HIV. This is called seroconversion and is when the body is trying to fight off the virus. After this stage however, people may not have any symptoms for many, many years.

Is there a cure for HIV?

There is no cure for HIV but there are very good medications called, antiretrovirals, which can manage the virus. A person with HIV who is on medication, can live as long as someone who does not have HIV.

The important thing is to get tested and if you have HIV, to get onto medication.