Do you know the difference between HIV and AIDS?

What is HIV?

For its acronym -HIV- human immunodeficiency virus. HIV attacks the immune system and weakens the defense against many infections and certain cancers that people with healthy immune systems can fight off. As the virus destroys the immune cells and prevents the normal functioning of the immunity, the infected person gradually falls into a situation of immunodeficiency.

Unlike other viruses, the human body cannot completely get rid of HIV. So once you have HIV, you have it for life.

What is AIDS?

If left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the most advanced stage of HIV infection, which, in the absence of treatment and depending on the individual, can take many years to manifest. People with AIDS can contract certain types of cancer and infections or present other serious chronic clinical manifestations.

It is the final stage of HIV infection, and not all people with HIV progress to this stage. in which the immune system is severely damaged and the carrier becomes vulnerable to opportunistic infections (“opportunistic” because they take advantage of a weakened immune system and are associated with severe immunodeficiency).

Signs and symptoms

The symptoms of HIV infection differ depending on the stage in question. Although the maximum infectivity tends to be reached in the first months, many infected people are unaware that they are carriers until more advanced stages. Sometimes, in the first weeks after infection, the person does not show any symptoms, while on other occasions they present a flu-like picture with fever, headache, rashes or sore throat.

As the infection weakens the immune system, the person may have other signs and symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhea, and cough. In the absence of treatment, serious diseases such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, serious bacterial infections or cancers such as lymphomas or Kaposi’s sarcoma, among others, can appear.

Risk factors that facilitate transmission

There are some behaviors that increase a person’s risk of contracting HIV:

  • Having vaginal or anal sex without a condom with a person living with HIV;
  • Suffer from another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or bacterial vaginosis;
  • Sharing needles, syringes, drug solutions, or other contaminated infectious material to inject drugs;
  • Receiving injections, blood transfusions, or tissue transplants without guarantees of safety or undergoing medical procedures involving cuts or perforations with non-sterile instruments;
  • Accidentally pricking yourself with a needle, is an injury that particularly affects health personnel.
  • Vertical transmission: Between the mother and her child during pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation.

HIV is NOT transmitted by...

It is not possible to get infected in ordinary everyday contacts such as:

  • Kisses, caresses, shaking hands or touching your partner.
  • Tears, sweat, saliva, cough, or sneeze.
  • Living with people who have the virus.
  • Share objects of common use, clothing or food, showers, sinks or toilets, swimming pools, sports or leisure facilities, workspace, residences, schools, spas, spas, and public places.
  • Animal bites or stings such as mosquitoes or other insects.
  • Donate or receive blood, in countries where control is adequate.

How can I know if I am living with HIV?

The only way to know if you are living with HIV is to take an HIV test. We should all take the test at least once. However, you should get an HIV test, especially if:

  • You are sexually active (if you had sex with anyone since your last HIV test)
  • If you have injected drugs or shared needles
  • If you are pregnant

You can’t rely on symptoms to tell if you carry HIV. Many people living with HIV have no symptoms.


If you have been diagnosed as positive for HIV, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to start the appropriate treatment.

HIV disease can be treated with therapeutic regimens in which three or more antiretroviral drugs are combined.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the treatment of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with anti-HIV drugs. Treatment consists of a combination of drugs (commonly called “highly active antiretroviral therapy” or HAART) that suppress HIV replication. A combination of drugs is used to increase potency and reduce the chance of developing resistance. ART reduces mortality and morbidity among people infected with HIV and improves their quality of life. The benefits of ART also include the prevention of HIV transmission by suppressing virus replication in people living with HIV. This benefit of ART is also defined by the expression “undetectable equals untransmittable, or I=I.

Although ART does not cure the infection, it inhibits the virus from replicating in the body and allows the immune system to regain strength and ability to fight opportunistic infections and some cancers.

Since 2016, WHO has recommended lifelong ART for all people with HIV, including children, adolescents and adults, and pregnant and lactating women, regardless of their clinical status and CD4 count.