HIV VS AIDS: Are They The Same Thing?
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Learn more about the differences between HIV and AIDS. 

HIV and AIDS are very closely related, but they’re not exactly the same thing. 

HIV is a virus that can progress to AIDS if certain medial problems appear during the course of your HIV diagnosis. Not everyone who has HIV is diagnosed with AIDS, but everyone with AIDS does have an HIV diagnosis. 

Knowledge is power, so being educated on HIV and AIDS gives you the opportunity to take control of, and break through, harmful stigmas around these diagnoses. Doing this can encourage others to get tested for HIV to know their status.

So, what are the differences between HIV vs AIDS?

What is HIV? 

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks your immune system, or your body’s defense against diseases that helps you stay healthy. 38 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV

HIV can spread through unprotected sex, sharing needles, from an HIV positive mother to their child, and through breast milk. When left untreated or undiagnosed, the virus makes your body weaker against additional infections like pneumonia, thrush or cancer, and can become fatal. 

What is AIDS? 

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the term that is given when there are certain medical markers during the progression of HIV. It’s important to note that HIV and AIDS are the same infection, and that AIDS is not a different disease.

A person with HIV is considered to have AIDS when the number of their CD4 cells falls below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood (200 cells/mm3). In someone with a healthy immune system, CD4 counts are between 500 and 1,600 cells/mm3

Even if a person has an immune system that recovers after this diagnosis and raises their CD4 to above 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood, they are still considered to have AIDS. 

In addition, if a person with HIV gets what’s called an opportunistic infection, they will also be labeled as having AIDS – even if they recover from the infection. Opportunistic infections are infections that occur more frequently and are more severe in people with weakened immune systems. 

There are many illnesses that are considered to be opportunistic infections, including: Herpes simplex virus1, Toxoplasmosis, Tuberculosis, Lymphoma, and Pneumonia. 

An HIV-positive person can prolong their life expectancy by taking the proper medication right after being diagnosed. Taken every day as prescribed, these drugs will keep you healthy and make your viral level so low, it can’t be detected in normal blood tests.

If treatment isn’t taken to manage HIV after a positive diagnosis, life expectancy can drop by 3 years. When left untreated, other illnesses, such as Opportunistic Infections, can make this number drop even more or become fatal

Sticking to the right treatment can help you live your best life. It also greatly reduces the chances that you’ll pass HIV to your sexual partners and others.

Understanding the importance of treatment is essential to thrive and be in control. Getting tested is the first step to achieving change. Know your status, protect yourself and empower others. 

Visit to find HIV resources near you.

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