Understanding the Difference: HIV vs AIDS

Rishabh Mehta
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Dr. Kaushal

Review medical content on WOW Rx Pharmacy, so that accurate drug use information is easily accessible to everybody.
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hiv vs aids

HIV is closely related to, and sometimes even misinterpreted as, AIDS because the two terms are often used together. Both continue to contribute as a global health issue. 

Despite medical advancement, research, and better access to health care, the rate of HIV/AIDS cases has lowered but has not been eradicated yet. 

According to WHO, 0.7 percent of adults globally aged 15-49 years are living with HIV. 

The statistics indicate the potential HIV risk in the world and the threat of significant AIDS cases and related complications. 

For an in-depth understanding of this serious problem, one has to clear the confusion between HIV and AIDS. 

This article attempts to put an end to the confusion by presenting a detailed analysis of HIV vs AIDS, covering similarities, differences, and correlations between the two. 

HIV vs AIDS: overview

The following HIV vs AIDS comparison table presents the analysis of various factors drawing a contrast between them. 

DefinitionHIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is an infection that attacks the immune systemAIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is an STD that occurs when HIV infection worsens
Causes It occurs due to the HIV virusIt occurs due to severe untreated HIV infection
Types HIV has two main categories, namely, HIV-1 and HIV-2AIDS has no types
Symptoms It has mild symptoms like fever, sore throat, fatigue etc.It has severe symptoms like prolonged diarrhea, depression, Pneumonia, etc
Transmission It can be passed on via sexual contact, mother-to-child, shared needles with an infected person, blood transmission, and moreAIDS cannot be transmitted. 
CD4 countA healthy person has a 500-1500 CD4 count per mm3, and an HIV-infected person has a lower count than this, but in some cases, it can be higherA person with AIDS has 200 or lower CD4 count per mm3
TreatmentHIV cannot be cured, but it is treated using Antiretroviral Therapy effectivelyAIDS is also treated with Antiretroviral Therapy, but it is not as effective as in the case of HIV

What is HIV

HIV, or Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is an infection-causing virus that targets the immune system and spreads mostly from sexual contact.

Other ways of HIV transmission, like perinatal transmission, infection spreading through open wounds, and shared needles with an infected person, are also accountable. 

HIV symptoms are mild, like the flu, and may include

  • Fatigue
  • Chills
  • Rash
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle ache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Fever
  • Mouth ulcers
Pneumocystis Pneumonia (PCP) is a common fungal infection associated with HIV/AIDS, which leads to Pneumonia in HIV patients.

What is AIDS

AIDSSource: People_Images_from_Getty_Images
AIDS written tablets in a blue background

AIDS, or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, is a severe form of HIV infection that occurs due to lack of treatment. It takes 10-15 years for untreated HIV to turn into AIDS. 

It cannot be transmitted like HIV. It only develops from a long-term HIV infection that has not received treatment. 

AIDS symptoms are more likely to show up and are more severe. Some of them are:

  • Rapid weight loss
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Diarrhea for more than a week
  • Fever and night sweat
  • Pneumonia
  • Pink, red, or brown blotches may appear on the nose, eyelids, and mouth
  • Neurological diseases, depression, memory loss
  • Sores in the mouth, genital area, and anus

Is there a cure for AIDS and HIV

No, currently, there is no cure for HIV/ AIDS, but it is possible to control it with treatment. 

If HIV is treated on time, it usually does not progress into AIDS. 

Even if it progresses to AIDS, one should talk to a doctor and start with the treatment to enhance the quality of life. 

Recommended Article
To know more about the types of HIV/AIDS medications used for treatment,Read HIV/AIDS Medication: A Comprehensive Overview of Antiretroviral Therapies

HIV vs AIDS treatment

Antibiotics are the primary form of treatmentSource: AlexRaths_from_Getty_Images_Pro
Various medication pills

The treatment for both HIV and AIDS is Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), which involves combinations of medicines. 

It can be in the form of pills and shots. 

The ones beginning the treatment are given pills, and after an effective three months of treatment and reaching an undetectable viral load, one can consider shots after consulting a doctor. 

Besides, PEP, or Post-exposure Prophylaxis, is another option used by doctors when someone has been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours. 

PrEP, or Pre-exposure Prophylaxis, is a prevention measure one can opt for after consulting a doctor to avoid acquiring HIV. 

It can be in the form of a pill taken daily or an infection taken every two months.

HIV is associated with a central nervous system infection called Cryptococcal meningitis, which affects the brain and spinal cord. Consulting a doctor for HIV treatment is advised to avoid such complications.

Is AIDS and HIV the same thing

When talking about HIV vs AIDS, questions like  “What is the relationship between HIV and AIDS?” or “Are they the same?” are natural to come up. 

To begin with, both HIV and AIDS are related, but they are not the same thing. 

HIV is an infection that spreads from sexual contact, perinatal transmission, or through shared needles and open wounds.

On the other hand, AIDS is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) , which is an advanced form of HIV infection that can prove fatal. 

So, HIV can be understood as a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI ) which worsens over time to cause an STD called AIDS. 


HIV and AIDS are both related but also drastically different. 

HIV is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI), whereas AIDS is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) that occurs when untreated HIV worsens. 

While HIV can be transmitted through sexual contact, from mother to child, and through blood transfusion and wounds, AIDS cannot be transmitted. 

HIV is characterized by mild flu-like symptoms, which include fever, tiredness, and sore throat.

In contrast, AIDS has adverse symptoms like prolonged diarrhea, weight loss, and depression. 

The treatment for both HIV vs AIDS is Antiretroviral Therapy, but it is more effective if HIV has not turned into AIDS. 

Be it HIV or AIDS, one must prioritize medical guidance and proper treatment immediately after diagnosis, which ensures a better shot at a healthier and longer life.

Frequently Asked Questions

How is HIV different from AIDS?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks the human immune system by killing CD4 cells and spreading infection. It transmits mainly from sexual contact, so it is considered an STI. It turns into AIDS (Auto Immunodeficiency Syndrome) if not treated timely. So, AIDS is a consequence of long-term, untreated HIV. 

Is there a difference between HIV and AIDS symptoms?

Although the symptoms of AIDS and HIV are not much different, HIV may show mild symptoms or none at all. However, once it progresses into AIDS, most people observe adverse symptoms like rapid weight loss, fatigue, diarrhea for more than a week, Pneumonia, depression, prolonged swollen lymph glands, sores, etc. 

Can you have AIDS without HIV?

No, one cannot have AIDS without having HIV, as the virus itself causes an infection that turns into AIDS if left untreated for years. So, a person with AIDS also has HIV. However, it is not necessary to develop AIDS if exposed to HIV as it can be controlled with treatment. 

How long does it take for HIV to turn into AIDS?

Not every HIV infection turns into AIDS, but when it is not treated, it mostly takes 10-15 years to turn into STD AIDS. This is the extreme form of HIV where the infection severely damages the immune system, and the CD4 count drops to 200 cells/mm3 or less.

Does HIV always turn into AIDS?

No, HIV does not always turn into AIDS. With Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), the transmission rate has lowered. Still, if the infection is not treated, it turns into AIDS within 10-15 years. This is the most severe form of HIV infection, which makes you prone to opportunistic infections.

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