What is HIV/AIDS?

What is HIV/AIDS?

By Emily, Akshara and Ameya

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus, infection with which weakens the infected individual's immune system, making it more likely for them to get sick, and even die, from other infections the body can normally control effectively.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is potentially transmittable when a person comes in close contact with certain body fluids infected with the virus. These include blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

How does HIV weaken the immune system?

HIV damages the immune system because it targets and infects a group of white blood cells called CD4+ T lymphocytes, which are crucial for protection against all infections, as well as in responses to cancer and to transplants. As HIV grows in CD4+ T cells, the cells are damaged and ultimately destroyed

There are two types of retroviruses— HIV-1 and HIV-2 which cause HIV infections. While HIV-1 is more prevalent worldwide, HIV-2 is the source of many infections in West Africa.

What is AIDS?

AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the disease caused by the HIV. Not every HIV-positive person develops AIDS right away, and the disease can even appear in some people many years after they become HIV-infected.

In AIDS, the HIV virus attacks immune cells like macrophages and T-cells. This severely impedes the immune system's ability to respond to threats. Thus, even diseases which are normally considered trivial hold a possibility of becoming serious infections. Opportunistic infections are also seen. Most deaths due to AIDS take place because of these 'side infections' which the immune system isn't able to tackle.

Understanding the Difference Between HIV and AIDS

Often, HIV and AIDS are confused for the other. This understandably common misconception is not helped by the fact that people often use the terms interchangeably. In a similar situation to SARS CoV-2 and COVID-19, HIV is the virus in question, while AIDS is the observed disease. Not all HIV positive people get AIDS, but all AIDS patients are HIV positive.