What Is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV causes AIDS by attacking CD4 cells, which the immune system uses to protect the body from disease. When the immune system loses too many CD4 cells, you are less able to fight off infection and can develop serious, often deadly, infections. These are called oppurtunistic infections(OIs).
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HIV AND AIDS?
When someone dies of AIDS, it is usually OIs or other long-term effects of HIV that cause death. AIDS refers to the weakened state of the body’s immune system that can no longer stop opportunistic infections.
You do not have AIDS as soon as you are infected with HIV. You can live with HIV (be HIV+) for many years with no signs of disease, or only mild-to-moderate symptoms. People living with HIV and taking HIV drugs as prescribed have a very low risk of progressing to AIDS. But without treatment, HIV will eventually wear down the immune system in most people to the point that they have low numbers of CD4 cells and develop opportunistic infections. Without treatment, this usually happens in five to ten years.
The definition of AIDS was established before there was effective treatment for HIV. It indicated that a person was at higher risk for illness or death. In countries where HIV treatment is readily available, AIDS is no longer as relevant as it once was. This is because having access to effective treatment means people can stay healthier even with low CD4 counts. Also, someone could have received the AIDS diagnosis years ago even though they no longer have a low CD4.
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