We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Difference Between HIV and AIDS?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus which attacks the T-cells in the immune system. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a syndrome which appears in advanced stages of HIV infection. The difference between HIV and AIDS is that HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a medical condition. HIV is sometimes referred to as the causative agent, since it is not possible to develop AIDS without an HIV infection, although it is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS.

HIV can be transmitted sexually or through blood products. Some common risk factors for HIV infection include: unprotected sex, needle sharing, and exposure to contaminated blood products. Once someone is infected with HIV, the virus begins to replicate in the blood, slowly hijacking the T-cells so that they cannot function normally. If the infection is allowed to progress, eventually it will develop into AIDS. People with HIV and AIDS are at increased risk of opportunistic infections, because their immune systems are weakened.

AIDS is characterized by infection with HIV and the presence of one or more opportunistic infections. Toxoplasmosis, uncontrollable candida infections, cytomegalovirus, pneumocystitis pneumonia, and Kaposi's Sarcoma are some examples of AIDS-associated infections. In tests of the patient's blood, the number of T-cells is drastically below normal readings, reflecting the weakened state of the immune system. The HIV virus in an AIDS patient's body is also still present and still infectious, and someone with AIDS can pass HIV to someone else.

One could think of the difference between HIV and AIDS in the sense that HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a disorder, much like Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) is a disorder which is caused by infection with staph bacteria. Progression of viral infection to full-blown AIDS is very undesirable, as the opportunistic infections which set in can kill the patient. Routine HIV testing can identify infection in the early stages, allowing the patient to use prophylactic drugs which will slow the rate of replication for the virus, delaying the onset of AIDS.

The line between HIV and AIDS has been blurred in the popular media, which can be confusing for lay people. Many clinics, for example, advertise “free AIDS tests” to their clients, when in fact they mean “free HIV tests.” Both HIV and AIDS are also the subject of a great deal of research in the scientific community, with doctors looking for new treatment approaches to early stages of HIV infection as well as AIDS itself.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Link to Sources
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon319223 — On Feb 11, 2013

I began noticing alarming signals that I may be HIV positive in 2005. I last tested negative in 2004 and neglected being tested again until 2009. The clinic I went to informed me that my test had come back positive and suggested I immediately begin treatment.

The fatigue, nausea and night sweats are the worst and while my medication keeps my viral load down, my T-cell count has remained steadily low at about 200. I have been admitted to the hospital several times due to low white blood counts and blood pressure problems. The emotional aspect of knowing that your body is steadily succumbing to the virus is possibly worse than the physical aspects of the disease.

I have friends who have been positive longer than I have, but their symptoms did not progress nearly as rapidly as mine have. I think that if society were to more effectively approach the AIDS crisis, it would have been easier to accept that we were heading for a road bump. I hope that with education, our next generation will be better able to approach this disease.

It is uncomfortable knowing that, even though they don't say so, people are afraid of close contact with you. There have been times when I have been on as many as 22 different prescriptions for various symptoms. It is now normal to feel abnormal. I pray that science will find a cure one day soon for this disease that has no preference as to who it afflicts. I can't be the only one feeling this way and for whatever reason, I just wanted to put it out there.

By SauteePan — On Dec 26, 2010

Cupcake15-I remember that in the 1980’s there was a family out of Arcadia, Florida that had three children all afflicted with the AIDS virus.

These little boys got the disease from tainted blood for a blood transfusion because they were hemophiliacs and constantly needed blood transfusions.

These kids were ostracized and not allowed to go to school because everyone was afraid of getting the disease.

A lot of people were discriminated against and it was not until recently that people understood that there were only a few ways that the disease could be transmitted. This virus has many visible symptoms.

The HIV and AIDS symptoms involve flu like symptoms that will not go away after a few weeks. It also includes a lack of energy and weight loss. People with this condition also experience headaches and recurring yeast infections along with night sweats.

By cupcake15 — On Dec 24, 2010

BrickBack-The HIV and AIDS statistics have grown to a staggering amount especially in Africa. Many AIDS prevention outreach programs have developed there and in parts of the inner cities in the US in order to educate people about how to protect themselves from developing this dreadful disease.

Continual use of condoms seems to be the best prevention from obtaining the HIV and AIDS virus.

It is important for people that participate in high risk behaviors such as multiple sexual partners and IV drug use should submit to HIV and AIDS testing.

Early detection of the disease will allow HIV and AIDS treatment to be more effective and will curtail the spreading of the disease. With the advances in medicine today, many people live with the HIV virus without developing the full blown AIDS disease.

By BrickBack — On Dec 22, 2010

HIV and AIDS virus first became known in the 1980’s when the first cases of AIDS have been diagnosed.

HIV and AIDS transmissions involve sharing bodily fluids or infected needles. The highest risk groups were promiscuous people having unprotected sex as well as drug addicts that used needles.

There was another population of people infected with this virus that resulted from tainted blood from blood transfusions. Now it is illegal for anyone to donate blood if they are infected with the disease.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.