AIDS is one of the most deadly human disease pandemics in history, responsible for more than 25 million deaths since 1981. At the moment, there are thought to be 33.4 million people suffering from HIV infection or AIDS. The two conditions are not the same thing, although they are often mentioned together and used interchangeably. However there is a relationship between HIV and AIDS.
What Does AIDS Stand For?
AIDS is an acronym for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Patients suffering from AIDS are very vulnerable to potentially fatal infections, neurological disorders, and tumors. To find out what HIV stands for what does AIDS stand for, we need to break the acronym down to each word:
- A – Acquired: AIDS is caught from other individuals; it is not transferred through faulty genes.
- I – Immune: AIDS is a disease of the immune system, the system in charge of tackling infections and foreign molecules inside the body, such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
- D – Deficiency: AIDS damages the immune response, rendering it increasingly incapable of dealing with infection.
- S – Syndrome: AIDS patients usually suffer from many different illnesses and opportunistic infections.
So what does HIV stand for?
- Human: HIV only affects people, not animals.
- Immunodeficiency: The infection makes the patient’s immune system deficient, unable to function properly.
- Virus: The infectious agent is viral, and therefore it cannot replicate itself. It has to use the infected human cell’s own machinery to reproduce.
Although HIV has many similarities to other viruses, such as those that cause flu or the common cold, there is a crucial difference. Whereas people can usually mount a sufficient immune response to clear other virus particles from the body, HIV remains in your system for life.
Note: HIV is not to be mistaken for HPV, human papilloma virus. There are many types of HPV; some are harmless, some cause genital warts, and some cause cancer, but all are different from HIV.
What Is the Relationship Between HIV and AIDS?
After knowing the answer to what does AIDS stand for, here’s more about the correlation between these two:
HIV Infection Can Lead to AIDS
Upon contracting HIV, the immune system tries to defend the body from the infection by synthesizing antibodies, proteins specifically designed to combat the virus. Using an HIV test, you can see whether the blood contains these antibodies. If the antibodies are detected, the person has the HIV infection and is said to be “HIV-positive”.
Being HIV-Positive Does Not Necessarily Mean that You Have AIDS
Many HIV-positive patients do not become ill for several years after the initial infection. However, the virus remains within the body and gradually overcomes the immune system. When immunity is low, bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites that the body can normally fight against become “opportunistic infections”, and can make the patient very ill.
How Does HIV Attack Human Body?
There are two major strategies that HIV uses to evade the immune response. Firstly, the virus can spend long periods of time “hiding” in the body’s cells to protect it from being destroyed. Secondly, HIV specifically attacks CD4+ T-cells, a vital component of your immune system necessary to defend you against disease and infection. The T-cells are invaded by the HIV, which then uses the cells’ internal machinery to duplicate itself, then burst from the cell, destroying the cell in the process. After a while, the CD4+ cell population becomes so depleted that the body loses its ability to tackle infections. At this stage, the patient has probably developed AIDS, the last phase of HIV infection.
How Is HIV Controlled?
It is important to recognize that not all HIV-positive people go on to develop AIDS. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is an effective treatment developed in the mid-90s that keeps the amount of HIV particles in the body low. ART is used as a combination therapy consisting of different types of HIV drug. Before ART was available, many HIV patients would develop AIDS within a few years; now HIV-positive individuals receiving ART can live a healthier life, with life expectancy almost that of unaffected people. What’s more, they are less likely to pass the virus on to others than untreated HIV patients. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV as yet, and the virus remains in the body, but researchers hope to discover a cure within the next few years.