HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is different from most other viruses because it attacks the immune system. The immune system gives our bodies the ability to fight infections. HIV finds and destroys a type of white blood cell (CD4+ T-cells or T-cells) that the immune system must have to fight disease.
AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection. AIDS is not a disease, but a diagnosis of different symptoms of advanced HIV. It can take years for a person infected with HIV, even without treatment, to reach this stage.
Having AIDS means that the virus has weakened the immune system to the point at which the body has a difficult time fighting infection. When someone has one or more specific infections, certain cancers, or a very low number of T cells, he or she is considered to have AIDS.
It is also important to remember that even if a person has recovered from these opportunistic infections, or their T cell count goes back up, they still carry an AIDS diagnosis.
Find more information about HIV and AIDS in the United States, its history, and the science behind it at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Tweet