We have to be clear about the difference between HIV and AIDS, and certainly not use them interchangeably or incorrectly. HIV i-Base describes them as follows:

HIV is a virus that causes damage to the immune system. This usually occurs slowly and over many years. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

AIDS is the medical condition caused by HIV. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This cover a range of illness that your body becomes vulnerable to after HIV has damaged your immune system.

Without treatment, 95% of people who are infected with HIV will progress to AIDS. This can take from 1 to 15 years, and on average takes 5-10 years.

Antriretroviral Therapy (ART) has changed the outlook for HIV positive people 

  • Treatment is now effective and easier to take than ever before.
  • Life expectancy is similar to being HIV negative – especially if you are diagnosed early and begin treatment. Being HIV positive might actually help you live longer because you will access medical care throughout your life.
  • The risk of transmitting HIV when on treatment is effectively zero. This means that our sexual partners, if they are HIV negative, are protected too. This should also help reduce the fear about HIV. It should help reduce stigma.

In the UK, we now don’t see AIDS very often, thanks to very succesful ART, using very effective antiretrovirals (ARVs) and so we rarely need to refer to AIDS. Some journals and organisations have changes their name to reflect this…but we still have NAT, and our own organisation is still NYAA (North Yorkshire AIDS Action). They have become almost “brand names”, and so people are reluctant to change them, even though in practice, here in the UK, we very rarely now see AIDS. Of course, things are different in other countries…

So it is important to think about when to use HIV and when to use AIDS, and to ensure that they are used correctly and not interchanged or confused.