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Are HIV and AIDS the Same Thing?

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Updated June 06, 2014

Question: Are HIV and AIDS the Same Thing?
What's the most common question I get here at About.com? That's simple.

    "Are HIV and AIDS the same thing?

In the media you often here the terms HIV and AIDS used interchangeably. But the fact of the matter is that HIV and AIDS is not the same thing. How do they differ? How are the connected?

Answer:
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the body's immune system by attaching to the CD4 cell. When it does, HIV weakens the body's natural ability to fight off infection. Simply put, HIV weakens the body's immune system.

The Immune System

If left untreated, HIV will eventually weaken the immune system so much that the person will become sick with types of infections known as opportunistic infections or OIs.

Opportunistic Infection Fact Sheets

The most serious of these OIs are called AIDS defining illnesses. When the person becomes ill with one of the AIDS defining illnesses, he or she is said to have Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

What Are the AIDS Defining Illnesses?

For some, it takes a long time to develop these infections. For others it takes less time. Not everyone with HIV has an AIDS diagnosis and AIDS is not the same as HIV.

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