What is HIV?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It’s a virus that attacks and weakens the immune system. If it’s untreated, HIV causes so much damage that the body is no longer able to defend itself.

People who have been infected with 
HIV are often referred to as being HIV-positive (sometimes this is written as HIV+, or even +ve). Although there have been many advances in treatment in recent years, there is still no cure for HIV infection.

What is AIDS?

HIV is the virus that can lead to AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and is seen by the appearance of the opportunistic infections (infections like tuberculosis which take advantage of a weakened immune system) that are a result of HIV.

If you are diagnosed with 
HIV early, and respond well to treatment, you are less likely to develop AIDS.

The name 'AIDS' was more appropriate many years ago, when doctors didn’t fully understand the late stages of 
HIV infection. Today we know that AIDS is not a syndrome at all, because a syndrome is a collection of symptoms that do not have an easily identifiable cause. A more current name for the illness caused by the late stages of HIV infection is HIV disease. However, AIDS is still the name that most people use to refer to the immune deficiency caused by HIV.

As treatment for HIV infection becomes more effective, fewer people in the UK are now given an AIDS diagnosis.

BONUS VIDEO: Listen to these gay men talk about their life with HIV: