Health & Medicine General Medicine

A Comprehensive Guide to HIV and AIDS


To date, HIV and AIDS have caused around 33 million deaths globally. Knowing this disease well is the first step to prevent its spread.

There are currently many treatment options available. Today HIV is considered a chronic but manageable disease. People with HIV who receive treatment can live long and healthy lives.

Facts about HIV and AIDS

  • It is estimated that in 2019, at least 38 million people were living with HIV.
  • In the United States, there are an estimated 1.2 million people over the age of 13 with HIV.
  • December 1 is World AIDS Day.
  • In 2014, 1 in 4 people with AIDS in the United States was a woman.
  • An infected person can manifest the advanced stage of the disease or AIDS, between 2 to 15 years after contracting HIV.
  • It is estimated that 1 in 7 people in the United States do not know they have HIV.

What is HIV?

This is a virus that directly attacks the immune system. Specifically, HIV attacks cells called CD4 cells, which circulate through the body to detect infections and other abnormalities in the body. Imagine that these CD4 cells are little policemen in your body tasked with detecting wrongdoers.

However, HIV infiltrates the CD4 white blood cells to create its own copies of the virus. The result is a weak immune system where any dangerous or harmless microorganism can cause many health problems.

Are HIV and AIDS the same thing? What is the meaning of HIV and AIDS?

No. The word HIV means “human immunodeficiency virus.” For its part, AIDS stands for “acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.” It is an advanced stage of HIV infection.

Difference between HIV and AIDS

A person who has HIV is not necessarily going to develop AIDS.

AIDS is diagnosed when HIV destroys so many CD4 cells that their blood counts are less than 200 per cubic millimeter. The normal thing is to have between 500 and 1500 CD4 cells per cubic millimeter in your blood.

AIDS is also diagnosed when a person with HIV develops some rare type of cancer or an opportunistic infection. They are diseases that do not develop in people without HIV.

Signs and Symptoms of HIV and AIDS

Some people do not have symptoms until years after contracting the virus. However, 80% have flu-like symptoms 2 to 6 weeks after being infected.

Early symptoms of HIV:

  • Fever.
  • Shaking chills.
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Acne.
  • Throat pain.
  • Headache.
  • Upset stomach and nausea.
  • General discomfort.
  • Muscle pains.
  • Weakness.

Symptoms of AIDS:

  • White spots on the tongue or mouth.
  • Night sweats.
  • Trouble breathing or dyspnea.
  • Night sweats.
  • Blurry vision.
  • Involuntary weight loss.
  • Fever that lasts for weeks.
  • Chronic diarrhea.
  • Swollen glands for a long time.

Causes of HIV and AIDS

Scientists suspect that HIV is a variation of a similar virus common among African chimpanzees. It is believed that in the 1920s it jumped from chimpanzee to humans after consuming chimpanzee meat.

The virus transformed into the form we know today, which was identified in 1959.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through body fluids such as:

  • Semen.
  • Vaginal and rectal fluids.
  • Blood.
  • Breastmilk.
  • Routes of transmission between person to person:
  • Sexual relations (vaginal or anal sex). This is the most common way.
  • By sharing syringes, needles, injectables, or unsterilized tattoo equipment.
  • During pregnancy or childbirth.
  • Through breastfeeding.
  • Exposure to contaminated body fluids. Through an accidental puncture.

HIV and AIDS diagnosis

HIV is diagnosed through a blood test. You can see your healthcare professional or use a home test kit.

You can also take a free trial. Use the CDC evidence locator to locate the location closest to you.

Cure for HIV and AIDS. What is the treatment?

There is currently no cure. However, it can be treated with drugs known as “antiretroviral therapy.”

These drugs help control HIV infection and lower the risk of passing the virus to other people.

How to prevent HIV and AIDS?

  • When you have sex, use a new condom.
  • Use water-based lubricants, not oil.
  • Don’t share needles. Always use new, clean needles.
  • Continue antiretroviral treatment during pregnancy. Go to all your prenatal checkups.


If you have HIV or suspect that you have been exposed, do not be afraid. Most people with HIV can live a long, healthy life if they start and maintain antiretroviral therapy.

Consult with your health provider and go to your regular check-ups.


  • Maina, G., Mill, J., Chaw-Kant, J., & Caine, V. (2016). A systematic review of best practices in HIV care. Journal of HIV/AIDS & social services, 15(1), 114–126.
  • Korean Society for AIDS (2019). The 2018 Clinical Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of HIV/AIDS in HIV-Infected Koreans. Infection & chemotherapy, 51(1), 77–88.

See Also

How to treat respiratory infections?

Different Types of Headaches

How long does a cold last?