What's the big deal about HIVand AIDS?

It's easy to think that AIDS and HIV are things for other people to worry about - gay people, African people, drug users, people who sleep around. This is wrong - all people, whoever they are, wherever they live can get HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. To be able to protect yourself, you need to know the facts and know how to avoid becoming infected.

The first thing to know is that often people think that HIV and AIDS are the same thing, when actually they both have different meanings. 'HIV' is the name for a virus and 'AIDS' is a name for a collection of illnesses caused by the virus.

HIV

HIV stands for 'Human Immunodeficiency Virus'. 'Immunodeficiency' is a word that describes how the HIV virus weakens a person's immune system; this is the part of the body that fights off illnesses like colds and flu.

AIDS

AIDS stands for 'acquired immune deficiency syndrome'. It means a collection of illnesses ('syndrome') caused by a virus people pick up ('acquire') that makes their immune system get weak ('immune deficiency') You cannot get an AIDS diagnosis unless you are HIV positive.

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