In far too many contexts the two words AIDS and HIV is written HIV/AIDS. Most people then think that the two very different concepts is the same thing. But it is possible to make different divisions of the meaning of the words, which then helps us to recognise the variety of dimensions connected to the virus – HIV and the phenomena - AIDS. Let me describe what I'm thinking about.

HIV is an abbreviation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is a virus that attacks the core of the human immune system, and makes the white blood cells (T-helper cells) produce new viruses. In the long run, this leads to a fragile immune system, a system that is torn down, and the amount of white blood cells is being decreased.

If there is no treatment available, the body will soon be wide open to a lot of different attacks from the outside environment; viruses and bacterial, which usually is no threat for us human beings. These can now become life-threatening.

This stage of the disease is called AIDS. It is an abbreviation of Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome, which means that the body’s defense against viruses and bacterial has been severely damaged. It is now when people can see that someone is ill. The different symptoms reveal the severe state of the human with AIDS, and people in the surrounding can now start to react. And believe me, people react in different ways, depending on knowledge, tradition and feelings.

I usually refer HIV to the medical area of the disease and AIDS symbolises all the other parts. The anti-retroviral medicines that exist have different tasks. They prevent the virus to enter the cells, slow down the multiplication of viruses or destroy the virus circulating freely in the blood. There is also a statistic side connected to HIV. UNAIDS and others often talks about HIV prevalence, i.e. the share of humans in a society/country/region living with HIV. In these cases, HIV is used in statistical contexts. Statistics can also be a way to side step the core of the problem.


There are so many sides of the disease. When we use the concept AIDS, we refer to a series of complex perspectives, and we can then describe the disease from a more holistic view. AIDS consists of 13 different perspectives and has to be understood in that sense in order for us to realise the seriousness and possibilities of the pandemic.
See more about All the 13 perspectives of AIDS.