What is HIV and AIDS: what’s the difference? Symptoms and treatment

Freddy Mercury, Cazuza, Renato Russo, Magic Johnson, Caio Fernando Abreu and Michel Foucault. All of these names have something in common: they are from personalities who have been infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV.

What started to be considered by many as a “ gay cancer ”, through activism and development in research, has come to not be so frightening, since all this collective effort has led to the development of effective treatments.

Despite all these advances, it is still necessary to be very careful with the HIV virus, as being infected by it can bring drastic changes to a person’s life.


What is HIV?

HIV is a virus, or, more specifically, a retrovirus that infects the body’s defense cells. If left untreated, it can cause the patient to manifest Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS.

It is considered an STI, or Sexually Transmitted Infection, because one of its routes of transmission is through unprotected sex with infected people. However, the disease also has other forms of transmission, such as blood transfusion or needle sharing.

There is still no cure for HIV infection, but the treatment helps the patient to lead a normal life and even to have a life expectancy close to that of people who have not been infected.

The disease was not discovered until 1981 and scientists speculate that it first appeared in chimpanzees and then began to infect humans.

According to Dr. Mônica, the HIV virus is derived from the simian immunodeficiency virus, also known as SIV, which mainly affects chimpanzees.

“There is some historical evidence of times when certain African populations went through periods of civil war and, with that, went to live in the forests. To survive, they killed the monkeys to eat their meat. At that moment, they ended up coming into contact with infected blood ” , he explains.

“ This contact between human blood and monkey blood promoted the possibility of evolution and adaptation of SIV in humans.”

The acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) can be found in the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-10) through code B24.

HIV and AIDS: what is the difference?

Many people are confused and think that HIV and AIDS are the same thing.

We say that a patient is HIV positive when he was infected with HIV. AIDS, on the other hand, happens when the person infected with HIV has his immune system damaged by the action of the virus, that is, when the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome manifests itself.

When the HIV virus kicks in, the immune system is compromised and does not fight off disease-causing invaders effectively. Thus, the patient is more susceptible to even the simplest infections and their complications.

This means that, for an AIDS patient, pneumonia can turn into a serious infection that puts him at risk of death.


In general, there are 2 types of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2 . HIV-1 is the most common in the world and has been discovered by the scientific community before. HIV-2, on the other hand, is less pathogenic and its presence is limited to that part of West Africa.

The difference between the two is in the fact that HIV-2 produces a smaller amount of viral particles than HIV-1, but, in general, both have practically the same action in the body.

That is why people who already have HIV should use condoms even with people who also have them. Firstly, because you can’t tell which type of virus is affecting your partner and, mainly, because people can be infected by the two types of the virus.

In such cases, the infection has the potential to become even more serious than it already is.

Cause: How does the HIV virus attack the body?

HIV infection happens when there is contact with the virus, that is, when the person has unprotected sex with someone infected or when sharing syringes. Therefore, when not paying attention to risk factors.

The main cause of AIDS, on the other hand, is the action of HIV in the body. More specifically, HIV belongs to the family of retroviruses, a type of virus that does not use DNA as its genetic material, but RNA. To understand the action of the virus, however, we need to remember some concepts about cell biology.

DNA is nothing more than the molecule that makes up our genetic code. It is formed by a double strand of nitrogenous bases that, inside the cell nucleus, undergo a process called transcriptase , which transforms DNA into RNA.

RNA, in turn, is like the messenger of DNA. It is a kind of “copy” of a part of DNA and serves to carry information to the cytoplasm and other cellular organelles (which are part of the structure of cells).

In turn, cell organelles will use this information brought in by RNA to produce nutrients and compounds essential for the functioning of the organism.

To explain it through a palpable example, let’s use a gallbladder cell as an example.

An individual gallbladder cell, like all cells in the human body, has DNA within the nucleus, which contains the genetic code of the entire organism. She, however, specializes in producing bile, so most of the DNA will not be used in its mechanical functioning.

To produce bile, only a specific part of the cell’s DNA is transformed into RNA (transcriptase process). This small strand of RNA is transported to a cell organelle that will translate it and start the process of bile formation.

What happens with retroviruses, and consequently with HIV, is that they invert the transcriptase process and make RNA do the opposite way, that is, go from the cell’s cytoplasm to the nucleus. This process is called reverse transcriptase .

In reverse transcriptase, the virus’s RNA enters the cell and is translated into DNA, causing the cell itself to start producing viral RNA, that is, reproducing the virus.

The problem is in the type of cell that is attacked and suffers from this process. In the case of HIV, the cells of preference for the retrovirus are T lymphocytes, a type of leukocyte, or white blood cells, which are the cells of our immune system.

Lymphocytes, on the other hand, are the “messengers” of the immune system. They play a role in identifying invading microorganisms and letting the rest of the immune system know that the body is experiencing an infection.

The HIV virus more specifically attacks CD4 T lymphocytes, known as immune system helpers, which have the function of coordinating the body’s defense mechanisms against bacteria, viruses and fungi.

When attacking these lymphocytes, HIV makes the body subject to infections and their complications, even simple ones, like the flu . This, however, only happens when there is a very high viral load in the body.

With the diagnosis and use of medications, it is possible to prevent HIV infection from developing and becoming Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS or AIDS).

In other words, the cause of HIV is contact with the virus , while the cause of AIDS is the weakening of the immune system .

Transmission: myths and truths

The HIV virus is transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, by sharing syringes and needles and by blood transfusion. There are many myths and truths about HIV transmission and we are going to demystify them here. Check out:

HIV passes through saliva?

No! There is not enough virus in a person’s saliva for transmission to occur through kissing or exchanging saliva. Even if the person has a cut in the mouth, the chance of transmission through this route is too low to even be considered.

Is there a need for penetration for HIV transmission?

No! The release of fluids and secretions that still occur during foreplay can transmit the virus from one person to another.

Does the HIV virus pass through the latex of a condom?

No! Latex prevents the exchange of secretions and fluids, preventing the transmission of the virus. If used correctly, the condom prevents the transmission of the virus with a very high degree of success.

Learn more: How to put male and female condoms and the most common mistakes !

Who has HIV needs to use a condom if the partner also has the virus?

Yea! Even if the partner also has HIV infection, it is necessary to use a condom in every intimate contact, as there are different subtypes of HIV. The truth is that you cannot know exactly which subtype of the virus your partner has.

So, when you have sex with someone who is also infected without protection, you run the risk of being infected by more than one subtype of the virus, and this makes treatment difficult.

Does oral sex transmit HIV?

Yea! During oral sex, fluid changes occur that may be contaminated, causing transmission. Therefore, use a condom even during oral sex.

Sharing sex toys is another form of transmission. If you really want to share a sex toy with your partner, use an individual condom each time the toy is shared from one person to another.

Does HIV only pass through anal sex?

No! HIV, as we saw earlier, happens through the exchange of fluids and secretions, so even vaginal and oral sex can transmit the infection.

Is it possible to contract the HIV virus in tattoo parlors?

Yea! All instruments in a tattoo parlor must be completely sterilized and, depending on the location and its owners, this may not happen or may not be done correctly.

It is very important that when getting a tattoo, that you choose a studio that is trustworthy and known for its hygiene practices and that uses disposable materials.

Risk factors

HIV does not have a preference for who to infect. Anyone who is sexually active is subject to exposure to risky situations and can be infected. Understand more:

Do not use a condom

Anyone who has unprotected sex with another infected person is at risk of becoming infected with HIV.

Can it happen to not be contagious? Theoretically yes. It is possible that the infected partner has a very low viral load, however, as a rule, this is a very high risk situation.

So always use a condom . There is no point in running the risk of being infected.

Sharing syringes and needles

One way of transmitting HIV is through needle sharing. Infection by this route occurs especially in drug addicts such as cocaine, which in addition to sniffing can be injected, and heroin, another drug that uses needles to be used.

It is also possible that this type of transmission occurs in hospitals that reuse materials or tattoo parlors that do not properly sanitize their equipment.

Therefore, always try to be sure of the quality of hygiene in the places where you can expose yourself to these risky situations.

Blood transfusion

It may happen that the blood donor is infected with the virus and transmits the disease through transfusion. This type of transmission, however, is very rare in view of the care taken by the medical staff of the blood banks.

Vertical transmission

If the pregnant woman is infected with the HIV virus, mother-to-child transmission, also called vertical transmission, can occur. This situation can be avoided if the mother-to-be seeks medical advice and takes appropriate precautionary and treatment measures.

Lack of dialogue

One of the main reasons why HIV rates remain high is disinformation , which, for the most part, is caused by a lack of dialogue. Sex is still a huge taboo for most Brazilians, which makes dialogue on the subject difficult.

We still live in a country that, for the most part, sees sex as a very big taboo, that doesn’t talk to its children about the dangers of unprotected sex and that refuses to educate teenagers about sexuality, a subject with which they go. inevitably live together, especially at that stage of age.

As a result, both parents and children are ashamed to bring it up, find it embarrassing and end up preferring to keep quiet rather than talk about sex, which ends up representing a major risk factor for the transmission of the disease.

It is not by chance that the number of cases of HIV infection in young people between 15 and 19 years old has tripled, jumping from 2.4 to 6.9 cases per 100 thousand inhabitants, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

Having been diagnosed with another STD

Statistically, people who have had other STDs are at greater risk of becoming infected with HIV. Not only because, theoretically, they tend to be more exposed to risky situations, but also because many STDs cause inflammation in the genitalia, which facilitates, for example, the appearance of wounds that can serve as an entry for HIV.

One disease ends up facilitating the entry of another, therefore, patients who have already had trichomoniasis , candidiasis (which is not considered an STD, but which causes inflammation of the genitalia) or HPV , for example, can be considered a risk group for HIV.

Social exclusion

One factor that contributes a lot to the increased risk of contracting HIV is social exclusion .

People who do not have access to education, who are victims of LGBTphobia, who are forced to prostitute themselves and also because of uncontrollable factors such as race and color, end up having less access to prevention methods, which makes them more susceptible to HIV infection.

With that, it can be said that part of the population at risk are:

  • Men who have sex with other men;
  • Transgender;
  • Sex workers.

High incidence of HIV in young and old

Despite the advances provided by activism and research, which allowed the invention of a treatment for HIV infection, care with prevention regarding this virus can never be ignored.

According to data from the Department of Surveillance, Prevention and Control of STIs, HIV / AIDS and Viral Hepatitis, from the Ministry of Health, there is a decrease in HIV detection rates in all age groups, except for young people between 15 and 19 years and in people over 60 years.

“What is common to both populations is that, despite the knowledge that the infection has been around for a long time, prevention methods are little used” , explains Dr. Mônica Gomes.

“In the younger population, we see that adherence to condoms is low due to optimism regarding the treatment. The treatment has actually improved, however, this makes you less afraid of being infected. ”

As for the increase in older populations, Dr. Mônica explains that “there are cultural problems in the older age group. In this range, one has less habit of using condoms, not least because, when they were younger, this generation did not even have the concept of condoms. ”

Even though it does not seem as dangerous as it used to be, HIV infection has great consequences in people’s lives, who have to radically change their routine precisely to avoid the complications of this infection, which remain the same as they were 30 years ago.

HIV symptoms

HIV symptoms usually appear around 10 days after infection, however, at this time the virus is not yet identifiable in the body, as there was not enough time for the body to produce anti-HIV antibodies.

In general, it takes around 30 to 60 days for the body to start producing these antibodies, which are identifiable in the exams.

At the beginning of the infection, the symptoms are very similar to those of a common flu, including manifestations such as fever and malaise. For this reason, the vast majority of cases go unnoticed, as the patient thinks he has a simple cold .

First symptoms of HIV

In addition to fever and malaise, the main symptoms of these first moments of infection are usually:

  • Prolonged diarrhea;
  • Slimming;
  • Weakness;
  • Lung problems;
  • Developmental difficulties in infected children.

Less frequently (10% of cases), it may happen that the patient also has:

  • Liver enlargement;
  • Enlarged spleen;
  • Emergence of oral, anal or genital ulcers;
  • Diarrhea and vomiting, which can lead to weight loss of up to 5 kg.

When a person has the HIV virus, the symptoms may not be much more severe than these. The great indication of the manifestation of the infection, however, is when the symptoms start to become more similar to those of the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS.

This delay in the appearance of symptoms occurs due to the incubation period of the virus, which, after infecting the organism, is in a state of latency.

In this phase, as the infectologist, Dr. Mônica Gomes explains, “ there is a struggle between immunity and the virus and, after a period of 6 to 10 weeks, the immune system, which is preserved initially, is able to control the replication of the virus” .

This fight with the virus in the initial phase does not affect the functioning of the organism as much, because “it is in a very small amount. Over time, the virus creates mutations to overcome the immune response and kills the defense cells until the patient becomes ill. This process tends to last, on average, 8 years ”.

AIDS symptoms

In the case of AIDS, the symptoms are divided into two phases, the initial symptomatic phase and the acute infection . Understand:

First symptoms of AIDS

In the beginning, when the virus has not yet severely affected the organism, the symptoms are usually very characteristic and easily identifiable, which makes doctors relatively easy to raise a suspicion. Are they:

  • Appearance of oral candidiasis;
  • Constant feeling of tiredness (fatigue);
  • Appearance of ganglia in the armpits, groins and neck;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Fever;
  • Organic weakness;
  • Night sweating;
  • Weight loss greater than 10%.

However, it is always worth remembering that the symptoms may not be the same for all patients and it is not only when all of these are present that a suspicion of AIDS can be raised.

Always consult with your doctor before making any assumptions. He is the most qualified professional for this task and will order all the necessary tests for a confirmatory diagnosis.

Symptoms of acute AIDS infection

Acute infection is when the virus has already spread widely throughout the body, impairing the functioning of the immune system. For this reason, the symptoms become even more characteristic. Are they:

  • Constant headaches;
  • State of prostration – when the patient is extremely dejected, physically and mentally;
  • Sores in the mouth, esophagus and genitals;
  • Lack of appetite;
  • Tongue and skin patches that appear and disappear after a few days;
  • Excessive weight loss (greater than 10%);
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Increased sensitivity to light;
  • Alteration of the lymph nodes;
  • Pharyngitis;
  • Muscle and joint pain.

It is worth remembering that the symptoms of the previous phases can also be present in this and that not all of these symptoms will always affect a patient.

Diagnosis: How do I know if I have HIV?


The diagnosis of HIV infection is usually made through blood tests and other tests that are usually requested by the general practitioner or the infectious disease specialist .

It is also very common for HIV to be diagnosed at the time the patient is going to donate blood.

So far, he does not know he has the infection, but as the blood bank, for safety reasons, always tests a sample before passing it on to a patient in need, HIV ends up being diagnosed and the result is passed on to the donor.

Check out the main methods of HIV diagnosis:

ELISA test

The ELISA test, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, serves to identify specific antibodies in a blood sample, being used for the diagnosis of various diseases, not only infections, but also autoimmune diseases and allergies.

When anti-HIV antibodies are detected in the blood, it is necessary to perform another additional test, the so-called confirmatory test. The main ones are the Western Blot, the Indirect Immunofluorescence Test (in the case of HIV-1) and the Immunoblot.

These confirmatory tests are necessary because the tests can give false positives, especially if the patient has diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis , autoimmune diseases and some types of cancer.

Western Blot Test

The Western Blot test is done with a normal blood collection, being considered a confirmatory test, that is, it is only indicated in cases where the ELISA test was positive for HIV. In this more specific test, laboratory tests seek to find fragments of HIV.

Indirect immunofluorescence test for HIV-1

This test, as the name implies, is specific for HIV type 1 and works by detecting anti-HIV antibodies. For the examination, a sample of the patient’s blood is added to a microscope plate, on which the immunofluorescence microscope is read.


Another confirmatory test, the Immunoblot has the advantage of being more specific than the others, despite being less sensitive (that is, the cases of false-negative results are smaller, but the test is more likely to give false-positive results).

However, it is more expensive than the others and is mostly used to confirm HIV-1 infection.

Quick test

The big difference from the quick test to the others is that the test results come out on the same day, about 30 minutes or 2 hours after collection.

The advantage of this method is that the patient can know the result at the time of the medical consultation, which increases the speed when receiving pre- and post-test counseling.

The test is offered by SUS, free of charge, or can be purchased at pharmacies . It is simple to perform and requires only a small blood sample – just a drop .

Oral fluid

This is the most recent type of test and uses samples of fluids taken from the mouth, especially the gums and cheek mucosa. The result comes out within 30 minutes, and it is possible to do it anywhere in a practical and easy way.

Even so, this test serves only as a screening, which means that, if it is positive, the patient will still need to do a confirmatory test.

Immune window: how long should I wait to be tested?

After being exposed to a risky situation, what is considered ideal is for the patient to do any of the HIV tests as soon as possible and to repeat them after 30 days.

In most cases, even with a negative result, the doctor will still ask you to run the test again after 90 days.

This method is adopted because there is a factor called the immune window .

The immunological window is nothing more than the time needed for the test to be positive for HIV. That is, it is the time counted from the exposure to the virus until the moment when it is “visible” to the exams.

Considering all the tests available and the most used today for the detection of HIV, the time of the immunological window can vary from 15 to 90 days. Therefore, to be sure, it is best to perform the tests and then repeat them within the period recommended by your doctor.

Is there a cure?

No . Unfortunately, HIV infection has no cure yet, as the virus cannot be eliminated from the body.

Scientists have been trying for years to find some way to cure HIV or develop a vaccine, but almost all attempts, with the exception of the Berlin patient, have been unsuccessful.

However, despite having no cure, HIV has treatment and, through it, the patient is able to live a life without major complications. It is even estimated that with the correct treatment, the life expectancy of HIV-positive patients is almost the same as that of people who have not suffered an infection.

The case of the Berlin Patient

Timothy Ray Brown, or Berlin Patient, as he became known worldwide, was diagnosed with HIV in 1995. Since then, he has been treated with the use of antiretrovirals and was able to control his viral load well (amount of viruses circulating in the body).

American, Timothy had moved to Berlin, Germany, when, in 2006, he was diagnosed with another problem that further aggravated his condition: leukemia , a type of cancer that occurs in the formation of blood cells, making it difficult to the body’s ability to fight infections.

After undergoing a series of unsuccessful treatments in 2007, doctors decided to try a bone marrow transplant as a last resort. Timothy was lucky and managed to receive a second bone marrow transplant after the first one did not work effectively.

The treatment was a success: Timothy managed to heal from leukemia. The surprise came in later tests, when doctors checked that the HIV virus was no longer detected in the blood even without making use of the medication cocktail.

After much speculation, the experts came to the conclusion: the patient who donated the bone marrow to Timothy suffered from a mutation that prevented the HIV virus from entering cells and spreading.

In other words, the donor was immune to HIV and, after receiving the bone marrow transplant, Timothy also became. Now, as the virus was unable to spread, it was eliminated from the body.

With that, Timothy became the first and only patient to be cured of HIV so far.

However, this treatment cannot be used in most patients, because a bone marrow transplant involves a very high risk of death.

What is the treatment?

As mentioned earlier, no cure for HIV has been found, but treatment is possible through the use of antiretrovirals , a type of medication that was developed in the 1980s and helps to prevent the virus from multiplying.

Such medications are not intended to kill the virus, but to prevent compromising the immune system caused by the infection. Through correct use, the patient’s quality of life improves, including raising life expectancy to normal levels.

Brazil, unlike many other countries, has been distributing medication free of charge to all those who need it through the Unified Health System, SUS, since 1996.

Popularly known as “anti-AIDS cocktail”, it is estimated that approximately 450 thousand people use these drugs.

As a rule, treatment is done through 3 drugs, however, there is a consensus in Brazil made by the Ministry of Health, which combines the drugs. Therefore, there is a single tablet composed of lamivudine , tenofovir and efavirenz .

Each of these drugs has an action on the body, and when this treatment is not effective, it is essential that the therapy is done individually, considering the patient’s condition.

Other drugs are still used to prevent opportunistic diseases, but in general, as soon as the patient has an improvement in symptoms and his viral load is reduced, they are suspended.


The main drugs used in the treatment and control of HIV are:

Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

The nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, as the name implies, seek to prevent the virus from making changes in the cell, more specifically the reverse transcriptase process, which is essential for the spread of the virus in the body.

The main drugs are:

  • Abacavir ;
  • Didanosine;
  • Stavudine ;
  • Lamivudine ;
  • Tenofovir;
  • Zidovudine and the combination Lamivudine + Zidovudine .

Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors

These drugs also aim to disrupt the process of reverse transcriptase. Are they:

  • Efavirenz;
  • Nevirapine ;
  • Etravirin .

Protease inhibitors

These drugs act directly on the protease enzyme, always trying to block its action and prevent the production of new copies of the virus. Are they:

  • Atazanavir ;
  • Darunavir ;
  • Fosamprenavir ;
  • Lopinavir + Ritonavir ;
  • Saquinavir ;
  • Tipranavir .

Fusion inhibitors

These drugs work more or less like what happened to the Berlin patient, preventing the virus from even entering the cells. The main medication used for this purpose is Enfuvirtide .

Integrase inhibitors

The main objective of this class of drugs is to prevent the activity of the enzyme integrase, responsible for inserting HIV DNA into human DNA, thus inhibiting the replication of the virus and its ability to infect new cells.

The main medication in this class is Raltegravir .


NEVER self-medicate or stop using a medication without first consulting a doctor. Only he will be able to tell which medication, dosage and duration of treatment is the most suitable for his specific case. The information contained on this site is only intended to inform, not in any way intended to replace the guidance of a specialist or serve as a recommendation for any type of treatment. Always follow the instructions on the package insert and, if symptoms persist, seek medical or pharmaceutical advice.

Prophylaxis: what is PrEP and PEP?

PrEP and PEP are drugs used to prevent contamination by the HIV virus after exposure to a risky situation. It is very important to note that PEP and PrEP do not replace condoms . Understand the difference:

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

PEP should be used after the uninfected person has had possible contact with the virus. It is an antiretroviral medication whose main objective is to prevent the person from being infected.

It is usually used in situations such as:

  • Sexual violence;
  • Unprotected sexual intercourse (without the use of condoms);
  • Accidents with possibly infected work tools, such as needles or syringes.

For this medicine to work, treatment must be done immediately after possible exposure to the virus, within a maximum period of 72 hours (3 days) and must be taken for 28 days.

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

PrEP, on the other hand, is a class of drugs that is taken before exposure to the HIV virus and aims to reduce the likelihood of infection. It should only be used by patients who may be at high risk of HIV contamination.

This medication is not for anyone and is not for emergencies .

Priority is given to the use of this medication by gay men, men who have sex with other men, trans people, sex workers and couples where one person is infected and the other is not, that is, the so-called “key populations” .

National AIDS Program

The first AIDS case occurred in Brazil in 1980, in São Paulo, but it was only classified as such in 1982. In 1985, GAPA (AIDS Support and Prevention Group) was established in the country, the first NGO in Latin America to combat immunodeficiency syndrome.

In 1986, the National STD and AIDS Program was created and, in 1987, treatment started with AZT, a cancer drug that reduced the multiplication of the HIV virus.

In 1991, a process of acquisition and free distribution of antiretrovirals began, which would be elected by the UN as the best public policy in the world in the fight against AIDS due to its global impact.

Over the years, national AIDS programs have changed and increased in scope, and today HIV-positive patients have the right to specialized treatments and assistance.

How can I access the services?

Since 1996, Brazil has been distributing medicines for the treatment of HIV infection free of charge throughout the national territory. According to data from the Ministry of Health, approximately 350 thousand people receive the drugs, and there is an estimate that more or less 790 thousand people are infected.

The methods for receiving antiretroviral drugs, however, vary according to the region of the country and the city in which you live. For more information, call your local health department or inquire at health centers and hospitals in your city.

Receiving medication is the right of every HIV-positive patient and is important both for their health and for the fight against the virus.

Living together

Living with HIV can seem like a difficult task and in fact it is. However, it is important to remember that HIV diagnosis is not a death sentence .

Receiving the diagnosis and not being affected by it is a Herculean task, almost impossible, but at these times the important thing is to try to remain calm and seek emotional help from those you feel confident, whether friends or family.

Contrary to what many people imagine, the difference in life expectancy between HIV-infected and non-infected patients is not so great . In reality, with the proper treatment and the adoption of some life changes, everything will be fine.

Better understand the step by step to live better with this diagnosis that can seem so scary:

Take time for yourself

The news that you are HIV positive is quite striking. So it is important that you take the time to absorb the information and process it correctly.

In that time, contact with friends and family is very important, because, regardless of what happens, these are people who will be on your side, helping you in the treatment and day to day.

Try to deal with feelings better

Especially when contracting HIV through unprotected sex or sharing contaminated needles while using drugs, feelings of regret and guilt can be very strong.

It is important that you try hard not to let them shake you emotionally. It is a difficult task, but you can again ask your friends and family for help at these times.

Or, if it is very difficult to deal with all these emotions, you can seek psychological help from psychologists or psychiatrists , or go to support groups , where there are people who are going through (or have gone through) the same situation.

Tell your doctor

If you have contracted HIV, some changes will need to be made in your life. One of them, perhaps the most important, is to improve your medical care.

Many times, during life, we fail to give our health all the necessary attention. By the time you are diagnosed with HIV, that behavior must change.

This is because it is very important that you prevent the progression of the infection, decreasing your chances of developing the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, AIDS. For that, medical attention and care are essential.

Do all the tests

It is essential that you do all the tests and tests that your doctor asks. That way you will find the best way to conduct the treatment and prevent the disease from progressing.

Take medication

Medical instructions should be followed at the tip of the pencil, especially if the symptoms are severe. And remember: never stop taking the medication on your own.

Side effects

Unfortunately, medications to stop the progression of HIV in the body can have some very unpleasant side effects. So, talk a lot with your doctor and get ready, as they will most likely come.

While some patients have more uncomfortable side effects, others are milder. It will depend on each case.

It is also very important that you report to your doctor everything you felt with the use of the medicines, as, who knows, the medication chosen might not have been the most appropriate.

Some common side effects of HIV treatment are:

  • Nausea;
  • Vomiting;
  • Diarrhea;
  • Cardiac changes;
  • Nightmares;
  • Memory loss;
  • Shortness of breathe;
  • Skin rashes.

Take safety measures

Being HIV positive does not mean that you will never be able to hug or kiss a person again, after all, good news is that the virus is not transmitted by kissing !

However, when it comes to sex, it is very important to always use a condom, even if your partner is also HIV positive and even if your viral load is controlled.

Tell about your diagnosis to all sexual partners you have or have had

It is very important that the people you have had a relationship with know about your diagnosis. Since the virus can take years to actually manifest itself, you may have inadvertently passed the virus on.

That way, people you have already had relationships with will also be able to get tested and know whether or not they carry the virus. That way, you will be actively fighting the disease!

Maintain a healthy diet

Now, more than ever, it is important to keep the body up to date, as a good diet helps to maintain adequate immunity. Not to mention that a healthy diet is good for everyone, even for patients who do not have HIV.

Pay attention to vaccination schedules

Not all vaccines can be taken by HIV-positive patients, however, it is important to seek to prevent as many diseases as possible.

However, don’t get any vaccine without talking to your doctor first !


With the advancement of medicine, from the discovery of the disease to the present day, the prognosis for HIV-infected patients has become significantly more optimistic.

Through the correct use of medicines, the patient is able to live normally, and his life expectancy can be very close or equal to that of people who have not been infected by the virus.


The main complication of an HIV infection is AIDS or AIDS, the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. AIDS happens when the patient’s immune system has been badly damaged by the HIV virus and is subject to the action of opportunistic diseases .

Among the main diseases that can affect a patient immunocompromised by the HIV virus are opportunistic diseases and some types of cancer. Understand:


The TB is the disease most commonly associated with HIV infection and is one of the leading causes of death in these patients.

It happens due to the action of a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis and mainly affects the lungs, but it can also affect other organs of the body, such as bones, kidneys and meninges (membranes that surround the brain).


Caused by the bacteria that gives the disease its name, salmonella can be acquired by eating food contaminated with animal feces, which is common when patients eat undercooked eggs or when their hands are not properly sanitized before cooking.

The symptoms are similar to those of gastroenteritis and include vomiting, severe diarrhea and fever above 38 ºC.


Cytomegalovirus infection usually has no symptoms, however, it is extremely worrying when it occurs in pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems, such as patients undergoing treatment for cancer and HIV-positive people.

It is a microorganism of the herpes virus family and the infection has as main symptoms fever, sore throat , fatigue , loss of appetite, hepatitis and swollen glands.

If not treated properly, it can lead to complications such as intestinal problems (diarrhea and abdominal pain), inflammation of the lung tissues, encephalitis and other complications of the central nervous system.


The person with AIDS is much more likely to develop candidiasis, an opportunistic disease that normally appears when the immune system is compromised.

It is caused by bacteria of the genus Candida , and, especially if it is not treated correctly, candidiasis can become systemic, leading to a multitude of symptoms, such as:

  • Bad breath;
  • Appearance of whitish plaques in the mouth, tongue and inner part of the cheeks;
  • Eruptions on different parts of the body;
  • White vaginal discharge;
  • Intense itching in the intimate region;
  • Pain and burning sensation during sexual intercourse or when urinating;
  • Swelling and redness in the intimate region;
  • Constant tiredness;
  • Lack of energy;
  • Mood swings;
  • Acne and skin problems;
  • Abdominal, muscular and head pains;
  • Trapped intestine;
  • Irritability.

Cryptococcal meningitis

It is an infection of the Central Nervous System (CNS) caused by fungi found in the soil, and it is also related to birds and bat feces.

If left untreated, it can be fatal. It causes symptoms such as decreased appetite, weight loss, headache , nausea and vomiting.


The Toxoplasmosis is caused by a protozoan called Toxoplasma gondii . About 80% to 90% of infected people do not have symptoms, however, patients affected by AIDS will consequently have them.

Symptoms include fever, headache, malaise, muscle pain and sore throat.

In immunocompromised patients, as is the case with AIDS patients, it can cause severe encephalitis, pneumotine (infection of the lungs), myocarditis (heart inflammation) and chorioretinitis (eye inflammation).


It is an infection caused by a single-celled parasite of the genus Cryptosporidium. This parasite usually fixes itself in the intestine, causing diarrhea attacks in immunocompetent, that is, healthy patients.

However, when the patient has a compromised immune system, as is the case with people with AIDS, diarrhea is intense and prolonged, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weight reduction, fever and, if not treated correctly, can lead to the death.

Wasting Syndrome

Also known as wasting syndrome, this is a phenomenon characterized by the loss of at least 10% of the patient’s weight. Usually, it is accompanied by diarrhea, chronic weakness and fever.

Neurological complications

AIDS does not affect the brain directly, but patients may experience symptoms such as anxiety , difficulty walking, confusion and others.

It is possible for patients to manifest a symptom known as AIDS-dementia, which is characterized by sudden changes in behavior and reduced mental functioning.

Kidney disease

AIDS can cause inflammation of the kidney’s small filters, also called nephrons, which are responsible for removing excess waste from the blood that passes into the urine.

Kaposi’s sarcoma

The condition is a rare problem in healthy people, but it is very common in patients with HIV. These are pink, red, purple, brown or black lesions that extend across the skin, mouth and which can also affect internal organs such as the digestive tract and lungs.


It is a type of cancer that affects people with HIV and can be translated as “cancer in the lymphatic system”. There are several lymphoma subtypes, but, in general, it causes symptoms such as swelling in the tongues, constant fever, night sweating, tiredness , itching, malaise, loss of appetite, sudden weight loss, shortness of breath and cough .

How to prevent HIV?

There are several ways to prevent HIV, from individual measures to government actions to reduce contagion. Understand:

Use of a condom

Using a condom correctly is the best way to prevent HIV infection. Whether male or female (internal), this contraceptive method has a safety margin greater than 90%.

Decrease the number of sexual partners

An effective measure to reduce contagion is not to have many sexual partners, because, theoretically, you avoid exposing yourself to more risky situations.

However, HIV infection can happen even in people who have a steady partner. The spouse may have contracted HIV, often without knowing it for years.

So, even with a steady partner, before you decide not to use a condom, test them both. This will provide security for everyone involved in the relationship.

Inspection of Health Surveillance

It is a government action. There are several health institutions that do not dispose of hospital waste correctly. This puts populations at risk from exposure to contaminated needles or materials.

For this reason, the health surveillance inspection action protects the population not only from HIV, but from several other diseases that may be related to the irregular disposal of hospital waste.

Sex education classes

Focused on teenagers, who are entering puberty and who are starting to have sex, sex education seeks to inform young people about sex, what happens, how it happens, when to do it and, more importantly, when not to do it, always taking it taking into account respect for individual choices.

Contrary to what many people imagine, this is not only an education policy, but also a public health policy. From 2006 to 2015, the rate of HIV detection in people aged 15 to 19 years almost tripled, jumping 2.4% to 6.9%, according to data from the Ministry of Health.

For this reason, it is very important that young people are informed about the risks they face when having unprotected sex.

It is of equal importance that they are taught how to put on a condom, because at this time of life the chances of exposing themselves to risky situations are greater and this is not only due to the lack of information.

The main problem is that teenagers are more likely to make bad choices, because their prefrontal cortex, the area of ​​the brain responsible for decision-making, is not yet fully developed, as revealed by a study by Cornell University in the USA, in 2015.

Therefore, the information reduces the chances of infection and spread of the disease.

Common questions

What does non-reactive HIV mean?

“Non-reagent” is a term used in blood, pregnancy (BetaHCG) and STD tests. When the result of any of these tests is “non-reactive HIV”, it means that the patient is not infected with the HIV virus.

Can a woman with HIV become pregnant?

Yea! Through the use of antiretroviral drugs, the woman can get pregnant and lead the pregnancy without problems and without affecting the baby.

If my partner has HIV can I have sex without a condom to get pregnant?

It is risky, but with the correct use of medications and regular medical monitoring, your partner has a reduced and undetectable viral load, it is possible.

However, if you want to become pregnant with your HIV-positive partner, it is very important that you both take all the necessary safety measures so that the transmission of the virus does not occur.

If my test is positive, does it mean that I have AIDS?

No. Being positive for HIV is not the same as having AIDS. As we saw earlier, AIDS is when HIV infection is at an advanced stage and appropriate treatment can prevent the development of AIDS.

Where do I find condoms?

You can find condoms in pharmacies and supermarkets, but you can also receive them free of charge, both male and female (internal), at health facilities.

Although recent medical advances have enabled HIV patients to have access to a quality life, STIs are still a serious issue that can bring major complications for life and even lead to death.