Learning our HIV ABCs

Posted on: 1st October 2014

Navigating our way through life with HIV often feels like a series of confusing acronyms. It can feel hard to hold them in your head all at once.

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and is a virus that weakens the human body’s immune system and ability to fight infection and disease.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, a collection of symptoms and infections that result from a weakened immune system in people living with HIV. Normally, this happens when a person’s CD4 count is very low (under 200).

Having HIV does not mean having AIDS. The appropriate course of treatment, known as ARTs, and support from professionals, families and each other, can prevent someone living with HIV from developing late stage HIV infection, or AIDS.

ART? CD4? Wha?!

ARTs, yet another acronym associated with HIV, stands for Anti Retroviral Therapy. ART is a combination of medications (confusingly called ARVs) that are used to treat HIV in order to prevent the development of late stage HIV infection, or AIDS.

A CD4 count is the measure of certain white blood cells (also known as CD4 or T Cells) that help your body fight infection. HIV takes over these cells. With untreated HIV infection, the number of CD4 cells goes down, making it harder for your body to fight infection.

Okay then, I think I’m still with you. But what does this all mean?

That depends who you ask. At Teen Spirit, these acronyms mean something a little different to everyone. It’s personal, something that touches on our everyday life.

Last week, we challenged our members at  to tell us what these acronyms meant to them. The task was to improve our understanding of HIV, AIDS and ARTs by looking into the stigma that surrounds them, and putting together this blog to help others who might be confused.

Here are our favourite two!

Hatred because of stigma

Interesting to learn

Videos can help people




To live

If you want to clear up any confusion about HIV, whether you are living with HIV or not, check out the word cloud on our Factory pages that will provide short, simple definitions to a bunch of terms and acronyms that can be confusing. We’ve also got three short cartoons that will help you to understand what HIV is, how HIV is transmitted and how HIV treatment works. You can also give us a call or leave a comment below and we’ll talk you through it.


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