HIV-1 and Ebola have an intertwined history as both have emerged from the Rainforests of Africa. They may not have first occurred there but certainly made their first appearances in the modern world in what was known at the time as Zaire. The most fundamental difference between the two virus lies in the mechanism of action. HIV does not directly kill its host, rather it disables the immune system which allows another infection or disease to overwhelm the host, which ultimately leads to death. Ebola on the other hand actively destroys and kills the cells of its host.

HIV Virus

By Photo Credit: C. Goldsmith Content Providers: CDC/ C. Goldsmith, P. Feorino, E. L. Palmer, W. R. McManus [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Ebola mutates slowly in comparison to HIV. A single HIV patient can carry multiple strains of the virus while Ebola has shown very little change over the years prior to the 2014 outbreak. HIV is easily preventable since it is transmitted through direct and intimate contact of bodily fluids. Basic safety precautions which act as effective barriers include wearing of gloves when treating wounded people,  practicing safe sex and avoiding shared needles. Ebola is infinitely more infectious requiring extreme precaution and protection. Ebola is a Bio-Safety Level 4 virus and all research is conducted in pressurized laboratories. Researchers and Doctors are required to wear sealed respirator suits and are placed in quarantine for 2-3 weeks if a leak is suspected.

Trait Ebola Virus HIV
R 0 2.2 Mean 2-5
Generation Time 5 (CDC), 11 (WHO) 2.6
Mortality Rate 25-90% / ~70% 2014 Outbreak 80-90% prior to ARV
Airborne No No
Waterborne No No
Primary Transmission Bodily Fluids (Almost All) Bodily Fluids (Blood)
Vaccine In Trials In Trials
Primary Hosts Humans, Primates, Bats Humans, Primates
Type RNA Virus RNA (Retrovirus)
Deaths per Annum Very Low Prior to 2014 Greater than 1 million
Largest known Outbreak 2013/14 West Africa Currently Global
First Isolated 1976 1981-83
Last Pandemic Never Recorded Current
Patient Isolation Required Not Required
Contact Tracing Required Not Required
Possible Age Thousands of Years Hundreds of Years

Humans are efficient vessels for both HIV and Ebola exhibiting little immunity to either virus. If Ebola had longer incubation periods and did not burn out quickly it is suspected that as much as 80% of the human population on earth could be infected resulting in the collapse of nearly all society and infrastructure. HIV is considered a slow killer and often ignored as a real threat to society which many consider a mistake given the large number of infected individuals and the significant number of deaths per annum. Anti-retroviral treatments have provided relief and hope for the tens of million infected with HIV across the planet.