What is AIDS ?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the virus that causes AIDS(Acquired Immunodeficiency
Syndrome). Once someone becomes infected with HIV there is a period of time that may last for
many years during which there are few or no symptoms. This period of time varies greatly among
individuals. The virus attacks the body's immune system. When the immune system fails, a person with
HIV can develop a variety of life threatening illnesses. Once a person begins to develop these illnesses HIV infection leads to the condition called AIDS. It is important to realize that not all people who are
living with HIV have acquired AIDS.
No one is sure of the future of the AIDS epidemic. But it will forever be a part of our lives. Thousands
of productive, creative and talented people will die before they have a chance to enjoy a full life. The
epidemic will increasingly be the focus of political debates. You'll vote for people who will make the
laws and policies of HIV and AIDS in your neighborhoods, workplaces and communities. What you do,
what you feel and what you know will affect how well you and others live with the epidemic.
Like any virus, HIV is actually very small. Over 500,000,000 HIV viruses could fit on the period at the
end of this sentence. Even though the virus is small it can bring your entire human immune system to
its knees. When HIV is exposed to air, it cannot last more than an hour or so. That's why it has to
travel in your bodily fluids, fluids like blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk.
Once HIV gets into someone's blood stream it immediately begins looking for protein. At this point it is
very hungry for something to keep it alive. The protein it prefers is called CD4. The most common
cells in your body that contain this protein on their surface are T cells. There are others, but they are
less common in the human body and are less likely to be in a location where the HIV has entered. One
other that will be mentioned, however, will be the Glial cells. These live in the brain. The virus can
easily make its way to these cells. This is the cause of the many different types of neurological
disfunctions that can occur in persons with HIV or AIDS, things like forgetfulness, slowness of
thinking, difficulty in concentrating or even pronounced lack of muscular coordination. Studies have
shown that 80% of patients with full blown AIDS have exhibited such symptoms.
Once HIV binds itself to the CD4 protein outside of a human cell it then wants to get inside the
cells where it can live even more comfortably and reproduce. To do this, it has a little disguise. It is
coated with a type of human sugar.
Once HIV is inside the cell then it penetrates the nucleus and integrates with the cell's chromosomes to
reproduce. At this stage it takes a little nap in the cell. It hasn't been determined how long it will sleep
before it begins to reproduce and send its offspring out to find a cell of their own to infect. That is why
people can actually carry HIV with them for several years without showing any symptoms. Once it
does awake, the reproduction speeds up and the T cells in the body are tricked into reproducing more
integrated protein of HIV. This begins budding out of the cell and eventually the host T cell cannot
reproduce and dies.
As HIV reproduces and kills cells, the immune system weakens. Eventually, sometime between 2 and
10 years later, it can no longer fight off even simple infections. Once a serious opportunistic infection is
diagnosed, HIV has reached its end result which is called AIDS. The T cell count in a healthy person
is 800 cells/ml of blood. In a person with full blown AIDS, the average is 200 cells/ml of blood.
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