The Science of HIV and AIDS

What is HIV?

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is our body’s natural defence against illness. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and makes copies of itself inside these cells. T-helper cells are also referred to as CD4 cells.

As HIV destroys more CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself, it gradually breaks down a person’s immune system. This means someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will find it harder and harder to fight off infections and diseases.

If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the speed HIV progresses will vary depending on age, health and background.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is not a virus but a set of symptoms (or syndrome) caused by the HIV virus. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death.

Basic facts about AIDS

  • AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
  • AIDS is also referred to as advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV.
  • AIDS is a set of symptoms and illnesses that develop as a result of advanced HIV infection which has destroyed the immune system.
  • Treatment for HIV means that more people are staying well, with fewer people developing AIDS.

Although there is currently no cure for HIV with the right treatment and support, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. To do this, it is especially important to take treatment correctly and deal with any possible side-effects.

What is CD4?

The CD4 count is like a snapshot of how well your immune system is functioning. CD4 cells (also known as CD4+ T cells) are white blood cells that fight infection. The more you have, the better. These are the cells that the HIV virus kills. As HIV infection progresses, the number of these cells declines. When the CD4 count drops below 200 due to advanced HIV disease, a person is diagnosed with AIDS. A normal range for CD4 cells is about 500-1,500. Usually, the CD4 cell count increases as the HIV virus is controlled with effective HIV treatment.

 


What is HIV/AIDS, and are we close to a cure?
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Further Reading:

https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/global-statistics/ The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic
HIV Transmission http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/transmission.html
http://lcbb4.epfl.ch/reading/HIV/2013-PeetersOriginEpidemiologyHIV.pdf The origin and molecular epidemiology of HIV
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2441482/ Env length and N-linked glycosylation following transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 subtype B viruses
http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Pavel_Pugach/publication/8679190_The_CCR5_and_CXCR4_coreceptors–central_to_understanding_the_transmission_and_pathogenesis_of_human_immunodeficiency_virus_type_1_infection/links/0fcfd51200b440c2fe000000.pdf The CCR5 and CXCR4 coreceptors-central to understanding the transmission and pathogenesis of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 infection. AIDS Res. Hum. Retroviruses 20, 111-126
http://dspace.uah.es/dspace/bitstream/handle/10017/5071/840.pdf?sequence=1 Dimerization inhibitors of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, protease and integrase: A single mode of inhibition for the three HIV enzymes?
http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1742-4690-6-40.pdf A historical reflection on the discovery of human retroviruses
http://www.ms.uky.edu/~ma137/Fasttrack13/HIV_Perelson_Science1996.pdf HIV-1 Dynamics in Vivo: Virion Clearance Rate, Infected Cell Life-Span, and Viral Generation Time
Precise determination of time to reach viral load set point after acute HIV-1 infection. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23143525
http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v362/n6418/abs/362355a0.html HIV infection is active and progressive in lymphoid tissue during the clinically latent stage of disease
http://www.joponline.org/doi/abs/10.1902/jop.1994.65.5.393 Necrotizing Ulcerative Periodontitis: A Marker for Immune Deterioration and a Predictor for the Diagnosis of AIDS
https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/just-diagnosed-with-hiv-aids/hiv-in-your-body/stages-of-hiv/ Stages of HIV Infection
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/livingwithhiv/opportunisticinfections.html Opportunistic Infections
https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/drugs/445/pyrimethamine/0/patient AIDSinfo Drug Database
http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep.html PrEP
http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/mtct/q2_chi_2007.pdf Single-dose tenofovir and emtricitabine for reduction of viral resistance to non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor drugs in women given intrapartum nevirapine for perinatal HIV prevention: an open-label randomised trial
http://dspace.uah.es/dspace/bitstream/handle/10017/5071/840.pdf?sequence=1 Dimerization inhibitors of HIV-1 reverse transcriptase, protease and integrase: A single mode of inhibition for the three HIV enzymes?
http://lcbb4.epfl.ch/reading/HIV/2013-PeetersOriginEpidemiologyHIV.pdf
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3234451/
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa0802905 Long-Term Control of HIV by CCR5 Delta32/Delta32 Stem-Cell Transplantation

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