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Friday, September 30, 2016

An Introduction to AIDS

Every day, thousands are infected with a silent killer. Over a billion young people have the virus between the age of fifteen and the age of twenty-four. Of this billion, there are ten million that are awaiting their last breath. This millennium there is a predicted forty million that will fall to AIDS. This is the most deadly viral predator of our century, the name of which strikes fear into the hearts of all. Mothers fear for their children, and children for themselves.

There is so much emotion surrounding these four letters. Shame and disgust, panic and confusion; the mind of man simply cannot connect with a force that is so unstoppable. The world is held captive by mangled half-truths and no sight of a cure. Our coping mechanisms are just not equipped for the magnitude of such a threat. Vulnerability drives us to absorb all sorts of useless information in search of a backdoor or escape hatch.

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a disease that takes out the human immune system. It does not cause an infection of its own; rather, it makes the body a waiting vessel for “opportunistic infections.” These would be any infections that would take advantage of a severely compromised immune system to dominate the human body.

AIDS is caused by the advanced stages of Human Immune-Deficiency Virus (HIV). This is a retrovirus that essentially hijacks human cells and uses them as hosts to create more infected cells. The white blood cells that would defend the body from outside threats are the cell of choice for HIV. With the white blood cells being seized, the body becomes a wide target to opportunistic infections.

The immune cells that are broken down by an HIV infection are known as CD4, or T-helpers. These cells are easy to detect because of the protein that lines its surface. The cells for the virus are quite a bit smaller than the host cells that they attack. The nutrients and energy that are housed within these cells are used to help develop the HIV cells, while the body goes into overdrive trying to produce enough T-cells to overcome the parasitic virus. This is a battle that the body will not win.

RNA is the material that is used to create DNA. The virus creates its own DNA using reverse transcriptase RNA. It uses this attack to make itself part of the human genome in the early stages of infection. As the infection falls to latency, there may be no symptoms at all. The person that is HIV positive may not show any signs, but will test positive for HIV and negative for AIDS. The virus will slash and burn its way through the immune system until the body is unable to ward off killer infections, such as pneumonia. The lymph nodes become the homes of the HIV virus. The healthy T-cells of the body will be tainted as they filter through these biological safety nets.

There are 10 subtypes of HIV-1, which is the most common form of HIV. HIV-2 is not usually found outside of West Africa, where it is a rampant killer. There are plenty of rants as to how this killer was let loose, but in the end what matters is what we can do about the infection going forward. As many wait for their death knell, many hold onto hope for the miracle that will save their lives, and their children’s’ as well.

Sources:

HIV/AIDS: A Very Short Intro (Author: Alan Whiteside)

Topics: What does aids mean? – How do you get aids? ( link: http://ift.tt/2dcREpi )

Tags:An Introduction to AIDS

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