How HIV Causes AIDS?

HIV AIS written

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) through a series of complex interactions with the immune system. Here’s a simplified explanation of how this progression occurs:

  • Initial Infection: When a person is first infected with HIV, the virus enters the bloodstream and primarily targets certain immune cells called CD4 T cells (or CD4 cells). CD4 cells play a crucial role in coordinating the immune response against infections. HIV attaches to CD4 cell receptors and enters these cells.
  • Viral Replication: Once inside CD4 cells, HIV replicates (multiplies) itself using the host cell’s machinery. This replication process produces many new copies of the virus. As a result, the number of HIV particles in the bloodstream increases.
  • Immune Response: The immune system recognizes the presence of HIV-infected cells and attempts to control the infection. HIV-specific immune responses, such as the production of antibodies and cytotoxic T cells, are activated to fight the virus. Initially, the immune system may partially control HIV replication, keeping the virus at relatively low levels in the bloodstream.
  • Viral Mutations: HIV is highly mutagenic, which means it can mutate rapidly. These mutations allow the virus to escape the immune system’s defenses and continue replicating. Over time, a diverse population of HIV variants develops in the infected individual.
  • CD4 Cell Destruction: As HIV continues to replicate and infect more CD4 cells, a gradual depletion of these cells occurs. HIV directly kills some CD4 cells during the replication process, while others are destroyed by the immune response against infected cells.
  • Immune Suppression: As the number of CD4 cells decreases, the immune system’s ability to fight infections weakens. This leads to increased susceptibility to opportunistic infections—diseases that take advantage of a weakened immune system. These infections are typically rare in individuals with healthy immune systems but can become severe and life-threatening in people with advanced HIV infection.
  • Development of AIDS: AIDS is diagnosed when an individual’s immune system becomes severely compromised due to HIV infection. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) criteria, a person is considered to have AIDS when the CD4 cell count falls below a certain threshold or when they develop specific opportunistic infections or cancers associated with advanced HIV disease.

It’s important to note that not all individuals infected with HIV progress to AIDS at the same rate. The timeline from initial infection to the development of AIDS can vary widely and depends on factors such as the individual’s overall health, genetic factors, access to medical care and antiretroviral therapy (ART), and the specific strain of HIV involved.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a combination of medications that can effectively suppress HIV replication, slow the progression of the disease, and help prevent the development of AIDS. Early diagnosis of HIV infection and timely initiation of ART can significantly improve the prognosis and life expectancy of individuals living with HIV. HIV/AIDS is a serious medical condition, and medical management is essential for individuals living with the virus.

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