HIVAIDS Overview - HIV/AIDS: An Overview Human...

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HIV/AIDS: An Overview Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that leads to AIDS. When the virus enters the body, HIV begins to disable the immune system by using the body's aggressive immune responses to the virus to infect, replicate and kill immune system cells. Gradual deterioration of immune function is central to triggering the immunosuppression that leads to AIDS. HIV is found in the blood and in other body fluids that contain blood or white blood cells. There are several ways to transmit HIV. The most common way is by having unprotected sexual intercourse with a person infected with HIV. This includes vaginal, anal, and oral sex and it is the contact with fluids, not the act of sex itself that transmits the virus. Sharing drug injection equipment (needles) or being accidentally stuck by needles or sharp objects contaminated with infected blood can also transmit the virus. HIV can also be transmitted from mother to child through pregnancy, childbirth, or breast feeding. Lastly, HIV can be passed through infected blood used in transfusions, infected blood products used in the treatment of certain diseases and disorders, and through transplanted organs from infected donors (1994. Ferri, Roose, & Schwendeman). A positive HIV test result means that your body has been infected by HIV and that you are capable of transmitting it to others (1994. Viruses tend to be specialists, zeroing in on a few particular types of cells in the body and moving in; HIV is no exception. HIV targets the T cells of the immune system. The immune system is made up of specialized cells that fight off pathogens and infection to keep the body healthy. T cells are the “brains of the operation” (1994. Ferri, Roose, & Schwendeman). T cells are white blood cells that identify invading germs and give orders to the other types of cells that fight the invading infection. HIV is a typical virus in that it is only interested in one thing: replicating itself. Once the virus has invaded a T cell, it turns that cell into a factory for the virus. Eventually that T cell explodes due to the overload of viruses in it which releases the new HIV cells into the bloodstream, only for them to invade other T cells and continue the process. Over time an infected person’s T cells can be almost completely destroyed by the virus. Without T cells to call the shots, other cells in the immune system are no longer able to recognize invading pathogens and fight them off, making the body very susceptible to other illnesses called “opportunistic infections”. According to the 2000 website HIV.com opportunistic illnesses are the major cause of morbidity and mortality among human
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HIVAIDS Overview - HIV/AIDS: An Overview Human...

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