HIV - Human Immunodeficiency Virus

by: Valerie Contreras

The Symptoms

A few common symptoms you will have if you are infected with the HIV virus are a fever, headache, and enlarged lymph nodes. Some later symptoms would be rapid weight loss, sores around your mouth or genitals. You may even have red or pink blotches under the skin or inside the mouth.

The Causes

HIV can be caused by blood transfusions, sharing needles, having sex, or during pregnancy. This virus cannot be transmitted through ordinary contact such as hugging or shaking hands with someone who has the virus. It also cannot be transmitted through the air, water, or insect bites.

Once the HIV virus is inside of you it destroys your CD4 cell, these are a type of white blood cell that help your body fight disease, as more of these cells are killed your immune system weakens. We your CD4 cell count drops below about 200 your HIV will progress to AIDS or you will experience an AIDS-Defining Illness.

Immune cells involved in immune response

HIV interrupts the immune cycle by directly targeting the T helper cells. Your initial immune response can get rid of a great deal of HIV, but some of it manages to survive and infect these important cells. Once the T- cells are infected they start creating new viruses instead doing the job it is supposed to do in your immune system. In addition, many T- cells are destroyed in the process.

How does the Virus replicate?

HIV can infect multiple cells in your body including brain cells , but its main target is the T- Cell. The virus goes through multiple steps to reproduce itself in the HIV cycle. There’s binding and fusion, which allows HIV to enter a T- cell and release genetic material into the host. Reverse Transcription, where a special enzyme called reverse transcriptase changes the genetic material so the infection can be integrated with the DNA. Next transcription comes along when the host cell is activated and uses your own enzymes to make more of HIV’s genetic material which allows it to make longer proteins. Assembly, where an enzyme called protease cuts HIV’s longer proteins into individual proteins assembling a new virus. Finally,the final stage budding where the new virus pushes itself out of the host cell taking part of the membrane of the cell.

Treatment

No cure exists yet but, strict adherence to the virus can slow disease’s progress as well as prevent secondary infections. It is treated by using a combination of medicines to fight the disease. This is called antiretroviral therapy. These medicines stop the virus from multiplying and also reduces the risk of transmitting it. This doesnt cure it but, it helps you live a longer healthier life. It's important to start treatment as soon as possible.

Prevention

have less risky sex, get tested/treated for STDs, use a condom, don’t inject drugs (but if you do make sure it's sterile and don’t share it)