What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV is the acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is estimated that roughly 34 million people in the world have HIV.
There are two types of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2. The term “HIV” primarily refers to HIV-1. HIV-2 is found primarily in some countries in Africa. Both types of HIV damage a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases.
A few weeks after being infected with HIV, some people develop flu-like, short lived (a week or two) symptoms, but it is not uncommon for a person to not have any symptoms at all. A person infected with HIV may appear and feel healthy for several years after getting infected.Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a lot like other viruses, including those that cause flu or the common cold. But there is an important difference between them. Over time, human immune system will clear most viruses out of body, but that isn't the case with HIV – the human immune system can't seem to be able to get rid of it. Scientists are still trying to figure out why.
What scientists do know is that HIV can hide for long periods of time in the cells of human body and that it attacks a key part of its immune system – so called T-cells or CD4 cells. The primary function of these cells is to fight infections and disease, but HIV invades them, uses them to make more copies of itself, and then destroys them.
Over time, HIV can destroy so many of your CD4 cells that body can't fight infections and diseases anymore. When that happens, HIV infection is said to be developed into AIDS.
stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrom. A breakdown of integral parts of this acronym might be useful to understanding it:
– AIDS is not inheritable condition. You acquire AIDS after birth.
– It affects immune system, the primary purpose of which is to fight off diseases.
– You get AIDS when your immune system is "deficient," or isn't working the way it should.
– A syndrome is a collection of symptoms rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of complications and possibilites of infections.
AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, when a person’s immune system is damaged to the point of not being able to fight off even the normally mild infections. Before the development of certain medications, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Currently, people with HIV can live much longer before they develop AIDS. This is because of “highly active” combinations of medications that were introduced in the mid 1990s.
It is important to point out that there still exists no cure for HIV. Highly Active Anti Retro Viral therapy (also known as HAART) can only slow progression from HIV infection to AIDS and dramatically improve the health of people living with HIV, but it is still not a cure.