As we celebrate World AIDS Day on 1 December, it is time to show support for people living with HIV and people dying of AIDS. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which can be fatal. The HIV virus attacks a person’s immune system and affects resistance to other diseases. HIV also undergoes exposure to bodily fluids.
HIV is a retrovirus that identifies a specific class of immune system cell in the body as a CD4 helper cell or T cell. Once HIV destroys this particular cell, it becomes difficult for the body to combat other infections. When HIV infects a cell, it first binds to the host cell and fuses with it. HIV tolerates single-stranded RNA which is its genetic material. This is in opposition to the double stranded DNA that carries human cells.
HIV not only attacks CD4 cells, the retrovirus contains an enzyme reverse transcriptase. The copying machinery bans it to replicate RNA in DNA and uses DNA “copy” to contaminate human, or host, cells. When HIV destroys CD4 cells by converting to make more of the virus, CD4 cells eventually become inflamed and burst. When the CD4 count drops below 200, the patient will develop AIDS. This process of RNA converted by viruses into DNA is called reverse transcription. After making new copies of HIV, it leaves the host cell and damages other cells.
HIV, if left untreated, may cause a minor infection such as a cold to be felt more severe. This happens because the body is experiencing difficulty in responding to new infections. It is necessary to understand that progress in HIV treatment, today has made it possible for people to live longer and healthier lives.