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What is HIV (AIDS)?
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›› How Does HIV Work?
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Main > Specialty Areas > Immunology >
HIV (AIDS)

How Does HIV Work?

HIV can only survive in a body – it gets destroyed almost immediately outside of a person. The reason for that is that the virus cannot replicate by itself – it utilizes the human DNA for that. HIV implants its genetic information into the healthy cell's DNA, which subsequently starts acting like a virus-producing plant. Eventually, the exhausted cell dies, but not before churning out multiple copies of the virus. HIV utilizes the cells of the human immune system for replication and that is why it is so dangerous – the immune system is the barrier that protects us from disease and when it gets destroyed by HIV it makes our bodies vulnerable to all sorts of nasty infections.

Many people think that HIV and AIDS is the same thing. However, this is not so. When a person gets infected with HIV, it starts destroying his or her immune system which is responsible for protecting the body from infection. An HIV-infected person can carry the virus for many years, looking and feeling fine and not even know that he or she is infected. However, eventually the virus destroys so many of the immune system cells that whatever are left are incapable of effectively fighting off infection. The AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) diagnosis is made usually in a few years (8 to 11 years on average, however that time greatly varies from person to person) after infection when a person gets chronically sick with diseases that are normally fended off by a healthy immune system. For example, early symptoms of AIDS include recurring fever, night sweats, diarrhea, weight loss, acute respiratory viral infections and herpes.

‹‹ How Is HIV Transmitted? HIV Diagnosis ››

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