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More about HIV

HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is a retrovirus that binds to receptors found on membranes of immune system T cells. When HIV attacks a cell, the virus is internalized, copied into DNA, then migrates into the nucleus where it inserts itself as part of the host DNA. In many cases, the inserted viral genes remain dormant, sometimes for as long as ten or more years. AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is a collection of 26 clinical conditions (the most common are Kaposi's sarcoma and lymphomas) that are the result of prolonged HIV infection.//

Once a person is infected with HIV, the immune cells begin to lose normal function. Antibodies are produced in response, and other T lymphocytes form to help fight off infection. Shortly thereafter, a period of latency ensues in which there are no symptoms and, depending on the health and lifestyle of the patient, the course of infection may last for years. During this time, billions of T cells are infected and destroyed, but half are replaced. Half the virus particles are also destroyed.

The immune system continues to destroy HIV and replace T cells until the body begins to lose its uphill battle. Eventually, so much virus is produced that the immune system can no longer keep up. When this happens, T cell counts begin to decrease from a normal of 600-1200/uL to less than 200/uL. At this stage, the individual becomes susceptible to a myriad of illnesses and major diseases. Here is what the typical immune system profile looks like for someone infected with HIV: Stage 1: Primary HIV Infection. Initial flu-like symptoms, which may last 4 weeks or longer. At this point, an HIV antibody test may not be positive. The immune system begins to respond by producing antibodies and cytotoxic lymphocytes. Stage II: Clinically Asymptomatic Stage. Patients in this stage are free from AIDS symptoms for an average of ten years. HIV in the blood may drop to undetectable levels but people remain infectious. The v
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