HIV stands Human Immunodeficiency Virus and it belongs to a family of viruses called the retroviruses. Once someone contracts HIV, they cannot be cured. They can make a lot of lifestyle changes and that coupled with Anti-Retroviral Therapy, one’s life can be made much easier. HIV can be contracted and transmitted through a number of ways but sexual transmission is the most common one. Use of dirty (infected) needles can also transmit HIV. The HIV virus has a very unique structure.
The outer shell is covered with different env proteins namely gp41 and gp120. What makes this virus so special is the presence of RNA and reverse transcriptase in the middle. Once the virus is in the bloodstream, it targets cells important to the host body’s immunity, i.e., CD4 cells. The reverse transcriptase converts the RNA to strands of DNA. The HIV virus infects these healthy cells by adding a bit of its DNA to the DNA of the immunity cells. Due to this, any new cell produced is HIV positive. When the body’s immunity cells are infected, they cannot fight the infection in the body and they die, this leads to a drop in white blood cells or CD4 cells in the body.
10 facts about HIV:
- There are 2 types of HIV viruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-2 is largely confined to West Africa.
- HIV is a mutated version of SIV. Due to the quick mutations of the virus, it has been impossible till now to find a cure.
- ARTs or Antiretroviral Therapy has helped elongate a person’s lifespan.
- With the use of ARTs, transmission of HIV from mother to child and future transmission of HIV can be prevented.
- ELISA tests are done to confirm the presence of the virus in the bloodstream.
- Early symptoms are that of a flu- Headaches, nausea, fatigue, joint pain, fever, cold, sore throat, swollen glands etc.
- If someone is HIV positive, it does not mean they are positive for AIDS. But every individual positive for AIDS is HIV positive. So, HIV and AIDS are not interchangeable diseases.
- The latency period of the virus could go upto 10 years. The virus remains hidden and does not procreate or show up in blood tests so someone could have HIV for years before they test positive for it.
- If someone knows early on that they have contracted HIV, then intensive ART drugs taken for a month could cure the infection.
- The disease was first observed in the U.S. in 1981.
Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo discovered the virus in AIDS patients. Some disturbing symptoms of the disease are-Rashes, sores, Kaposi’s sarcoma, Hepatitis C, brain fever, cervical cancer, ulcers, memory loss, neurological disorders. Though this life-threatening disease cannot always be cured, let’s do our best to be safe and prevent the contraction of HIV.
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