As a result of its failure to react to many modern day medicines, HIV has become one of the most ruthless and incurable viruses of the modern era. It rapidly plagues the human body without much detection and takes over the immune system. Because of this, HIV exists today as one of the most elusive viruses in history.
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, a virus that causes AIDS. Being infected with HIV, however, is not the same as having AIDS. People who have tested positive for HIV have been known to stay healthy for years, even decades, with proper treatment. HIV infects cells in the immune system and the central nervous system. One of the main types of cells that HIV infects is the T helper lymphocyte, cells that play a very important role in the immune system, by coordinating the actions of other immune system cells. (Nash 18-19) As a result of a large amount of T helper cells lost, the immune system vigorously weakens. HIV infects the T helper cell because it has the protein CD4 on its surface, which HIV uses to attach itself to the cell. Once it has found its way into a cell, HIV produces new copies of itself, which then goes on to infect other cells. Over time, HIV infection leads to a severe reduction in the number of T helper cells available to help fight diseases. The number of T helper cells is measured by having a CD4 test. It can take years before the CD4 count declines to the point that an individual needs to begin an antiretroviral treatment. (American Association for Clinical Chemistry) Without treatment, the CD4 count continues to decline to very low levels, at which point the individual is said to have progressed to AIDS. Over time, in many cases, HIV slowly weakens the immune system until AIDS develops. AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. When a person has AIDS, their body has been weakened to the point where it is no longer able to effectively fight diseases. As a result, many other health problems develop when a person has AIDS due to their poor immune system. HIV can be found in the blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, or vaginal fluid of a person infected with the virus. The male may be at less risk for HIV transmission than the female through vaginal intercourse. (David C. Dugdale, MD.) However, HIV can enter the body of the male through his urethra or through small cuts or open sores on the penis. HIV can also be transmitted to a man or a woman through anal and oral sex. Having vaginal or anal sex without a condom with someone who is infected can also infect an individual. HIV can pass to the baby during pregnancy, during the birth of the baby, or through breast-feeding. (Dispezio 48) Only about one in three babies born to HIV-positive mothers get HIV. HIV can also be transmitted by receiving an injection from an unsterilized needle that was previously used by someone with HIV or having contact with the blood of someone who has HIV; this could be having a blood transfusion from someone who is infected with HIV. (Dispezio 52) Several weeks after exposure to the HIV virus, some people experience an illness called acute HIV syndrome which include the following: fever, headache, pain in limbs, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, loss of appetite, diarrhea, skin rash, nausea muscle aches. These signs are often mistaken for flu symptoms and will usually resolve without treatment within a month and the diagnosis of HIV is often missed. Additionally, some symptoms that may occur in HIV that is more progressed are rapid weight loss, dry cough, recurring fever or profuse night sweats, profound and unexplained fatigue, swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck, diarrhea that lasts for more than a week, white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat, pneumonia, red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids, memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders. Blood