The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) basically provokes an infection, which destroys the body's immune system. And AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is the advanced stage of this disease, when the immune system becomes irreparably damaged, engendering multiple infections and cancers. A person is considered HIV positive when s/he tests positive for any of the 26 diseases (Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma, pulmonary tuberculosis, recurrent pneumonia within a 12-month period, wasting syndrome and other indicators) that can easily invade the body during our immune system's nonfunctionality.

On invading the body, the virus specifically attacks T-cells. A core part of the human defence system, they mobilize other cells to seek and destroy contagious foreign elements besid es leading the immune system's fight against infections. T-cells are targeted because the AIDS virus parasitizes the CD4 molecules on their surface.

With a protective outer shell of proteins and glyco-proteins, the AIDS virus contains genetic information on the inside. Although substantially smaller than the host T-cells—the virus reproduces by sponging off the host's cellular resources! Our body fights back by producing up to two billion new T-cells to replace the infected ones, stabilizing the T-cell count temporarily. Yet from day one, the T-cells fight a losing battle.

The genetic information of the AIDS virus, which is encoded as RNA (ribonucleic acid), needs to be reverse transcripted—which the intruder accomplishes with the help of the host cell itself! The now legible DNA is thereafter randomly transferred into the nucleus. All this is accomplished barely a dozen hours following the infection. By this time, the aggressor begins to substantially weaken the host cell, which eventually dies, eroding the immune system and making the body vulnerable to diseases.

Although HIV targets T-cells and other cells in the body, it thrives mainly in the lymph nodes—another important part of the immune system. Each lymph node has a netlike structure inside it that acts as a protective filter by trapping virus and infected T-cells. But as healthy T-cells move through contaminated lymph nodes, they are infected by HIV. Particularly during the early stage of the disease, lymph nodes contain more infected cells than the blood.

symptoms of HIV/AIDS

  • Lack of energy
  • Weight loss
  • Frequent fevers and sweats
  • A thick, whitish coating of the tongue or mouth (thrush) that is caused by a yeast infection and sometimes accompanied by a sore throat
  • Severe or recurring vaginal yeast infections
  • Chronic pelvic inflammatory disease or severe and frequent infections like herpes zoster
  • Periods of extreme and unexplained fatigue that may be combined with headaches, lightheadedness, and/or dizziness
  • Rapid loss of more than 10 pounds of weight that is not due to increased physical exercise or dieting
  • Long-lasting bouts of diarrhoea
  • Swelling or hardening of glands located in the throat, armpit, or groin
  • Periods of continued, deep, dry coughing
  • Increasing shortness of breath
  • The appearance of discoloured or purplish growths on the skin or inside the mouth
  • Unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin, from mucous membranes, or from any opening in the body
  • Recurring or unusual skin rashes
  • Severe numbness or pain in the hands or feet, the loss of muscle control and reflex, paralysis or loss of muscular strength
  • An altered state of consciousness, personality change, or mental deterioration
  • Children may grow slowly or fall sick frequently. HIV positive persons are also found to be more vulnerable to some cancers.