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Human Immunodeficiency Virus by Daniella Horn

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Human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known by its abbreviation HIV, is a disease that attacks white blood cells known as CD4 T-cells in the body.  The main function of CD4 T-cells is to aid in the human immune system.  AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is the third and final stage of the HIV process but it should be noted that not all sufferers of HIV ever reach this stage.  Individuals contract HIV by coming in contact with bodily secretions like blood, semen, or breast milk of someone who is infected with the virus.

HIV has three notable stages; Acute Infection/Seroconversion, Asymptomatic Period, and AIDS.  The acute infection/seroconversion stage occurs around two to six weeks after initial exposure.  This stage is associated with general flu-like symptoms that last around seven to fourteen days.  These symptoms are a by-product of the body’s immune system trying to fight off the invading virus.  The asymptomatic period occurs when the immune system has lost the battle against the HIV virus and it has begun to kill the CD4 T-cells.   This stage is named for the fact that when the immune system loses this battle, the flu-like symptoms dissipate.  It is not uncommon for this period to last ten or more years, and it is also the stage where the virus is most commonly spread.  Because those infected no longer have symptoms of illness, they have no idea about their HIV infection and will continue leading a normal life possibly exposing others to the virus.  The third and final stage, AIDS, occurs when the body’s CD4 T-cell count is less than two hundred.  Some sufferers only learn of their infection at this stage because of the new symptoms they are experiencing, such as purple skin spots, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes in the neck and groin, and feeling drowsy no matter the amount of sleep obtained.

Testing for HIV is a simple blood test that measures the count of HIV antibodies.  The initial test can be accurate within twenty-five days of exposure, though it is most reliable after ninety days.  In rare cases, some do not receive a high enough count of HIV antibodies until six months from exposure.  If you are afraid of exposure, the most prudent course of action is to see your doctor and be tested at all three of these intervals.

Treatment for HIV and AIDS is a combination of drugs that target different stages of the virus’s reproduction, commonly known as HIV cocktails.  HIV is a virus that often mutates as medications are used to stop its spread, thus why several medications are taken at the same time.  At initial diagnosis, sufferers do not always have to begin drug therapy immediately, if the CD4 T-cell counts are not dipping too far below normal levels.

Currently, there are five types of medications used in HIV treatment: Reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors, Protease inhibitors (PI), Fusion inhibitors, Entry inhibitors, and Integrase inhibitors.  Reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitors come in two classes, nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) that slow down the reproduction of HIV-infected cells and Non-nucleotide RT inhibitors (NNRTIs) that disable the copying of HIV infected cells by binding to RT protein.  Currently, the two most popular reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitor drug combinations are Atripla and Complera.   Protease inhibitors cause enzyme interference that interrupts the creation of HIV infectious particles.  Fusion inhibitors and entry inhibitors keep HIV from entering into uninfected cells.  Fuzeon and Maraviroc are the only fusion inhibitors and entry inhibitors on the market approved by the FDA.  Integrase inhibitors keep viral HIV DNA from infecting host cell DNA.  Raltegravir is the only integrase inhibitor on the market approved by the FDA.

More and more studies are being done to find a cure for HIV.  In 2013 alone, many new discoveries have been made.  Researchers at Stanford University have discovered a way to create HIV-resistant T-cells.  While these cells have yet to be tested in animals or humans, if doctors could replace enough of the patient’s T-cells with the lab-generated ones, it would cause HIV-sensitive cells to die off and not be replicated.  This is definitely something to keep an eye on, as we are closer than ever to a cure.




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The Huffington Post



“HIV-Resistant Cells Created By Stanford Researchers Could Protect Patients From AIDS”




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