HIV is a terrible disease and condition that leads to worse conditions down the line if not managed.
It affects 37 million people worldwide, most of which don’t have access to the proper medical care or treatment that they desperately need so the condition does not manifest into a more aggressive virus known as AIDS, which can lead to their death.
When we talk about HIV, we often talk about the symptoms rather than the virus itself.
But understanding the virus and how it operates is not only key to maintaining a good quality of life after infection, but it reduces the risk of infection to others as well.
As such, we have written an article about HIV as a virus and what kind of virus it is.
HIV: The Virus
HIV stands for ‘Human Immunodeficiency Virus’ and it is a part of the Lentivirus genus, which in turn is a part of the Retrovirus family.
These two groups have distinct classifications that define HIV, so we will look at them in turn, starting with Retroviruses.
Retroviruses are a type of virus that operate by invading the cytoplasm of a cell and by inserting a DNA copy of their own RNA genome sequence into the DNA sequence of the host cell that it has invaded.
They produce this RNA sequence using a reverse transcriptase enzyme that produces a reverse of the original pattern of the DNA, which is why they are called Retroviruses.
Once the DNA is incorporated into the host cell’s genome, the host cell will begin treating it as part of the original genome and will transcribe and translate the viral genes, along with the cell’s genes.
This will cause the cell to produce proteins that create new copies of the virus.
There are three types of Retroviruses and two of them are incredibly dangerous to humans, with only one being completely benign.
Of the Retroviruses, HIV belongs to the Lentivirus family or the ‘slow Retroviruses’.
These viruses are known for causing chronic conditions that become deadly and do so after long periods of incubation, hence the name ‘slow Retrovirus’.
When you put these two virus types together, you get an overall picture of HIV and why it is so deadly.
The cells and their genomes that HIV infects are cells of the human immune system, like T helper cells (mainly CD4 T cells), macrophages, and dendritic cells.
Why Does HIV Develop Into AIDS?
As mentioned, HIV attacks the immune system cells, including the very important CD4 T cells.
The loss of CD4 T cells is significant as these are the watchmen of the body.
They are the signal cells that raise the alarm when an invasive bacterium, virus, or parasite enters the body and causes disease.
Without them, our immune system cannot function as it cannot see that something is going wrong and continues as normal.
When the number of CD4 T cells reaches a critically low level that cannot be replenished, the body’s immune system becomes compromised and very vulnerable.
Suddenly, a lot of illnesses and bacteria that we never had to worry about before can invade the cells of the body and destroy them.
This is because the cell can no longer activate its own defenses to defend itself, and so it becomes helpless.
At this point, the HIV virus develops into the deadly AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
While progressing to an AIDS diagnosis is not fatal, it does make living without treatment almost impossible.
After the loss of the CD4 T cells, every part of the body and major organ will struggle to defend itself from infection, with common conditions for most people having far worse effects on a person with AIDS.
They will also more than likely develop systemic conditions, such as fevers, sweats, chills, and weakness in their muscles and joints.
Thanks to the viruses infecting the cells, viral-induced cancers are also far more likely to develop in a person suffering from AIDS than a person who does not have the disease, especially various types of skin cancers.
Prognosis For People With HIV And AIDS
This may all sound very bad for the poor individuals affected by this terrible virus, but medicine has come a long way since HIV first came to the fore of public knowledge in the 80s.
Back then, the life expectancy for both HIV and its developed version of AIDS was about 10 years with treatment and only 1 or 2 without.
However, that has changed as our understanding has changed and now with treatment a person with HIV can reach the regular life expectancy age of a person unaffected by the virus.
Even with the developed version, AIDS, a person can expect to live between 10 and 40 years if they begin treatment shortly after diagnosis.
As such, most countries consider HIV and AIDS chronic rather than fatal diseases, however there are two things to note about this.
The first is that while life expectancy has shot up, the disease still makes people more susceptible to infections and diseases, as well as chronic conditions, such as osteoporosis.
The second is that it requires quick diagnosis and treatment in order for that life expectancy to be reached.
So, no matter how sure you are of your partner, you should always get checked for the disease.
If you do not, your life expectancy with the disease will drop very quickly indeed.
There are many forms of treatment available, and a lot of them you can use in tandem with one another.
For example, many people use HIV medications with medical cannabis, as the cannabis increases appetite and weight gain.
HIV is a Retrovirus from the genus of Lentiviruses, which are a group known for invading host cells, inserting RNA into the host genes, and becoming progressively worse over time.
These are an insidious group of viruses and HIV is just as insidious, but with treatment and management, any person suffering from HIV can lead a long, healthy life.