HIV, full form Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is defined as a virus, specifically the lentivirus, which is a subgroup of the retrovirus.
It causes the HIV infection in the body and over time leads to the development of the fatal disease called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. The medical abbreviation of this disease is AIDS.
So, the common misconception that HIV and AIDS are the same thing is WRONG.
Meaning and Importance
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is probably the most deadly virus if you go as per the stats of its morality rate. It causes the disease called AIDS, which in its long form stands for Auto Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
AIDS is the result while HIV is the cause. The virus can infect you through a number of ways such as unprotected sex with an infected person, transfusion with infected blood, shared needles or from transmission of the virus from an HIV-infected pregnant mother to her baby.
Once infected with the virus, you are on the way to developing the disease called AIDS. AIDS develops when the HIV infection has been left untreated and is considerably advanced.
As the name suggests, AIDS makes your immune system deficient and your immunity falls making your body extremely vulnerable to various infections and diseases, which ultimately kill.
Death could take years and the time period depends on the virulence of the attacking virus and strength of the victim’s immune system.
How HIV attacks the body?
The HIV virus acts in the body by progressively destroying the cells of the body’s immune system, specifically the T-cells (also called CD4 cells). This thereby compromises the immunity of the person infected by the virus.
The immune system is our body’s natural defense mechanism, which fights off any unwanted material or organism that enters our body.
Due to the neutralized immune system, the infected person becomes very vulnerable to infections because the resistance of the body is very low.
The infecting organisms are, therefore, able to multiply very fast in the absence of resistance from the body’s immune system. This allows for the infection to increase in severity.
There is no cure for this HIV infection and the AIDS disease. The person infected dies of the infection he has developed.
It could be a lung infection such as Tuberculosis and Pneumocystis pneumonia or cancer or a variety of other infections.
Tuberculosis, however, remains the leading cause of death among people living with HIV, accounting for about one-third of the AIDS-related deaths.
Is there a cure for HIV and AIDS?
Presently there is no cure for HIV nor AIDS, neither naturally or with allopathic medicines.
Treatment with drugs and the prescribed lifestyle can only control and contain the virus and that too only if the treatment is taken correctly and regularly.
Treatment for HIV is referred to as antiretroviral therapy, ART in short. ART was introduced in 1990.
Before this introduction, people with HIV infection progressed to AIDS and died within a few years due to some illness that took over the compromised immune system.
Today, ART has dramatically prolonged the lives of HIV-infected people and has kept them healthy. They now enjoy the same lifespan as people without HIV by religiously taking the treatment that controls the HI Virus and thereby preventing AIDS.
Is there a vaccine to protect you from HIV infection?
A preventive vaccine makes the person’s immune system to recognize and effectively fight the HIV virus in case the person is ever exposed to it.
A therapeutic HIV vaccine strengthens the infected person’s immune response to the HIV virus that is already in the person’s body.
However, as of today, there is no vaccine, neither preventive nor therapeutic, that will protect you or prevent HIV infection when you are exposed to the risks of transmission.