It's still kind of a mystery to many. Most people know it is somehow related to AIDS & Magic Johnson, but that's about it. So, just in case you were wondering..........
What is HIV.....?
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. Since it can't reproduce (make copies of iteself) on its own, it attacks the cells in your body and uses the cells 'machinery' to make copies of itself.
CD4 cells are a favorite target of HIV. It turns infected CD4 cells into HIV factories. HIV makes so many copies of itself that the cell eventually breaks down & dies. As more CD4 cells die, the immune system gets weak. A weak immune system makes it hard for the body to fight germs and avoid infections.
So then what is AIDS......?
AIDS (Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome) is a medical term that means you have advanced HIV infection and are at high risk for Opportunistic Infections (infections that your body can no longer fight off because HIV has destroyed too many CD4 cells). With AIDS, your body has so few healthy CD4 cells that it may not be able to fight other infections or diseases like cancer.
The most common Opportunistic Infections are:
Thrush, Cytomegalovirus (a viral infection that causes eye disease), MAC (a bacterial infection causing fevers, stomach problems & serious weight loss), PCP (fungal infection that can causes a fatal pneumonia), Toxoplasmosis (an infection of the brain) and Tuberculosis.
Some HIV related terms:
Viral Load: How much HIV is in your blood. The lower your viral load, the fewer viruses that are attacking your cells and the less likely it is that HIV will make you sick.
CD4 Cell Count: How many CD4 cells you have in your blood. The higher your CD4 count, the better your immune system will work to fight off infections.
The goal is to have a low viral load and a high CD4 count. Luckily, there is medicine for that!
So is HIV a death sentence.....?
Nope. With daily medication, regular laboratory monitoring, and lifestyle changes (e.g., exercise, adequate sleep, smoking cessation), HIV can be manageable as a chronic disease. People living with HIV can enjoy healthy lives. <*aids.gov>
While there is no cure, medication has come a long way. People can now get their viral load down to undetectable levels, and grow up to be grandparents. And advances are still being made in the field of HIV treatment. HIV is no longer the disease it was in the 80s. Unfortunately, most people's information on the disease is still from the 80s. It is time that we replace fear with knowledge.....