ACQUIRED IMMUNE DEFICIENCY SYNDROME (AIDS) DEFINITION AIDS is acquired, which means it is neither hereditary nor inborn. It involves an
immune deficiency. When a person’s immune system breaks down, he or she becomes
susceptible to many infections, which eventually lead to death. It is a syndrome, a combination of signs and symptoms that form a distinct clinical picture of disorder. HIV refers to the human immunodeficiency which causes AIDS. It is a retro virus belonging to the family of lentiviruses, which are sometimes called slow viruses. They are described as such because the time between infection and the appearance of symptoms tends to be much longer, allowing greater opportunity for these microorganisms to be transmitted to other hosts. The period between infection and the appearance of AIDS can take from 7 to 12 years. PATHOPHYSIOLOGY Human beings produce antibodies against specific infections. When HIV infection takes place, anti-HIV antibodies are produced but they do not become detectable immedi
ately. This is called the “window effect”. In some cases, however, antibodies to
HIV become detectable 4 to 6 weeks after infection. When HIV is in circulation, it invades several types of cells
the lymphocytes, macrophages, the Langerhans cells, and neurons within the CNS.
HIV attacks the body’s immune system. The organism attaches to a protein
molecule called CD4, which is found on the surface of T4 cells. Once the virus enters the T4, it inserts its gen
etic materials into the T4 cell’s nucleus, takin
g over the cell to replicate itself. Eventually, the T4 cell dies after having been used to replicate HIV.
The virus mutates rapidly, making it more difficult for the body’s immune system to “recognize” the invaders. HIV infection progresses through sever
al stages. The clinical course of HIV infection begins when a person becomes infected with HIV through: 1. Sexual contact with an infected person 2. Injection of infected blood or blood products, and 3. Perinatal or vertical transmission