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World Aids Day: What is HIV and how it weakens human body's immunity

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New Delhi, Dec 1: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is one of the most dreaded diseases, it is feared because it has no cure. But, if diagnosed at the right time and if the a proper treatment is taken then a person can actually lead a near-normal life for many years despite having HIV.

World Aids Day: What is HIV and how it weakens human bodys immunity

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the antibody which causes AIDS. HIV infects vital cells in the human immune system and weakens it.

Human immune system is key to out survival. We are surrounded by millions of micro organisms such as bacteria, parasites viruses, at all time, and if it were not for our body's immune system, we would fall ill daily. If these pathogens enter our body, then it can interfere with systems that keep us going. Disorders of the immune system can result in autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases and cancer.

How immune system works?

The immune system protects organisms from infection with layered defenses of increasing specificity. In simple terms, physical barriers prevent pathogens such as bacteria and viruses from entering the organism. If a pathogen breaches these barriers, the innate immune system provides an immediate, but non-specific response. Innate immune systems are found in all plants and animals. If pathogens successfully evade the innate response, vertebrates possess a second layer of protection, the adaptive immune system, which is activated by the innate response. Here, the immune system adapts its response during an infection to improve its recognition of the pathogen. This improved response is then retained after the pathogen has been eliminated, in the form of an immunological memory, and allows the adaptive immune system to mount faster and stronger attacks each time this pathogen is encountered.

What does HIV do in body?

HIV attacks the body's immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can't fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

No effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, this medicine can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.

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