How Does HIV Attack the Immune System?

How Does HIV Attack the Immune System?

HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system. It targets and weakens the immune system of an individual against many infections and some types of cancer.  As the virus destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, infected individuals gradually become immunodeficient. Immune function is typically measured by CD4 cell count. 

The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It may take many years to develop if not treated, depending on the individual.

How Does the HIV Attack the Immune System?

HIV finds the white blood cells and gets inside the CD4 cell and makes replicates itself. As a result, HIV kills the CD4 cell and the new HIV copies find other CD4 cells to get inside and start the cycle again. HIV kills immune system cells that help the body fight infections and diseases.

Early Effects of HIV on the Body

When a person first comes in contact with HIV, they may develop flu-like symptoms. These symptoms usually appear within 2 to 4 weeks of exposure and may last for several days or weeks. 

Several people do not experience any symptoms at this stage which makes it easy to have HIV without knowing it. An estimated 1 in 7 people does not know that they have HIV, which makes testing very important. 

Sore throat

If indications occur, the individual may experience flu-like symptoms such as;

What are the Six Factors That Progresses HIV 

The most important factor that affects HIV progression is the ability to achieve viral suppression. A variety of factors affect HIV progression and some people progress through the phases of HIV more quickly than others. Factors that affect HIV progression include:

  1. Genetic history: Some people seem to progress more quickly through their disease given their genetic makeup. 
  2. Ability to achieve viral suppression: Whether someone can take their antiretroviral medications and achieve viral suppression is the most important factor by far. 
  3. Lifestyle: Practicing an unhealthy lifestyle can cause HIV to progress more quickly.
  4. Age when symptoms start: Being older can result in a faster progression of HIV.
  5. Timing of diagnosis: Another important factor is how soon a person was diagnosed after they contracted HIV. The longer between their diagnosis and treatment, the more time the disease has to progress unchecked. 
  6. Health before treatment: If a person had other diseases it can affect their overall health.

Some factors can delay or slow the progression of HIV. These include:

  • Taking care of one’s health, including trying to lessen stress, having sex with condoms, and sleeping regularly
  • Stopping the use of substances such as methamphetamine, ethanol, or cocaine
  • Seeing a healthcare provider, as recommended, for HIV treatments
  • Taking antiretroviral medications and achieving viral suppression

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How Does HIV Attack the Immune System?