MadSci Network: Virology

Re: What are some places in your body that can be affected by AIDS?

Date: Tue Feb 23 16:46:59 1999
Posted By: David Eckert, Undergraduate, Dept. of Microbiology, BS Molecular Biology, Brigham Young University
Area of science: Virology
ID: 917457838.Vi

Thanks for the question!

Aquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human 
immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  To understand what AIDS can affect, it is 
helpful to know how HIV works and what it does.  I will quote Brian Foley, 
a fellow Mad Scientist, who recently answered a question on HIV:

"[HIV] infects T cells and Macrophages which express the CD4 protein on 
their surface. T-cells and macrophages are two types of white
blood cells. The T-cells are improtant for controling the function of the 
immune system. Over a few years time (1-10 years) these
cells are killed off faster than they can be replaced so the number of 
these cells in the patient's blood drops down. With less than
200 CD4 cells per milliliter of blood, the immune system no longer works 
well, and the patient is unable to fight off infections from
other viruses and bacteria."

Thus, HIV itself only affects white blood cells.  It destroys the immune 
system, causing the condition known as AIDS.  A person with AIDS has a 
weakened immune system, and is unable to fight off other diseases.  
Actually, nobody dies of AIDS: they die of other infections that AIDS 
allows to invade the patient.  Some of the more common infections are rare 
pneumonias and cancers, which a normal immune system is able to fight off 
but a weakened one cannot.  However, it is different for each AIDS 
patient, and there are a wide range of diseases that can affect all parts 
of the body.

So, as far as your question is concerned, AIDS is the name of the condtion 
caused by HIV.  HIV only affects your white blood cells, and does nothing 
to the rest of your body.  The danger to your body from AIDS is that the 
weakened immune system is unable to fight off other diseases, which 
eventually kill the patient.

I hope this has answered your question to your satisfaction.  Brian gave 
the address to a good AIDS FAQ, located at:

Check there for some more in depth information.
Good luck.

Dave Eckert

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