|MadSci Network: Virology|
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." (From 919527079.Vi) 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: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/qa/index.htm Check there for some more in depth information. Good luck. Dave Eckert
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