What is HIV? What is AIDS? What is the difference between HIV and AIDS? How does HIV/AIDS affect the body? Understanding the epidemic that is HIV/AIDS is quite a feat. The lingo can be confusing to the untrained eye. Below is a easy to understand list of terminology that one must know in order to begin understanding this disease:
Immune system: a network of cells, tissues and organs that work together to protect the body. The cells involved are the white blood cells which come in two basic types (CD4 & CD8) that combine to seek out and destroy disease causing organisms or substances
CD4 cell: these are cells that are responsible for commanding your white blood cells and leading the fight against infection. Your white blood cells are the cells that are responsible for fighting off disease and infection. Consider this illustration: your body is a football team. A football team has many members. There is a person who is responsible for instruction the various players on what to do. This person is known as the quarterback. The CD4 cell is the quarterback. Your white blood cells are the rest of the team.
CD8 cell: these cells are suppressor cells that end the immune response. Also known as the “killer” cells that kill the cells infected with a virus
CD4 count: a measure of the number of functioning CD4 Cells
HIV: is an acronym that stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The HIV virus attaches to the CD4 cells and breaks it down and then transforms it from telling the white blood cells what to do into a HIV factory.
AIDS: is an acronym that stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. The HIV virus has duplicated itself so much in the body that the immune system is severely compromised. The number of functional CD4 cells had dropped below 200. Or the immune system is so compromised that it has obtained an Opportunistic Infection. Having either scenario (a CD4 count below 200 or an Opportunistic Infection) means you have AIDS
Opportunistic Infection: an infection that only occurs when the immune system is severely weakened.
Infectious Disease: An infectious disease is caused by a pathogen, such as a virus, bacteria or a fungus. This type of disease can be spread from one person to another or from one species to another
HIV/AIDS simply put affects your body’s ability to fight off disease or infection. The CD4 cell (formally known as the T-Cells) no longer fights off infection or disease, instead they create more HIV/AIDS cells; consequentially, leaving the body with no defense system. Without a defense system, the body cannot fight against disease as simple as the human cold or as complicated as Pneumonia. The myth that HIV/AIDS is a killer is just that, a myth. What kills you is the inability to fight of disease or infection. Having HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence. There are several treatment options available to fight this infectious disease.
One of the most effective tools available to those who have HIV/AIDS is information! Not knowing the facts about the disease is as detrimental as allowing the virus to go untreated.