The abbreviation HIV stands for "Human Immunodeficiency Virus"
- a term that can be translated as "human immunodeficiency
virus". HIV is therefore first and foremost the name of the
pathogen of an infection that leads to a weakening of the human
immune system. The full picture of this disease is called "Acquired
Immune Deficiency Syndrome" (AIDS).
the first AIDS cases occurred in the USA and that the HI virus was
discovered almost simultaneously by two research groups was only a
little more than 30 years ago. Since then, HIV infection has
developed into a disease that spans countries and continents and is
one of the greatest medical problems of our time.
to UNAIDS (United Nations Joint Programme to Reduce HIV/AIDS), at
least 36.9 million people worldwide were infected with HIV in 2017,
including 1.8 million children under 15. In Europe, 397 new
HIV-positive diagnoses were registered in 2018. This figure is
similar to that of recent years. This means that at least one person
is infected with HIV every day.
occurs exclusively through body fluids containing viruses, such as
blood, sperm and vaginal secretions. By far the most common way to
transmit the HIV virus is during unprotected sexual intercourse with
an infected partner. Homosexual intercourse between men is
responsible for the majority of HIV infections, followed by
heterosexual intercourse between men and women.
not inconsiderable percentage of those affected are drug addicts who
have been infected by intravenous drug administration through
contaminated syringes. In addition, HIV-positive mothers can transmit
the virus to the child during pregnancy and childbirth. Infection via
breast milk is also possible.
HIV virus belongs to the so-called retroviruses. In order to
multiply, this virus type integrates its genetic material into that
of the host cell. The host cell is reprogrammed in such a way that it
produces the components for new virus particles itself. The HI virus
attacks T-helper cells, in particular CD4 lymphocytes or CD4 cells.
lymphocytes are white blood cells (leukocytes) and play a crucial
role in the coordination of immune defence. The HI virus directly
destroys a certain proportion of T-helper cells and also impairs
their functions. The less functional CD4 cells are found in the
blood, the more severely the immune system is affected.
the disease progresses, the number and functionality of the helper
cells decrease, resulting in the immune system's inability to protect
the organism from disease. As a result, the patient's health
deteriorates dramatically and, in the absence of treatment, he or she
HIV infection can be divided into three phases.
the HIV virus enters the body, it triggers a defensive reaction.
However, the immune substances (antibodies) formed in the process are
not able to eliminate the virus because, on the one hand, they cannot
penetrate the host cell and, on the other hand, the virus constantly
changes its surface structure as it multiplies, so that it no longer
recognises the antibodies. Thus, the HI virus remains in the body for
infection, the pathogen initially multiplies explosively. This early
phase of the disease often goes unnoticed by those affected. In 40-90
percent of cases, the so-called acute HIV disease develops a few days
to weeks after infection.
most common symptoms are:
about two weeks these complaints disappear again. At the end of this
phase, the number of T-helper cells has recovered and the amount of
virus in the blood has decreased considerably.
is followed by the latency phase. Without therapeutic intervention,
it lasts on average about ten years. In this phase, those affected
are free of HIV-related symptoms because the body's own defence
system can keep the virus under control to a large extent.
Nevertheless, the immune system has to deal with the HI viruses on a
daily basis and at some point it loses this battle: the viral load
increases and the number of T-helper cells decreases.
increasing weakening of the immune system heralds the symptomatic
phase. First, the dwindling ability of the immune system to function
becomes apparent in the form of complaints such as night sweats,
fever attacks and diarrhoea. Many of those affected also suffer from
fungal infections of the mucous membranes (e.g. oral cavity), other
skin symptoms (e.g. shingles) and swelling of the lymph nodes.
the immune system is further weakened, it is no longer able to defend
itself against pathogens that do not pose any danger to healthy
people. Then the affected persons develop so-called AIDS-defining
diseases. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome" is a defined
group of diseases that are characteristic of an advanced stage of HIV
include pneumocystis pneumonia (a form of pneumonia), fungal diseases
or infections with viruses such as herpes zoster or herpes simplex.
Cancer diseases are also favoured by immunodeficiency.
addition, HIV also damages the brain and nervous system, which leads
to brain performance disorders that begin slowly and inconspicuously.
Once the full picture of AIDS has been reached, those affected die
sooner or later without therapy from one or a combination of these
most important diagnostic tool to detect an infection with the virus
is the HIV test. In this procedure, antibodies against the HIV virus
are sought in the blood.
can now be successfully treated with a range of drugs. The so-called
antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a combination of several active
substances that contain the multiplication of the pathogen.
effective HIV therapy lowers the virus below the detection limit,
which also significantly reduces the risk of sexual transmission of
HIV. However, a residual risk cannot be ruled out.
this way, the outbreak of diseases caused by the virus's weakening of
the immune system can be largely avoided or delayed. By gradually
improving HIV therapy, it is now possible to carry out long-term to
lifelong effective treatment with good tolerability.
No. Viruses don't have cures, but symptoms can be controlled with proper treatment.
Viral. AIDS is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
Antiviral Medication. HIV/AIDS is treated with a variety of antiviral medications: fusion inhibitors, protease inhibitors and RT inhibitors are the most common.
AIDS / HIV is Incurable. HIV/AIDS is incurable; as such treatment is aimed at slowing progression and treating symptoms.
Yes. Partners should be informed of your condition and condoms/dams should be used consistently.
No. HIV is incurable; once you are infected, you will carry the disease with your for life.