HIV and the immune system

HIV and human lymphocytes seen through an electron microscope

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks and destroys the body’s T lymphocytes. The reduction in the number of T lymphocytes in the body due to HIV can then lead to the development of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

Individuals with AIDS have a weakened immune system and so are more vulnerable to opportunistic infections.

Without immunity, infection by microorganisms, such as those that cause tuberculosis and pneumonia, becomes more common, and can be fatal.

There is no cure for HIV/AIDS although many scientists are trying to find one. Currently, people who carry the HIV infection are given antiretroviral drugs. These work by stopping the virus replicating in the body. This allows the immune system to repair itself and prevents the development of AIDS. This treatment is highly effective and allows people infected with HIV to live long and otherwise healthy life.

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