Providing help for people with HIV and AIDS

What is HIV

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS. Two types of HIV are currently known: HIV-1 and HIV-2. World wide, the predominant virus is HIV-1. Although cases of HIV-2 have been reported in several parts of virus are transmitted by sexual contact, through blood, and from mother-to-child during pregnancy, delivery, or breast feeding. They both appear to cause clinically indistinguishable AIDS. However HIV-2 is less easily transmitted and the period between initial infection and illness is longer than in HIV-1 cases. Cases of concurrent infections with the two viruses have been described in West Africa.

HIV belongs to the family of retroviruses. Like all retroviruses HIV contains RNA in its core and to live and replicate it needs a host cell. HIV preferentially infects a specific subset of white blood cells (CD4) that are fundamental in the immune defense system of the human body. Once the contact is made between the virus and the human cell, the virus transfers its RNA into the human cell. The RNA is transformed with the help of a substance (enzyme) called reverse transcriptase into DNA that is inserted into the human cell’s DNA to become an integral part of the human cell’s genetic material and therefore making the infection permanent.

Outside of the human body, HIV is easily destroyed. Heat (temperature higher than 60o centigrade) and various disinfectants such as formaldehyde, bleach, alcohol, acetone, phenol, and others are effective ways to destroy HIV.