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Immune System vs. HIV

Our immune defense against HIV is coordinated by a group of cells, called the helper T-cells. These helper T-cells direct other immune cells to fight HIV. Some of the cells design custom antibodies against the virus. Others slow the growth of the virus by seeking and destroying cells that appear to be infected.

Unfortunately, HIV mounts a more strategic warfare than our immune system. For one, the virus replicates much faster than our cells. HIV replicates itself about every six hours while helper T-cells replicate only once every 10 days. Secondly, HIV is like a chameleon, frequently changing its appearance and confusing the immune cells designed to fight it. Finally, it seems that once our immune cells are infected with the virus they change their appearance. The immune system reacts by mistakenly killing its own virus-infected cells, thereby reducing the number of cells available to fight infection. Eventually, helper T-cells and other immune cells, are overwhelmed and can no longer fight HIV, or any other infection that comes along.

To effectively battle HIV, we must understand this virus and use weapons that incapacitate the virus and allow our body to defend itself. Without HIV drug therapy, this virus will eventually progress to the disease called AIDS. AIDS is generally diagnosed when CD4 counts drop below 200 and/or an AIDS-defining opportunistic infections develops.

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