HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, specifically targeting the CD4 cells (also known as T cells), which are crucial for fighting off infections and diseases. HIV is classified as a retrovirus, meaning it contains its genetic material in the form of RNA instead of DNA. This genetic material allows HIV to replicate within the CD4 cells, gradually weakening the immune system over time.
HIV is primarily transmitted through certain body fluids, including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. The most common modes of transmission are unprotected sexual intercourse, sharing contaminated needles or syringes, and mother-to-child transmission during childbirth or breastfeeding.
People infected with HIV may experience flu-like symptoms shortly after contracting the virus, including fever, fatigue, and sore throat. However, these initial symptoms may dissipate after a short period, and individuals may remain asymptomatic for years. If left untreated, HIV can progress to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), a more advanced stage of the disease where the immune system becomes severely compromised, making individuals highly susceptible to opportunistic infections and certain types of cancers.
Although there is no cure for HIV, advancements in antiretroviral therapy (ART) have significantly improved the quality of life for those who are infected. ART helps suppress the virus, reduces its replication rate, and can effectively prevent the progression to AIDS. Additionally, proper prevention measures, such as practicing safe sex, using sterile needles, and early diagnosis, play a crucial role in containing the spread of HIV.
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The word "HIV" stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
The etymology of the term "virus" is derived from the Latin word "virus", which originally meant "slimy liquid" or "poison". In the late 14th century, "virus" began to be used to refer to a "venomous substance". Over time, the meaning of "virus" expanded to include any infectious or pathogenic agent.
As for "Human Immunodeficiency", "human" refers to the species affected by the virus, while "immunodeficiency" denotes the condition caused by the virus, which weakens the immune system, making the individual more susceptible to various infections and diseases.
The term "HIV" was officially used in scientific literature in the early 1980s when the virus was identified as the cause of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).