HIV; aka the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a sexually transmitted virus which affects around 2000 Kiwis. Outlined below is my original publication (2011) ; of the virus and how it works and attacks the human body. Remember World Aids day, December first, this Saturday!
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a very serious retrovirus that infects several types of cells within the human body (main cells that HIV infects are the T, CD4 and lymphocyte cells). This virus possibly came from chimpanzees many years ago and now has developed to impede the individuals that have acquired the virus. It can also lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and death by destroying the bodies’ immunity system. HIV has a simplistic life cycle as it only reproduces viral copies of itself. There are several inhibitor drugs which can disrupt the reproduction process and this is the one main way to stop HIV spreading and destroying the human immunity system. However people have a major influence in spreading the HIV virus and this is increased and decreased depending on ethnicity, culture education and lifestyle influences.
The human immunodeficiency viruses have a very simple life cycle as it does not respire, feed or excrete and only reproduce. The virus attaches itself to a human’s white blood cell, (usually being T, CD4 or lymphocyte cells; which are within our white blood cells immunity system). The virus recognises these particular cells by a specific protein called gp120 which is on our white blood cells’ surface. This receptor is attractive as this is the particular part that the HIV virus interacts with. The virus attaches itself to the host CD4 cell, once attached to the cell it then has to penetrate its RNA genetic information into the particular cell that it is attempting to invade. Firstly it has to break through the cells outer coat. Then the genetic RNA material from the HIV virus is inserted into the cell it wants to reprogram so more virus copies can be produced. The RNA genetic material is on one single chain and has to be converted into a DNA type which is on two chains. This process of converting RNA information to DNA on two strands is called reverse transcription. After the reverse transcription process the HIV virus has injected its genetic information into the CD4 cell and this cell has now been reprogrammed not for defending infection but instead producing more genetic copies of HIV using mitosis reproduction. The HIV virus has overtaken the immunity cell and usually stays dormant for several years before it reproduces more viral copies of itself. Whilst inert; the body does not usually show any visible signs or reactions that the HIV is present. The only definite diagnosis of being HIV positive is through blood screening or HIV testing. When the virus receives a signal to become active again it then replicates itself and makes more viruses while within the host cell. This replication process only occurs when an HIV enzyme called protease enables the virus to copy itself. Before the new copied viruses are let out of the host cell and into the blood stream to attack more vulnerable immunity defence cells it must first coat itself with a protein sheath. This protein sheath around the copied virus protects and capacitates the HIV genetic material. The copied HIV viruses are now complete and ready to push out of our CD4 cell and into the blood stream to find more white blood cells to attack and destroy. The virus is released into the human body and leaves behind the immunity cell that it has just eradicated. The new copied viruses move on to attack other defenceless cells using the same method of attachment, penetration, reverse transcription and then replication. This life cycle keeps repeating and can eventually lead to aids where the bodies’ immunity system is killed and can consequent in death.
The structure of the HIV retrovirus is very basic, it is made up of a protective layer and within this protective shell there is the HIV’s RNA which is all the genetic material for the virus. RNA is similar to human DNA but it is on one short strand and carries less than twenty genes in the nucleus. This is why it has to attach itself to a white blood cell as it does not carry enough of its own information for reproduction. On the outer layer of virus there are receptors and antigens and these parts recognise and attach onto the CD4 cell like a jigsaw puzzle.
There are several factors that influence and affect the spreading of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is mainly spread through the transferring of bodily fluids within the blood system. Unsafe sexual practises or activities and needle contamination are the main ways it can be spread from one person to another. It can be spread through sexual interactions and the exchanging of blood and other bodily fluids from cuts and sores on the body or within the mouth. Tear duct fluids and sexual activities where cuts on the body are revealed can increase the chances of the HIV virus being transmitted. The mixing of different body fluids between people is extremely risky especially if the virus is present in someone or on needles. HIV can be transmitted through a variety of bodily fluids such as genital and blood secretions within the blood and even in breast milk and this is a way that young children can get HIV. The spread through unsterile needles for injections, piercings or recreational drug usage is one of the major methods that the virus is transmitted. It is consumer choice to insure that the equipment they use for piercing, injections and recreational drugs are sterile to minimise the spread of the retrovirus. However the decision in which people make is the most important contributing factor. People who choose not to practise safe sex or do not discuss this option with their sexual partners are increasing their personal risk of obtaining the virus. Punter choices and actions are the major way HIV can be spread, the decisions people make may result in them attaining HIV.
The communities in which people live can also impact HIV and its spread, developing countries often have a higher rate of spreading HIV as education and medical facilities are very poor. People living in poverty do not have safe sex methods and many people are unaware that there are any. In Africa where there is little education and healthy sex clinics HIV is spread rapidly as people do not practise safe-sex or sterilise piercing and injecting equipment. Diseases and infections with low immunity systems can also be picked up and this is what can kill people that live in poverty or unhygienic places. The HIV virus kills their immunity to infections and in turn when they get a simple cold this can even kill them. Available treatments and drug inhibitors cannot be purchased as people do not have the revenue and the country does not have the economic society to fund drugs for their people. New Zealand is very lucky comparatively as everyone has access to HIV testing and support from http://www.nzaf.org.nz/
Openly discussing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus can help the understanding and make people more aware of the consequences of it. By conversing the subject people become aware and educated in ways they can decrease the rate that it is spread. As HIV was an unknown subject in the 1980’s thousands of people did not practise safe methods of injecting or sexual activities and in consequence thousands of people attained the immunity destroying retrovirus. Talking about HIV today has educated people and the viruses is not spread in vast numbers as it was in the eighties, however it still is of concern and people that may have got the virus should be tested and also discuss the subject.
There are many ways to decrease the spreading of HIV and also several treatments and drugs which can increase individuals CD4 cell counts. A persons CD4 count is like the level of immunity that people have within their white blood cells. A CD4 count between 500-1500 is a sufficient immunity level; but between levels 250-500 demonstrate some damage to the immunity system. However there is low risk of transmission or development of opportunistic infections or disease. A CD4 cell count less than 250 is extremely concerning as a person’s immunity system is low and damaged; they need to increase their CD4 count before they are diagnosed with aids or possibly pass away.
At each stage of the HIV reproduction stage there are several inhibitor drugs which can interrupt the reproduction stage. There are different groups of drugs which can prevent the life cycle of HIV at the different developing stages which were outlined above. The drugs that can interfere with each stage of the reproduction are: fusion inhibitors, these dugs disrupt the attachment process and stop the HIV attaching and penetrating into the white blood cell. The fusion inhibitors cover the antigen on the HIV and as such tricks the HIV. It stops recognition of the T, CD4 or lymphocyte cell and is like putting a cap on a pen. Reverse transcriptase inhibitors interrupt the reverse transcription process and prevent the HIV’s RNA genetic information transferring itself into HIV DNA strands. Protease inhibitors, integrase inhibitors and entry inhibitors are just some of the inhibitor drugs which interfere with the HIV reproduction stage. Under these categories there are several types of drugs which work in similar ways to stop each virus process. These are the main classes of inhibitors but within these classes of inhibitors there are even more; such as the nucleoside reverse transcriptase and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors which fit under the ‘Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors’ subheading. These inhibitor drugs help to maintain a high level CD4 count in the white blood cells and in affect help to fight the HIV virus by repairing and restoring the immunity system.
The body naturally produces antibodies which ‘attack’ HIV antigens and is the instinctive way that the body can fight the HIV virus. Yeast products contain a product that interfere with the body’s natural ability to fight of infections and diseases so consuming large quantities of alcohol, bread and other yeast products can restrict the bodies’ natural ability to produce antibodies to fight the HIV virus and keep a maintained immune system.
The actions people take when HIV positive can have significant impacts on a person life and welfare. Keeping the CD4 count up and the HIV viral load down (amount of HIV within the body) is critical along with taking medications properly and as necessary. People on treatments have similar life expectancy as to those who are HIV negative, but have to careful not to spread the virus to others through the exchange of body fluids. Lifestyles can be interrupted and interfered with as you are living with HIV and there is stigma in the community for HIV positive people. Some of this stigma includes some people that are HIV positive not being permitted to work in some industries such as the army or air force. This has many socio-cultural impacts and can decrease the areas that HIV positive people can work in due to stereotypes around possible health hazards. Being HIV can have numerous social, physical and emotional problems associated with it and many HIV people can have low self-esteems and depression. But being open and discussing HIV and educating it can help people and as a community people can feel valued and respected for the person they are. Just because someone is HIV positive does not change the person that they are therefore degradation of any form is unnecessary as it is discrimination!
The interaction between the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and humans impacts on lifestyles that people live. The retrovirus, if discussed and educated to people, could improve our knowledge and understanding of how the pathogen works. The HIV virus uses 6 main processes to reproduce it including reverse transcription; there are several inhibitor drugs available that can interfere with the HIV copying process. HIV attacks the human immunity system and progressively destroys the bodies’ ability to fight infections and diseases which can lead to aids and consequent in death.
*The above websites have further information and support about the HIV virus.
For assistance within New Zealand visit http://www.nzaf.org.nz/