Route of the HIV infection

The HIV virus targets two groups of white blood cells. They are th CD4+ lymphocytes and monocytes/macrophages. In health humans, the CD4+ cells and macrophages help recognize and destroy infectious agents that invade cells and cause disease. In an HIV-infected person, the CD4+ lymphocytes are “killed” by the virus. The macrophages act as reservoirs, carrying HIV to a number of vital organs.

As the body’s CD4+ cells are depleted, the immune system weakens and is less able to fight off viral and bacterial infections. HIV attaches itself to the CD4+ lymphocyte and makes its way inside. This causes the cell to produce more HIV but, in doing so, the cell is destroyed.

In general, about 50 percent of HIV-infected adults are likely to develop AIDS within 10 years after first becoming infected. Early AIDS-preventive treatment with improved drugs may significantly prolonge life for persons with AIDS.

HIV positive people and infections

The infected person becomes susceptible to a wide range of “opportunistic” infections; such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, which rarely occurs in persons with normal working immune systems.

Tuberculosis (TB or  TBC) poses a particular threat to HIV+ people, especially in areas of the world where both TB and HIV infection are increasing at alarming rates. TB progresses faster in HIV-infected persons, and is more likely to be fatal if undiagnosed or untreated. In fact, TB is now the leading killer of HIV-infected Africans.

HIV positive people and cancer

HIV-infected persons are also more susceptible to otherwise rare cancers such as the most cited Kaposi’s sarcoma, a tumor of the blood vessels or the lymphatic vessels. HIV may also attack the brain, causing neuro-psychiatric problems.