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“The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function.” The virus attacks directly and mostly the CD4 cells, also known as T-cells, T-lymphocytes or helper cells. These cells are programmed to recognize, respond to and remember antigens, some T-cells are able to destroy an antigen in the direct contact while other release lymphokines that signal other cells for the attack. As HIV impairs the CD4 cells, the body’s immune system is permanently damaged as they are the natural defense mechanism created by the person. As the CD4 cell count decreases, the immune system becomes weaker. The cell count is the number of blood cells within a cubic millimeter of blood. “The CD4 cell count of a person who does not have HIV can be anything between 500 and 1500.”.
There are three different infection stages a HIV positive patient can find themselves in. The three stages of HIV infection are: acute HIV infection, chronic HIV, and finally AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). The stage in focus in this study is the chronic HIV, this is the phase where an HIV positive patient will spend most of their life in. Within this phase there is “clinical latency”. In this period the person infected with HIV normally does not experience any symptoms, or very few ones. This occurs because the HIV virus reproduces at very low levels, sometimes cannot even be detected in standard laboratory tests.
It is estimated that around the globe there were 36.7 million people living with HIV in 2015, with 1.8 million being children. In Brazil there were 830 000 people living with HIV in 2016, and 48 000 are newly infected people.
To this moment, no cure has been found, however treatments for controlling the disease have been developed. Antiretroviral therapy (or ART) is a medicine used to treat HIV; when taken regularly and correctly as prescribed by the specialist doctor, an infectologist, it can keep the virus under control and slow the effects of the disease on the body. This method is the best available to lower the chances of infecting others. Even though there are several benefits to the ART, it can present different side effects on the body including: diarrhea, fatigue, dizziness, skin rashes, difficulty to sleep and pain.
Physical fitness can be defined as “the ability to carry out daily tasks with vigor and alertness, without undue fatigue, and with ample energy to enjoy leisure-time pursuits and respond to emergencies.”. To be able to complete these tasks, the person must be conditioned to exercise themselves. There is a diverse number of components of fitness. The most common parts are cardiorespiratory endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, muscular power, flexibility, balance, speed and body composition. Cardiorespiratory endurance is usually measured by the time a person can resist an activity and the impact this causes to measurements such as heart rate and oxygen consumption. Muscular endurance refers to how many repetitions of an exercise a person can perform. Muscular strength is mostly measured by how much weight can be moved in relation to repetitions. Muscular power typically measured by how much force can be generated during a given activity, however it requires advanced equipment used by biomechanists. Flexibility typically measured by how far a muscle group can be stretched or joint can be moved. Balance can be measured by how long a particular position can be held with or without some type of activity being performed. Speed typically measured by how quickly an individual can move from one point to another. Body composition this is the amount of fat on the body versus other tissues such as muscle, bones and skin, it is measured using a variety of tests and devices.
Some of the forms of manifestation the body faces when the HIV virus enters the body are: cramps, nausea, diarrhea, fever, headache, muscle aches and joint pain, weight loss and enlarged lymph nodes in several body areas; these are called acute retroviral syndrome. These expressions of the HIV infection mentioned can affect the fitness level of a seropositive patient. As well as these symptoms, one that is agreed amongst many scientists and doctors is fatigue.
Fatigue “can be described as the lack of energy and motivation (both physical and mental)”, is one of the prevalent symptoms of the HIV infection. Another definition of fatigue is “also known as asthenia or prostration, is an unusual and prolonged tiredness, exhaustion, or lack of energy.” Due to the continuous effort required by the body to fight the virus, the patients become increasingly tired.
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