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Understanding HIV and The Cause of Death of The Infected Human

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To answer this question a brief understanding of HIV is needed. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is, as its name suggests, a virus of the human immune system. HIV is a type of virus that integrates its own DNA into the host cell. In the case of HIV the host cell is CD4 T cells. Which are cells responsible for controlling and directing the body’s immune system. In brief HIV integrates its own DNA into the T cell to allow replication of viral DNA and proteins. The virus hijacks the function of the T cell to create more copies of the virus. More copies of the virus are released until the host cell dies.

The key to why HIV is so deadly lies in this mechanism, because the host cell is destroyed, and HIV replicates much faster than CD4 T cells, individuals infected with the virus will eventually become immunocompromised. Quantitative analysis of the numbers of CD4 cells in an individual with HIV is important for determining the progression of the virus. HIV patients who have fewer than “200 (CD4) cells/mm3” have progressed to the AIDS (Advanced immunodeficiency syndrome) stage of the virus . This is of particular importance because it means that the individual is now susceptible to “opportunistic infections” which happens to be the main cause of death among those with HIV.

The self-defining term opportunistic infections (OI) refers to any secondary systemic infection that occurs in individuals with HIV. OI may be viral/fungal/bacterial infections or it may refer to incidences of cancer caused by viruses in individuals with HIV. The most common OI for HIV patients include Pneumocystis Pneumonia, Kaposi’s sarcoma, Progressive Multifocal Leukoencephalopathy, Toxoplasmosis of the brain, and Tuberculosis. In a study published by The Journal of Infectious Diseases 71% of individuals among 20,858 reported HIV deaths were due to OI. Individuals with AIDS that are severely immunocompromised are unable to fight off the secondary infection and the cause of death is typically attributed to the infection. HIV allows other more serious, life-threatening infections to take hold, it is not the HIV that kills the individual, rather it is the more serious opportunistic infections.

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Understanding Hiv and the Cause of Death of the Infected Human. (2018, May 08). GradesFixer. Retrieved October 4, 2022, from
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