Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (Weiss, 1993; Cecil, 1998). This condition progressively reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and leaves individuals susceptible to opportunistic infections and tumors (Holmes, Losina, Walensky, Yazdanpanah, Freedberg, 2003). HIV is transmitted through direct contact of mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk (Divisions of HIV/AIDS Prevention,2003). This transmission can involve anal, vaginal or oral sex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids. HIV virus consists of two types: HIV – 1, the most virulent and widespread type that causes most diseases; and HIV – 2, a lesser strand that occurs in West Africa. The viruses attach to and enter T lymphocytes that bear the CD4 protein (T helper cells) on their surfaces. The CD4 protein co-ordinates, the body’s immune response and as their numbers fall during the last stages of infection, profound immune suppression occurs making the person open to many “opportunistic infections”. This is the final life threatening stage of the infection. AIDS entails that the HIV has severely damaged the immune system, making the patient susceptible to infections that the immune system would otherwise combat.

Share this Post