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What is AIDS AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome Acquired - means that the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease causing agent in this case HIV Immunodeficiency - means that the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system Syndrome - refers to a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections andor cancers as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells in a persons immune system A diagnosis of AIDS is made by a physician using specific clinical or laboratory standards First the basics AIDS acquired immune deficiency syndrome is a condition caused by a virus called HIV This virus attacks the immune system the bodys security force that fights off infections When the immune system breaks down you lose this protection and can develop many serious often deadly infections and cancers These are called opportunistic infections OIs because they take advantage of the bodys weakened defenses You have heard it said that someone died of AIDS This is not entirely accurate since it is the opportunistic infections that cause death AIDS is the condition that lets the OIs take hold And what is HIV HIV is a virus like the flu or cold A virus is really nothing but a set of instructions for making new viruses wrapped up in some fat protein and sugar Without living cells a virus cant do anything - its like a brain with no body In order to make more viruses and to do all of the other nasty things that viruses do a virus has to infect a cell HIV mostly infects T-cells also known as CD4 cells or T-helper cells These cells are white blood cells that turn the immune system on to fight disease Once inside the cell HIV starts producing millions of little viruses which
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