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Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome AIDS suppresses the immune system related to infection with the human immunodeficiency virus HIV A person infected with HIV gradually loses immune function along with certain immune cells called CD4 T-lymphocytes or CD4 T-cells causing the infected person to become vulnerable to pneumonia fungus infections and other common ailments With the loss of immune function a clinical syndrome a group of various illnesses that together characterize a disease develops over time and eventually results in death due to opportunistic infections infections by organisms that do not normally cause disease except in people whose immune systems have been greatly weakened or cancersIn the early 1980s deaths by opportunistic infections previously observed mainly in organ transplant recipients receiving therapy to suppress their immune responses were recognized in otherwise healthy homosexual men In 1983 French cancer specialist Luc Montagnier and scientists at the Pasteur Institute in Paris isolated what appeared to be a new human retrovirusa special type of virus that reproduces differently from other virusesfrom the lymph node of a man at risk for AIDS Nearly simultaneously scientists working in the laboratory of American research scientist Robert Gallo at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda Maryland and a group headed by American virologist Jay Levy at the University of California at San Francisco isolated a retrovirus from people with AIDS and individuals having contact with people with AIDS All three groups of scientists isolated what is now known as human immunodeficiency virus HIV the virus that Infection with HIV does not necessarily mean that a person has AIDS although people who are HIV-positive are often mistakenly said to have AIDS In fact a person can remain HIV-positive for more than ten years without developing any of the clinical illnesses that define and constitute a diagnosis of AIDS In 1996 an estimated 226 million people worldwide were living with HIV or AIDS218 million adults and 830000 children The World Health Organization WHO estimates that
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