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Pathology of HIV and AIDS Essay (Critical Writing)

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Updated: Jun 20th, 2019

Aids or acquired immune deficiency syndrome is defined as a combination of symptoms and infections that results from low immunity caused by a virus known as HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus. However, researchers have argued that there are other factors that contribute to the same problem.

The condition increases individuals’ susceptibility to opportunistic infections as well as different types of tumors because it affects the immune system (Huether & McCance, 2007). In the view of the fact that HIV infection involves many cells in the body, its path physiology is complex and difficult to understand. Once the HIV virus enters the human body, it depletes CD4+ T helper cells thereby weakening the immune system which gives room to the opportunistic infections to develop.

HIV infection takes place in different phases. The first phase is known as the acute phase and is also referred to as the asymptomatic period. It is characterized by depletion of CD4+T cells which occurs after infected cells are killed by cytotoxic T cells as well as due to cell lysis which is induced by HIV.

In addition, the acute phase is also marked by apoptosis, a process of death of cells leading to elimination of cells. Chronic phase follows closely and it is marked by great decline of CD4 + cells caused by the failure of the immune system to make new T cells and by general effects of immune activation. It is important to note that despite the fact that symptoms are not observed immediately after infection, there is great loss of CD4+ cells in the intestinal mucosa which harbors a lot of lymphocytes.

The next phase is known as latent phase which occurs due to immune response meant to prevent further infection. Although the HIV life cycle is marked by depletion of CD4 cells, the body still manages to fight very dangerous opportunistic infections. Constant weakening of CD4+ cells which takes place in the acute phase affects mucosal barrier and the same lowers immunity further (Medic n.d ).

The last stage of HIV AIDS is characterized by emergence of opportunistic infections. The stage takes place after continuous depletion of CD4 + T cells. The situation does not only emanate from immediate killing of CD4 + T cells but also from the process of apoptosis. HIV also affects thymocyte and thereby reduces the ability of the thymus to produce new T cells (Huether & McCance, 2007).

Major classifications of drugs used to treat HIV and their impact the HIV life cycle

Antiretroviral drugs are used by HIV positive patients to improve their condition since effective cure of the disease has not yet been found. They are grouped in to five classes depending with the way they fight the HIV virus. Intergrase inhibitor like raltegravir reduces the chances of integration of viral DNA there by reducing the risk of infection. The next classification of entry inhibitors reduces the chances of HIV-1 virus entering the cell of human beings.

Nucleoside inhibitor prevents elongation of viral DNA by inhibiting reverse transcription. On the other hand, non nucleotide inhibitors prevent the replication of the HIV virus by interfering and preventing the action of the enzyme. Protease inhibitors were approved in the year 1995 to prevent the replication of the HIV virus by inhibiting the protease enzyme which helps in the same.

Each classification contains various drugs like zidovudine, lopinavir, lamivudine, efavirence, tenoforvir and ritonavir, to mention just a few (Medic n.d). Although all drugs are effective, their availability in different countries in the world is dependent on the resources the country has.

Opportunistic Infections

HIV victims are usually affected by infections as well as by malignancies known as opportunistic infections due to increased susceptibility. They usually suffer from diseases caused by bacteria like tuberculosis which is the most common. It is marked by persistent cough as well as by weight loss.

Although it is found virtually everywhere in the world, it mostly affects people in the developing countries. Cryptococcosis is also an opportunistic disease resulting from fungal infection. It mostly affects the brain and represents itself as meningitis or even as a pulmonary disease.

Herpes is also an infection common among HIV victims and is characterized by sores in the mouth and around the genital area. It is caused by a virus know as herpes zoster and although it is not fatal, it is extremely painful. There is yet another infection common in HIV victims identified as histoplasmosis. Its symptoms are inclusive of loss of weight, breathing difficulties, fatigue and fever. Although it is treatable, it can end up being fatal if not treated in time (Huether & McCance, 2007).

Finally, there is a disease known as toxoplasmosis which results from protozoan that exists in raw meat and also in the feaces of a cat. It affects the brain and can lead to vomiting, headache, fever, confusion and even coma. Failure to treat the disease can lead to other complicated diseases like the pneumonia.

More often than not, death of the HIV victims is caused by failure to treat the opportunistic infections. Therefore, HIV victims are advised to seek medical attention immediately they feel ill since there are many dangerous opportunistic infections beyond the scope of this paper.


Huether, S. E., & McCance, K. L. ( 2007). Understanding Pathophysiology. St. Louis : Mosdy.

Medic (n.d.). Antiretroviral Therapy For Hiv And Aids . Retrieved from

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