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What Do “HIV” and “AIDS” Stand For?  (Basic Definitions)

What does HIV stand for?

What does AIDS stand for?

What is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?

What is the immune system?

What are antibodies?

What is a virus?

What is a vaccine?

What is an opportunistic infection?

 

What does HIV stand for?

·         HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  

 

What does AIDS stand for?

·         AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome.  This is caused by the immune system being depleted of its cells by HIV.  Once enough of these cells have been destroyed by HIV, the body is not capable of fighting off other bacteria and viruses as easily, particularly opportunistic infections.  The word “Acquired” is included because you have to catch HIV, it doesn’t just spontaneously occur.

 

What is a Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD)?

·         An STD is a disease that is passed from one person to another primarily or only during sexual activity.  Sexual activity is vaginal sex, anal sex, oral sex on a man or woman, rimming (oral-anal contact), mutual masturbation (for purposes of STDs, solo masturbation is not considered a sexual activity), frottage (rubbing up against another person without insertion) and/or kissing.  Some STDs can be passed by any sexual activity while others require certain activities to be passed.  HIV is considered an STD, but, luckily, it is one of the more difficult ones to transmit, and requires certain sexual activities to be passed. 

 

What is the immune system?

·         The immune system are the parts of the human body that fend off disease.  This includes any and all diseases, although the immune system isn’t always successful.  The human body is normally filled with tons of viruses and bacteria.  These organisms generally do not pose a threat to a person because the immune system keeps them in check.  If you become sick, it’s because the immune system wasn’t prepared to fight off that particular virus or bacteria; however, the immune system is also what causes you to eventually be able to get over diseases once you do become ill.

 

What are antibodies?

·         Antibodies are the cells that the immune system creates to fight off disease.  The immune system will “read” what a bacteria or virus consists of and create appropriate antibodies to kill it.  A person will create antibodies to HIV; however, these are not adequate enough to eliminate this virus due primarily to the fact that HIV attacks the immune system itself.

 

What is a virus?

·         A virus is a microscopic organism.  The way a virus works is it enters the cells of another organism, then once inside, will change the genetic material in the cell to match its own genetic material, thereby reproducing itself but destroying the host cell in the process.  This process is called virus replication.  HIV does this to specific cells in the human immune system.  Once enough of those cells have been destroyed by HIV, the person develops AIDS.  We currently do not have a cure for any virus.  There are treatments out there for various viruses, including HIV, which help, but ultimately the immune system is the only thing that can rid the body of a virus.

 

What is a vaccine?

·         A vaccine is a substance that “teaches” the immune system how to respond to a disease.  Most vaccines contain a dead or weakened strain of the disease, then when it is put into the person’s body, the immune system has a chance to “read” the pathogen and will be prepared to fight it off when coming into contact with a live version.

 

What is an opportunistic infection?

·         An opportunistic infection is a virus or bacteria that usually does not present a danger to a person unless their immune system has been compromised.  These types of diseases are referred to as “opportunistic” because they take the opportunity to infect someone when they recognize the immune system has been adequately compromised.