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How HIV Works in Your Body

  • HIV invades a healthy CD4
    • Viruses, including HIV, cannot make copies of themselves on their own
    • To survive, HIV must invade a health cell in your body
    • HIV likes to invade CD4 cells -- special cells that help the body's Immune System protect you against germs and viruses that can make you sick
  • HIV has the key to unlock the cell
    • HIV has a special chemical to unlock and enter the CD4 cell
    • The chemical is like a key on the surface of the virus, read to open CD4 cells for invasion and infection
  • HIV changes to enter the CD4 cell command center
    • HIV uses another chemical, the enzyme known as "reverse transcriptase" to change so it can gain entry into the cell's command center
  • HIV gets inside the command center
    • In a healthy CD4 cell's command center, or nucleus, substances are being produced to signal the immune system to protect the body against disease
    • HIV uses another enzyme known as "integrase" to get inside the command center
  • HIV takes over the CD4 cell
    • HIV now takes control, inserting its own codes into the command center so that the reprogrammed CD4 cell will make new virus
  • CD4 cell becomes and HIV factory
    • The infected CD4 cell is now an HIV factory, pumping out new viral parts
    • A third enzyme, called "protease," cuts out and assembles the new viral parts into new copies of the virus
    • New copies of the virus leave the cell ready to seek out more and more CD4 cells to invade
      • OVERVIEW:
        1. HIV
        2. HIV uses reverse transcriptase to change
        3. HIV uses integrase to enter command center
        4. HIV inserts its own codes
        5. Protease assembles viral parts
        6. New HIV

  • Anti-HIV medications battle the enzymes
    • All anti-HIV medications attack the virus inside the CD4 where the virus is trying to make copies of itself
    • These medication, called enzyme inhibitors, work by blocking the enzymes used by HIV
    • There are 3 types of anti-HIV medications
      • NRTIs (nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
      • NNRTIs (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
      • PI (protease inhibitors)
  • HIV makes copies if you miss doses
    • As the anti-HIV medication work to stop the virus from making more copies of itself, the amount of HIV in the blood (viral load) drops dramatically
    • If you miss a dose of your NRTI or NNRTI, HIV can enter some new CD4 cells
    • If you miss a dose of your PI, the HIV can make good copies of itself to attack more cells
    • Although missing a single dose is not a disaster, the more you miss, the more HIV will copy  itself in you
  • Stay on anti-HIV medicines to keep down viral load
    • Your medicines are working the amount of virus in your blood goes down and remains low
    • "Undetectable" means that the number of HIV copies in the blood is so low that is cannot be measures by blood tests, but does not mean the virus is gone
    • That's why staying on anti-HIV medicines can help you live a longer, healthier life

information provided by Glaxo Wellcome
1999 Glaxo Wellcome Inc.  All rights reserved. CBV261R0  March 1999

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