What is HIV and AIDS? | Infectious diseases | NCLEX-RN | Khan Academy

What is HIV and AIDS? | Infectious diseases | NCLEX-RN | Khan Academy


– [Voiceover] What is
HIV, and what is AIDS? Well, let’s first look at HIV. HIV is a virus that
attacks our immune system, and if we expand this out, we can see that that’s reflected in its name: Human Immunodeficiency Virus. So this implies that it
does something to our immune system somehow, and we’ll actually explore that a little bit later on. And if we don’t treat HIV,
it’ll eventually cause AIDS in the infected person. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. So right away you already get a sense that HIV attacks your immune
system so destructively, that you end up acquiring
an immune deficiency system. It puts you into a state
of immune-system failure, so you end up not being able to fight off even the most basic infections. And this immune-less state,
is what we call AIDS. So let’s explore this a
little bit further now. Let’s actually use the help of a graph, this might be helpful. So here’s our graph, and
we’ll put time down here on our X-axis, and actually
just to make this extra useful, we’ll put weeks in this
beginning part here, and then we’ll transition
to years here, and you’ll see how this is relevant in
a few more minutes here so, on the Y-axis here, we’ll
put CD4 T-lymphocyte count. T-lymphocytes are a
really really important type of immune system cell. And CD4 just refers to a
type of protein that’s stuck through their cell membranes,
that’s kinda how we like to identify them, by this
protein on their membranes. And the reason they get a
special spot on an entire axis of our graph here is
because they’re super important in the progression from
HIV infection to AIDS. Because as you might have
suspected, it turns out that HIV preferentially
loves to infect these CD4 cells of our immune system. And why is this so bad? Well, these CD4 cells,
also called helper T cells, play a huge role in signalling
your other immune cells to come and destroy every
given infectious particle that our body discovers. Like maybe strep throat
bacteria, or flu viruses, or even HIV viruses, for that matter. So these CD4 cells are kinda central. They’re almost like little
amplifiers of our immune system. So because HIV loves to
infect and kill these cells, it completely disrupts how
our immune systems function, and renders it essentially useless. So let’s say you acquire HIV in your body, either in your bloodstream
or your tissues, maybe through unprotected
sex with an infected partner, that would be the most
common method of becoming infected with HIV, in adults at least. What happens? Well, the main thing is that
the virus really quickly gets into your white blood cells, so these T-helper cells, the
CD4 cells we’ve talked about. But also some other white blood cells, like your macrophages and so on. And from inside a white blood
cell, it can do two things. One, it can sorta hijack
your cell’s machinery, so it manages to insert
its genetic material into your own cell’s DNA. And from there it starts to
make lots and lots and lots of copies of itself, lots
of new HIV particles. Actually that’s really really important, so let’s put that on our
graph too, let’s say, “viral load” here on another Y-axis here. Viral load referring to the amount of HIV in your bloodstream. So we can see that after
our primary infection here, the viral load starts to increase. It’s hijacked our T helper cells, and now new HIV particles
are being churned out, and our viral load is
majorly on the upswing. And you’ll notice that the
viral load is starting to rise at around the two to three week mark, and that’s just ’cause it
takes a bit of time for the HIV virus production to start sort of ramping up within our bodies. And of course a major
concern here is well, the more HIV there is in your bloodstream, the more CD4 cells get
infected, get hijacked, right? But the biggest problem
here, thing number two here, is that HIV infection of your CD4 cells, triggers a self-destruct
sequence within these cells. So you end up losing these CD4 cells. And even worse, the
self-destruct sequence doesn’t just destroy the infected
cells, it even destroys nearby immune cells that
maybe have come into the area to try to help out. So I won’t go into the
mechanism in this video, but you do end up losing
lots more immune cells than just the infected
ones, and that’s part of why you see this massive dropoff
here, this line representing our CD4 T-cell numbers has this
really steep downward slope, we’re losing lots of T-cells. While at the same time our
HIV viral load is going up and causing more and more
infection of our cells. The other thing I wanna point
out here is you can see this massive rise in viral load
and this pretty massive drop in CD4 levels, and this
huge viral load means that this time period right,
early on in an infection, is when someone with HIV
has the highest risk of transmitting it to someone else. I guess one good thing
here is that eventually, maybe a month or so in,
your immune system gets somewhat of a handle on the virus, and it starts to make
anti-HIV antibodies, right? Those are just antibodies against HIV. So they start to fight off
the virus to some extent. And this is called seroconversion,
when you make antibodies to something, so now we’ve
seroconverted to HIV. So now the antibodies
get to work on helping to destroy the viral particles. And that’s why we see this decrease here in viral load in the bloodstream. Because our immune system
is starting to control the viral levels to some degree. And this also gives our CD4
cells a chance to recover, to some extent, because there’s less virus around to infect them. So you might be wondering, how
you’re gonna feel during all of this, with this massive
battle going on inside your body? Well, you’re gonna feel
sick, you’re probably gonna feel like you’re having the
worst flu you’ve ever had. So about here, about a month
or so in, at seroconversion, you start to fight the infection. And as a result, most
people get some serious flu-like symptoms, so things
like headache, and fever, and sore throat, muscle
pains, joint pains, some people get swollen glands, just sort of fatigue and feeling unwell. Some people get a rash, some people get some open sores in their mouth. These are some of the more common symptoms of an acute infection with HIV. And this flu-like illness
that people experience is referred to as Acute HIV Syndrome. And the reason for a lot of
these symptoms is because well, when immune system
cells get really active, or when they die off, both
of which are happening here of course, they tend
to release these little chemical signals that cause inflammation, sort of all throughout your
body, and so this is what underlies a lot of these symptoms here. So back to our graph,
the immune system can’t completely kill off the
HIV, even though we have antibodies now, right? And that’s because A, remember the rate of immune system killing is
roughly matching up with the rate of new viral
particles being produced. And B, because the virus has
sort of taken up residence in some really really hard-to-reach
reservoirs in our body. Like within the brain and
within our bone marrow, and within our genital tract. Because of these two
reasons, these curves tend to sort of stabilize at some
point, they reach a set point, where again, our immune
system is killing off HIV at a pretty similar rate to
which HIV is replicating. So the curves start to
come together a bit more and stabilize somewhat. So this period here is
thought of as the start of the second phase of HIV
infection, what’s called the latency period, or Chronic HIV. This acute infection back
here being phase one. So in this latency period, we
don’t tend to see any clinical signs of HIV illness, the
person is often asymptomatic. They’re still infectious, but
there are few or no symptoms during this phase, and without treatment, this phase will last on
average about 10 years. And I said that our curves
here stabilized, right? But it turns out that
HIV’s actually replicating, killing our immune cells
just a teensy little bit more than our CD4s are recovering. So over this long period
of time, phase two, eventually, again, without treatment, HIV will start to overwhelm
our immune system, and we’ll start to see symptoms again. So things like fever or muscle
pains or swollen glands, really similar to the
acute infection, and again, much for the same reasons as before. And many people at this
stage of the illness experience significant weight loss. HIV causes you to use
more energy than usual, and also prevents you
from absorbing nutrients from your food as well
as you normally would. So we often see some
significant weight loss for these and a few other reasons as well. Eventually, if our CD4 cells
get to a critically-low number, and result in our having no
functional immune system, that’s what AIDS is. Essentially a state of being
where we have no immune system. So at this point, this
is when certain bugs, bacteria and viruses that
would never stand a chance against even a
minimally-effective immune system, these things start to infect the person. And we refer to these
specific infections as AIDS-defining illnesses,
because we just know that if somebody has
one of these illnesses, they just cannot have a
functioning immune system, it just wouldn’t happen,
or at least it would be really really unusual. So there’s a high suspicion
of this person having AIDS and not just an HIV infection anymore if they have any of these
AIDS-defining illnesses. Two examples of
AIDS-defining illnesses are two fungal pneumonias, one
called pneumocystis pneumonia, and one called cryptococcal pneumonia. These are two common
AIDS-defining illnesses. And again, these aren’t the
types of infections that you get when your immune system
works even a little bit. So actually one of two
criteria has to be met before we can say someone has AIDS. Either they have to have
extremely low amounts of CD4 cells in their blood,
and to get a little bit technical here, it’s if they
have less than 200 CD4 cells per microliter of blood,
with the normal count, the normal CD4 count in
this amount of blood, it should be around
1000 to 1100 CD4 cells. Or, regardless of CD4 count, if they have any of the
AIDS-defining illnesses, like either of these, for example, then we can say that
they have developed AIDS. And so you might have suspected
this, but it’s actually the overwhelming impact,
and the complications of serious infections that you pick up because of the immune deficiency in AIDS that actually results in
the death of the person. So from HIV infection to
eventually an incredibly high amount of viral particles,
and low amount of CD4 cells in the bloodstream, to
development of a completely non-functional immune system in AIDS, very quickly leading to
overwhelming infection by essentially every infectious
pathogen from A to Z. And because of this, death results.