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The HIV life cycle.
The HIV life cycle for beginners. Learning about the 3 phases of HIV infection.
HIV life cycle
The life cycle is divided into many phases;
The first phase is the attachment of the virus to an immune cell, which is the first process of infection and ends with the new virus budding out of the infected cell. Just as the influenza virus has an affinity for the cells of the respiratory tract (lungs), so HIV has an affinity for the immune system cells—especially the T helper cells (known as a CD4 T Cell).
When the protruding portions of HIV come in contact with the CD4+ cellular receptor of the cell, various changes occur which allow the virus to fuse to the host cell (fusion), and the genetic material of the virus is able to enter the cell.
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Once the virus has entered the cell, the viral RNA (originally in its own capsid) is released into the cell – followed closely by the production of double-stranded DNA from single-stranded RNA (third phase). The reverse transcriptase enzyme assists in this process.
The viral DNA is then integrated into the host DNA using another viral enzyme called retroviral integrase. Simply put, the viral DNA has now hijacked the host DNA and is able to produce more virus RNA through a process called transcription. RNA is produced in several forms as part of the process that will help produce viral proteins, and eventually form new viral particles. The protein building blocks are cleaved (joined) using another viral enzyme called protease and migrate to the edge of the cell as viral proteins to form new viruses (virions).
The final phase is called budding. As the new virus moves out of the cell it takes with it part of the cell outer membrane as part of its own structure. Once outside the cell, the virions mature to form new infectious viruses that may go on to infect more cells and repeat this process.
We all have questions.
Below are some of the answers to the most common questions that you need to know.
What is usually the first sign of HIV?
After getting infected with HIV, most patients only experience moderate flu-like symptoms. Typically, the illness is sudden in onset and is characterised by fever, swelling of the lymph glands, a measles-like rash all over the body and ulcers in the mouth and sometimes on the genitalia.
What are the 4 stages of HIV?
- Stage 1: Infection – Exposure to infected bodily fluids.
- Stage 2: Asymptomatic – HIV quickly spreads and the patient becomes seropositive for HIV antibodies.
- Stage 3: Symptomatic – The immune system is now engaged in a constant battle with the rapidly replicating virus.
- Stage 4: AIDS – At this stage, the patient’s CD4+ count is 200 cells per mm3 or less.
How soon can HIV be detected by a blood test?
No test can detect HIV immediately after infection. The time between initial infection and a detectable viral load is called the window period. It can take anywhere from 2-12 weeks to after exposure detect whether you are HIV-positive or not, depending on which testing method is used.
How long does it take to show symptoms of HIV?
Following initial infection, there is a period of intense, unchecked viral replication that occurs. It usually takes two to four weeks after infection and can last about one to two weeks, after which there tends to be a slight recovery, and the infected individual is considered to be seropositive for HIV antibodies.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV is transmitted from one person to another through the exchange of body fluids. The main method of transmission in South Africa is through unprotected sexual activity.
Does HIV test affect life insurance?
Being HIV-positive can affect standard life insurance policies, particularly if your status changes from HIV-negative to HIV-positive within a particular age range. That’s why AllLife covers all lives. Your HIV status doesn’t prevent you from getting cover with us.
Can HIV-positive women have children?
Yes, HIV-positive women can enjoy healthy pregnancies and give birth to healthy HIV-negative babies. Through the Prevention of Mother to Child Transmission (PMTCT) programme has been highly effective in reducing transmission risk to under 1%.
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In a few simple steps, you could be covered for comprehensive Life Cover and HIV Disability Cover (optional). We believe in providing you with Life Insurance to suit your needs so we will find a solution for you.
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After you’re covered you can enjoy the benefit of our Health Control Programme where we remind and assist you when it comes to regular tests and checkups, ensuring that you live a healthy and happy life.
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