Immune System Effects Of Hiv Health And Social Care Essay

The first cases of severe immune deterioration were recognized in 1981 which developed unusual infections. These infections were later called AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency System). It was soon realized that AIDS were caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Once a person has HIV and the HIV infection progresses, it weakens that person’s ability to fight off other diseases. Once it attacks the immune system, the virus will leave them more susceptible to other diseases. If this person with HIV contracts an additional disease, or once this person’s immune system shows deterioration that is when the person is known to have AIDS. AIDS continues to deteriorate the immune system and this will decrease the body’s ability to fight infections. Hundreds of people become infected with HIV and this causes AIDS which is one of the most serious, deadly diseases in human history and the affects, causes, transmissions and social implications of both HIV and AIDS will be explained in further detail in this essay.

Over the years, more information about HIV works has been learnt, and drugs were developed to interfere and slow down the growth of HIV. These drugs have helped people with the disease because they can now live much longer. But unfortunately there is still no cure for HIV and AIDS. Many people become affected with HIV each year, whether it is teens or adults. HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to another through blood (sharing needles- whether for sharing drugs, injecting steroids or used for tattooing), semen, vaginal fluids (unprotected intercourse) and breast milk. A new born baby can catch the virus from the mother; before birth, during birth or from breastfeeding. If the mother is tested and approaches the doctor before having the child, the doctor can prevent the spread of the virus from the pregnant mother to the expected baby.

Our body contains T-helper lymphocyte cells which contain CD4 receptor sites. These cells help the immune system function normally and they fight off certain kinds of infections. They fight off these infections by acting as messengers to other types of immune system cells, giving them a message to become more active and fight against invading germs. HIV has a core of genetic material, just like other viruses and this genetic material is RNA (ribonucleic acid) and this contains the information that the virus needs in order to replicate. The RNA in HIV has proteins called “reverse transcriptase” which is crucial for replication inside T-helper cells. They also contain proteins called antigens and they have diverse functions in viral replication. These antigens are like hooks on the outside of the virus, and they make it easier for the virus to hook onto the T-helper cells and infect them.

HIV affects the immune system by targeting these T-helper lymphocyte cells and attaches itself to the cells, infects them and uses them as a place to replicate the virus (however they also infect other cells in the body, macrophages, B cells and monocytes). The T cells contain genetic material in the form of DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and this is the cell stored all the information is needs in order to function. The CD4 receptor sites are on the surface of the T-helper lymphocyte cells and the HIV antigens fit perfectly in the CDR receptor sites. And once the HIV bumps into the right place on the T-helper cells, the virus immediately locks onto the CD4 receptor site and then it injects its lymphocytes core with the viral RNA and the reverse transcriptase.

In order for the T-helper cell to get infected, the viral RNA must travel to the cell’s nucleus. But before this takes place, an important transformation must occur in the cell. The viral RNA must transform into DNA enable to start the replication process, and this is done by the reverse transcriptase, which borrows material from the cell and changes the codes of the T-helper cell by giving it new DNA codes. Once the viral RNA is transformed to viral DNA, it enters the cell’s nucleus and attaches itself to the T-helpers lymphocytes DNA.  With the virus doing this it destroys the T-helpers function to fight off invading germs in the immune system and new viruses are produced to infect more T-helpers. HIV quickly takes over the body as nearly one billion T-helper lymphocyte cells become infected a day. With the T-helper cell population rapidly decreasing, the body loses its ability to build up an immune response against infections.

With HIV’s capability of reversing the natural process that takes place in cells, by transforming RNA into DNA it is considered to be a retrovirus.HIV belongs to a subgroup of retroviruses known as “slow” viruses, where it takes the virus up to 12 years or more from the initial infection for the virus to begin to show serious symptoms. Once these symptoms begin to show, they get serious infections that they normally would not and become immune deficient and this is called AIDS. Because the immune systems are weakened, people who have AIDS are unable to fight off any infections, particularly tuberculosis and other kinds of rare infections in the lungs, the surface covering the brain or the brain (encephalitis). And with people unable to fight off many infections, they will get sicker, especially if they do not take antiviral medications properly and this can lead to an early death. AIDS also affects the immune system it also affects special blood cells and organ cells such as bone marrow, spleen, liver and lymph cells. These cells create antibodies to try and fight against diseases. With the human body having few T-helper lymphocyte cells because of IHV, some cancers that are stimulated by viral illnesses may occur, and there is a chance for people with AIDS to get forms of lymphoma and a rare tumor of blood vessels in the skin called Kaposi’s sarcoma. With AIDS being fatal, it is important for doctor’s to detect an HIV infection as early as possible so that the infected person can take medication to delay getting AIDS.

Initially most of the people who were infected with HIV and AIDS were men, but as it began to spread more women and children caught the disease. There are about 33 million billion in the world living with HIV/AIDS and as the years go by; the number of people with HIV/AIDS continues to increase. This disease is present everywhere in the world, but is more common in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDC’s) and unfortunately the anti-retroviral drugs that are available to control the symptoms of this disease are too expensive for those in developing countries. But with these people not having enough money for medication to slow down the growth of HIV and there is no cure and lacking in knowledge about HIV/AIDS, they continue to have unprotected sex and pass on the disease. But there were programs that promoted safe sex practices, and these led to a reduction in HIV/AIDS in these places. It is said that the programs that Thailand held has saved more than 200,000 people from encountering the disease since 1993. With HIV and AIDS being the most deadly disease out there, it is necessary for those with the education to warn young teens and those in developing countries about how anyone can get infected by having unprotected sex and sharing needles. With programs like these it is also helpful for them to give their audience free condoms so that they can practice safe sex and prevent getting such a nasty virus.

Economic impacts :

Economic Impact in Africa

One way in which HIV and AIDS affect the economy is by reducing the labour supply through increased mortality and illness. Amongst those who are able to work, productivity is likely to decline as a result of HIV-related illness. Government income also declines, as tax revenues fall and governments are pressured to increase their spending to deal with the expanding HIV epidemic.

By making labour more expensive and reducing profits, AIDS limits the ability of African countries to attract industries that depend on low-cost labour and makes investments in African businesses less desirable. HIV and AIDS therefore threaten the foundations of economic development in Africa.

The impact that AIDS has had on the economies of African countries is difficult to measure. The economies of the worst affected countries were already struggling with development challenges, debt and declining trade before the epidemic started to affect the continent. AIDS has combined with these factors to further aggravate the situation. It is thought that the yearly impact of AIDS on sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) is a loss of 1%. While this is a relatively modest effect, it will build in significance over time, especially in countries where HIV prevalence is rising.

One way in which this impact can be reduced is through the provision of antiretroviral drugs to people living with HIV. A recent study in South Africa suggested that if ARV coverage expanded to reach 50% of those in need of the drugs then the effect of the epidemic on economic growth would be reduced by 17%.

The Impact on Life Expectancy:

In many countries of sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS is erasing decades of progress in extending life expectancy. A recent study found that the average life expectancy of individuals living in sub-Saharan Africa has fallen by five years since the early 1990s, mainly because of AIDS.35 In Swaziland it has been estimated that life expectancy at birth, which is currently just 33, would be 66 without AIDS.

The impact that AIDS has had on average life expectancy is partly attributed to child mortality, as increasing numbers of babies are born with HIV infections acquired from their mothers. The biggest increase in deaths, however, has been among adults aged between 20 and 49 years. This group now accounts for 60% of all deaths in sub-Saharan Africa, compared to 20% between 1985 and 1990, when the epidemic was in its early stages.38 By affecting this age group so heavily, AIDS is hitting adults in their most economically productive years and removing the very people who could be responding to the crisis.

Social Impacts:

The Impact on Households

The toll of HIV and AIDS on households can be very severe. Although no part of the population is unaffected by HIV, it is often the poorest sectors of society that are most vulnerable to the epidemic and for whom the consequences are most severe. In many cases, the presence of AIDS causes the household to dissolve, as parents die and children are sent to relatives for care and upbringing. A study in rural South Africa suggested that households in which an adult had died from AIDS were four times more likely to dissolve than those in which no deaths had occurred.8 Much happens before this dissolution takes place: AIDS strips families of their assets and income earners, further impoverishing the poor.


HIV/AIDs is one of the most deathly diseases in the United Kingdom today. The North-West of The United Kingdom is particularly badly affected. Since the virus was discovered in the 1980s, over 23,000 people have died from AIDs alone. It is estimated that there are around 73,000 people living with HIV in the United Kingdom today. That’s a 1:1000 figure. Although this is not as high as say, Sub-Saharan Africa, it’s still a shocking figure for an MEDC.[1] This shocking amount can be divided into three significant groups – homosexuals, drug users and people receiving blood transfusions, mainly haemophiliacs.

Homosexual relations are estimated to have left 39,000 people currently with the virus. Drug users are over 5,000 of the people with the virus, and blood transfusion patients make up just under 2,000 people living with the virus. The remaining amount of people living with the virus are children who inherited it from their parents, heterosexuals and people who got the virus due to wound contact when kissing/practising first aid etc.

The fact that there are so many people in the United Kingdom living with the virus has put a great strain on the NHS (National Health Service) in the UK. Although people see an MEDC such as The United Kingdom being able to cope well with a disease such as this, the truth is that it is extremely difficult – however, this is for different reasons than in an LEDC.

One of the main problems is that people do not like to come forward for testing. Whereas in an LEDC, the HIV/AIDs virus is so common that it is not considered a taboo, or dirty, in an MEDC, having the virus is considered dirty and foul, and people are afraid of being tested, simply because they know the social impact that it will have on their lives. Socially, the consequences of HIV/AIDs in an MEDC such as the United Kingdom are far greater than in an LEDC. As stated before, people living with the virus know that they will be abused verbally and physically, and that they will be considered infected and dirty. As the disease used to be associated mainly with homosexuals, drug users and sex workers, you can only imagine the horrific abuse HIV/AIDs patients may suffer, even if the abuse is (as is often the case) incorrect.

Another problem that the NHS has, coping with HIV/AIDs patients is not the limited amount of drugs – as would be the case in an LEDC, but the expense and abundance of drugs. The problem is that after a while, an HIV/AIDs patient often becomes resistant to the given drugs. This means that the NHS needs to find a new drug for the patient, one that they are not resistant to. Then extra drugs need to be given to counterbalance the negative side-effects of drugs, such as nausea, vomiting, dizziness and loss of consciousness. This, in effect, means that any one individual may be taking up to twenty pills a day, in a cocktail of chemicals. It’s not the lack of drugs that causes problems in MEDCs, it’s the fact that we constantly have to develop new ones to fight the disease, and this puts a great strain on the economy of a country. In 2005, the United Kingdom spent £23 billion on its health budget. 65% of that went into HIV/AIDs health care, drug development and advertising campaigns, encouraging people to be tested and treated against the virus.

Another economic problem with HIV/AIDs in the United Kingdom is that one of the groups who have the virus is refugees, and they cannot afford drug treatment. Now, as with LEDCs, the United Kingdom, as an MEDC is starting to face the same problem. It cannot afford to supply free drugs to everyone with the virus, and this means that while the middle-class population can afford drug treatment, many working-class people and immigrants cannot.

Campaigns such as Children in Need, Stop AIDs Now and (RED) are working to produce funding for these people, and so far they have raised enough money to keep these people on drug treatment programs.

Demographically, the impact that the HIV virus has had on the United Kingdom is not as great as it is in an LEDC, as you can see when you compare the population pyramids. Still, it does have a definite impact on the amount of deaths and the population in the United Kingdom. You can see that the band of 20-29 year old in the United Kingdom – mainly the children who would have contracted HIV/AIDs in the 80s and 90s is significantly smaller than the bands above and below it. As a result of this, you can foreshadow a drop in an elderly population for the United Kingdom, as well as fewer children, as many HIV/AIDs patients do not wish to have children out of concern of them contracting the virus. There are, however, now ways of preserving sperm, such as ‘sperm washing’ that can ensure children that are given birth to are not contaminated with the virus.