Monday, 22 December 2014


Over recent weeks, I have heard two different versions of the fate of the HIV against the attack of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.

Let us go from the basics. HIV is not alive as a parasite is alive. It consists of a microscopic string of DNA that enters CD4 cells and attaches to the DNA chain before linking with the RNA for replication.

It is a totally passive virus and moves in massive numbers through the blood stream like leaves in a stream. It does not attack the small intestine as we often read. It is shepherded to the millions of gut CD4 and genital cells and engulfed. It is like a herd of passive sheep with no legs.

The virus may enter through the genitals, the second filthy organ of the body and moves to the lymph nodes. It passes through the lymph vessels and enters the vena cava, two major veins that enter the heart.

It is swept through the heart and passes down the abdominal artery, shepherded by the white blood cells to CD4 cells that guard the small intestine, the first filthiest organ of the body. The gut carries millions of bacteria that often pass through the gut wall by cracks in the lining to cause infection.

The virus has two basic sites. The first is the blood stream. The second are the hiding places. There are hiding places in the lymph organs and the long bones of the body where the red blood cells are made. In the bloodstream, the virus is vulnerable to ARV.

That is why a baby can be treated with ARV on birth if only newly infected in passing down the birth canal. The virus stays in the bloodstream for several hours and can be stopped by the ARV. After that time, it starts to move to the hiding places.

An HIV woman can protect her unborn baby by taking ARV during pregnancy. The viral load in her blood stream is reduced to zero.

So too, a woman who has been raped can be given ARV treatment within the first 30 hours and have the virus killed in the blood stream before it can penetrate deeper.

So what does it mean that the viral load is reduced to zero? Does it mean that the virus particles are permanently immobilized? This means that the infected person cannot pass the virus to another person.

I am hearing two versions in the community at the present time and am looking for an authoritative text to post in the weeks to come.

One is that the virus in the blood is put to sleep. Does that mean that the virus will spring to potency in the blood stream if the ARV treatment ceases? I had thought the virus would spring from the hiding places if ARV is stopped, not the blood stream.

The other is that the virus is killed in the bloodstream. Well as killed as we can make a strand of DNA. Does that mean that an infected person can have intercourse with an HIV negative person without a condom and not cause infection?

These questions will be focussed on in the weeks to come.

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