While presidents, AIDS activists and so-called dissidents are arguing whether AIDS exists or whether HIV causes AIDS, respected scientists are publishing well-researched articles, proving that it does in fact exist and is caused by HIV.
So-called dissidents, mostly from the United States, have managed to gain the ear of some South Africans, although their theories have been shunned by the international science community.
According to the “dissidents” HIV is not the cause of AIDS, but a harmless retrovirus, HIV and AIDS are not infectious, drugs used in the long-term treatment of HIV are the cause of AIDS and existing theories are based on unproven circumstantial evidence.
Asked to answer this much-debated question, several South African scientists and researchers responded:
“The HIV virus damages and destroys vital components of the immune system and then as a secondary process the body gets attacked by germs for which there is insufficient protection/defence/immunity, causing AIDS.”
According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US, HIV is characterised by a gradual deterioration of immune function.
Most notably, crucial immune cells, called CD4+ T cells are disabled and killed during the typical course of infection.
These cells play a central role in the immune response, signalling other cells in the immune system to perform their special functions.
A healthy, uninfected person, usually has 800 to 1 200 CD4+ T cells per cubic millimeter of blood. During HIV infection, the number of these cells in a person’s blood progressively declines.
When a person’s CD4+ T cell count falls below 200, he or she becomes particularly vulnerable to the opportunistic infections and cancers that typify AIDS, the end stage of HIV disease.
People with AIDS often suffer infections of the intestinal tract, lungs, brain, eyes and other organs, as well as debilitating weight loss, diarrhea, neurologic conditions and cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphomas.
Most scientists think that HIV causes AIDS by directly killing CD4+ T cells or interfering with their normal function, and by triggering other events that weaken a person’s immune function.
For example, the network of signalling molecules that normally regulates a person’s immune response is disrupted during HIV disease, impairing a person” ability to fight other infections.