Unique Features of HIV
The thought of contracting HIV is frightening. And there is good reason for that fear -- the disease is presently incurable, it has a high mortality rate, it spreads quickly and there is no vaccine to protect against it. In today's world, that combination is rare. For example, small pox is often fatal, but the disease has been completely contained through vaccinations. Tuberculosis is often fatal but can usually be cured with antibiotics if caught early.

AIDS has been able to infect and kill so many people because of its unique makeup. Let's look at some of the features that make this disease so unusual:

  • HIV spreads by intimate contact with an infected person. Forms of intimate contact that can transmit AIDS include sexual activity and any sort of situation that allows blood from one person to enter another. Especially when you compare it with the many viruses that spread through the air, it would seem like the intimacy involved in the transmission of AIDS would be a limiting factor. However

  • A person can carry and transmit the HIV virus for many years before any symptoms show themselves. A person can be contagious for a decade or more before any visible signs of disease become apparent. In a decade, a promiscuous HIV carrier can potentially infect dozens of people, who each can infect dozens of people, and so on.

  • HIV invades the cells of our immune system and reprograms the cells to become HIV-producing factories. Slowly, the number of immune cells in the body dwindles and AIDS develops. Once AIDS manifests, a person is susceptible to many different infections, because the immune system has been weakened so much by the HIV it can no longer fight back effectively. HIV has also shown the ability to mutate, which makes treating the virus nearly impossible.

The last feature in this list is the one that is truly unique. HIV invades and destroys the immune system -- the system that would normally protect the body from a virus. HIV corrupts and disables the system that should be guarding against HIV.