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25 Things You Should Know About HIV (And Probably Don’t) #11

Posted in Awareness, treatment on Monday, November 8th, 2010 by Kelly - 1 Comment

We are working out way throught the 20 Things You Should Know About HIV (And Probably Don’t). Today let’s talk about one more important issue that may not be on everyone’s mind when thinking about HIV.

“Know your enemy and know yourself and you can fight a hundred battles without disaster.” ~ Sun Tzu

#11  The real enemy in HIV may be inflammation.

When your body gets invaded by viruses or bacteria or has to repair itself from injury, lots of fluid and cells run to the area. You may notice this effect from a swollen nose when you have a cold or the pain and swelling of a sprained ankle.

Something similar happens when you are HIV positive. When HIV chronically infects the body, cells and tissues are being destroyed and there is healing. But there is also inflammation that can lead to heart, liver and kidney disease.

Why is this important to you?

During the Asymptomatic Stage of HIV that lasts up to ten years (also called the latency period), this process of inflammation is still happening. When you hear that it is important to take good care of yourself and minimize getting sick from other infections, this is one of the reasons it is so important.

Whenever your immune system is activated due to illness or injury,  more T-cells are being made in your normal immune system response. HIV can then infect more T-cells and cause more damage in your body. You are in fact providing HIV with the environment to grow and the whole cycle starts all over again with each infection.

Your immune system is already turned on because of the chronic infection of HIV – even during the latency period. When you get another infection, it becomes highly activated and sometimes doesn’t turn off as well resulting in a prolonged inflammatory response.

The chronic inflammation that results causes tissue damage and scarring. It can also contribute to allergies, asthma or autoimmune diseases like arthritis. More importantly it can contribute to damage in your heart, liver and kidneys more commonly associated with aging.

There is concern that HIV leads to an overactive immune system which leads to the inflammatory response. While you might be thinking it is important to keep your immune system firing, it is now being shown that it is a good idea to calm the body’s over excited inflammatory response to HIV and potentially slow the aging process in people living with HIV. If not, you risk burning out your immune system even faster.

This speeds up HIV’s march on your whole body – not just your immune system.

How does this affect your path?

There is more research that is needed before we know how to prevent heart, liver, and kidney disease in people with HIV. But one thing needs no more research to be clear: HIV isn’t sitting around doing nothing during it’s latency period. It is leaving a significant impact on your immune system and your vital organs.

You choice to maintain good overall health by eating right, getting plenty of rest and exercising is even more critical than you may have thought. You do have some control over how HIV affects your body by the choices you make from the day you are infected.

 “Every man builds his world in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.” ~Ayn Rand

The power is yours. What path will you choose?

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