There is no such thing as an AIDS virus. The virus that causes AIDS is the HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). It does not turn into the “AIDS virus.”
AIDS is a set of sign and symptoms that characterizes a later stage of the HIV infection – typically occuring in about 2 years in children and 8-10 years in adults that are untreated. The AIDS condition is evidenced by very low helper T cell counts (<200) and a variety of opportunistic infections such as Karposi’s sarcoma, pnuemocystis, CMV, and cryptosporidiosis amongst others.
The HIV virus is unusual in that it has a very high mutation rate due to it’s mode of reproduction (it’s a retrovirus). The HIV virus that infects on day one is different than the HIV virus on day 30, and so on. [Even though it rapidly evolves, it is still the HIV virus.] This high rate of mutation is what makes it so difficult to develop a vaccine as the HIV virus is a “moving target” throughout the infection. HIV is known to be harbored in various types of cells and persists in the body, gradually eroding the body’s immune system, until the person becomes vulnerable to many potential pathogens that would not normally be a threat to a healthy individual. Thus the person does not die from the HIV virus per se but rather from the opportunistic pathogens that can now gain a foothold.
By the way, the currently used drug “cocktail” to control progression of the disease is not a cure and individuals being treated still harbor the HIV virus – as far as we know indefinitely.
Hank Voegeli, Ph.D. (microbiologist)
Dept. of Biology and Environmental Science (UNH)Tweet