Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). AIDS refers to the most advanced stage of HIV. Diagnosis of HIV infection is characterized by a gradual deterioration of immune function, where immune cells called CD4+ T cells are disabled and killed during the course of infection. These cells play a significant role in the immune response, signaling other cells in the immune system to perform their functions. In 1993, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its definition of AIDS to include all HIV-infected people who have fewer than 200 CD4+ T cells (Healthy adults have a T-cell count of about 1,000). Most AIDS defining conditions are opportunistic infections, which rarely cause harm to healthy individuals. In people with AIDS, however, these infections are often severe and sometimes fatal because the immune system is so ravaged by HIV that the body cannot fight off certain bacteria, viruses and other microbes.

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