One of the most disastrous effects of HIV infection is the loss of the immune system's CD4 T cells. These cells are responsible for recognizing foreign invaders to a person's body and initiating antibody production to ward off the infection. Without them, people are susceptible to a variety of diseases. HIV destroys the T cells slowly, sometimes taking a decade to destroy a person's immunity. However, in all the time before an HIV-infected individual shows any symptoms, the virus has been reproducing rapidly. The lymph tissue, the resting place for CD4 T cells, macrophages, and dendritic cells, becomes increasingly full of HIV, and viral particles are also released into the bloodstream.
HIV's main target is the population of CD4 T cells within a host's body. HIV kills them in one of three ways. It kills them directly by reproducing within them, then breaking them upon exit; it kills them indirectly by causing the cells to "commit suicide" by inducing apoptosis; or it kills them indirectly by triggering other immune cells to recognize the infected T cell and kill it as part of the immune system's normal function.
As infected T cells die, the immune system generates more to take their place. As new T cells become infected, they are either actively killed or induced to commit suicide. Meanwhile, the HIV virus is not completely
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