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Why is AIDS considered to be a ‘syndrome’ and not a disease?

Last updated date: 17th Jun 2024
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Hint: AIDS is caused by a virus and results in a number of varied symptoms. When a single organism causes many symptoms, the resultant disorder is termed as a syndrome. This syndrome has not yet been successfully treated, despite being under research for many years.

Complete answer: The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (also known as HIV) is the causative agent of AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is caused by the suppression of the immune system by the virus. The virus infects the helper T cells, specifically, the CD4 cells. These cells then lose their fighting capacity. As a result, the body is unable to fight mild infections which are otherwise easy for the body to get over with. This produces a situation in which the body becomes immunodeficient, i.e., the body’s immune system is unable to put up a fight against any foreign agents. The variety of symptoms that are produced as a result of this immunodeficiency is called a syndrome, hence the name AIDS (i.e., Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).

Additional information:
Getting infected by the virus and having the symptoms of AIDS do not occur simultaneously. Sometimes, a person who is infected by the virus remains fit for the whole life, without ever having the symptoms of AIDS, while in some other cases, the incidence of infection and pronounced symptoms might appear within a time period of one week to ten years. All this depends on how and when the virus chooses to enter the lytic phase. It is then the CD4 helper T cells get destroyed and a full-fledged syndrome is produced.

Note: HIV or AIDS does not spread via physical contact. It is spread only through the exchange of body fluids. Transfer of blood, sexual contact, and sharing infected needles are the prime reason for horizontal transmission of the virus. Apart from this, vertical transmission occurs from mother to offspring during birth and due to breastfeeding.