Resource Logo
Being Alive

MEDICAL UPDATE: HIV-Specific Immune Responses


Being Alive 1992 Jul 5: 5

The alternative or flip-side of this general immune boosting concept is to concentrate on the other part of the body's response to HIV, the very specific anti-HIV responses of the immune system. The motivation is that the initial or primary HIV infection is followed by a very long period of latency associated with a relatively low level of viral replication. One theory holds that this "down modulation" of HIV replication during the latent period is associated with the emergence of HIV-specific immune responses that successfully maintain this low "viral load" over a long period of time. I refer to this as a theory, because at this point the connection between the two phenomena is not proven.

This theory further posits that at some point there is a waning of the HIV-specific immune response. Then multiplication oif the virus is no longer suppressed and more and more immune system cells are infected. More infection leads to deteriorating overall immune function, resulting eventually in OIs and/or tumors. A variant of this theory says, rather than some general sort of waning, that viral diversity (through mutations) increases and overwhelms the HIV-specific response. The immune system gradually loses its earlier control of viral multiplication, because it gets fatigued from trying to cope with too great a variety of viral targets.


Information in this article was accurate in July 5, 1992. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.