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HIV: Cause? or Correlation only?

Dec 11, 1996

Mr. Sowadsky, First, I would like to commend you and Dr. Gallant for your efforts to answer such a wide array of important questions regarding peoples concerns about HIV and AIDS. I hope you could comment on these questions: 1) Does anyone really know the mechanism HIV uses to cause AIDS, or is it just presumed to be the cause, due to it's presents in people with AIDS.. 2) Is it true that there are some people with AIDS in which the HIV virus cannot be detected by any method (Elisa, PCR, culture)? 3) Are there any current research efforts to find a different causative agent other than HIV? Thank you for any response.

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question.

HIV has now definitively been proven to be the cause of AIDS. This disease is not seen in people who do not have HIV. But remember that there are other diseases of the immune system besides AIDS. So just because a person has a damaged immune system, doesn't necessarily mean a person has AIDS. The immune damage we see with AIDS is very specific, and different from what we see with other diseases of the immune system (like Leukemia). Researchers already know the basic mechanisms of how HIV specifically damages the immune system. They are now learning the intricate details of how HIV kills the CD4 cells of the immune system. It's the loss of these CD4 cells that ultimately leads to AIDS. So not only do we know that HIV causes AIDS, but present research is telling us specifically how HIV damages the immune system, and leads to the full-blown disease.

A few years back, there was suspicion that there were some people who had AIDS, but didn't have HIV. When this was followed up on, it was found that those who indeed had AIDS, did have HIV. In those who did not have HIV, they were found to have other diseases of the immune system. So there have been no cases of AIDS where a person did not have HIV. Now that we know HIV causes AIDS, we're now putting our research efforts as to how to stop or slow down HIV. It is this research that has given us the recent drug treatments now available, that are improving the clinical status of people with HIV/AIDS.

If you have any further questions please e-mail me at "" or call me at 1-800-842-AIDS.

Difference between HIV 1 and 2; HIV survival in a syringe

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