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5. Genetic AIDS > Why HIV is so Nasty

Why HIV is so Nasty

Ask why HIV is so elusive, and three compelling possibilities present themselves. First, the virus attacks precisely that which would destroy it, namely the immune system. Second, it is an expert at both camouflage and shape shifting, thus adept at avoiding counterattacks. Third, it is new to humans, who have consequently not had time to devise—genetically speaking—an effective strategy for coexistence. We will return to this last point at the end of the chapter, and address the first two reasons here.

It does not take a graduate of Annapolis to realize that destroying the enemy’s defense complex might be a smart military move. Luckily for us, only a handful of pathogens have adopted this approach, HIV being one of them. It is not, though, a guaranteed strategy: Al-Qaeda tried something similar by piloting an airliner into the Pentagon, with spectacularly counterproductive results for hundreds of thousands of Middle Easterners. More successful has been the derived tactic of insurgency—particularly insurgency guided by infiltration of subversives into the police and army units. The human immune system does not have a central command, but it does have hundreds of command posts called the lymph nodes, which are precisely where HIV does its ....


  

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