A Biomathematical Approach to HIV and AIDS

  • Ronald W. Shonkwiler
  • James Herod
Part of the Undergraduate Texts in Mathematics book series (UTM)


Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is medically devastating to its victims, and wreaks financial and emotional havoc on everyone, infected or not. The purpose of this chapter is to model and understand the behavior of the causative agent of AIDS—the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This will necessitate discussions of viral replication and immunology. By the end of this chapter, the student should have a firm understanding of the way that HIV functions and be able to apply that understanding to a mathematical treatment of HIV infection and epidemiology. Viruses are very small biological structures whose reproduction requires a host cell. In the course of viral infection the host cell is changed or even killed. The host cells of HIV are specific and very unique: They are cells of our immune system. This is of monumental importance to the biological and medical aspects of HIV infection and its aftermath. HIV infects several kinds of cells, but perhaps its most devastating cellular effect is that it kills helper T-lymphocytes. Helper T-lymphocytes play a key role in the process of gaining immunity to specific pathogens; in fact, if one’s helper T-lymphocytes are destroyed, the entire specific immune response fails. Note the irony: HIV kills the very cells that are required by our bodies to defend us from pathogens, including HIV itself! The infected person then contracts a variety of (often rare) diseases to which uninfected persons are resistant, and that person is said to have AIDS.


Host Cell Adaptive Immune System Viral Nucleic Acid Clonal Deletion Cold Virus 
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References and Suggested Further Reading

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of MathematicsGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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