AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

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AIDS is the acronym used for Acquired Immune

Deficiency Syndrome. It is a disease transmitted through

the blood. It is transmitted from person to person

through sexual intercourse, blood transfusions, I.V. drug

users, and from mothers to babies during birth.

AIDS is a disease which breaks down the human immune

system causing the body to become very susceptible to

infection. The disease is brought about by the HIV-1

virus. HIV-1( Human Immunodeficiency Virus) can remain

dormant for years and then begins to attack the bodies T-

cells and white cells which help fight off infection.

Full-blown AIDS occurs when a person is in the last

stages of his or her battle for life. It is a fatal

disease not because of the disease itself but because of

the fact that other infections attack the body and it has

no way to recover from it. Full-blown AIDS is the stage

of a person's life when their immune system has been

completely destroyed. A person does not usually have any

symptoms of the disease. That is that there are no real

indications that a person is infected. There is no

certain look to a person who is HIV-1 positive. They

could be the person who lives next door or a complete

stranger that is seen passing by one the street. The

patient may feel tired, nauseous, feverish, and have a

loss of appetite or weight. These are also indications

of many other diseases. This is why most people only

find out that they are positive after a random blood

test. Blood tests are given to patients and the virus

can be detected in the bloodstream. False positives and

negatives can also occur. For this reason it is

recommended that a person be tested more that once over a

period of about a year.

As of today there is no cure for AIDS and HIV-1

because of a few reasons. One is that it is such a new

disease. The United States is in the middle of a

widespread epidemic of a killer virus that was only

discovered about sixteen years ago. During the summer of

1981, the United States recognized their first case of

AIDS. After later research though, it was found to have

been around in 1975. At first, AIDS was thought to be a

homosexual disease. The gay community in New York City

has been hit the hardest with about 1/2 million cases to

date. Scientists believe that the virus was carried by

male homosexuals during the sexual revolution of the mid-

1970s. Promiscuity was common among all people. It is

thought to have been brought from New York City on the

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East coast to San Francisco on the West coast. San

Francisco is another common area in the country for gay

people to live. It also has the second highest rate of

AIDS per capita in the country. When AIDS was first seen

in this country, a widespread homophobia broke out.

People felt that the gay community was going to be

responsible for the outbreak of this horrible and

uncontrollable disease. A disease which could cause the

destruction of the entire society.

Male Homosexuals are the principal victims of AIDS

but that is rapidly changing. The virus must somehow

been contracted by heterosexuals from blood transfusions

or needle sharing. The numbers of infected heterosexuals

in the United States is growing. The fastest growing

group is in women and young adults ages 18-25. These

ideas seemed outrageous a few years ago but today are not

so far-fetched. As of 1990, women made up about ten

percent of infected Americans but the numbers keep on

growing. About one-fifth of all reported cases are young

adults in their twenties. An average of two college

students per every one thousand tested had contracted the

virus. The number of teenagers who contracted the virus

rose over forty percent between the years 1988-1990.

After the spreading of the virus from homosexuals to

heterosexuals, people became panicked. The only way that

HIV-1 can be spread is through bodily fluid like blood.

The transmission can only take place during sex, a

transfer of blood, or from the birth of a child of an

infected woman. People were not educated about the

disease because it was so new. A fear came over the non-

infected people. Those who were infected became

alienated from the rest of the society. People began to

think up new and bizarre ways that the disease could be

contracted. Though the government has tried to educate

people about the disease, some people are still not clear

on the facts or they just refuse to acknowledge the

problem.

AIDS is an epidemic that can not be cured but can be

contained. One unprotected sexual intercourse can be the

cause of the transmission of the HIV-1 virus. In order

to prevent the spread of the virus this way there are two

main solutions, use a condom or don't have sex. People

do not see things this way though. When a teenager was

asked if he would have sex, knowing the consequences,

without having a condom is answer was yes(Fain 42). If

people continue to act this way, the entire world will

probably be dead. Other ways of preventing the spread of

AIDS have already been put into affect. Blood which is

donated for transfusions is screened for the virus so

that it is not given to an uninfected person. There are

also programs in effect to exchange used needles with

clean ones so that I.V. drug users have less a chance of

contracting the disease. There are plenty of ways to

keep from contracting the virus, it all depends on the

morals, values, and brains of people.

Another reason why there is no cure for AIDS and HIV-

1 is the virus itself. The make-up of the strand of the

virus baffles the medical and science world. When HIV-1

enters the blood stream, it attacks the good cells of the

body. After a short period, the virile strand changes

shape and form. This change of form is what has the

doctors stumped. When a research team thinks that they

have a cure or way to slow down the course of the virus,

the virus becomes completely different. This does not

mean that advances have not been made. It is just the

opposite. The progress which scientists have made in

such a short time has other fields of medicine and

science stunned. Never before has such progress been

made about a new and unheard of virus in such short time.

Millions of dollars have been spent in the research for a

cure for AIDS. Most of the research has been conducted

by the CDC(Centers for Disease Control) and funded by the

federal government. There have also been many private

organizations which have benefits to raise money for AIDS

research. There have been advances in prolonging the

onset of AIDS though, three strategies have been used in

this prolonging. The first is to treat the infection

that the patient has, the second is to treat the AIDS

itself, and the third is to stimulate the immune system.

By treating the infection of the patient, the underlying

problem is not dealt with. The second uses anti-viral

drugs to inhibit the AIDS virus. These drugs are known

as PFA, AZT, and AL721. These drugs are very powerful

and toxic and are only effective when continued with

treatment. When treatment is stopped, the virus and all

its symptoms reappear. Bone marrow transplants are used

to stimulate the immune system. Bone marrow produces

blood cells. A transplant can allow the body to

reproduce some cells that are not infected with the

virus. Whatever treatments are used, they must be done

while the patients immune systems are still in tact.

After the immune system is destroyed, there is pretty

much no hope.

Although the HIV-1 virus is a new virus in the United

States, it is not new to the world. The villages of

Africa have been inflicted with the virus for about one

hundred years. They did not know what it was that was

killing them. It began to infect those in the medical

centers who worked with the blood. The villagers did not

know what was killing them, how it was transmitted, and

how to stop it. Scientists are still not sure of the

evolution of the HIV-1 and AIDS viruses. They don't know

how it came about or how it was brought to the United

States. They do know that they must find an answer to it

and fast.

Other Countries around the world have vast cases of

infection from these viruses as well. Haiti, Canada,

Asian, and European countries are all battling in a war

against a deadly disease. Scientists from all over the

world have joined together to help win the war against

AIDS. It can not be done by one person though. Everyone

must do their part to keep themselves and others safe

from this quiet killer.









Bibliography

Bender, David L. Current Controversies: The Aids Crisis.

Greenhaven Press. San Diego. 1991.

Fain, Jean. AIDS Poses a Threat to Teenagers. Bender,

David. 36-44

Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. Funk and Wagnalls Co.

New York. 1993

Halpern, Sue. AIDS is a Health Risk for Women. Bender,

David. 29-36

McCuen, Gary E. The AIDS Crisis: Conflicting Social

Values. McCuen Publishers. Wisconsin. 1987

Sery, Douglas. AZT and Other Drugs Prolong the Lives of

AIDS Patients. Bender, David. 158-163

Walker, Robert Searles. AIDS Today, Tomorrow: An

Introduction to the HIV Epidemic in America.

Humanities Press. New Jersey. 1994



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