Epidemic of Aids

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AIDS was first discovered in the United States in 1981. Since then, this epidemic has affected approximately 40 million people worldwide. AIDS is a life threatening illness that is caused by the HIV infection. When the HIV virus enters the body it begins to destroy the immune system impairing its ability to fight off certain infections and diseases. About a month after being infected, a person develops a viral infection. The viral infection is similar to the flu and causes fever, fatigue, weight loss, and swollen glands. These symptoms usually subside, and a person may not develop AIDS for up to 10 years after being infected with HIV. During this time, the HIV virus continues to multiple and destroys cells of the immune system. A person is diagnosed with AIDS when the immune system is so deteriorated by HIV that it can no longer fight off certain infections and diseases known as "opportunistic infections." These infections cause a person to suffer from a variety of illnesses including weight loss, persistent diarrhea, coughing, nausea, swollen glands, and shortness of breath. The infections can last from several days to several months and are often difficult to treat. AIDS patients are also prone to develop certain cancers. These cancers include Kaposi's sarcoma, cervical cancer, and lymphomas. Although each of these cancers are treatable, AIDS patients suffer severe cases of these cancers because of their weakened immune system. It is often difficult to determine if a person will make it through a particular illness or not. In most cases, people do not die from AIDS but from complications from illnesses that define AIDS. When a person is diagnosed with having AIDS, their estimated survival time is 2-3 years.

Since the discovery of AIDS, there have been steady increases each year in the number of people infected and those that die as a result of their infections. Africa has experienced the most devastating effects of the disease. Approximately 26.6 million people living in Southern Africa are infected with HIV, which is ½ of their entire population. It is estimated that this accounts for approximately 70% of all people infected with AIDS around the world. Eastern Europe and Asia are all experiencing an outbreak with the number of those infected increasing every year. In the United States, AIDS has had dramatic effects on young and middle-aged adults.

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