AIDS in the Eighties

AIDS in the Eighties

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AIDS in the Eighties

Four years ago I got into a near fatal car accident and lost a lot of blood. I was rushed into a nearby San Francisco hospital where doctors treated me with transfused blood. Ironically, the same blood that saved my life will eventually lead to my death. It is currently 1987 in San Francisco, one of many areas in the world suffering from a virus believed to have come from Western Africa.

Earlier in the decade scientists discovered the virus was linked to the disease, Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome, which dominantly afflicted gay males. The virus, which was not extensively covered by the media, was reported to have been transmitted with bodily fluids through sexual contact, shared needles, fetus transmissions, and blood transfusions. Scientists discovered that the virus contained surface proteins that binded to receptors on CD4 T cells. The virus would then undergo self replication and hide inside T cells. The nascent virus then emerged out of the cell's nucleus, causing T cells to lyse. This cycle continued and gradually decreased the person's immunity toward pathogenic microbes.

There have been many conflicting reports as to how this virus found its way from Western Africa to distant parts of the world. A popular reason may have been from a person that killed a monkey containing the simian form of the virus. The person may have eaten the monkey and contracted the zoonotic virus. Another perspective comes from devout religious individuals that believe the virus was brought to earth by God as a punishment to the sinning gays and lesbians. Either way, the disease became widespread, infecting both males and females. Its spread was due to travel. Because the world has become a smaller place from airplanes, cars, trains, and boats, the disease shifted from a localized epidemic to a worldwide pandemic.

The media is partially responsible for the current image that AIDS patients have with the public. Uninformed reports from television, radio, newspapers, and magazines caused the public into a panic that lasts to this day. A few years ago, accounts of gay men dying from common diseases like the cold and flu began appearing in the media. Pretty soon, "normal" individuals became very sick from common diseases. Because early accounts had singled out homosexuals as having this unknown disease, it was assumed that homosexuals had spread the virus.

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Confusion and fear spread across the population as to the pathogenicity of the virus. Nobody knew how it was transmitted. It was thought that being associated with an infected individual would cause the disease. Some even believed drinking out of the same water bottle, using the same toilet, holding hands, or breathing the same air as an infected person would cause the spread. Sadly, these beliefs continue to live on through the media's reinforcement of homosexual AIDS patients.

I was infected four years ago and have been asymptomatic for the most part. Lately, I have been experiencing fever, weight loss, diarrhea, and fatigue. It's taxing on my body, but the doctors don't know what to do about it. Recently, there has been some hope of an antiviral drug that may curb the effects of the virus. The news reported that the Food and Drug Administration approved the drug AZT to reduce HIV infections. Scientists see this as a first step in finding a cure, but they also see faults in this and similar drugs. The virus has been known to mutate and adapt in the presence of drugs. It's being described as an arms race, with drugs trying to destroy the virus and the virus undergoing strong selection to escape the drugs.

Even though I am infected, preventative efforts are in place to educate the public. In 1983, researchers in Africa found that the virus could be transmitted through sexual intercourse. Although AIDS awareness was in its infancy at the time, social efforts were put in place to educate people to the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. In 1985, blood banks began screening for HIV in blood samples. This step will prevent others from acquiring the disease like I did. That same year Congress passed a bill that allocated 70 million dollars for AIDS research. Hopefully, a cure or other informative way to battle the disease may come out of this.

This disease is an ongoing problem. As of right now, with the high rates of promiscuity and drug use in America, this disease looks like it will be staying for a while. Unless a miracle cure comes along, people must be educated about AIDS.
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