AIDS and HIV Information Summary



Aids-acquired immune deficiency syndrome- is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which produces no symptoms for up to ten years before a person is diagnosed with aids. This virus attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to a lot of life-threatening illnesses. Bacteria, yeast, and viruses that do not cause disease cause these illnesses. Aids has become the most serious worldwide epidemic, and one of the most dangerous stages of HIV.


AIDS was known in the early 1980s. A new study of the oldest known HIV suggests the virus jumped from animals to humans in the 1940s.  (Goudsmit 2)


The year was 1959, in the central African city of Leopoldville. A seemingly healthy man walked into a hospital clinic to give blood for a Western-backed study of blood diseases. He walked away and was never heard from again. Doctors analyzed his sample, froze it in a test tube and forgot about it. A quarter-century later, in the mid-1980s, researchers studied the growing AIDS epidemic and took a second look at the blood and discovered that it contained HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The Leopoldville sample is the oldest specimen of the aids virus ever isolated and may help solve the mystery of how and where the virus made the leap from animals (monkeys and chimpanzees) to humans, (Christine Gorman). Dr.David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York and one of the study¡¦s authors, says a careful genetic analysis of the sample¡¦s DNA pushes the origin of the AIDS epidemic back at least a decade, the too early 1950s or even the 1940s.


Various international agencies and other bodies have introduced a number of different classification systems. The first classification system, introduced in 1982 by the CDC, established a set of clinical criteria necessary for the diagnosis of AIDS. The purpose of this classification system was to enable field workers to carry out surveillance of the number of individuals affected and to monitor the progress of the disease  (Schoub 36).


The classification systems for AIDS consist of three major features: Firstly, laboratory tests for HIV infection; secondly, demonstration of what are called indicator diseases; thirdly, the cerebral manifestations of the AIDS as well as the other direct effects of the virus such as watching.


HIV has been found in blood, semen, saliva, Tears, nervous system tissue, breast milk, and female genetic tract secretion; however, only blood, semen female genetic tract secretions, and breast milk have been proven to transmit the infection to others. Aids is fatal. It is transmitted by both heterosexual and homosexual practices. Some sexual practices, such as anal intercourse, carry a higher risk of transmission than other sexual practice, such as vaginal intercourse. Transmission occurs more readily from an infected man to a woman than from an infected woman to a man.


One of the most common modes of transmission is by contact with infected blood. HIV is spread among injection drug user by the sharing of needles with minute quantities of the blood of someone infected with the virus. Also, women can transmit HIV to their babies during pregnancy or birth.


Katherine Luzuriaga, M.D., school of technology says ¡§One of the most successful stories in AIDS research today is the reduction in the rate of HIV transmission from mother to child (vertical transmission). In industrialized countries, rates of transmission have dropped to below 5%. But this More than 10,000 children, at least in the U.S., remain infected, with a worldwide total of 1.2 million children living with HIV. However, with early access to care and triple-drug therapy, HIV-infected children in the industrialized world are living longer and enjoying a better quality of life than ever expected.


Women, however, remain the fastest growing group to be infected with HIV. In fact, One of every three people found to have HIV infection in the U.S. is a woman. Yet, there are many gaps in our medical knowledge about women and HIV disease. There seem to be complex gender differences in symptoms and drug side effects, as well as gynecological complications.  (John L. Sullivan, M.D. The University of Massachusetts, School of Medicine).


Other transmission methods are rare and include accidental needle injury, artificial insemination through donated semen, and kidney transplantation through the donated kidney. In some countries, heterosexual transmission on the disease is much higher than in the U.S. (The CDC reports that 2.2 million Americans now carry the HIV virus, but are not yet symptomatic).


When AIDS first surfaced in the United State, no drugs or medicines were available to treat people who have AIDS. Few treatments existed for the opportunistic diseases that resulted. Few patients survive five years following diagnosis. The average time from diagnosis of AIDS to death is 18 to 24 months.


The Food and Drug Administration has approved a number of drugs for the treatment of HIV infection. The first group of drugs used to treat HIV infection called nucleoside analog reverse transcripts inhibitors to interrupt an early stage of virus replication. Drugs like Zidovudine (AZT), Zalcitabine (DDC), Didanosine (DDI), etc¡K are given to patients to slow the spread of HIV in the body and delay the onset of opportunistic infections.


Another type of anti-HIV drugs, called protease inhibitors, interrupts virus replication at a later step in its life cycle. They include ritonavir, saquinavir, indinavir, and nelfinavir. Because HIV can become resistant to each class of drugs, combination treatment using both is necessary to effectively suppress the virus.


Many people do not develop any symptoms when they first become infected with HIV. Some people have a flu-like illness within a month or two after having the virus. People who are having this virus may have a fever, headache, malaise, and enlarged lymph nodes. These symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month.


More symptoms may not surface for a decade after HIV enters the body in adults, or within two years in children born with HIV infection. Some people may begin to have symptoms in as soon as a few months, whereas other people may be symptom-free for more than ten years. During the asymptotic period, HIV is actively multiplying, infecting, and killing cells of the immune system. The virus initially destroys cells without causing symptoms.


Additional symptoms that may be associated with this disease:


„h Loss of appetite, indigestion, or other gastrointestinal upset


„h Skin rashes or lesions of various types


Children with AIDS are susceptible to the same opportunistic infections as adults with the disease, they also experience severe forms of the bacterial infections to which children are especially prone, such as conjunctivitis (pink eye), ear infections and tonsillitis. People with AIDS are prone to developing various cancers, especially those caused by viruses such as Kaposi¡¦s sarcoma and cervical cancer, or cancers of the immune system known as lymphomas. These cancers are usually more aggressive and difficult to treat in people with AIDS. Hallmarks of Kaposi¡¦s sarcoma in light-skinned people are round brown, reddish or purple spots that develop in the skin or in the mouth. In dark-skinned people, the spots are more pigmented


Since no vaccine for HIV is available, the only way to prevent infection by the virus is to avoid behaviors that put a person at risk of infection, such as sharing needles and having unprotected sex. Because many people infected with HIV have no symptoms, there is no way of knowing with certainty whether a sexual partner is infected unless he or she has been tested for the virus or has not engaged in any risky behavior. CDC recommends that people either abstain from sex or product themselves by using male latex condoms whenever having oral, anal or vaginal sex. Only male condoms made of latex should be used, and water-based lubricants should be used with latex condoms.


The measurable costs to the humanity of the AIDS epidemic are already immense. In the U.S.A, AIDS has reversed the declining death rate in men aged 25-44. ¡§Between 1970 and 1983, death rates fell from 300 per 100,000 to 212 per 100,000 in this population¡¨.  (Schaub 245)


We got nervous. We avoid the subject. We look away. We do not want to know. We may not like to admit this to ourselves, but we do not really like to talk about AIDS, and worse still, we do not know how to act around people with AIDS. We¡¦d rather avoid them. AIDS forces us to confront parts of life we are uncomfortable with, like sexuality, sickness, and death. People with AIDS know all of this. They know that their friends avoid certain subjects with them. They notice that people stop touching them. They hear us talk about it. They feel gradually being pushed outside, not called, left alone, cast off by society.


AIDS crosses all lines of gender, race, class, and sexuality. It is not simply a gay disease. While it is true that gay men were among the first and hardest hit, AIDS has spread far beyond this community. Gays and lesbians responded very publicly and heroically to the epidemic: they began many of the AIDS services and resources currently available. While the gay and lesbian response has been inspiring, the public has been less receptive to AIDS information because it perceives AIDS as a gay disease. This attitude not only stigmatizes those living with AIDS, but it also leads to unnecessary risk-taking, poor choices, and the spread of fear and hatred in our society.


If you see AIDS as a disease that only touches other people¡¦s lives, you probably won¡¦t take the precautions that could save your own life. We may also think of those who are infected with HIV or living with AIDS as different or as deserving of their fate. The AIDS epidemic provides an opportunity to accept others and to practice compassion.


There are many things we take for granted in our daily lives, such as the ability of our immune system to fight off ever-present germs or being able to move comfortably in many environments. But for someone with an immune weakness, the environment presents many challenges and hazards. People with Aids have special health needs that force them to worry daily about things most of us never even think about. There are a number of things we can do to make life easier for people with AIDS, both in our homes and offices.



Callen, Michael Surviving AIDS-Harper Perennial, 1990


Gorman, Christine ¡VWhen Did AIDS Begin. Times Magazine, spring 1998


Goudsmit, Jaap Viral Sex: the nature of AIDS New York 1997

ISBN 0-19-509728-9.


Nober, Rapoza HIV Infection and Diseases- Chicago, 1989


Schoub, Barry D. Aids &HIV in perspective: a guide to understanding the virus and its consequence ¡VUnited Kingdom 1999-2nd ed.


¡§HIV Infection and AIDS¡¨-Public Health Service. March 1999



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