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Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or Aids, has been and still is a r

ecently recognized disease entity. Aids is on the minds of many people all around the world.
There are many myths about how one can contract or come in contact with this deadly
disease. Many people are afraid to give blood, go to the doctor, or even drink from a
public water fountain because of these myths. After one is finished reading about what
Aids actually is, how one can prevent it, how one can contract it, some of the symptoms,
and also some of the treatments for this deadly disease he or she will understand this
disease much better.

Most people don’t understand the definition of Aids. The U.S. Center For Disease
Control has established criteria for defining cases of Aids that are based on diseases, and a
range of other conditions. “The opportunistic diseases are generally the most prominent
and life threaten clinical manifestation of Aids.” It is now recognized, however, that
neuropsychiatric manifestations of HIV infection of the brain are also common. “Other
complications of HIV infection include fever, diarrhea, severe weight loss, and swollen
lymph nodes.” When HIV-infected persons experience some of the above symptoms but
do not meet full criteria for Aids, they are given the diagnosis of Aids-related complex, or
ARC(Fettner17-19). The growing felling is that a symptomatic HIV infection and ARC
should not be viewed as distinct entities but, rather as stages of an irreversible progression
towards Aids(Davis12).

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There are many different ways a person can prevent the contraction of Aids, from
abstinence, contraceptives, and even clean needles. Most people ignore these items and
end up getting Aids. Less encouraging signs are that sexually active teens do not use
condoms, even in San Francisco, a high risk area. Researchers at The University of
California who surveyed two hundred and four sexually active adolescents found that only
about eight percent of the boys and two percent of the girls used condoms during every
act of intercourse(Davis12). “If you’re not sure about your health status or your partner’s,
use latex condoms diligently.” If you want to go the extra step, choose condoms with a
lubricant containing nonoxynol-9, which provides a chemical barrier against sexually
transmitted diseases. If you practice oral sex, use a condom on a man or a latex shield on
a woman. Psychologist Susan Kageles says, “Interviews with one thousand eight hundred
people found that condom use was considered immoral by forty percent of Hispanic men,
thirty percent of Hispanic women, thirty-four percent of black men, twenty-eight percent
of black women, eight percent of white men, and three percent of white women”(SF
Examiner A1+).
Researchers have isolated HIV from a number of body fluids including, blood,
semen, saliva, tears, urine, cerebrospinal fluid, breast milk, and certain cervical and
vaginal secretions. Strong evidence indicates, however, that HIV is transmitted only
through three primary routes: sexual intercourse, whether vaginal or anal, with an infected
individual: nondigestive exposure to infected blood or blood products, and from an
infected mother to her child before or during birth. “At least ninety seven percent of U. S.
Aids cases have been transmitted through one of these routes with transmission between
homosexual men accounting for about sixty percent of the cases. Heterosexual
transmissions in the United States accounting for only about five percent of cases but is a
significant mode of transmission in Africa and Asia.” About twenty-one percent of Aids
cases occur in intravenous drug abusers exposed to HIV- infected blood through shared
needles. Current practices of screening blood donors testing all donated blood and plasma
for HIV antibodies have reduced the number of cumulative cases due to transfusion to
about one percent. The number of new cases of Aids in women of reproductive age is
increasing at an alarming rate. “Aids has become the leading cause of death for women
between the ages of twenty and forty in the major cities of North and South America,
Western Europe, and Sub-Saharan Africa.” In the United States, Aids has hit the hardest
among black and Hispanic women. These women represent seventeen percent of the
female population but make up seventy-three percent of women with Aids. Aids is also
having a devastating impact on infant mortality, since over eighty percent of the HIV-
infected children under the age of thirteen acquired HIV from their infected mothers.
Between twenty-four and thirty-three percent of children born to infected mothers will
develop the disease. No scientific evidence supports transmission of Aids through
ordinary nonsexual conduct. Careful studies demonstrate that despite prolonged
household contact with individuals, family members have not become infected-except
through the routes described above. Health care workers have been infected with HIV
from exposure to contaminated blood or by accidentally sticking themselves with
contaminated needles(SF Examiner A1+).

Following infection with HIV, an individual may show no symptoms at all, or may
develop an acute but transient mononucleus-like illness. The period between initial
infection and the development of Aids can very greatly, apparently from about six months
to eleven years. Various estimates indicate that somewhere between twenty-six to forty-
six percent of infected individuals will go on to develop full-blown Aids within a little
more than seven years following infection. Once Aids sets in, the clinic course follows a
rapid decline; and most people with Aids die within three years(SF ExaminerA1+).

Two major avenues are being pursued by biomedical scientists the fight against
HIV infection and Aids. One strategy is to develop a vaccine that can induce neutralizing
antibodies against HIV and protect uninfected individuals if exposed to the virus itself.
The second approach involves the discovery and development of therapeutic agents
against HIV infection and Aids. At present no vaccine exists to protect against infection,
although recent advances have led some experts to predict that a vaccine should be
available within the next ten years. Obstacles still remain, however, primarily due to the
variability of the virus itself. Many different strains of HIV exist, and even within a given
individuals body the virus can undergo mutations rapidly and easily. A number of
candidate vaccines were in the early phases of testing in human volunteers by the early
1990s around the world(Fettner180).

The effects of the epidemic on society at large are increasingly evident. Aids tests
are now required in the military services. Various proposals have been made for
mandatory screening of other groups such as health-care workers, especially since a
Florida dentist who died of Aids in 1990 is believed to have infected five patients. A
number of nations, including the United States, have instituted stringent rules for testing
long-term foreign visitors or potential immigrants for Aids, as well as testing returning
foreign nationals. In the United States one frequent phenomenon is the effort to keep
school-age children with Aids isolated from their classmates, if not out of school
altogether. Governmental and civil rights organizations have countered restrictive moves
with a great deal of success. There is little doubt that the ultimate physical toll of the Aids
epidemic will be high, as will be its economic costs, however the social issues are resolved.
Concerted efforts are under way to address the problem at many levels, and they offer
hope for successful strategies to combat HIV-induced disease.


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