In 1918 the United States experienced one of the worst epidemics in its history. With 500,000 dead in a matter of 6 months, the Spanish influenza left its mark. With approximately 11.7 million dead worldwide, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome(AIDS) is still leaving its mark. It is a pandemic the likes of which the world has always feared to see.
The HIV virus comes in several varieties, yet they kill basically the same. Our understanding of this virus and how it works is essential to finding its cure, and to preventing its spread. Who it affects and the reasons for its spreading are also important to fight against it. And finally, what can be done to treat and prevent it is essential.
According to the World Health Organization we began to see what AIDS truly was in the late 1970’s to early 80’s, mostly in men and women with multiple sex partners located in East and Central Africa, but also in bisexuals and homosexuals in specific urban areas of the Americas, Ausrtalasia and Western Europe. Aids was and is spread still through infected hypodermic needles which drug abusers are affected by, but also through transfusion of the blood and its components. And sadly, whenever a mother is infected, the unborn child will almost positively receive the virus before, during, or after the pregnancy.
The viruses which cause AIDS, otherwise known as Human Immunodeficiecy Viruses(HIV) were first discovered in 1983 cooperatively by Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute and Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in France. Aids is caused mainly by the HIV-1 virus, while the HIV-2 virus is less pronounced among those infected. Scientists are puzzled as to why this dominant HIV-1 virus has 10 different genetic subtypes, some think that it is so the virus will survive no matter what.
HIV is part of a group of viruses called retroviruses. This category basically describes how the virus transmits and reproduces itself. Which is to say that upon entering the body the virus attaches itself to a T-4 cell(T-Helper cell), which is the type of cell that marks the bad things in our body so that another cell, the B-lymphocyte, can activate the production of antibodies, which are what would normally kill the virus. So, after attaching itself to this cell it then injects its viral replicating DNA in, which then copies itself on to the cells DNA, thus changing the whole function of the cell from killing the foreign agents which enter our body, to producing more of the virus that will eventually lead to the death of our body, because the cell is then used as a manufacturing plant for the virus. The one cell that entered your body is thus turned into 500, which then turns into 25,000, then 12,500,000. The virus is not strong merely because it replicates, however, it is strong because of what it replicates on, which is the helping cell of your immune system. But the most bizarre thing of the whole virus is that it doesn’t kill you. It only weakens your immune system so other viruses and even bacteria can finish the job.
The first set of symptoms are called AIDS-related complex(ARC). These symptoms include fever, diarrhea, weight loss, and fatigue. These are only signs that you might have the virus HIV, and are not the full-fledged symptoms of AIDS.
The two most common infections seen in AIDS patients are Pneumocystiscarinii Pneumonia(PCP), which is a parasitic infection of the lungs, and Karposi’s Sarcoma(KS), which is a type of cancer. The purplish dots on the skin that are usually associated with AIDS are from KS. Other common infections are non-Hodgekins lymphoma, primary lymphoma of the brain, severe infections with yeast, zytomegalovirus, herpes, and parasites such as taxoplasma or cryptosporidia. Some neurological disorders are: chronic aseptic meningitis,focal deficits, hallucinations, and progressive dementia. So as one can see any way it can open you up to an infection, is a bad way.
The full-blown AIDS patient is usually very fragile and weak, having to be placed in hospital care because they find it hard to breathe. The slightest breeze, sometimes sets their whole body into a shiver that might not go away