The human immunodeficiency virus which is known as HIV is a sexually transmitted disease contracted by any sexual contact, sharing needles associated with drug use, tattoos, and piercings, blood to blood contact with someone infected with the virus, transfusions with contaminated blood, breast milk from an infected mother, and an infected mother to fetus during pregnancy. Getting a transfusion of blood from an infected blood donor used to be a way people got AIDS, but now the blood supply is screened very carefully and the risk is extremely low. Also there has not been any documentation of cases where HIV was transmitted by tears or saliva, but it is possible to catch HIV through oral sex, especially if you have open sores in your mouth or bleeding gums. According to AIDS.ORG, ‘In the United States, there are about 800,000 to 900,000 people who are HIV-positive. Over 300,000 people are living with AIDS. Each year, there are 50,000 new infections. In the mid-1990’s, AIDS was the leading cause of death. However, newer treatments have cut the AIDS death rate significantly.’ Even though that death rate has sunk significantly, AIDS is now the 5th leading cause of death according to Planned Parenthood, an organization focused on sexual health and education.
HIV is a virus that attacks the white blood cells in your immune system weakening it to the point where it is difficult to fight off a simple cold. It is hard to tell if someone has been infected with HIV without taking a proper test given by a doctor. Some people get fevers, headaches, sore muscles and joints, stomach ache, swollen lymph glands, and or skin rashes. People mistake it for the flu, but some people have no symptoms at all, for even up to 10 years after being infected. The virus multiplies in the body for weeks and even months before the immune system starts to respond and weaken. During that time a person can not test positive for HIV, but can still infect others. People can go without symptoms for ten years and within those ten years you can develop AIDS. When the body’s immune system starts to respond to the virus, its starts fighting it by making antibodies. When testing for HIV, what the doctors are looking for is these antibodies. A simple sample of bodily fluid is needed, such as blood or urine for the HIV antibody test. With this sample they are looking for the antibodies that the body produces to fight HIV. After testing positive as many as 50% percent of people with HIV develop AIDS within seven years of infection. People with HIV need to take very good care of their health. There are antiviral treatments out that that slows the progress of the disease. Some people can even go ten years without developing AIDS.
Some treatments out there are vaccines and drug therapy. Vaccines are still in the experimental stage and are not yet fully developed. But hopefully soon there will be a vaccine that protects against HIV with one dose. Drug therapy is a very big part of the fight against AIDS. The most widely used drug is Zidovudine. Zidvudine stops the replication of the virus. It slows the progression of HIV and increases the blood count of CD4 cells. CD4 cells fight infections and create antibodies when they detect an infection. HIV attacks these CD4 cells, greatly weakening the immune system. A new generation of drugs called protease inhibitors block the replication of HIV and are more effective than Zidovudine alone. HAART, which stands for Highly Active Antireviral Therapy, is now a standard treatment for HIV. It stops HIV from resisting treatment and it gives many people hope that it will be able to turn AIDS into a manageable health problem instead of a terminal illness. HAART even in some people reduced HIV to level below detection. It is a very expensive treatment and it does not work for everyone. It is a cocktail of drugs that need to be taken at certain amounts of time and it is hard for people to stick to that strict regimen of medication. But these medications do give hope to people with HIV/AIDS that soon there will be a cure or at least stop HIV in its tracks so it does not turn into AIDS.
AIDS is an epidemic, especially in countries where health care is scarce. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is caused by HIV, wearing the immune system down so slow it is unable to fight diseases. China and Southern Africa have some 3 million people living with AIDS because they don’t have the resources that the U.S. has to get Anti-viral treatments out or to broaden awareness about the disease. People don’t die of HIV, they die of AIDS. AIDS is so scary because is it so devastating on the body. Don’t think that only druggies and prostitutes get HIV/AIDS either. HIV/AIDS has no face, it affects people of all races, all ages, and all social classes. Magic Johnson, a famous basketball player has been living with HIV for over ten years. He’s taken very good care of himself so that he doesn’t develop full blown AIDS. He is one of the lucky ones. HIV/AIDS treatments are very expensive and even a lot of people in our country can’t even afford to get them. Education and prevention is the best medication that we can offer.
The best prevention of HIV/AIDS is abstinence and education. Though it is understandable that most people can not abstain from sex. The best thing to do is to be monogamous and limiting sexual experiences. Also, practicing safer sex and regular medical check-ups. HIV/AIDS does not have a cure. Though there are drugs out there to prolong life, there still is a long wait before there will be a cure. HIV/AIDS is a very real and very scary disease that effects everyone around the world and hopefully soon we can find a solution to this horrible epidemic.