AIDS is the plague of the 20th century, but how much do we really know about this deadly disease?
HIV is a virus that gets into the body and flows through the bloodstream. AIDS is the disease that is caused by HIV. Once you are diagnosed as HIV positive, you do not automatically have AIDS. There is a possibility of being HIV positive, and not having AIDS. Most people do not know it is the infections that break down the body’s immune system rather than the AIDS that kills paients.
HIV can be prevented in many ways, but they are not always followed. People die when they don’t play it safe. That’s why we have to spread the word on prevention.
There a three main ways the HIV can be spread:
3. blood transfusions (which are very rare now because all blood is tested)
HIV is spreading like wild fire among adolescents because they don’t believe it can happen to them. Sixty-one percent of 14-21 year olds are engaged in sexual intercourse. The problem we have to deal with is the spreading of this disease among our generation.
A small percentage of people who use condoms still get HIV because:
2. use of drugs or alcohol which can impair judgment or proper use
The AIDS virus can be spread in many ways. AIDS can be transmitted by direct contact of bodily fluids from an infected male or female.
The AIDS infected blood contaminates uninfected blood. The three most common ways of transmission are: sexual intercourse, blood transfusions of infected blood, and the sharing of intravenous needles which may have contaminated blood still in them.
The virus cannot be contracted in many of the ways people think it can. There is a very low concentration of the virus in tears and saliva, so these cases of transmission are very rare. There are no known cases of transmission through mosquitoes or any other animals.
Another common way of AIDS transmission is mother to child transmission. The virus can be transmitted to the child from the mother before or during the delivery of the baby. The other mother to child transmission case is through the breast milk that he/she is fed in the early stages of the child’s life.
In the first stages of HIV, the symptoms don’t show up. People can live with AIDS for years without knowing it. Blood tests at the doctor will show antibodies after they form to fight the AIDS virus, but it takes the antibodies three months to show up. That means that if you take a blood test right after you have sex, the virus won’t show up for another three months.
In the second stage, the virus grows within the white blood cells and destroys them. When most of the cells are destroyed, the immune system is destroyed and the body weakens. Some symptoms they might form are: they begin feeling tired, loose weight. They may develop a cough, diarrhea, fever, or sweating at night. With HIV a cold is more threatening to them than to a person without the disease.
In stage three, the AIDS virus has nearly destroyed the body’s immune system. The body has great difficulty fighting off germs. Also, patients can develop a rare type of cancer called Kaposi’s sarcoma. AIDS doesn’t kill anyone, but other infections and cancer do.
Scientists are trying to develop a cure for the AIDS virus. There are three parts to finding the cure. The three parts are:
1. To devise a drug that will kill the HIV once it enters the body.
2. To create a vaccine that would prevent the disease.
3. To educate people world wide about the dangers of AIDS and how to prevent the HIV infection.
In 1986, the first step was taken in AIDS prevention. AZT is a pill that has prolonged the lives of HIV infected patients. Ninety percent of patients who have taken the AZT pill are still alive after one year of being diagnosed. This is an increase of 50% without the pill.
There are some side effects of AZT. Some patients have developed a resistance to the drug after prolonged use.
Other drugs have also been tested in the past few years. These drugs have different side effects, but by switching medicines, a patient may not suffer from many of the side effects.
Medicines to fight AIDS need to be developed to kill the viruses, but not the cells that the viruses live in. Doctors are trying to develop the medicines and test them quickly enough to be available to AIDS patients. Many AIDS and HIV-infected patients are volunteering to test the medicines. These medicines are experimental and are still being tested, so they may or may not slow down spreading of the virus.
Word Count: 814