Gonzales 1 The Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first discovered in 1981 as a unique and newly recognized infection of the body’s immune system (Mellors 3). The name AIDS was formally know as GRIDS (Gay Related Immune Defiance Syndrome). The first case of AIDS was discovered in Los Angeles, where scientists from the CDC (Center for Disease Control) were called in on a half dozen cases. The CDC was convinced what they were seeing was a new strand of virus. None of the staff members had ever seen a strand of virus that could do so much destruction to the immune system like this one did. Many theories about this disease were in question. Many scientists believed it originated in Africa. Many thought the virus existed in humans in South Central Africa for hundreds and thousands of years, causing only minor symptoms in isolated groups until it spread more widely. AIDS could also be traced back to 1959, where a blood sample was taken from a man from Zaire and then frozen. Labs later indicated that the blood sample had the AIDS virus strand in it. Some weird theories also arose in the science arena, where some scientists believed that the virus was caused by a mutation of an existing virus. Others thought it was a creation of God to punish sinful people. A former government worker claimed it was a plot by the CIA to eliminate the population. One scientist thought the virus was brought here from outer space. One more theory about this virus was this was nature’s way of telling us we have to many people. Gonzales 2 The AIDS rate was known to be very high in homosexual men. It was believed that the AIDS virus was carried from Africa to Haiti. Haiti was known as “gay paradise,” because it was a popular vacation spot for homosexuals. Bathhouses were the hang out for many homosexual men and a place where prostitution flourished. Some bathhouses reported that more than 1000 men would visit each year. Since many men from all over the world visited these bathhouses, researchers believed the spread of AIDS could be linked to this type of behavior. There are many symptoms that are associated with the AIDS virus, such as HIV (Human Immundodeficiency Virus). HIV is subdivided into two related types, HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is individuals at high risk for developing the AIDS virus. HIV-2 is among people in West Africa and a few other cities that have the strand of the virus called SIV (Simian Immundefienciency Virus) which is found in wild African monkeys. The pattern of the HIV virus usually lasts up to ten years before any symptoms are detected. The first stage is the Primary HIV infection stage. This is where the disease is first detected. Following 3-6 weeks after the initial detection, the Acute HIV Syndrome stage kicks in. Some symptoms to look for in this stage are fever, headaches, sore throat, rashes, and diarrhea. The next stage is the Clinical Latency stage. This stage usually lasts for several years. Some symptoms to look for in this stage are fever, weight loss, fatigue, night Gonzales 3 sweats, and diarrhea. Some infections to look for in this stage are Herpes Zoster (Shingles), Herpes simplex, and lesions on the body. Following the pain and suffering that comes with all these symptoms; death finally takes its toll on another victim. The death toll that AIDS has inflicted on America today is unbelievably high. Within the past decade, the pandemic of HIV and AIDS infections has spread all across the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that by mid 1996 approximately 28 million people worldwide would had been infected with the HIV virus, of whom 8 million have developed the AIDS and nearly 6 million, including 1.3 million children had died (Mellors 4). It is estimated that about 22 million adults and children are infected worldwide from the HIV virus, and of the 22 million people, about 1 million are in the United States, 5 million in Asia, and about 14 million people in Africa. By the year 2000, the number of AIDS infections will reach about 40 million people across the world. Of all these cases reported in the world, men comprise about 50% of all AIDS cases, woman account for 40%, and children born with this disease comprise of 10%. In the United States, total of more than 500,000 cases were reported to the CDC in 1996. Of those, 500,000 people, 62% of these individuals died from AIDS. AIDS is now the leading cause of death in male’s aged 25-44. The number of cases have increased through the years, as shown here: 1985- 4,445 cases were reported. 1986- 8,249 Gonzales 4 1987- 12,932 1988- 21,070 1989- 31,001 1990- 33,722 1991- 41,595 1992- 43,672 1994- 78,279 1995- 71,547 The reported cases by sex were 40,080 men, and 6,255 women. Homosexuals and I.V. drug users account for 81% of cases in men. Heterosexual users account for 84% of cases in women (Key 4). Between the years 1994 and 1995, there was a drop in cases reported to the CDC. This is primarily due to the awareness and education of the public to the dangers of AIDS. Spreading the word of prevention is very costly, but the word has to get through to the young generation growing up. High Schools around the country should be educating young teens on this deadly disease. Between 40,000 to 80,000 American’s have the AIDS virus, statistics show that one out of four teenagers have the disease. Today, President Clinton is advising the White House Office of AIDS Policy to talk to young adults about AIDS and the consequences that come with having the disease (Washington 2). Studies have shown that teens that had sex education are less likely to be infected through sexual intercourse. Education is the key for prevention Gonzales 5 among teenagers, since it causes them to realize the dangers of unsafe sex and intravenous drug use. One of the major obstacles in sex education is that many adults refuse to believe their children are sexually active and do not want to seem as if they condone sex. When it comes to HIV status, do not take anyone’s word for it. Researchers found out that 40% of AIDS infected people do not tell their partners, and almost half of them do not even use condoms (Brietzke 88). Testing for HIV is the most important aspect in preventing AIDS. HIV testing is helpful because if a person is aware that he/she is infected, they can be more careful about not spreading the deadly virus. People are often afraid to get tested, for the fear of knowing they are infected. Home tests are now available for easier access and privacy. Researchers worry about young teenagers taking their own life if they were to find out they were infected with the HIV virus. The most important thing to remember about HIV prevention is, you are responsible for your own actions. If you have to use intravenous drugs, make sure the needles are always sterile. Practice safe sex and avoid sex with someone who might be infected. Get tested for HIV if you think there is any chance you may have contracted the HIV virus from someone. Ten years ago AIDS was discovered. To this day, researches still do not have a vaccine for this deadly disease. It took scientists three years after the virus was discovered to find out how it really works and operates (Key 11). The limited treatment Gonzales 6 available back in 1985 is not nearly as affected as it is today. Today’s treatment is more advanced, but it is very costly and demanding. The only inexpensive treatment that we can give today is prevention. AIDS dropped a stunning 44% in 1997, due to three new potent drugs (Mellors 5). These three new drugs are suppose to revolutionize AIDS care in the future. Typically people start taking these drugs when they learn they are infected with the virus, or when they start showing symptoms of sickness. People who were deathly ill were used to experiment with these new drugs. Months later the patients started showing signs of improvement. Still these drugs are not for everyone. One third of the patients did not improve and later died. The most common reason people stop taking the drugs was that the patients have to swallow 20 or more pills a day, and take them at a precise time. Missing a couple of pills may cause the virus to become immune to the medication. There are many patients that rely on this treatment because this is the only treatment that is making them feel better. To this day in America, the CDC estimates between 400,000 to 650,000 people to be infected with the virus within the next two years. The country needs to pull together and help educate the American people on the dangers of HIV and AIDS.