Introduction:AIDS is a life and death issue. To have the AIDS disease is at present asentence of slow but inevitable death. I’ve already lost one friend toAIDS. I may soon lose others. My own sexual behavior and that of many ofmy friends has been profoundly altered by it.
In my part of the country,one man in 10 may already be carrying the AIDS virus. While the figures maycurrently be less in much of the rest of the country,this is changingrapidly. There currently is neither a cure, nor even an effective treatment,and no vaccine either. But there are things that have been PROVEN immenselyeffective in slowing the spread of this hideously lethal disease. In thisessay I hope to present this information. History and Overview:AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Defficiency Disease.
It is caused by a virus. The disease originated somewhere in Africa about 20 years ago. There itfirst appeared as a mysterious ailment afflicting primarily heterosexuals ofboth sexes. It probably was spread especially fast by primarily femaleprostitutes there. AIDS has already become a crisis of STAGGERING proportionsin parts of Africa.
In Zaire, it is estimated that over twenty percent ofthe adults currently carry the virus. That figure is increasing. And whatoccurred there will, if no cure is found, most likely occur here amongheterosexual folks. AIDS was first seen as a disease of gay males in this country. This wasa result of the fact that gay males in this culture in the days before AIDShad an average of 200 to 400 new sexual contacts per year.
This figure wasmuch higher than common practice among heterosexual (straight) men or women. In addition, it turned out that rectal sex was a particularly effectiveway to transmit the disease,and rectal sex is a common practice amonggay males. For these reasons, the disease spread in the gay male population ofthis country immensely more quickly than in other populations. It became to bethought of as a “gay disease”. Because the disease is spread primarily byexposure of ones blood to infected blood or semen, I.
V. drug addicts whoshared needles also soon were identified as an affected group. As theAIDSepidemicbegantoaffect increasingly large fractions of those twopopulations (gay males and IV drug abusers), many of the rest of this societylooked on smugly, for both populations tended to be despised by the”mainstream” of society here. But AIDS is also spread by heterosexual sex. In addition, it is spread byblood transfusions. New born babies can acquire the disease from infectedmothers during pregnancy.
Gradually more and more “mainstream” folks got thedisease. Most recently, a member of congress died of the disease. Finally,even the national news media began to join in the task of educating thepublic to the notion that AIDS can affect everyone. Basic medical research began to provide a few bits of information, andsome help. The virus causing the disease was isolated and identified.
TheAIDS virus turned out to be a very unusual sort of virus. Its genetic materialwas not DNA,but RNA. When it infected human cells, it had its RNAdirect the synthesis of viral DNA. While RNA viruses are not that uncommon,very few RNA viruses reproduce by setting up the flow of informationfrom RNA to DNA. Such reverse or “retro” flow of information does not occurat all in any DNA virus or any other living things. Hence, the virus wassaid to belong to the rar group of virues called “Retro Viruses”.
Researchprovided the means to test donated blood for the presence of the antibodiesto the virus, astronomically reducing the chance of ones getting AIDS from ablood transfusion. This was one of the first real breakthroughs. The samediscoveries that allowed us to make our blood bank blood supply far safer alsoallowed us to be able to tell (in most cases) whether one has been exposedto the AIDS virus using a simple blood test. The Types of AIDS Infection:When the AIDS virus gets into a person’s body, the results can be broken downinto three general types of situations:AIDS disease, ARC, and asymptomaticseropositive condition. The AIDS disease is characterized by having one’s immune system devastatedby the AIDS virus. One is said to have the *disease* if one contractsparticular varieties (Pneumocystis, for example) of pneumonia,