Immunodeficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is a human
disease characterized by progressive destruction of the body's immune
system. AIDS results from the infection with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency
Virus. AIDS is currently considered incurable. In poorer countries where
treatment is not widely available, most sufferers die within a few years of
infection. In developed countries, people have lived with AIDS for ten to
It is estimated by the World
Health Organization that, as of the end of 2004, 37.2 million adults and
2.2 million children were living with HIV. During 2004, 4.9 million people
contracted HIV and 3.1 million died from AIDS. Since 1981, AIDS has killed
23.1 million people, out of 79.9 million who have died due to infections.
In Africa, life expectancy has dropped by decades in many countries solely
due to deaths from AIDS.
AIDS was first noticed among
intravenous drug users in the 1980s. By the 1990s the syndrome had become a
global epidemic and in 2004, 58 percent of those with AIDS were women.
The Red Ribbon symbol is used
internationally to represent the fight against AIDS.
HIV is transmitted by bodily
fluids, such as blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal secretions. It
causes disease by infecting CD4+ helper T cells, a type of white blood cell
that normally coordinates the immune response to infection and cancer. When
a person's white blood cell count decreases sufficiently, he or she is
prone to a range of diseases that a healthy person's body is normally able
to fight. These diseases include cancers, which are usually the cause of
death in persons with AIDS. HIV also infects brain cells, causing some
neurological disorders. Originally AIDS was diagnosed based on the
opportunistic diseases affecting the patient. Today, diagnosis is based on
cell counts. This allows for earlier diagnosis.
Origins of HIV
HIV, a retrovirus, is closely
related to the simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIV), which affect apes and
monkeys. It may be possible that both humans and chimpanzees were infected
from a third source.
The natural transfer
hypothesis proposes that SIV was transferred to humans due to the natural
interaction between human and primate populations.
Studies suggest that the
virus spread initially in West Africa, but it is possible that there were
several separate initial sources, corresponding to the different strains of
HIV (HIV-1 and HIV-2). The earliest human fluid sample known to contain HIV
was taken in 1959 from a British sailor, who apparently contracted it in
what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The earliest documented
western death from AIDS was Dr. Grethe Rask, a Danish surgeon, who worked
in the Congo in the early 1970s.
It is believed that the virus
was spread via sexual activity in Africa's rapidly growing urban areas.
Some researchers have suggested that the United Nations oral polio
vaccination program in Africa may have introduced HIV during the late 1950s
since these vaccines were taken from monkeys and injected into thousands of
Current medical understanding of AIDS
Currently the most common
ways to contract HIV are via unprotected sexual activity and the sharing of
needles by users of intravenous drugs. Blood transfusions have also been
major routes of infection, leading to stricter screening procedures. The
criteria for a diagnosis of AIDS can vary from region to region, but a
diagnosis typically requires either
1. An absolute CD4 cell count below 200 per cubic
2. The presence of opportunistic infections, caused by
agents usually unable to induce diseases in healthy people
Treatments and vaccines
There is currently no cure or
vaccine for HIV or AIDS. Newer treatments, however, have played a part in
delaying the onset of AIDS, fully eliminating the HIV virus from those
recently exposed, on reducing the symptoms, and extending patients' life
spans. Over the past decade the success of these anti-retroviral treatments
in prolonging and improving the quality of life for people with AIDS has
Current optimal treatment
options consist of combinations of two or more types of anti-retroviral
agents such as two nucleoside analogue reverse transcriptase inhibitors
(NRTIs), and a protease inhibitor. However, there is concern with such
regimens that drug resistance will eventually develop. Side effects have
also been noted.
There is ongoing research
into developing a vaccine for HIV and in developing new anti-retroviral
drugs. Human trials are currently underway. Research to improve current
treatments includes simplifying current drug regimens to improve adherence
and in decreasing side effects.
They are still used by some
people with AIDS who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS. Alternative
therapies such as massage, acupuncture and herbal medicine are still used
by many, mainly to treat symptoms such as pain and loss of appetite. People
with AIDS, like people with other illnesses such as cancer, also sometimes
use marijuana to treat pain, combat nausea and stimulate appetite.
In 2005 the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention in the United States recommended a 28-day
HIV drug regimen for those who believe they may have had contact with the
virus. The drugs have been shown to be effective in preventing the virus
nearly 100% of the time in those who received treatment within the initial
24 hours of exposure. The effectively falls to 52% of the time in those who
are treated within 72 hours; those not treated within the first 72 hours
are not recommended candidates for the regimen.
REGIONS AIDS AFFECTED POPULATION
Sub Saharan Africa 8% Of Working Population
South East Asia 15%Of Gobal Aids Cases
Latin America And Caribbean 2.2 Million People Affected
Western Countries Infection
Rate Has Dropped
Launched Aids Prevention Program
Asia 7.5 Million People Affected
India 4.6 Million People Affected (0.9%
1 To 1.5 Million People Affected
Thailand And Cambodia Aids Is Under Control
Eastern Europe 1.7 Million
People Affected, Has Increased
257,000 People Affected
Ukraine And Estonia 500,000 People Affected
Despite fears about the
possible casual transmission of HIV and AIDS, the risk of infection is
virtually eliminated by following simple precautions, such as abstaining
from sexual activity form people who are HIV positive or unknown to you.
One must also avoid blood transfusions with unsafe blood.
The only proven cause of
transmission is the exchange of bodily fluids, in particular blood and
genital secretions. Breathing, casual contact such as touching, holding or
shaking hands or hugging cannot transmit HIV.
HIV is not a hardy organism;
the virus dies within about twenty minutes once it is outside a human body.
Thus, bloodstains quickly become non-infectious and are no cause for
HIV is known to be
transmitted via the sharing of needles by users of drugs, and this is one
of the most common methods of transmission. All AIDS-prevention
organizations advise drug-users not to share needles and to use a new
needle for each injection.