The AIDS disease is a complicated illness that involves several
phases. It is caused by a virus that can be passed from person to person.
AIDS impairs the human body's immune system (the system responsible for
fighting off diseases) and leaves the person vulnerable to various infections.
AIDS was first identified in the United States in 1981, when 189 cases
were reported to the Centers for Disease Control. Within a decade the
disease had spread to almost all populated areas of the world. In the United
States alone there are about 65,000 new cases every year. No one really
knows where the AIDS virus came from, but they think it originated in
In the late 1980's when researchers discovered that there are several
form of the AIDS virus, they named it the human immunodeficiency virus, or
also known as HIV. The virus enters the bloodstream and destroys the
white blood cells, called T lymphocytes, they play a huge role in the
functioning of the immune system. The virus can also infect other types of
cells in the body, including macrophages, which are immune-system cells.
AIDS is transmitted by direct contact of the bloodstream with body
fluids that contain the AIDS virus, mostly blood and semen from an
HIV-infected person. The virus is usually transmitted through different forms
of sexual intercourse, contaminated blood, or the sharing of
HIV-contaminated needles. The AIDS virus cannot penetrate surfaces such
as skin, and it quickly dies outside the human body. Luckily, AIDS is not
spread by normal physical contact or by sneezing. The virus has been found
in tears and saliva, but there is so little there that transmission through these
fluids is so very rare. There are no known cases of AIDS transmission by
insects such as mosquitoes or by domestic animals.
Most people who were recently infected by the AIDS virus look and
feel healthy. In some people the virus may remain inactive and they won't
know they have it, and these people act as carriers, remaining healthy
looking but still able to infect others. Some symptoms of the AIDS virus
include fever, fatigue, weight loss, skin rashes, lack of resistance to
infection, white spots on the roof of the mouth, and swollen lymph nodes.
The average life expectancy for an AIDS victim is one to five years.
There really is no treatment to cure AIDS, the only thing being used
right now is a drug known as azidothymidine (AZT), which just slows down
the reproduction of the HIV virus. One setback of AZT is that it is highly
toxic and cannot be taken by many patients. Right now several vaccines for
AIDS are being tested, and hopefully in the future they will find a cure for this