AIDS Term Paper

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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

Central Africa.

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

horrible virus.

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