The Nature, Transmission, Prevention, and Treatment of the HIV/AIDS

Kelly Cooper

Arthur Ashe is an admirable and well known American tennis player who won many championships. He became the first African American male to win the men?s Wimbledon title in 1975. Also, he was on the United States Davis Cup team from 1963 until 1984. Some of his other major accomplishments include helping to form what is now the Association of Tennis Professionals and winning the Australian Open, the United States Open, and the French Open. Ashe lived a wonderful and successful life: however, in 1983, disaster struck! Ashe acquired an incurable disease through a tainted blood transfusion. This disease killed him in 1993. What is this incurable disease that still haunts the lives of so many people? This is a disease known as AIDS. AIDS is a fatal disease without a cure and a disease that responds to little treatment. How can the spread of AIDS be stopped? This paper will discuss the nature of the AIDS virus, the transmission and the prevention of transmission, as well as the available treatments for people with this disease.

First of all, AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is acquired which means that it is not passed down from generation to generation through a person?s genes. AIDS is a disease that attacks the immune system, a system in the body that produces white blood cells in order to fight off diseases. This disease causes the immune system to be deficient, or weakened, so that it cannot properly fight off diseases. AIDS is a syndrome, or a group of illnesses with many possible symptoms that can occur together in a weakened condition. AIDS is a pandemic, meaning that it can be found on all continents. The disease was discovered in 1983, by a French cancer specialist, Luc Montagnier, along with other scientists, at the Pasteur Institute in Paris. However, there were AIDS cases reported as early as the 1950?s. "The 80s will go down as the decade that AIDS began. We want to know, - Why" (Bevan 27)? One of the reasons is the promiscuity of sexually active people during the 1980s and the sharing of intravenous hypodermic needles and syringes by drug users.

Secondly, AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. This virus attacks the antibodies in a person?s immune system, thereby disabling that system. HIV works in an unusual way because it uses the immune system to its advantage. Viruses cannot live unless they are inside of a living cell called a host. The virus uses the host cell to reproduce themselves, causing the cell to die in the process. The new virii are then set free. The HIV virus attacks T4 lymphocytes, which are a special type of white blood cell. These cells are the body?s method of defense. Without them, humans are susceptible to disease and infection. It is not HIV that kills people, but the opportunistic infections people get because of a weakened immune system. Bevan characterizes HIV by saying, "It?s the sneakiest virus of all. It goes for the crucial link in the immune system, the cells at the heart of the fightback effort" (Bevan 24). This is why HIV is so dangerous.

Being HIV positive does not mean that a person has full-blown AIDS, and not everyone who gets HIV develops full-blown AIDS. When one fully develops AIDS, the signs and symptoms become more evident. These symptoms include: "a failing immune system, persistent swollen lymph nodes and opportunistic infections" (Stine 114). A common example of a skin disorder caused by AIDS is Kaposi?s sarcoma. That is, "a multifocal, spreading cancer of connective tissue, principally involving the skin; it usually begins on the toes or the feet as reddish blue or brownish soft nodules and tumors" (Stine 442). Lymph nodes are gland-like forms that help stop the spread of infection. When they become persistently swollen, one can develop lymphadenopathy syndrome or LAS. This condition can bring on mild symptoms of fever and weight loss. Other signs of full-blown AIDS include oral lesions such as thrush and hairy leukoplakia. People may also develop kidney disorders and gastrointestinal diseases like severe diarrhea that can cause weight loss.

Since AIDS is such a serious incurable disease, it is important to know how the disease is transmitted. One method of transmission is