Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, also known as AIDS, is a silent invader. The first cases of this disease were reported in the early 1980s. AIDS is caused by the infection known as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is a microscopic organism that can grow and multiply inside living cells. HIV attacks and disables the bodys immune system. The immune system is the system that usually fights off illnesses. When the immune system breaks down, a person with AIDS will develop life-threatening illnesses. (Flynn & Lound, 6) The invasion of the AIDS virus in an individuals body leaves the body open to an invasion by many other different infections, called opportunistic diseases. These infections are the main causes of death of AIDS patients. Because there is not yet a cure for AIDS, once the disease invades the body there is no way to get rid of it. AIDS is a life-threatening disease and those infected are often treated as invaders although they are the ones who were invaded.
Although AIDS first appeared in the United States in the early 1980s, HIV first gained a foothold in humans some fifty or more years ago in Africa. (Joseph, M. D., 14) At that time many hunters and their families killed and ate monkeys that carried the then undiagnosed and unnamed virus. Stephen C. Joseph, M. D. said that in the 1970s, when he practiced medicine in Central Africa, he saw patients with wasting syndromes, atypical progressive infections, bizarre malignancies-all undiagnosed due to lack of laboratory facilities or lack of specific knowledge. Joseph went on to say that most of the mortally ill children I was caring for had a combination of severe malnutrition and one or more infectious diseases. These children were in a way the analog to todays people with AIDS -they suffered malnutrition to such an extreme that their immune systems collapsed. (Joseph, M. D., 15) The 1970s is when the AIDS virus first erupted in the United States. This is when certain rare types of cancer and
many other serious infections were starting to show up in many people who were healthy beforehand. Strikingly, these were disorders that would hardly ever threaten persons with normally functioning immune systems. (Grolier) It wasnt until 1981 that these symptoms, which were symptoms of HIV, progressed and were given a formal name and description we now know as the AIDS syndrome.
Since the first AIDS cases were reported, more than 1 million people have been diagnosed with the AIDS virus and over 200,000 have died in the United States alone. Of the more that 1 million people who have been infected by HIV, most dont even know that they have been infected because they still have not developed any symptoms. The first high risk group was among homosexual men. AIDS first appeared among the gay community. Now, homosexuals are not the only people who are getting AIDS. The syndrome is now widespread among heterosexuals also.
AIDS is an invader because it unwantingly enters the body without any warning signs. There is no way in telling whether or not a person has HIV or even full-blown AIDS. Anyone can get AIDS. The only way that an individual can be safe from this silent invader is to stay away from high risk activities. These activities are sexual intercourse, whether it be homosexual or heterosexual, with an infected individual and exposure to infected blood or blood products, such as through a blood transfusion or by using infected hypodermic needles during drug use.
The number of women being infected by the AIDS virus is increasing very rapidly. AIDS has become the leading cause of death for women between the ages of 20 and 40 in the major cities or North and South America, Western Europe, and sub-Saharan Africa. In the United States, AIDS has hit hardest among black and Hispanic women. (Grolier) Eighty percent of children born to women with AIDS acquire HIV from their infected mothers. Between 24 and 33 percent of children born
to infected women will develop the disease. (Grolier)
AIDS first invades the body as HIV, and an individual with this virus may not show any symptoms at all. The period from when a person is first infected with the virus to the development of AIDS can vary anywhere from 6 months to 11 years. Between 26 to 46 percent of those individuals infected go on to develop full-blown AIDS within 7 years of infection. Once a person is diagnosed with having AIDS and the disease sets in, they usually die within 3 years following a rapid decline in health. (Grolier)
There are many other infections and cancers that invade the body as a result of AIDS and its affect on the bodys immune system. The most predominant and threatening is Pneumocystic carinii, Pneumonia, which is frequently the first infection to occur and is the most common cause of death (Grolier) Many AIDS patients develop cancers, such as Hodgkins Disease. These cancers cause tumors that are usually very aggressive and respond very poorly to chemotherapy.
There is not yet a cure for AIDS, but there are treatments available to help lengthen the time before an individual develops full-blown AIDS. The only two drugs that have been licensed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are azidothymidine (AZT) and dideoxyinosine (DDI). AZT interferes with the virus replication and has been found to prolong life significantly in some patients and delay the onset of full-blown AIDS in persons with no symptoms, but its potentially toxic side effects may preclude uses in many cases. DDI acts similarly but is recommended for those who cannot tolerate AZT. (Grolier) Predictions have been made that within the next ten years a vaccine should be available to protect against HIV infection. The problem with finding a vaccine or cure for AIDS is that many different strains of HIV exist, and even within a given individuals body the virus can undergo mutations
rapidly and easily. (Grolier)
Although AIDS is an invader and cannot be gotten rid once it enters the body, the disease can be prevented from ever entering the body in the first place. Education is the most powerful tool in the fight against AIDS. In order to gain a knowledge of HIV and AIDS, there have been many books and brochures written on the subject. Further spread of the disease can be prevented by avoiding all of the high-risk behaviors. By staying away from these certain behaviors, an individual can stop the AIDS virus from ever invading the body.
There are many well-known people who have been invaded by AIDS or who have died from it. The first famous person to reveal that he had AIDS was movie star Rock Hudson, who died from the disease in 1985. Since then, many other well-known people have revealed that they have the disease and many others have passed away. Two other celebrities who have died as a result of the AIDS syndrome are tennis star Arthur Ashe and rapper Eazy E. Arthur Ashe contacted the disease when he received HIV-infected blood during open heart surgery, while Eazy E got the disease from practicing unsafe sex. Basketball great Irvin Magic Johnson and Olympic swimmer Greg Louganis are two well-known people who know live with AIDS. Both contracted the disease by having unprotected sex. Because of his disease, Magic Johnson has taken on the fight against AIDS by increasing awareness about the disease and educating young people. He has also started the Magic Johnson Foundation to support AIDS education and prevention, to fund research, and to help care for people with the disease. (Flynn & Lound, 59)
AIDS as an invader goes beyond just the invasion of the body itself. Those people infected with HIV and AIDS are often considered to be invaders themselves and are treated as if they are lesser people than everyone around them. Most of the
people who react this way do because of a lack of education of the disease. These individuals respond with fear and prejudice. One case that shows how AIDS infected individuals are sometimes treated, is that of Ryan White of Kokomo, Indiana. Ryan was a teenager who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion.
In 1985 Kokomo officials banned 13-year-old Ryan from school, claiming his medical condition posed a health threat to other students. Hostile Kokomo residents held protests against Ryan. Local restaurants threw away plates and silverware after he had used them. Someone even shot a bullet through the Whites living room window. Before Ryans death in 1990, he and his family moved from Kokomo to a more tolerant community in nearby Cicero, Indiana. (Flynn & Lound, 56)
Another example of how people with AIDS are treated as invaders is the case of three little boys who were banned from attending public school in Arcadia, Florida, because they had HIV. Richard, Robert, and Randy Ray all contracted the AIDS virus from blood transfusions and were hemophiliacs. The Ray family went to court and won the right to return back to public school. Although they had won their battle in court, the Rays left Arcadia because their home was destroyed by a firebomb. (Flynn & Lound, 56) The people who do these sort of acts, like trying to keep a child with HIV or AIDS from going to school or bombing the house of a family with someone who has the disease, dont usually think of how much pain these children and their families are going through already. These people dont think of how they would feel if they were going through the same situation.
Racism also plays a role in how people with HIV or AIDS are considered to be invaders. AIDS has hit hardest in those communities in which there is a lot of poverty and also are made up of mostly African-Americans and Hispanics, who are already considered to be invaders because of their race. Because the poor and those people
who are of different races are already discriminated against, when these people are then labeled as having AIDS, they are then considered as being more of an invader as originally thought. (Flynn & Lound, 56)
In conclusion, the truth about AIDS is that no one is safe from the disease if they decide not to stay away from high-risk activities, such as unsafe sex. HIV needs only a warm body in order to survive. Being rich, athletic, or famous cannot protect an individual from catching this very serious and fatal disease. What people need, is to educate themselves so that they will know exactly how the AIDS virus is transmitted and how to protect themselves from getting it. By doing this, everyone will then stop treating those with HIV or AIDS as if they are some kind of invader. Instead they will realize that these people are the victims of invasion.
Health Care and Beauty Essays