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    AIDS (2827 words) Essay

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    AIDSAIDS is a life and death issue. To have the AIDS disease is at present asenten,ce of slow but inevitable death.

    I’ve already lost one friend to AIDS. Imay soon lose others. My own sexual behavior and that of many of my friends hasbeen profoundly altered by it. In my part of the country, one man in 10 mayalready be carrying the AIDS virus. While the figures may currently be less inmuch of the rest of the country, this is changing rapidly. There curreently isneither a cure, nor even an effective treatment, and no vaccine either.

    Butthere are things that have been PROVEN immensely effevctive in slowing thespread of this hideously lethal disease. In this essay I hope to present thisinformation. History and Overview: AIDS stands for Acquired Immune DefficiencyDisease. It is caused by a virus.

    The disease origiunated somewhere in Africaabout 20 years ago. There it first appeared as a mysterious ailment afflictingprimarily heterosexuals of both sexes. It probably was spread especially fast byprimarily female prostitutes there. AIDS has already become a crisis ofSTAGGERING proportions in parts of Africa. In Zaire, it is estimated that overtwenty percent of the adults currently carry the virus.

    That figure isincreasing. And what occurred there will, if no cure is found, most likely occurhere among heteroosexual folks. AIDS was first seen as a dise. ase of gay malesin this country. This was a result of the fact that gay males in this culture inthe days before AIDS had an average of 200 to 400 new sexual contacts per year. This figure was much higher than common practice among heterosexual (straight)men or women.

    In addition, it turned out that rectal sex was a particularlyeffective way to transmit the disease, and rectal sex is a common practice amonggay males. For these reasons, the disease spread in the gay male populsation ofthis country immensely more quickly than in other populations. It became to bethought of as a “gay disease”. Because the disease is spread primarilyby exposure of ones blood to infected blood or semen, I. V.

    drug addicts whoshared needles also soon were identified as an affected group. As the AIDSepidemic began to affect increasingly large fractions of those two populations(gay males andd IV drug abusers), many of the rest of this society looked onsmugly, for both populations tended to be despised by the “mainstream”of society here. But AIDS is also spread by heterosexual sex. In addition, it isspread by blood transfusions. New born babies can acquire the disease frominfected mothers during pregnancy.

    more and more “mainstream” folks gotthe disease. Most recently, a member of congress died of the disease. Finally,even the national news media began to join in the task of educating the publicto the notion that AIDS can affect everyone. Basic medical research began toprovide a few bits of information, and some help. The virus causing the diseasewas isolated and identified.

    The AIDS virus turned out to be a very unusual sortof virus. Its genetic material was not DNA, but RNA. When it infected humancells, it had its RNA direct the synthesis of viral DNA. While RNA viruses arenot that uncommon, very few RNA viruses reproduce by setting up the flow ofinformation from RNA to DNA.

    Such reverse or “retro” flow ofinformation does not occur at all in any DNA virus or any other living things. Hence, the virus was said to belong to the rare group of virues called”Retro Viruses”. Research provided the means to test donated blood forthe presence of the antibodies to the virus, astronomically reducing the chanceof ones getting AIDS from a blood transfusion. This was one of the first realbreakthroughs. The same discoveries that allowed us to make our blood bank bloodsupply far safer also allowed us to be able to tell (in most cases) whether onehas been exposed to the AIDS virus using a simple blood test.

    The Types of AIDSInfection: When the AIDS virus gets into a person’s body, the results can bebroken down into three general types of situations: AIDS disease, ARC, andasymptomatic seropositive condition. The AIDS disease is characterized by havingone’s immune system devastated by the AIDS virus. One is said to have the*disease* if one contracts particular varieties (Pneumocystis, for example) ofpneumonia, or one of several particular varieties of otherwise rare cancers (Kaposi’sSarcoma, for example). This *disease* is inevitably fatal. Death occurs oftenafter many weeks or months of expensive and painful hospital care. Most folkswith the disease can transmit it to others by sexual contact or other exposureof an uninfected person’s blood to the blood or semen of the infected person.

    There is also a condition referred to as ARC (“Aids Related Complex”). In this situation, one is infected with the AIDS virus and one’s immunesystem iscompromised, but not so much so that one gets the (ultimately lethal) cancers orpneumonias of the AIDS disease. One tends to be plagued by frequent colds,enlarged lymph nodes, and the like. This condition can go on for years. One islikely to be able to infect others if one has ARC. Unfortunately, all those withARC are currently felt to eventually progress to getting the full blown AIDSdisease.

    There are, however many folks who have NO obvious signs of disease whatso ever but when their blood serum is tested they show positive evidence ofhaving been exposed to the virus. This is on the basis of the fact thatantibodies to the AIDS virus are found in their blood. Such “asymptomaticbut seropositive” folks may or may not carry enough virus to be infectious. Most sadly, though, current research and experience with the disease would seemto indicate that EVENTUALLY nearly all folks who are seropostive will developthe full blown AIDS disease. There is one ray of hope here: It may in some casestake up to 15 years or morebetween one’s becoming seropositive for the AIDSvirus and one’s developing the disease. Thus, all those millions (soon to betens and hundreds of millions) who are now seropositive for AIDS are under asentence of death, but a sentence that may not be carried out for one or twodecades in a significan fraction of cases.

    Medical research holds thepossibility of commuting that sentence, or reversing it. There is one other factthat needs to be mentioned here because it is highly significant in determiningrecommendations for safe sexual conduct which will be discussed below:Currently, it is felt that after exposure to the virus, most folks will turnseropositive for it (develop a positive blood test for it) within four months. It is currently felt that if you are sexually exposed to a person with AIDS anddo not become seropositive within six monthsafter that exposure, you will neverbecome seropositive as a result of that exposure. Just to confuse the issue alittle, there are a few folks whose blood shows NO antibodies to the virus, butfrom whom live virus has been cultured.

    Thus, if one is seronegative, it is notabsolute proof one is not exposedothe virus. This category of folks is very hardto test for,and currently felt to be quite rare. Some even speculate that suchfolks may be rare examples of those who are immune to the effects of the virus,but this remains speculation. It is not known if such folks can also transmitthe virus.

    Transmission of AIDS: The AIDS virus is extremely fragile, and iskilled by exposure to mild detergents or to chlorox, among other things. AIDSitself may be transmitted by actual virus particles, or by the transmission ofliving human CELLS that contain AIDS viral DNA already grafted onto the humanDNA. Or both. Which of these two mechanisms is the main one is not known as Iwrite this essay. But the fact remains that it is VERY hard to catch AIDS unlessone engages in certain specific activities.

    What will NOT transmit AIDS? Casualcontact (shaking hands, hugging, sharing tools) cannot transmit AIDS. Althoughlive virus has been recovered from saliva of AIDS patients, the techniques usedto do this involved concentrating the virus to extents many thousands of timesgreater than occurs in normal human contact, such as kissing (including”deep” or “French” kissing). Thus, there remains no solidevidence that even “deep” kissing can transmit AIDS. Similarly, thereis no evidence that sharing food or eating utensils with an AIDS patient cantransmit the virus. The same is true for transmission by sneezing or coughing. There just is no current evidence that the disease can be transmitted thatway.

    The same may be true even for BITING,though here there may be some increased(though still remote) chance of transmitting the disease. The above is veryimportant. It means that there is NO medical reason WHAT SO EVER to recommendthat AIDS suffers or AIDS antibody positive folks be quarrantined. Suchrecommendations are motivated either by ignorance or by sinister desires to setup concentration camps. Combined with the fact that the disease is already wellestablished in this country, the above also means that there is no rationalmedical basis for immigration laws preventing visits by AIDS suffers or antibodypositive persons. The above also means that friends and family and coworkers ofAIDS patients and seropostive persons have nothing to fear from such casualcontact.

    There is no reason to not show your love or concern for a friend withAIDS by embracing the person. Indeed, there appears still to be NO rationalbasis for excluding AIDS suffers from food preparation activity. Even if an AIDSsuffer cuts his or her finger and bleeds into the salad or soup, most of thecells and virus will die, in most cases, before the food is consumed. Inaddition, it is extremely difficult to get successfully attacked by AIDS viastuff you eat. AIDS cannot be transmitted by the act of GIVING blood to a bloodbank.

    All equipment used for such blood donation is sterile, and is used justonce, and then discarded. How is AIDS transmitted’sexual activity is one of theprimary ways AIDS is transmitted. AIDS is transmitted particulary by thetransmission of blood or semen of an infected person into contact with the bloodof an uninfected person. Sex involving penetration of the penis into either thevagina of a woman or the rectum of either a woman or a man has a very high riskof transmitting the disease. It is felt to be about four times MORE likely foran infected male to transmit AIDS to an uninfected woman in the course ofvaginal sex than it is likely for an infected woman to transmit AIDS to anuninfected male.

    This probably relates to the greater area of moist tissue in awoman’s vagina, and to the relative liklihood of microscopic tears to occur inthat tissue during sex. But the bottom line is that AIDS can be transmitted inEITHER direction in the case of heterosexual sex. Transmission among lesbians(homosexual females) is rare. Oral sex is an extremely common form of sexualactivity among both gay and straight folks.

    Such activity involves contact ofinfected semen or vaginal secretions with the mouth, esophagus (the tube thatconnects the mouth with the stomach) and the stomach. AIDS virus and infectedcells most certainly cannot survive the acid environment of the stomach. Yet, itis still felt that there is a chance of catching the disease by having oral sexwith an infected person. The chance is probably a lot smaller than in the caseof vaginal or rectal sex, but is still felt to be significant.

    As mentionedabove, AIDS is also transmitted among intravenous drug users by the sharing ofneedles. Self righteous attitudes by the political “leaders” of thiscountry at local, state, and national levels have repeatedly prevented the veryrational approach of providing free access to sterile intravenous equipment forIV drug users. This measure, when taken promptly in Amsterdam, was proven togreatly and SIGNIFICANTLY slow the spread of the virus in that population. Thebest that rational medical workers have succeeded in doing here in San Franciscois distribute educational leaflets and cartoons to the I.

    V. drug abusingpopulation instructing them in the necessity of their rinsing their”works” with chlorox before reusing the same needle in another person. Note that even if you don’t care what happens to I. V.

    drug abusers, the increasein the number of folks carrying the virus ultimately endangers ALL livingpersons. Thus, the issue is NOT what you morally think of I. V. drug addicts, butone of what is the most rational way to slow the spread of AIDS in allpopulations. Testing of donated blood for AIDS has massivly reduced the chanceof catching AIDS from blood transfusions. But a very small risk still remains.

    To further reduce that risk, efforts have been made to use “autotransfusions”in cases of “elective surgery” (surgery that can be planned months inadvance). Autotransfusion involves the patient storing their own blood a coupleof weeks prior to their own surgery, to be used during the surgery if needed. Similary, setting up donations of blood from friends and family known to beantibody negative and at low risk for AIDS prior to schedualed surgery furthercan decrease the already small risks from transfusion. AIDS and SEX: What arethe rational options? The “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s has beenstopped dead in its tracks by the AIDS epidemic. The danger of contracting AIDSis so real now that it has massively affected the behavior of both gay andstraight folks who formerly had elected to lead an active sexual life thatincluded numerous new sexual contacts.

    Abstinence The safest option regardingAIDS and sex is total abstinence from all sexual contact. For those who preferto indulge in sexual contact, this is often far too great a sacrifice. But it ISan option to be considered. Monogamy For those who would have sexual activity,the safest approach in this age of AIDS is monogamous sex. Specifically, bothparties in a couple must commit themselves to not having sex with anyone else. At that time they should take AIDS antibody tests.

    If the tests are negative forboth, they must practice safe sex until both members of the couple have beengreater than six months since sexual contact with anyone else. At that time theAIDS blood test is repeated. If both tests remain negative six months afterone’s last sexual contact with any other party, current feeling is that it isnow safe to have “unprotected” sex. Note that this approach isrecommended especially for those who wish to have children, to prevent thechance of having a child be born infected with AIDS, getting it from an infectedmother.

    Note also that this approach can be used by groups of three or morepeople, but it must be adhered to VERY strictly. What to AVOID: Unscrupulousfolks have begun to sell the idea that one should pay to take an AIDS antibodytest, then carry an ID card that certifies one as AIDS antibody negative, as aticket to being acceptable in a singles bar. This is criminal greed andstupidity. First, one can turn antibody positive at any time. Even WEEKLYtesting will not pick this change up soon enough to prevent folks certified as”negative” from turning positive between tests. Much worse, such cardsare either directly or implicitly promoted as a SUBSTITUTE for “safesex” practices.

    This can only hasten the spread of the disease. If you wantto learn your antibody status, be sure to do so ANONYMOUSLY. Do NOT get the testdone by any agency that requires your real name, address, or any otheridentifying information. Fortunately, in San Francisco, there is a public placeto get AIDS antibody testing where you may identify yourself only as a number.

    Tho that place has a three month long waiting list for testing, there are otherprivate clinics where one may have the test done for cash, and may leave anyfalse name one wishes. The reason I suggest this is that currently there aresome very inappropriate reactions by government and business to folks known tobe antibody positive. Protect yourself from such potential persection bypreventing your antibody status from being a matter of record. That informationis for you, your lover(s), and (if need be) your physician.

    And for NO one elseIn Conclusion: It is my own strongly held view, and that of the medical andresearch community world wide, that the AIDS epidemic is a serious problem, withthe potential to become the worst plague this species has ever known. This isSERIOUS business. VASTLY greater sums should be spent on searching fortreatments and vaccines. On the other hand, we feel strongly that this is”merely” a disease, not an act by a supernatural power. And while itdoes not seem likely we will find either a cure or a vaccine in the forseeablefuture, it may be that truly effective treatments that can indefinitely prolongthe life of AIDS victims may be found in the next few years. When science andtechnology do finally fully conquer AIDS, we can go back to deciding what sortand how much sex to have with who ever we choose on the basis of our ownpersonal choice, and not by the coercion of a speck of proteins and RNA.

    Maythat time come soon. In the mean time, we must all do what we can to slow thespread of this killer. This article is intended to help accomplish that. Pleasecirculate it as widely as possible.

    This essay was written by a fellow student. You may use it as a guide or sample for writing your own paper, but remember to cite it correctly. Don’t submit it as your own as it will be considered plagiarism.

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