TheNature, Transmission, Prevention, and Treatment of the HIV/AIDSArthur Ashe is an admirable and well knownAmerican tennis player who won many championships. He became the firstAfrican American male to win the men’s Wimbledon title in 1975. Also, hewas on the United States Davis Cup team from 1963 until 1984. Some of hisother major accomplishments include helping to form what is now the Associationof Tennis Professionals and winning the Australian Open, the United StatesOpen, and the French Open.
Ashe lived a wonderful and successful life:however, in 1983, disaster struck! Ashe acquired an incurable disease througha tainted blood transfusion. This disease killed him in 1993. What is thisincurable disease that still haunts the lives of so many people? This isa disease known as AIDS. AIDS is a fatal disease without a cure and a diseasethat responds to little treatment.
How can the spread of AIDS be stopped?This paper will discuss the nature of the AIDS virus, the transmissionand the prevention of transmission, as well as the available treatmentsfor people with this disease. First of all, AIDS is an acronym for AcquiredImmune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is acquired which means that it is notpassed down from generation to generation through a person’s genes. AIDSis a disease that attacks the immune system, a system in the body thatproduces white blood cells in order to fight off diseases. This diseasecauses the immune system to be deficient, or weakened, so that it cannotproperly fight off diseases.Order now
AIDS is a syndrome, or a group of illnesseswith many possible symptoms that can occur together in a weakened condition. AIDS is a pandemic, meaning that it can be found on all continents. Thedisease 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 godown as the decade that AIDS began. We want to know, – Why” (Bevan 27)?One of the reasons is the promiscuity of sexually active people duringthe 1980s and the sharing of intravenous hypodermic needles and syringesby drug users. Secondly, AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiencyvirus, 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 usesthe immune system to its advantage. Viruses cannot live unless they areinside of a living cell called a host.
The virus uses the host cell toreproduce themselves, causing the cell to die in the process. The new viriiare then set free. The HIV virus attacks T4 lymphocytes, which are a specialtype of white blood cell. These cells are the body’s method of defense. Without them, humans are susceptible to disease and infection. It is notHIV that kills people, but the opportunistic infections people get becauseof a weakened immune system.
Bevan characterizes HIV by saying, “It’s thesneakiest 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 whyHIV is so dangerous. Being HIV positive does not mean that aperson has full-blown AIDS, and not everyone who gets HIV develops full-blownAIDS.
When one fully develops AIDS, the signs and symptoms become moreevident. These symptoms include: “a failing immune system, persistent swollenlymph nodes and opportunistic infections” (Stine 114). A common exampleof 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 softnodules and tumors” (Stine 442).
Lymph nodes are gland-like forms thathelp stop the spread of infection. When they become persistently swollen,one can develop lymphadenopathy syndrome or LAS. This condition can bringon mild symptoms of fever and weight loss. Other signs of full-blown AIDSinclude oral lesions such as thrush and hairy leukoplakia. People may alsodevelop kidney disorders and gastrointestinal diseases like severe diarrheathat can cause weight loss. Since AIDS is such a serious incurabledisease, it is important to know how the disease is transmitted.
One methodof transmission is via bodily fluids by having sex. This includes all formsof sex: vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex. The transmission also occursin many other sexual activities. The human immunodeficiency virus can betransmitted through vaginal secretions in women to men by way of the bloodstream. In the same way, men can pass HIV to women in their semen. Men can alsopass it to other men by way of bodily fluids if the men are bisexual orhomosexual The more sexual partners one has, the greater the risk of contractingHIV.
“There is a saying, in terms of AIDS, that when you sleep with someone,you are in effect sleeping with all their partners over the past five years”(Bevan 35). Another way that one can get HIV is bysharing hypodermic drug needles. “Each time a person uses a needle andsyringe, a tiny trace of blood is left inside” (Bevan 10). The blood thatis left inside of this needle could contain HIV.
When the HIV infectedneedle or syringe is inserted into one’s body, the virus is able to travelinto that person’s bloodstream, thereby transmitting HIV. Even if the needleappears to be clean, it can still contain HIV infected blood. “A drop ofblood too small to be noticed can contain thousands of viruses” (Bevan11). Drug users have enough problems to worry about without having to worryabout getting AIDS.
However, many drug users continue to share their needlesbecause of excuses, desperation, and because sharing needles has becomea ritual to develop closeness. Some people believe that if they injectthe needle into the right place and don’t hit a vein that they will besafe. It doesn’t matter where the needle is injected. As long as the needleis contaminated with HIV, there is a possibility of catching AIDS. Otherdrug users are so addicted and desperate that they would risk anything- even their lives to get high.
“For some addicts, the chance of catchingAIDS seems less important than missing the next fix” (Bevan 15). Finally,some users share needles in order to feel accepted into the group. Peoplewho use drugs are often looking for something to belong to, and they willdo anything to feel like they are part of a group. They feel that theyneed to share needles in order to experience a special bond between themselvesand others.
It has become a ritual. However, no matter what the reasonis that one has to share drug needles, there is never a good one. It is also possible for someone to becomeinfected with AIDS through a blood transfusion. Since a transfusion involvesplacing foreign blood directly into the recipient’s blood stream, the necessarycondition for transmission is present, and that condition is the directcontact of potentially infected fluid with susceptible cells in the recipient.
This is a method of AIDS transmission that the patient can do little about. Hemophiliacs who received blood transfusions before 1985 are the ones mostat risk in this category. Today, there is only a small possibility of someonegetting HIV through a blood transfusion. This is because in June of 1985,hospitals began screening blood to see if it was HIV infected (Flynn 64).
Presently, there is only a small chance that the tests will not noticethe virus in the blood. “It is estimated that undetected HIV is presentin fewer than one in four hundred fifty thousand to six hundred thousandunits of blood” (Microsoft Corporation 7). Technicians also pasteurizethe blood to assure elimination of HIV. Another way for AIDS to be transmittedis from an infected mother to her baby, either before or during childbirth,or through breast-feeding. The blood supplies of the baby and the motherare closely linked during pregnancy. Even though the mother’s and the child’sbloodstream are separated by the placenta, preventing the exchange of cells,the exchange of nutrients, blood, and small particles like viruses arestill exchanged.
HIV infection during pregnancy mainly occurs during thethird trimester because of small tears which sometimes occur in the placenta. “Current statistics indicate that there is about a 50% chance that an infectedmother will produce an infected infant” (Conner 149). Most infected childrendie before the age of five years (Conner 151). “Even uninfected childrenborn to HIV-infected mothers have an incidence of heart problems 12 timesthat of children in the general population” (Microsoft Corporation 7). It is important that people realize that they are not only putting themselvesat risk, but also the lives of others.
However, it is not possible for a personto contract AIDS by casual contact. AIDS cannot be transmitted by simplytouching someone, going to school with someone, or even hugging someone. In order for HIV to be transmitted, an exchange of bodily fluids must occur. There is no other way. “Additionally, HIV is unable to reproduce outsideits living host; therefore, it does not spread or maintain infectiousnessoutside its host” (Microsoft Corporation 7). It is also impossible for HIV to be spreadby insects.
Many people, however, believe that mosquitoes and other suckinginsects can do so. However, HIV can only live for a short period of timeoutside of a cell, or host, and therefore, cannot infect the insect. So,if the insect is unable to be infected, then the insect is unable to infecthuman beings. Knowing the methods of transmission enablesus to know how to prevent the AIDS virus. One way to prevent the spreadof AIDS is by practicing abstinence or by having safe sex. Abstinence isdefined as not having sex at all, and it is the safest practice.
However,if one feels that he must have sex, then safe sex should be practiced. Safe sex involves the use of a condom, according to the instructions onthe packet. Latex condoms are the best condoms to use. One should alsolimit his sexual partners. The more sexual partners one has, the higherthe risk of contracting AIDS. There are also many other sexual activitieswith a lower risk other than having actual sexual intercourse.
These activitiesinclude: “self masturbation, dry kissing, mutual masturbation, and wet,deep kissing” (Bevan 36). Anal sex is the riskiest form because the liningsin the anus are more sensitive, and are more likely to tear, enabling HIVto travel into the body. If one refuses to practice abstinence or safesex, he should be regularly examined by doctors in order to know if hehas contracted AIDS or another sexually transmitted disease. By knowing,he can get treatment and can then be more careful when around others sothat they will not get a disease, also. Another way to prevent AIDS transmissionis by not handling or sharing any hypodermic drug needles.
Many peopledo not believe that AIDS is transmissible by sharing drug needles becausethe HIV seems to be taken outside of the body first and then passed on. This does occur, however, it is in a syringe, and blood cells are not exposedto the environment because of this. “Also, it is usually done within avery short period of time, usually within seconds, or, at most, minutes”(Conner 150). Thus, the safest way would be not participating in any drugactivity. Prevention of this mode of transmission involves breaking thelink between individuals and the syringe.
However, if drugs are used, andneedles are shared, the needles should be properly sterilized. Having sterileneedles available for free is in debate in many communities, and in someplaces in effect, especially in highly populated urban areas. A healthworker says, “Free needles will support the drug community, but arrestAIDS spread” (Bevan 12). Finally, in order to prevent the spreadof AIDS, one must be aware of the fact that it is possible for anyone toget HIV.
Many people believe that AIDS is a disease for certain stereotypessuch as homosexuals and drug abusers. However, this is not true. Anyonecan get HIV, no matter who he is. As mentioned earlier, Arthur Ashe, oneof the world’s best tennis players, contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. He was not a homosexual and he did not share drug needles. However, hecontracted HIV and it killed him.
Another devastating case of AIDS wasthe well known movie star, Rock Hudson. Hudson is, “a Hollywood legendand undisclosed homosexual. He was the first major public figure to revealhe had AIDS. Hudson died in 1985 at age 59” (Stine 59). Hudson, unlikeAshe, could have prevented his contraction of AIDS, however, he was frivolousand therefore contracted AIDS.
If you ever have sex, use drugs in non-sterileneedles, or come into contact with any form of bodily fluid, there is apossibility of contracting HIV. True, there are people who are more atrisk than others. These people are:”Hemophiliacs who received contaminatedblood before 1985. People who have lived or traveled to Central Africa(over the last 15 years) and had sexual relationships there. Homosexualand bisexual men.
People who share needles to inject drugs” (Bevan 51). However, just because one does not participatein any of these risky activities does not mean that he should not be careful. As stated before, one cannot tell if somebody has AIDS by looking at him. Therefore, people must be careful and protect themselves.
Now that we know the methods of transmission,and the prevention of AIDS, we need to know what kind of treatments areavailable in case AIDS is acquired. One way to treat AIDS is by using adrug called retrovir zidovudine or asizidothymidine, which is commonlyreferred to as AZT. As stated earlier, AIDS is an incurable disease. Thereis also no vaccine for AIDS.
The drug AZT can delay the progression ofAIDS in some patients. “Clinical benefits from AZT may be apparent withinsix weeks of therapy; and continued treatment prolongs survival” (Stine131). Also, new research shows that women with AIDS who receive AZT drugtherapy during their pregnancies and give birth a C-section delivery maybe providing their babies the best protection against HIV infection. Unfortunately,the drug’s capability to prolong the life of an AIDS patient declines withtime.
Also, this drug does not stop the spread of HIV to other people. There are also other medicines available, and many are still in testing. Another form of treatment is alternatingtherapy. Alternating therapy consists of taking different drugs on andoff.
It gives people’s bodies an opportunity to mend from the side effectsof each drug. Patients can alternate between AZT and other drugs. It ispossible in some cases, not to suffer any side effects if the alternatingdrugs are taken correctly. Side effects can also be stopped before theystart if alternating therapy is used. A further method of treatment for AIDSis treatment of the opportunistic infections caused by the breakdown ofthe immune system. Most commonly, people die from the cancers and otheropportunistic infections caused from AIDS rather than from the virus itself.
“The most common opportunistic infection seen in AIDS is Pneumocytis cariniipneumonia (PCP), which is caused by a fungus that normally exists in theairways of all people” (Microsoft Corporation 4). This is a serious, life-threateningdisease. Therefore, the better the infections are treated, the longer theperson may live. The bad point of this is, “treatment for an OI is lifelongbecause of relapse if it is stopped” (Stine 116).
Since the immune systemis what is being attacked, the body cannot fight off the disease withoutdrugs. If treatment for opportunist infections is stopped, a relapse isalmost definite. Some of the newest treatments include moreantiviral therapies, immune system boosters, and triple drug therapy. Theseare still in testing.
Each new approach and drug must be extensively evaluatedfor safety and effectiveness. So far, the immune boosters are not veryeffective. These are used to help the immune system fight off HIV. However,the triple drug therapy, which consists of indinavir, zidovudine, and lamivudine,have been prosperous.
Triple drug therapy, also known as cocktail therapy,can suppress HIV for at least two years. The main problem with these drugsis that testing is a long process. There have been many derogatory commentstowards the FDA, or Federal Drug Administration, concerning the lengthof testing. Therefore, policies have changed in order to give quicker approval.
However, “early availability of a drug entails the risk that it may beused in people before its toxicity and side effects are fully understood”(Stine 337). However, many people with AIDS are willing to take this riskwith the hope that the drug may prove effective. In conclusion, AIDS is an incurable diseasewith few treatments, caused by HIV, transmitted by way of bodily fluids. AIDS is mainly transmitted through sex and sexual activities, and by sharinghypodermic drug needles.
Sexual transmission is most dangerous if thereare many sexual partners, and if there is not use of a condom. Transmissionvia blood transfusions has become almost absent, thanks to blood screenings. Scientists are working hard on treatments and are working for a cure, however,it is lacking to be found. A World Health Organization official says, “AIDS. .
. willtest our fundamental values and measure the moral strength of our cultures”(Bevan 6). We are the only ones who can stop this pandemic. There is away.
“Curable? No. Treatable? To a limited extent. Preventable? By a vaccine, no – but by changing our behavior, yes. Thisis how we must fight AIDS. .
. . Prevention is better than cure. And whenthere’s no cure, prevention is all we have” (Bevan 46, 56).