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Figures suggest that approx. 47 million people worldwide have been infected with HIV since the start of this epidemic. There have been more than 900,000 reported cases of AIDS in the United States since 1981 and as many as 950,000 Americans may be infected with HIV, a quarter of whom are unaware of it. In 2004, the total estimated number death caused by AIDS was 15,798. The death toll among adults and adolescents was 15,731 and 61 for children under the age of 13, according to a March 2005 report out of the Centre for Disease Control (CDC). The cumulative estimated number of deaths by AIDS in the year 2004 was 529,113 (523,598 adults and adolescents and 5,515 children under age 13 (CDC, 2005). At the end of 2003, an estimated 1,039,000 to 1,185,000 persons in the United States were living with HIV-AIDS, according to the CDC, and it affects nearly seven times more African -Americans and three times more Hispanics than whites. These numbers are certainly terrifying and this epidemic is reportedly growing among the minority population. It is the fifth leading cause of death in people between the ages of 25 to 44. In recent years, an increasing number of African- American women and children are being affected by HIV/AIDS. In 2003, two-thirds of U.S. AIDS cases in both women and children were among African-Americans (CDC, 2005).

HIV- AIDS has hit home. I have gruesome memories of an aunt and two cousins, who dwindled away after being infected with this disease. It is time for us to stop thinking that this disease affects only a certain race, age group or that it's simply not our problem. HIV-AIDS has no face, color, race or religion. It's not something we go looking to buy. It can infect anyone, and the reality is that it can even infect or affect you and me. HIV-AIDS affects us all worldwide and we all need to know what this disease is, how and when it came into existence, the signs & symptoms and how we can all work together to prevent a further spread of HIV-AIDS.

AIDS reportedly originated in sub-Saharan Africa during the 20th century. The myth was that it might have jumped species - from primates to humans. The official date for the beginning of the AIDS epidemic is recorded as June 18, 1981, when the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in its Morbidity and Mortality weekly report newsletter that unusual clusters of Pneumocystis jiroceci pneumonia (formerly Pneumocystis carinii) had been discovered in gay men in Los Angles in the early 1980s.

Over the next 18 months, more Pneumocystis jiroveci clusters were discovered among otherwise healthy men in cities throughout the country, along with other opportunistic diseases (such as Kaposo's sarcoma and lymphadenopathy, common in immunosuppressed patients) ( Morbidity & Mortality, 1981).In June 1982, a report of a group of cases amongst gay men in Southern California suggested that a sexually transmitted infectious agent might be the etiological agent and was initially termed 'GRID' (Gay Related Immune Deficiency). However, the same opportunistic infections also began to be reported among hemophiliacs, heterosexual IV drug users, and Haitian immigrants. By August 1982, the disease was being referred to by its new name, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). An anagram of AIDS, SIDA, was then created for use in French (Syndrome d'Immuno-Dйficience Acquise) and Spanish (Sнndrome de Inmunodeficiencia Adquirida) (CDC,2005).

AIDS is the abbreviation for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Acquired - means that the disease is not hereditary but develops after birth from contact with a disease-causing agent (in this case, HIV). Immunodeficiency - means that the disease is characterized by a weakening of the immune system and Syndrome - refers to a group of symptoms that collectively indicate or characterize a disease (Healthline, 2004). In the case of AIDS this can include the development of certain infections and/or cancers, as well as a decrease in the number of certain cells in a person's immune system.

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is the virus that causes AIDS. This virus may be passed from one person to another when infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions come in contact with an uninfected person's broken skin or mucous membranes (Frumkin & Leonard, 1987). In addition, infected pregnant women can pass HIV to their baby during pregnancy or delivery, as well as through breast-feeding. People with HIV have what is called `HIV infection'. Some of these people will develop AIDS as a result of their HIV infection. This virus kills or damages the cells of the body's immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to a variety of life threatening infections and certain cancer. According to the CDC, AIDS begins when a person with HIV infection has a CD4 cell count below 200(CD4 is also called T-Cell, a type of immune cell). People infected with HIV may have no symptoms for ten years or longer, but they can still transmit the infection to others during this symptom free period. Meanwhile if the infection is not detected and treated the immune system gradually weakens and AIDS develops (Wikipedia, 2006).

HIV-AIDS is spread most commonly by having unprotected sex with an infected person. The virus can enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum or mouth during sex. HIV-AIDS can affect anyone who practices risky behaviors such as sharing drug needles or syringes and having sexual contact with someone whose HIV status is unknown (NIAID, 2005). A person who has a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) such as syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea or bacterial vaginosis may be more susceptible to becoming HIV infected while having sex with an infected partner.

HIV-AIDS can also be spread through contact with infected blood or blood transfusion. Meanwhile, mother to child transmission occurs when a pregnant woman passes the virus to her fetus through shared blood circulation. A nursing mother can also transmit the virus to her baby through her milk (Gong & Rudnick, 1987). HIV-AIDS cannot be transmitted by talking to an infected person, touching them, sharing a toilet seat or sharing the same air they breathe.

The symptoms of HIV-AIDS are primarily the result of an infections that do not normally develop in an individual with a healthy immune system. These infections are Opportunistic because they deplete the immune system. The common resulting symptoms are fever, severe headaches, night sweats, enlarged glands and weight loss.

These symptoms usually disappear within a week to a month and are often mistaken



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