Like most of
us, AIDS started its second century on the planet nine years
No one celebrated,
though. There was plenty of hoopla about the new millennium and
tons of media hype and hysteria about the potential effects of
the dreaded Y2K bug, but nobody seemed interested in doing much
about the AIDS virus, except wishing it would go away.
absent amid all the media coverage of the news and newsmakers
of the 20th Century was much mention of a virus that's already
killed more Americans than the Vietnam and Korean Wars added
together -- and one that seems poised to kill more people in
the first decades of the 21st century than all the wars of the
last century combined.
we put together this pamphlet.
though recent news about AIDS treatments and possible vaccines
have given us reason for hope, the simple truth is that AIDS
-- and the HIV virus that causes it -- is the kind of thing that
most of us seem to prefer not thinking about.
But while ignorance
about some things may be bliss, ignorance about AIDS can be deadly.
much as anything, HIV runs on ignorance, and unlike AIDS, ignorance
can be destroyed -- simply by facing a few facts.
..What is AIDS?
In case you
missed it the first time around (or need a review), AIDS -- or
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome -- is not a disease, but a
set of diseases that follows an infection of the body's immune
to AIDS arise from the inability of the body to fight off other
infections and diseases.
..How many people have it?
1, 2009, more than 1,050,000 people in the United States had
been diagnosed as having AIDS.
Of these, 583,298
had already died of AIDS-related complications.
..Who gets AIDS?
All kinds of
people. Although it was once thought of as a "gay disease"
affecting only gay and bisexual men, AIDS now affects all of
us, in one way or another.
And it's not
just a problem in the United States. Today, AIDS is one of the
most critical public health problems in the world.
the World Health Organization, about 33 million people worldwide
are now infected, with the number of new infections growing by
6,800 every day.
and bisexual men continue as the highest risk group in the United
States (representing 53 percent of all new infections), other
groups increasingly figure into the HIV equation. Of particular
concern are intravenous drug users, who account for one-sixth
of all new cases.
though, heterosexual contact contributes to rising AIDS totals.
In fact, heterosexual activity is now the only risk factor in
31 percent of all U.S. HIV infections.
..How is it transmitted?
Although much of the early panic
surrounding AIDS came from the belief that AIDS could be transmitted
through casual contact, experience has proven such beliefs wrong.
That's because HIV is only transmitted through an exchange of
bodily fluids, particularly semen and blood.
For this reason,
all forms of sexual contact that allow direct exchange of bodily
fluids are possible routes of HIV transmission.
the virus can also be exchanged from mother to child during pregnancy
and from one person to another by the exchange of contaminated
needles and blood products.
..How does AIDS affect the body?
the body, HIV invades CD4+ T-lymphocytes -- white blood cells
that defend the body against infection -- where it binds to DNA
in the cell nucleus.
In many cases,
this is where things stand, and stop, for months or years. But
infection at this level is typically only the first phase of
the disease process. Usually (and for reasons that are still
unexplained), the virus reactivates. At this stage, it kills
the host T cell and releases new viruses that invade other T-cells.
As the virus
continues its spread, the immune system becomes increasingly
impaired and less able to fight off diseases and infections.These
secondary "opportunistic" infections can be so devastating
that death results.
..What's the outlook for someone exposed
Not as bad as it once was. More
people are living longer, more productive lives with the disease
today than ever before.
In fact, long-term
HIV survivors -- some who've lived with the infection for 15
years without progressing to AIDS -- now number in the thousands.
And while researchers
estimate that only one in 100 may be naturally immune to the
HIV virus, fully three percent of those infected with HIV may
not develop the full-blown disease. Why, exactly, is still unclear
-- but it's the subject of intense current research.
..What are the symptoms of AIDS?
can include any of the following:
- Whitish coating or spotting
on tongue or throat
- Swollen lymph glands
- Unexplained fatigue, aches,
- Heavy cough (often with shortness
- Persistent fever, "night
- Skin rashes or blotching of
- Weight loss not due to diet
or increased activity
- Decreased appetite
- Persistent yeast infection in
can be mild, but later symptoms are much harder to ignore.
can include a life-threatening "wasting syndrome" and
other problems, including brain and central nervous system damage,
pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, and a rare form of cancer known
as Kaposi's sarcoma.
..Is there a reliable test for AIDS?
Yes. In fact,
the FDA has approved new urinalysis and saliva tests, along with
home-test blood kits.
The new tests
are said to be more sensitive, accurate, and safer than previous
tests because they measure the number of CD4 cells -- the cells
targeted by the HIV virus -- rather than the amount of HIV in
the sensitivity of the tests, doctors can now detect infection
long before the virus itself is detectable. In addition, the
level of infection can be more accurately judged.
as early as possible if you are infected -- and how long you've
been infected -- is increasingly critical, because new treatments
are most effective when used early.
..What treatments are effective?
The most promising
treatments to date involve a new group of drugs called protease
which evolved out of research that produced the early AIDS drug,
AZT, are used in combination with AZT and other antiviral agents
in so-called multi-drug "cocktails."
The new cocktail
treatments, which were instituted on a large-scale in 1996, are
proving effective at reversing many AIDS symptoms, even causing
full-scale remission in some patients.
In fact, the
drugs are proving so effective that researchers are daring to
hope what a few years ago was almost unimaginable: that HIV might
soon become a manageable, chronic disease -- like diabetes or
new drugs do have a downside. They don't seem to work for everyone
(15 percent of patients don't respond) and they're expensive
-- annual costs can run up to $20,000 per patient. But at least
they offer serious hope to people for whom hope had been in seriously
..What can I do to reduce my risk?
or be careful. Realize that even though the odds of HIV happening
to you may seem remote, the risks are still real.
the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, more than a million Americans
are now living with HIV infection. And perhaps more are infected
but uncounted, "silent" carriers of an infection they
don't even know about.
The most troubling
fact of all is that each may be able to transmit the virus to
others -- even if they don't show any symptoms of infection.
if you're sexually active or you use drugs, you'd better
take measures to protect yourself:
- Limit partners.
- Use condoms and practice safer
- If you're an intravenous drug
- If you can't quit, don't share
a needle with anyone.
we've learned nothing else over the years sifting rumors and
facts about HIV, we've learned that it is possible to prevent
AIDS from happening.
Be wise. And
if you can't be wise, be smart.
For More Information
The National AIDS Hotline:
1-800-342-AIDS or 1-800-344-SIDA (Spanish)
..Sidebar1 | Making Sex Safer
contact is the primary means of HIV transmission, the best way
to reduce your chances of bumping into the virus is to limit
your sexual partners.
we know about HIV, the only foolproof way to do that is to refrain
from all activities that could lead to an exchange of bodily
fluids -- which would include giving up sex altogether.
doesn't seem to be in the cards for billions of people any time
soon, experts suggest avoiding certain higher-risk sexual practices
-- anal intercourse, for example.
the use of condoms in all types of sexual activity as well as
"safe sex" alternatives -- love games that don't involve
intercourse at all.
this category is almost everything from massage to mutual masturbation,
as long as it doesn't lead to an exchange of bodily fluids.
Still, it does
leave room for exchanging the kind of intimacy that real love
is supposed to be about.
..Sidebar 2 | If You Think You've Been Exposed to HIV
- Avoid sexual contact.
- Contact your local or state
- Don't panic.
If You Have
Been Exposed to HIV
- Avoid sexual contact.
- Don't donate blood or sperm.
- Don't share toothbrushes, syringes,
or other personal products that may spread blood or body fluids.
- If you're a woman, postpone
any planned pregnancies.