AIDS: A VIEW OF A VIRUS
Often referred to as the great plague of the twentieth century, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, has become one of the deadliest viruses ever known to humans. This contagion has swept the globe faster than any other virus in existence, surpassing the progression of malaria and tuberculosis, two of the earliest and most lethal communicable diseases monitored by doctors and scientists. Its devastating effect on the human body and its ability to easily transmit itself has thrusted AIDS into the international spotlight of science, prompting members of the scientific community to join together to eradicate this deadly outbreak. For the last two decades, global awareness, prevention, and research methods have become commonplace, and prospects for cures, treatments, and vaccinations are becoming more practical with each new medical innovation of the Computer Age.
In 1981, a technician at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) noticed an unusually high amount of requests for pentamidine, a drug used to fight a strain of pneumonia. The requests were coming from California, New York, and Florida, mainly from doctors of drug-using homosexuals. Thus, the disease was named Gay-Related Immune Deficiency. The following year, similar cases were reported by heterosexual male drug-users, haemophiliacs, and women.Haitian refugees in Miami also showed symptoms akin to those people aforementioned. Scientists began to believe that these cases did indeed have a biological link, probably through blood or other bodily fluids, and because these cases were detected in non-homosexuals, scientists renamed the disease acquired immunodefiency syndrome, or AIDS (Avert.org, 81-86). It was clearly evident, doctors noted, that this newly discovered virus was deteriorating certain immune cells in the body. Furthermore, the disease was deemed acquirable because, unlike other genetic immune system diseases, one had to receive the virus. By 1985, 7,000 people in the United States had acquired AIDS, and nearly half of the victims received the disease via blood transfusions and needle-based drug usage (Avert.org, 81-86). The remained obtained the virus by unprotected sexual intercourse.
The middle part of the 1980s brought profound change to AIDS research and treatment development. The World Health Organisation, The United Nations, The United States Surgeon General, and numerous foreign health agencies began to issue warnings and educational pamphlets to doctors and health insurers to spread the word about transmitting AIDS, just as scientists began to realise that the virus may actually be a condition of a larger virus (Avert.org, 87-92). Indeed, scientists at the National Cancer Institute discovered that a virus found in AIDS patients, called HTLV-II, and another virus found in AIDS patients, LAV, were identical in structure and size. Accordingly, an international consortium of AIDS researchers renamed the two viruses HIV, for human immunodefiency virus. By 1988, researchers were certain that HIV caused AIDS based on the information from the HIV strain. Clinical pharmacists and doctors began use this new information to create treatments from patients. Zidovudine, or ATZ, the first breakthrough in AIDS medication, seemed to work effectively, but the virus slowly rejected the treatment. Essentially, the AIDS cells were only stabilising; thus, the patient lived somewhat longer (aidsmeds.com).
For the next few years, many celebrities came forth to the public and admitted they had HIV/AIDS. Earvin “Magic” Johnson, a famous basketball player, announced in 1991 that he was infected with the HIV virus, and led a campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness. Fred Mercury, a musician with the rock band Queen, said he had AIDS at a press conference, and he warned everyone to be safe in their sexual activities. Hours later, he died of the disease. Arthur Ashe, another famous athlete, told reporters in 1993 that he had HIV/AIDS due to a botched blood transfusion in 1983. The influx of celebrity HIV/AIDS cases prompted massive prevention and treatment campaigns to span the world. Many of these organisations helped to gain monetary support for research and patient care.
Following years of pharmaceutical research, pharmacologists and scientists began to hypothesise that combining several antiretroviral drugs, or drugs that attempted to counteract the effects of the retrovirus HIV/AIDS, would become an effective form of therapy (Avert.org, 93-97). This method became known as “the kitchen sink method” of treating HIV/AIDS. The Food and Drug Administration approved the combination of dideoxyinosine (ddi), a powerful antiretroviral drug similar to ATZ, with ATZ. By 1997, delavirdine, a potent drug used to attack certain cells within the HIV/AIDS virus, was legalised by the FDA, and became an instant medication for HIV/AIDS treatment.
Recently, a report by the United Nations AIDS Council revealed that the “kitchen sink” method, as well as prevention and educational campaigns, was prolonging thousands of lives in America and Europe; but in Africa, the epidemic rose far worse than world health agencies foresaw.
HIV/AIDS cases grew rapidly in Africa from 1997 to mid-2000. International organisations declared that the epidemic in Africa was caused by years of fouled up humanitarian efforts; specifically, the poor quality of blood transfusions and syringe disposal. Revamped humanitarian agencies returned to Africa during the HIV/AIDS case increase to provide treatments and education on HIV/AIDS. Many African nations ruled by military dictators or cruel monarchs surprisingly mandated that all hospitals adhere to certain regulations to prevent the spread of the virus via blood transfusions and syring disposal (aidsinafrica.com). Additionally, scores of African nations have and still are implementing HIV/AIDS awareness programmes in primary schools. Accordingly, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Africa youth have declined greatly. However, many adults remain ignorant about HIV/AIDS, and the virus spreads further throughout Africa because of this.
Currently, researchers are working with several antiretroviral drugs in laboratories and clinical testing facilities. Numerous drugs in clinical trials are proving to be effective in slowing the expansion of the virus, yet some pills carry dangerous side effects and are very costly. Health insurers estimate that over $10,000 a year, per-person, is spent on three pills to combat HIV/AIDS (Toolkit). The newest treatments for the virus, called protease inhibitors, invade HIV/AIDS suffering cells, and block those cells from replicating their genetic code, or DNA. With the DNA impaired, the virus’ growth slows down rapidly. Viracept, a protease inhibitor used with two other drugs similar to ATZ, is considered by doctors to be the most effective treatment for HIV/AIDS. Pharmacists, physicians, and scientists believe that the AIDS virus can be cured in the foreseeable future; but for now, there are no concrete prospects that the disease can be eradicated. Clinical experiments and the “kitchen sink” method are the only ways for a patient to actively live his or her life.
Since 1993, HIV/AIDS cases have declined in the United States (Harvard). This can be attributed to the education/prevention campaigns sponsored by HIV/AIDS organisations, private companies, and the government. Teaching the populace about the causes and effects of the virus is the most effective way to prevent its spread.
Twenty-two million people worldwide have died from this virus. Currently, thirty-six million people live with HIV/AIDS, and their only hope is medicine which prolongs their lives. Funding for research has increased incredibly, and students are entering careers focused solely on HIV/AIDS research.
Nearly 60 million people worldwide have been directly affected by the HIV/AIDS virus, with millions more indirectly suffering through the loss of a friend or loved one. As of today the only hope for HIV/AIDS sufferers are large and expensive drug treatments that slow, but do not stop this ravaging disease. Today millions of dollars and tens of thousands of scientists worldwide are working towards developing a cure for HIV/AIDS, and with further philanthropic and scientific efforts it is hoped that this deadly disease will claim no more innocent lives.
Data courtesy of avert.org
The following exponential equation shall show the growth in AIDS cases, beginning in 1983 and concluding in 1993. Using this equation, it is possible to predict the number of HIV/AIDS cases in 2010.
The value for the constant for the growth of AIDS cases in the United States is approximately .3242. The growth equation is y=ne.32t.
Using the said formula, we can now predict how many HIV/AIDS cases will be in the United States in 2010:
We can assume that there will be over 1,000 new cases reported in 2010.
“Epidemiology”. Harvard AIDS Institute at Harvard Univeristy, 2001.
“History of AIDS”. Webpages 81-86. Avert.org, 2001. http://www.avert.org/his81_86.htm.
“History of AIDS”. Webpages 87-92. Avert.org, 2001. http://www.avert.org/his87_92.htm.
“History of AIDS”. Webpages 93-97. Avert.org, 2001. http://www.avert.org/his93_97.htm.
“Zidovudine/Retrovir”. aidsmeds.com, 2000.
“AIDS & Africa”. aidsandafrica.com, 2000.
“HIV/AIDS Toolkit”. The South African Ministry of Health, 2000.