HIV: Detailing the Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Essay by d_La_High School, 11th grade April 2004

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Like a powerful army it has conquered more than half of the world. Its reckless and swift battalion, although microscopic in size, claims nearly three million lives each year. Although by title it is known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), it is known to all as one of the human body's deadliest enemy. At its core, HIV is a disease that weakens the body at the heart of its defense: its immune system, thereby making it difficult to fight any incoming infection. Contrary to popular belief, HIV cannot be transmitted through the air and thus is only transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, by 2002, an estimated 42 million people worldwide were living with HIV/AIDS. Approximately 70 percent of these people live in Africa whereas another 17 percent live in Asia. Also, an estimated 5 million new HIV infections occurred worldwide during 2002; that is, about 14,000 infections each day.

Furthermore, more than 95 percent of these new infections occurred in developing countries, and since the countries that are most in need cannot afford the costs of HIV/AIDS testing and treatment, most of the world's HIV/AIDS cases go untreated and without notice . Thus, despite the medical, social and political advances in HIV research, many challenges still need to be addressed before global control of HIV is realized. Similarly, although no cure for HIV exists at present, for the mean time it is necessary to implement a stricter observance of the precautions that must be taken towards HIV prevention. However, before taking a look at HIV public policy, it is important to first look at the biological origins of HIV and at the lifecycle of the virus.

HIV belongs to a class of viruses known as retroviruses, whose genetic...