Imagine a World - AIDS in San Francisco

Essay by taramankyUniversity, Bachelor'sA, March 2004

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AIDS in General


In July 1981 an article in The New York Times reported the outbreak of a rare cancer among about forty gay men in New York and California (San Francisco AIDS Foundation: About AIDS - Main Page). Very few people realised the implications that this so-called cancer would have. Since then it has been discovered that it was not a cancer but the virus HIV and it has become a global epidemic. HIV and AIDS impacts people of all ethnicities, genders and sexual orientations. It is now the second leading killer of people aged 25 to 44 in the United States. The AIDS epidemic is unique because it is one of the few illnesses where medical responses do not suffice. Behavioural interventions are also necessary.

What is HIV/AIDS?

AIDS refers to the most advanced stage of infection caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV belongs to a class of viruses called retroviruses, which make new copies of itself inside the cells it infects which go on to infect other cells.

It progressively destroys the body's ability to fight infections and certain cancers by killing or damaging cells of the body's immune system. Those diagnosed with HIV may get life-threatening diseases called opportunistic infections (caused by microbes such as viruses and bacteria that usually do not make healthy people sick). HIV and AIDS don't kill anyone directly since those who die of AIDS actually die form one of the opportunistic infections.

How is it transferred?

HIV is a non-vectored infectious disease (it is passed from host to host). There have been some questions as to whether it is a vectored disease but it can be noted that if HIV were being transmitted through other routes (such as air, water, insects), the pattern of reported AIDS cases would...