Aids In Detail

.. ne anonymous partner per year. Homosexual men have higher rates of sexually transmits diseases than heterosexual men and women because gay men tend to have larger numbers of different sexual partners, more often engage in furtive (anonymous) sexual activities, and more frequently have anal intercourse. PUZZLING SYMPTOMS Any theory of the new disease also had to account for a puzzling factor: the variety of symptoms seen in AIDS patients before they entered the final phase of complete susceptibility to opportunistic infections and cancers. Interviews with AIDS patients revealed many had been very sick for up to a year before they developed their first case of Pneumocystis pneumonia or showed their first Kaposi’s spot, both signs of AIDS.

One form of illness that preceded outright AIDS was a state called lymphadenopathy syndrome, or as LAS, in which the patient had several swollen lymph nodes for three months or more. These swollen lymph nodes might be in the neck, in the throat, or under the armpits. Swollen lymph nodes are a sign that the immune system is fighting an infection. Did any patients with swollen lymph nodes get better, indicating a successful fight? Or was the struggle always futile? Several physicians recruited patients with LAS and examined them every few months to learn the answer. A more serious condition was AIDS-related complex (ARC), a stage of the illness no longer considered separately. It had been defined in 1983 as the presence of two or more unexplained clinical symptoms of AIDS and at least two abnormal lab tests for the related signs.

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Patients with ARC might lose a large amount of weight, have frequent fevers, sweat a lot at night, feel very fatigued, and suffer untreatable diarrhea. It seemed that the presence of ARC signaled that outright AIDS was inevitable. But what phase of the AIDS disease process did ARC represent? The Center for Disease Control never officially recognized ARC for it’s reporting purposes, but the term was useful in describing what appeared to be on the set of AIDS. Better terminology has followed from medical advances, however, and the symptoms of what was called ARC are viewed as just another of the AIDS-related illness rather than as a distinct stage of the disease. INTRAVENOUS DRUG USERS Heroin addicts have an illegal habit and are dedicated primarily to getting their next fit. Many do not stay in one place long enough to be studied. Most of them would rather use their money for drugs than for medical care, so they do not often enter the traditional medical system.

Hence, relatively, little is known about the medical condition of those who populate the drug culture. Striking a needle into your vein after someone else has used it is an easy way to get any infectious diseases that the other person may have. It is like giving yourself a transfusion of infected blood. That is why IV drug users have a high rate of hepatitis, a blood disease that is lethal if left untreated. That is why they become the second group among whom AIDS rapidly spread. Within a year of the onset of the epidemic, almost 20% of AIDS patients were found to be IV drug users. But most IV drug users are heterosexuals. Many female addicts resort to prostitution to support their habit.

An infected prostitute can spread AIDS to any of her customers, and those men can spread it to any women or men they later have sex with. Former addicts can also transmit AIDS to any person they have a sexual relationship with, if they acquired the AIDS infection while they are using drugs. From these mysterious and frightening beginnings among gay men and IV drug users, AIDS was about to show its versatility by appearing in several new population groups. Indeed, epidemiologists were anticipating this development. If the new syndrome could be spread by sex between two men, they asked themselves, might it also be transmitted by sex between a man and a woman? And if it could be spread by blood on contaminated needles used by heroin addicts, could it be spread by blood used for medical purposes, such as during surgery? The answers to both questions turned out to be affirmative.

Between the end of 1981 and the end 1982, several new groups were rapidly identified who were at greatly increased risk for contracting AIDS. They were as follows: *Women who had sex with men who had the AIDS infection. *Babies born to women infected with the AIDS virus. *Hemophiliacs who injected blood products containing a clotting factor. *Surgery patients who were transfused with contaminated blood. *Newly arrived immigrants from Haiti and their sexual contacts.

In each instance, transmission was either sexual contact or through receiving infected blood. It is essential to recognize that as each risk group was identified, it fit one of these patterns of transmission. There was no group of unexplained AIDS cases that could have been spread by casual contact, such as being sneezed on by person with AIDS or eating food prepared by a person with AIDS. From May 1981 to the present, all evidence has confirmed that AIDS is spread only by intimate contact, not by the day-to-day, public encounters we all have in our business and social lives. But with the regard of the two ways that AIDS is transmitted, blood and sex, it is clear the illness does not select particular groups to afflict. It does not matter if you whether you are a man or women, or what type of lifestyle you practice.

If you are injected or transfused with contagious blood or take into your body other contagious bodily fluids, such as vaginal secretions or semen, you run a high risk of getting AIDS. Minute amounts of these fluids pose very little threat to transmitting the virus, and most nongenital fluids, such as saliva, are currently thought to pose no risk whatsoever of transmitting it. There is, however, a theoretical risk involved when any fluid is passed from an infected person, though the relative risk is extremely small. Research is still being done to prove these conjecture. 80 percent of babies HIV positive did not develop AIDS although, their mother had AIDS.

HEMOPHILIACS There are several diseases in which the blood does not clot properly. Those born with these conditions lack one of the many elements in the blood that are essential to stop bleeding. Hemophilia A is an inherited clotting disorder that afflicts men almost exclusively. In a person with severe hemophilia A, internal bleeding or bleeding into joints can lead to serious complication, possibly even death. Even small cuts clot slowly. It was persons with severe hemophilia A who were at highest risk to get AIDS.

To control their bleeding tendency, hemophiliacs inject themselves with a concentrated preparation made from the blood of persons with normal clotting ability. This preparation, called Factor VIII, is credited with increasing the life expectancy of hemophiliacs in the last two decades from 35 to 55 years old. Some hemophiliacs have a mild disorder and use Factor VIII only when they actually have a bleeding episode. But all hemophiliacs depend on it at some point. Factor VIII, which was life saving for hemophiliacs, suddenly turned to be an instrument of death.

The preparation is made by pooling blood collected from 2,000 to 5,000donors, then concentrating it, quick-drying it, and putting it in vials. Because so many people’s blood was represented in each vial of Factor VIII, the possibility existed that at least one donor had AIDS or was harboring the AIDS organism-especially because drug users (until concerns were raised about infected donors) often sold their blood for cash. And because each hemophiliac uses 20, 30, or 40 vials of Factor VIIII each year, there was a good chance that he would encounter a contaminated vial sooner or later. IDENTIFYING THE VIRUS In particular, no known infectious agent was capable of producing the specific destruction of the immune system that AIDS causes. Underlying all the symptoms of AIDS is one primary defect: loss of a pivotal type of white blood cells called the T4 helper lymphocyte(The role of T4 lymphocytes is to help other types of immune cells become active and do their job.

Without the T4 helper cells, the immune system virtually shuts down. And in some AIDS patients there was an almost complete loss of T4 helper cells. Viruses are the most minute form of life. Some people would not even call viruses living organisms. They are many times smaller than bacteria, the other cause of human infectious disease.

Whereas bacteria are independent, able to grow and reproduce outside cells of the organism they infect, viruses are parasites. In order to make more of their kind, viruses must enter the cells of the creature they infect and take over the cellular machinery. They subvert its productive power by making more of their own kind. The cell dies, but the virus thrives. The virus is an intracellular parasite because it’s structure, unlike that of a bacterium, is too rudimentary to sustain itself-it must live within another cell (Bacteria are internally complex, containing all the equipment necessary for life). Viruses contain only the genetic material necessary to propagate themselves and a tightly wrapped protective coat of proteins.

These differences lead to a crucial medical distinction between bacteria and viruses. Twentieth-century medical science has developed many antibiotics drugs, such as penicillin, to combat bacterial infections. But viruses are more difficult to kill. Because they reproduce inside of our own cells, it is difficult to find a drug to stop the virus from reproducing without harming the host cell. Progress against diseases caused by viruses-such as small pox, mumps, measles, and polio-has come through vaccines, which prevent infections. Latency, means that the infection stays in a person’s body for a while before it causes clinical illness.

Because viruses can lie dormant inside cells, they can have long latency periods. The latency periods for AIDS-the time between exposure to the infection and the first symptoms-may be as long as eight years, but it is usually three to five years. In children the latency is much shorter, and in women it may be shorter than in men. Persistence refers to how long the infectious agent remains after it starts the disease. With AIDS it is most likely that the agent stays for the person’s remaining lifetime. Despite treatment of each opportunistic infection, the immune system remains impaired.

As fast as new immune cells are made they are destroyed. One tentative conclusion is that a viral ancestor of HIV evolved in Africa millions of years ago and affected monkeys. Gradually it changed to the form of HIV we see today. But this still does not explain why the virus suddenly started causing human disease in the last quarter of the 20th century. THE OFFICIAL U.S.

DEFINITION OF AIDS There are two factors which determine the category: T-cell count and history of disease of symptoms. The T-cell (officially called CD4lymphocyte) is the vulnerable immune system cell the HIV virus attacks, then uses as a breeding ground. Eventually, the T-cells killed by the virus. As a person’s T-cell count decreases, the risk of severe disease, or “opportunistic illness”, increases. The three official levels of T-cell counts are: Level 1: a T-cell count greater than 500cells/ml Level 2: a T-cell count between 200-499 cells/ml Level 3: a T-cell count less than 200 cells/ml These categories are based on the lowest T-cell count registered by a person.

For example, someone who once tested at 180 but later received a boost in T-cells from a new protease inhibitor would still be considered level 3. To determine the three official government classifications, symptoms are also a factor. For example, a patient is in AIDS category 1 if he or she is asynmptomatic (no symptoms) and has a level 1 T-cell count. An AIDS category 2 patient has a level 2 T-cell count and at least one of the early stage illness but has not developed a later-stage disease, such as pneumonia or Kaposi’s sarcoma. In category 3-full-blown AIDS-the T-cell count has dropped below 200 and the patient has developed a later-stage disease.

TREATMENT BREAKTHROUGHS There have been so many attempts to find a solution to end with AIDS but it’s too complex and we know little of it, therefore it’s difficult to find a solution. Although, many experiments have been made for example the cocktail. It’s a treatment of vaccines that combine with an AZT. However, this vaccines does work for some but for others it does not do anything. Yet, the newest discovery is that some people are born with a certain type of gene that does not develop AIDS but has the virus.

So this person may pass on the Virus and have it himself but it will not affect him at all.