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A.I.D.S - Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome

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AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is one of the worst pandemics the world has ever known. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that causes AIDS, was first discovered in 1981 and it has since swept across the globe, infecting millions in a relatively short period of time. AIDS has killed 28.1 million people that we know of, with 3 million people dying in the year 2002 alone. Clearly the AIDS pandemic has had, and will continue to have, a significant and global impact.

What HIV does is invades the cells of our immune system and reprogram the cells to become HIV-producing factories. Slowly the number of immune cells in the body deteriorates, and AIDS develops. Once AIDS manifests, a person is susceptible to many different infections, because the immune system has been weakened so much by the HIV it can no longer fight back effectively. HIV has also shown the ability to mutate, which makes treating the virus nearly impossible.

A person can carry and transmit the HIV virus for many years before any symptoms show themselves. A person can be contagious for a decade or more before any visible signs of disease become apparent. In a decade, an HIV carrier can potentially infect dozens of people, who each can infect dozens of people, and so on.

Here is a brief overview of the life cycle of the AIDS virus

As you can see here are the basic parts of an HIV Virus.

* HIV are genes which are composed of ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules. Like all viruses, HIV replicates inside host cells. Once the HIV virus enters the body, it heads for the lymphoid tissues, where it finds T-helper cells.

* Binding - The HIV attaches to the immune cell when the HIV virus binds with the protein of the T-helper cell. The viral core enters the T-helper cell and the protein membrane fuses with the cell membrane.

* Reverse transcription - The viral enzyme copies the virus's RNA into DNA.

* The newly created DNA is carried into the cell's nucleus by the enzyme, viral integrase, and it binds with cell's DNA. HIV DNA is called a provirus.

* Transcription - The viral DNA in the nucleus separates and creates messenger RNA (mRNA), using the cell's own enzymes. The mRNA contains the instructions for making new viral proteins.

* Translation - The mRNA is carried back out of the nucleus by the cell's enzymes. The virus then uses the cell's natural protein-making mechanisms to make long chains of viral proteins and enzymes.

* Assembly - RNA and viral enzymes gather at the edge of the cell. An enzyme, called protease, cuts the polypeptides into viral proteins.

* Budding - New HIV virus particles pinch out from the cell membrane and break away with a piece of the cell membrane surrounding them. This is how enveloped viruses leave the cell. In this way, the host cell is not destroyed.

* The newly replicated virions will infect other T-helper cells and cause the person's T-helper cell count to slowly decrease. When a person's T-helper cell count drops below 200,000 cells per one milliliter of blood, he or she is considered to have AIDS. The development of AIDS takes about two to 15 years, but about half of all people with HIV will develop AIDS within 10 years after becoming infected

* No one dies from AIDS or HIV specifically. Instead, an AIDS-infected person dies from infections, because his or her immune system has been dissipated. An AIDS patient could die from the common cold as easily as he or she could from cancer. The person's body cannot fight off the infection, and he or she eventually dies.

Legal/ Political issues

Ш DNA Testing

* Encouraging patients to agree to routine HIV testing, even if they appear at low risk for the disease, would not only prolong life but also save health care dollars.

* This will allow us to identify people who were not previously aware of being HIV positive. By picking up early on HIV infection in patients, patients can be started sooner on antiviral drugs that will prolong life.

* In North America, testing for the AIDS virus is preformed only with a patient's consent, and it usually when they have symptoms or at a high risk for the disease

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