AIDS VIRUS The AIDS disease is a complicated illness that involves several phases. It is caused by a virus that can be passed from person to person. AIDS impairs the human body's immune system (the system responsible for fighting off diseases) and leaves the person vulnerable to various infections. AIDS was first identified in the United States in 1981, when 189 cases were reported to the Centers for Disease Control. Within a decade the disease had spread to almost all populated areas of the world. In the United States alone there are about 65, 000 new cases every year.

No one really knows where the AIDS virus came from, but they think it originated in Central Africa. In the late 1980 s when researchers discovered that there are several form of the AIDS virus, they named it the human immunodeficiency virus, or also known as HIV. The virus enters the bloodstream and destroys the white blood cells, called T lymphocytes, they play a huge role in the functioning of the immune system. The virus can also infect other types of cells in the body, including macrophages, which are immune-system cells.

AIDS is transmitted by direct contact of the bloodstream with body fluids that contain the AIDS virus, mostly blood and semen from an HIV-infected person. The virus is usually transmitted through different forms of sexual intercourse, contaminated blood, or the sharing of HIV-contaminated needles. The AIDS virus cannot penetrate surfaces such as skin, and it quickly dies outside the human body. Luckily, AIDS is not spread by normal physical contact or by sneezing. The virus has been found in tears and saliva, but there is so little there that transmission through these fluids is so very rare. There are no known cases of AIDS transmission by insects such as mosquito e or by domestic animals.

Most people who were recently infected by the AIDS virus look and feel healthy. In some people the virus may remain inactive and they wont know they have it, and these people act as carriers, remaining healthy looking but still able to infect others. Some symptoms of the AIDS virus include fever, fatigue, weight loss, skin rashes, lack of resistance to infection, white spots on the roof of the mouth, and swollen lymph nodes. The average life expectancy for an AIDS victim is one to five years. There really is no treatment to cure AIDS, the only thing being used right now is a drug known as azidothymidine (AZT), which just slows down the reproduction of the HIV virus. One setback of AZT is that it is highly toxic and cannot be taken by many patients.

Right now several vaccines for AIDS are being tested, and hopefully in the future they will find a cure for this horrible virus.