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Aids: The Modern Day Epidemic Essay

2257 words - 9 pages

AIDS: The Modern Day Epidemic
Did you know that if a straight line of pennies was made down any given road, extending one mile, there would be over a hundred thousand dollars worth of change on the street? Dimes? Well over a million dollars. How about something that hits closer to home, something like lives? In 1996, when the AIDS pandamenic was at its peak, a memorial quilt made of individual panels about six feet by three feet in size was displayed in Washington D.C. Each square of the quilt represented a single victim whose life was claimed by the disease. Though many of the panels give only the victim’s name and birth/death dates, others included more personal items such as a pair of jeans, a teddy bear, or even a poem. Though there were seventy thousand squares stretched down the road, roughly 93 percent of the fatalities went unrepresented (Check 13-14). What’s most frightening about these figures is that, for the most part, they depict occurrences solely within the United States, a tragedy for the first time of more than numbers. A tragedy with names. Unlike previous epidemics, AIDS has no known cure. Until recently, being diagnosed with AIDS was like receiving a death sentence. Now, there are medicines that stall the effects of the virus. However, treatment is incredibly expensive and is only available for the few who can afford it (Check 14-15). AIDS is a dangerous, cunning and ever-changing disease by nature and essentially incurable; millions perish every year and will continue to do so unless effective and accessible solutions are found.
Perhaps what makes AIDS so difficult to cure, so dangerous, is its obscure background and beginnings. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), a retrovirus that attacks the immune system with such tenacity that it renders a body defenseless against even the most basic diseases or illnesses, which can usually be controlled by few antibiotics and bed rest (Beck-Sagué 49). Scientists believe that HIV emerged in Africa in the late 1950s due to contact with the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), found in the blood of nonhuman primates that were hunted for food. The primates were slaughtered and then prepared for cooking, a process that often caused humans to come in contact with the effected blood. The illness that plagues the world is largely believed to have come from these occurrences (Beck-Sagué 28). In 1959, in the central African city of Leopoldville, a seemingly healthy man walked into a hospital clinic to give blood for a study conducted of blood diseases. Doctors analyzed his sample and froze it, forgetting about it for nearly a quarter-century. In the mid- 1980s, researchers studying the growing AIDS epidemic took a second look at the blood sample and discovered that it contained HIV. The Leopoldville sample is the oldest specimen of the AIDS virus ever isolated. Through close examination of the frozen blood, much of today’s knowledge...

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