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Essay/Term paper: Aids

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Chemistry

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Michelle Lee Pelletier & Sarah Smith
December, 16, 1998
Mr. Marquis
Honors Chemistry


A.I.D.S is an epidemic of the nineties. There are over one million people infected with the HIV in the United States, and over 250,000 cases of Aids. The World Health Organization estimates that there are between five and ten million infected with the H.I.V virus. This number is rising steadily. A.I.D.S is the end result of H.I.V, and to this day there is no cure. H.I.V was discovered in 1981, but not until 1984 was it proven to be the cause of A.I.D.S. Since then the definition of A.I.D.S. has changed many times, and will no doubt keep changing. And as people learn more about it, they seek out a cure. Scientist have been working hard on a cure for more than a decade. They have come up with many pill "cocktails" or other forms of medications, but so far the cure is still far away. People with A.I.D.S/HIV are running out of time, yet it seems that there is sadly till a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding of the disease, and without understanding a cure is pushed farther away. Stealing a chance of survival from another person. The myths and truths need to be sorted out, a cure must be found, and the disease itself must be contained.
The HIV virus was discovered in 1981. Compared to many other diseases that have had a relatively huge impact on mankind, it is relatively new. Cancers and so forth have been here since man. HIV was not connected to Aids, or proven to be the cause until 1984. Since The discovery it has gone through many changes, and many names. HIV was formally known as Lymphadenopathy-associated virus (lAV), Human T-Cell lymotropic virus type III (HTLV III). It is relatively new, which means that both AIDS and HIV are subjected to much change through the new few decades, we may know a significant amount about it at this time, but new information is learned everyday. The information behind the cause of Aids is inconclusive. Though it has been said the first case from a monkey in Africa, this may not be the story, but man did get the virus from monkeys. How they got it from the monkey is another thing. Perhaps the "monkey" (which is immune to the virus, which is believed to be because the monkey doesn't have co-receptors on it's white blood cells) had bleeding gums or had a higher content of HIV in its blood system. Making its' bite to man more dangerous. It obviously had some sort of bodily fluid transmission (syringes, etc) and the virus jumped into man, and had a field day in a whole new host. The one question I had, but could not find an answer for, was if the monkey had the virus, why hadn't it become know to man? I have a theory for this. I believe (though I have no evidence to back up my theory, thus making it a theory) that Monkeys may have had the virus for a very long time, but man was immune to it, not the monkey. Monkeys (a certain species of the monkey) over time grew immune to the disease as most animals do over time. The monkey's body may have changed the formation of the t-cells. So the virus mutated, and survived in the monkey without affecting the monkey. Than when man ran across it, it had at this point turned into a whole new "virus". More powerful than the one that had plagued the monkeys. Since it had overcome its host becoming immune to it before, it muted into a very powerful thing. Which is when choosing a cure, it is extremely important, to me at least that we eradicated the virus by finding a vaccine, not find a cure for people who have it. Because what will happen is the virus will mutate into a stronger virus, like what "may" of happened in the monkeys. Already the AIDS virus has conquered many medications, by growing immune to it. This makes it harder and harder to find a way to put an end to it. TO find a cure for it, people must be aware of it's past.

Before there can be a discussion of the cure, first there must be a look at what HIV/Aids is. AIDS stands for the term Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. HIV stands for Human Immunodefincancy virus. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. You can have HIV for up to 10 years before there is any signs of AIDS. Within the first few months of contracting HIV, most HIV patients suffer from fevers, headaches, skin rashes, tender lymph nodes, feelings of discomfort, and some confusion of the mind. This may last about 3 weeks. The way to determine the difference between HIV and AIDS is by the T-Cell count per cubic millimeter of Blood. If it is lower than 200, the person has full-blown AIDS, if it is higher they have HIV. One fact that I learned that I was unaware of was that a person could go from HIV to AIDS to HIV again. I learned this from an interview I had with someone whose father has HIV/AIDS.

This picture above is what an infected cell looks like. It is a T Cell, or "T-Lymphocyte." That is a type of white blood cell. Which is a part of the immune system. By attacking the white blood cell, the HIV virus thus weakens a person's immune system. Most people with Aids don't die of Aids, but of the diseases that their weakened immune system has left them susceptible to. Most Aids patients die of things like cancer, or heart disease.
As HIV terrorizes the immune system, the person looses more and more t cells. Till they reach a point where they have below 200 t cells per cubic millimeter or blood, at this point they have full-blown AIDS. AIDS leaves them wide open to almost anything. Even a common cold could put them in bed for months. During this time, there is a constant fear of death. A person's health could slip incredibly fast in a matter of days.
One of the biggest dangers of AIDS is that is can be spread like wildfire. Many people think they are safe from it, but the truth is one mistake could cost you, your life. There are three common modes of transmission. The most common one is Sexual intercourse. It is more common for it to happen Man to Woman, or man to Man, than woman is to man. Unprotected sex is one of the leading causes of transmission. Even with a condom there is still a huge risk. The problem is many people don't even know they have HIV, and could end up giving to many people, who also may not know they have it. This is why AIDS testing it a very important issue. In the beginning stages of HIV, the virus is spreading through your body rapidly, and this is the most dangerous time for transmitting it to others. Another risk, that is not common, is Blood transfusions. Before "85" this was one of the most common ways of it spreading. Today this had changed because all blood is tested for AIDS before used in any medical procedures. A
Mother with the HIV/AIDS virus can also transmit the virus. 90% of all children with HIV/AIDS contracted it this way, yet only 25% of mothers with AIDS/HIV transmit AIDS to their unborn child. Syringes are another mode of transmission. People who share, or use dirt needles are at risk of getting HIV. Out of all the cases of AIDS in United States, 5% are from unknown sources. The only real way of prevention is to be careful, safe sex, with a safe partner. The most important thing is education on the disease.
There seems to often be an issue when AIDS is brought up. Some people argue that we shouldn't search for a cure. TO say that, is a hypocrisy to the world of medicine. Anyone who states that, most likely has never meet, or known anyone with AIDS, and only knows facts from a book. The reality of AIDS is horrifying. This is why, if I do not agree with that statement. No one has a right to say that this disease doesn't deserve research. AIDS unfortunately faces a lot prejudice, many churches will not support it, or help it. In a way this is why it is like Leprosy. Leprosy was shunned and churches, back in time, shunned any one who had it. People do it this today, to AIDS victims. This is why; my research on AIDS has been so hard. At first I decided I was going to write about a vaccine, not a cure. My theory was, vaccinate, then eradicate. Well this may not be that simple, what about the millions of people with HIV and AIDS? SO then I turned to protease inhibitors. They seemed very promising. This "cocktail" of drugs, seem to be a turning point for the medications. The more I did more research, the more disappointed I became. I found many articles, and videos, and newsgroups (this site has the most informative information http://www.foxnews.com/health/features/aids/aidsmain2.sml) all stated the same thing. That is gave false hope, that people were ok for a year, but then it stopped working, and they could no longer take most of the AIDS medications out there, because they were immune to it. So then I had to rethink my decision about not looking for a vaccine, but a cure. This is because a cure may be impossible, and would only strengthen the AIDS virus. I can now understand why there are so many drugs, and different treatment centers out there. If I weren't such a bad chemist I would want to go into a lab and look help research a cure/vaccine myself. Because it seems that it is taking to long and everyday we waste, more people are dying. And that is a scary thought. The only way I could really help, or state what cure is the best, is if I myself had AIDS, and was tested with different vaccines (but I will pass on that!) The reason I state this is because I was greatly moved when I saw a realaudioã clip from FOX NEWS. It was about two men, who both are going to be injected with the HIV virus, so they could help speed up the process for a cure, their names are Joe Zungia, Gordon Nary. These two men must have the biggest hearts, they both say that even if the FDA doesn't approve of them being injected, they will still do it.
These two men maybe are doing this, because of a very serious matter. It is predicted
By the World Health Organization that by the year 2000 there will be over 30 to 40 million people with the AIDS virus. Another scary theory is that some claim that if the virus continues to mutate as it does, that it will soon be able to spread in more casual ways. Whether this is true or not, I do not know. But it bring up a very good point, AIDS does mutate, and become stronger all the time. The more time wasted, the more lives lost. I do not think Protease inhibitors are the way to go, since they have already proven to worsen some people's conditions. (There are several realaudio videos found on http://www.foxnews.com/health/features/aids/aidsmain2.sml that would back up my statement.) I have found opinions that contradict though. A Doctor Pablo Colon believes that it is effective, yet a Doctor Berkley disagrees, he thinks it will only increase resistance, and even if it did work, it would not be available to the majority of people in the world because of the expense of the drug. Dr. Berkley claims that Protease inhibitors cost about $20,000.00 a year, per person. Dr. Heywood states that "we are like mice in a treadmill, we are running like hell and getting no where."
Many people think since AIDS affects the poor countries, that there is no incredible need to research like mad in the United States. Well, this can be countered by the fact that the Virus mutates, and grows stronger, and if we don't help the other countries, the virus will get out of control, and undoubtedly effect America. Dr. Berkley claims that it if not dealt with soon it would become much easiest to transmit. A vaccine is needed. And at the same times, pills to slow the death down for those suffering from AIDS are also needed.
It seems to me that for the time being the best move is to but more research into a vaccine, and to continue grants for further studies into The combination of nevirapine - a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) - with the older AIDS drugs AZT and ddI (didanosine). I state this because these drugs so far have proven to make HIV almost undetectable in the blood system, whether or not they will still be working a year from now is another thing. But they seem to be the most promising, comparatively. They give the immune system a huge boost. The drugs all attack the HIV virus at different stages of its growth. Some complain that it is a hassle to take so many pills. Yet it seems to be the only hope at this moment. One AIDS victim claims that he "would not be on earth today" if it was not for this combination. Some claim that even if the protease inhibitors do not work forever, at least they work for a while, prolonging life. A cure is still a not a light seen at the end of the tunnel yet.

I believe if we continue research the above drugs, why trying our hardest to vaccinate, then eradicate, and there will be some hope within the next 50 years. And I also believe that Education of the Virus, not only in United States, but also every other country, would greatly help get it under control.


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