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What do you know about aids let me tell you some things about it. AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, is a disease that attacks the immune system, your body’s main defense against disease. AIDS is caused by a virus known as HIV (or human immunodeficiency virus). First reported in 1981, HIV infection is now a worldwide epidemic, affecting 34 million. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 800,000 to 900,000 people in the United States are infected with HIV, and another 40,000 contract the virus every year.
HIV travels from person to person through body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. It is most often spread through sex or by sharing needles used to inject drugs into the veins. An infected woman can also pass HIV to her child during birth or breast-feeding. Blood transfusions given to patients before 1986 also spread HIV, but the risk now of getting the virus this way is low-only 1 in 500,000. A person can’t catch HIV through casual contact such as hugs, kisses, or handshakes.
When HIV first invades the body, it causes minor damage to cells in your immune system. You may not have symptoms, or you may have only a few symptoms at first; these symptoms often go away for months or even years. During all that time, though, HIV continues its assault. As the immune system weakens, it can no longer fully protect the body from germs and other invaders. When the damage reaches a certain point, the HIV infection turns into AIDS, and life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia or cancer may soon follow.
There’s no cure for AIDS, but you can do a lot to prevent the disease in the first place. And if you have tested positive for HIV, or even if you have full-blown AIDS, you can do a lot to slow the progress of the disease and stay healthy longer. New research and treatments also hold great promise: They may soon make AIDS a chronic-not a fatal-disease.
Now that you know more about what aids, lets talk about where the UN main focus in at on the problem. The pattern of AIDS deaths 2.4 million in sub-Saharan Africa last year, out of 3 million worldwide; only 20,000 in North America, most in minority communities-has a clear racial pattern. And access to lifesaving medicines and care for people living with HIV and AIDS has been determined largely by race, class, gender and geography.
Dr. Barney S. Graham M.D. works with sick children in a South African hospital. His colleagues – the doctors and nurses and many other professional people are also ordinary.
They do their daily duty – some do more, others less. They are unexceptional in our thoughts, manners and practices. You would find similar people looking after sick children in many parts of the country.
For many years it has been their daily deed to care for sick children most of whom we could cure. But now they are facing something extraordinary and exceptional; something that challenges the foundations on which their professional lives have been built.
They have seen it coming but they did not know that it would have the power to kill their practice and their relationship with the children, to challenge the essence of their humanity (up to now they thought they had enough humanity in themselevs to do their jobs), even their sense of self. This extraordinary and unprecedented challenge is brought about by what HIV is doing to children. (That HIV causes Aids is not something they argue about – they see the evidence daily.)
Aids comes upon most children like the poetic “wolf on the fold”. It seizes them in a fast-forward caricature of the adult disease. Years are telescoped into months, months into weeks. The final deadly expression of the immune deficiency is often also its first manifestation. Sometimes parents hardly have time to take in the scent of the plague before their child is gone and they are left to face their own mortality.
These shocks are now our daily fare. Like the steady reverberations from a pile-driver, they rattle the pillars on which, up to now, we have built our professional lives.
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