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The Development of Aids

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The Development of Aids

Sophie Davis, Staff Writer

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          Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, also known as AIDS, is the sixth leading cause of death worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO). While the spread of the AIDS epidemic is slight compared to the staggering numbers of the 1980s, the prevalence of this disease is a global problem nonetheless. As AIDS becomes a highly stigmatized disease for American youth, it is important to take into the account the preponderance of Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome in both global and local contexts.

This disease is defined as a retrovirus, which means that when the virus enters the body’s cells, it uses an enzyme known as reverse transcriptase to re-code DNA for the host cell. Once infected, these cells are no longer able to complete their normal tasks and function appropriately. HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, is the physical virus which infects host cells in the body, shutting down the immune system. AIDS is rather the complications associated with the suppressed immune system. Without a functioning defense system, the human body becomes susceptible to various diseases it could otherwise fight off, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, shingles, along with various cancers.

A light was shed on the extent of the AIDS pandemic in 1991, with the death of rock legend, Freddie Mercury, the lead singer of Queen. He confirmed his AIDS diagnosis through press release just a day before he died on November 24th, 1991. This past November marked the 27th anniversary of his passing, but his legacy continues on, leading a path for HIV/AIDS research. December 1st, furthermore, marks World AIDS Day, a day of awareness dedicated to AIDS research and remembrance towards those who lost the battle with the disease. With the passing of both of these dates, it is an important time to bring to prominence the context of what AIDS means in the 21st century.

In contrast to the 1980’s, AIDS is no longer a death sentence. In 1989, 30,000 American citizens died from AIDS related complications. By the mid-2000’s, the death toll barely scratched 20,000- 10,000 lives less. This trend aligns with the development of AIDS treatments, primarily the “Drug Cocktails” so commonly prescribed to patients. These cocktails are composed of various drugs, each which serves a unique purpose, but together work to achieve common goals of which include restoring immune function, reducing complications, and limiting the transmission of the disease. Oftentimes, these cocktails are composed of twelve or more prescription drugs and more formally defined as Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). HAART cocktails have been able to save hundreds of thousands of lives, transforming AIDS from a death sentence to a survivable condition.

While the introduction of HAART therapy has saved countless lives, it is not accessible to everybody. With high prices, many without insurance and a big wallet cannot afford it. Other times, patients simply lack access, such as in developing countries. Continuous efforts are being made to possibly one day cure HIV/AIDS through advancements in modern medicine. Various charities and nonprofit organizations such as The Mercury Phoenix Trust, Broadway Cares, and The AIDS Healthcare Foundation all fund and support AIDS research and treatment alike. Despite the impact and loss of life in past decades, scientists and charities are working together to one day cure this disease that has caused so much harm. Through the use of drug therapy and development of new medicine, modern researchers have set a precedent for AIDS research, so that this disease may one day be overcome.

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