The worldwide phenomenon that has affected the lives of millions of people is known as AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and it is a medical condition in which a person’s immune system is too weak to fight off illnesses and infections (AIDS. 1). AIDS was first discovered in the year of 1981, and since then more than 25 million lives have been taken (AIDS. 2). Although the amount of deaths is a significant number, the search for the cure of the AIDS pandemic has become reachable throughout the years.
I. Prevention of AIDS There are several possible ways for a person to become diagnosed with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. One of these ways is through perinatal or vertical transmission (Providers 1). This transmission refers to the mother passing down the infection through birth, breastfeeding, or simply during pregnancy (Providers 2). For pregnant women who are HIV positive, it is essential that they receive antiretroviral drug therapy, which helps to reduce the transmission of AIDS to their baby (Providers 1).
In recent studies, after pregnant women took initiative and participated in the therapy, dropped the rate of overall perinatal transmission to only 2% (Providers 1). Another possibility of becoming infected is through unprotected sex. For years condoms have been available to help protect one’s self from sexually transmitted diseases, one of these STD’s being HIV/AIDS. In the United States, approximately 53% of new infections come from sexual contact (AIDS Research… 1).
Since it is expected that not everyone can, or will, use protection during intercourse, microbicides were developed to decrease the transmission of sexual diseases (AIDS Research… 2). Microbicides can be applied to the areas that may become infected during intercourse, and they have the possibility of eliminating HIV on contact as well as protecting cells that may be more vulnerable than others (AIDS Research… 2). Many other types of medications have been released to help reduce the duplication of HIV as well as slow the process down.
One of these being Nucleoside Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors, abbreviated as NRTI, which “interrupt the virus from duplicating, which may slow the spread of HIV in the body” (AIDS Treatment… 1). Another type of drug is known as a Fusion Inhibitor. These inhibitors are relatively new and take effect within the cell by preventing the virus to attach to said cell, which in turn stops it from replicating (AIDS Treatment… 2). In the year of 1966, a new type of treatment was discovered called highly active antiretroviral therapy (AIDS Treatment… 2).
HAART is a combination of three or more drugs and is said to be “highly effective in slowing the rate at which HIV replicates itself, which may slow the spread of HIV” (AIDS Treatment… 2). The UCSF Medical Center states that the main goal of HAART is to lower the amount of the virus to the point in which it cannot be detected in blood tests. II. Decrease of People Infected Within the United States of America, over one million people are currently living with HIV (Group 1). According to the CDC, “the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable”.
Stability is always a good sign; however, the estimated level is still over 50,000 Americans becoming infected every year (Group 1). Another company by the name of UNAIDS states that since the year 2009, there has been a “drop in the number of AIDS-related deaths”. An executive from the UNAIDS program also says that with each new person receiving treatment, two more people become infected with the virus. Statistics show that at the end of the year 2009 there was a 30% increase of people receiving treatment from the year prior (AmfAR… 1).
The number of people becoming infected and living with AIDS has not yet decreased; however, over a 10 year span, there has been a 20% decrease in AIDS-related deaths. (AmfAR… 1). The same company also states that prevention programs have been working in countries all over the world, and the distribution of condoms, as well as the use of them, has risen. It is unfortunate that these numbers are not more significant. There are many reasons that people are still becoming diagnosed with AIDS today. One of these reasons is that antiretroviral treatment is not as available to everyone as it should be (AIDS.
3). The cost of the treatment is pricey, and insurance does not always cover the expenses of this therapy, even within the United States (AIDS. 3). It is very difficult to lower the price of this treatment, because it is essential that the correct amount of money is raised for researchers, and doctors, to continue providing this particular treatment. However, this does not eliminate the fact that over the years, people have become closer to discovering a cure. Another reason that people are still being diagnosed with acquired immune deficiency syndrome today is that not everyone is getting tested (AIDS.3).
By the time some people realize that they have been infected, once an AIDS related illness has been developed, they are less likely to respond as well to treatments (AIDS. 3). It is essential that getting tested becomes a bigger priority to anyone and everyone. By people getting tested monthly, semi-annually, or even annually, once the virus has been found, it becomes easier to treat and therefore can prolong the life of the individual who caught it, especially at an early stage. Other factors play into being unable to stop the disease from spreading.
Like any over-the-counter drug, each of the treatments has potential side-effects. These side-effects sometimes make it difficult for certain individuals to respond correctly to the treatment (AIDS. 3). III. Potential Cure for AIDS Throughout the world, there are people who are born naturally resistant to certain types of infections and disease. Some may never have the chicken pox, and others will never get AIDS. In 1995, a man named Jeff Getty received a bone marrow transplant from a baboon (McNeil 2). This experiment was attempted to cure the man of AIDS since baboons are resistant to this particular human virus (McNeil 2).
It was an unsuccessful treatment, however the theory of transplanting naturally resistant marrow into a person infected with AIDS remained a logical one (McNeil 2). Donald McNeil describes another similar case where a man undergoes a bone marrow transplant, with a human. In the story, McNeil states that the patient also had a type of cancer which ended up being the cause of the man’s death; but, the patient was “found to harbor no HIV” (McNeil 1). A more recent case that McNeil discusses is of a 42 year old man in Berlin, Germany who not only was diagnosed with AIDS, but also had leukemia.
The man underwent a stem cell transplant, and was given cells from a person who was naturally resistant to AIDS (McNeil 1). The transplant was not only a success, but it had completely cured the man from the disease (McNeil 1). Stem cell transplants are known to be very dangerous procedures. When a person undergoes a transplant, their entire immune system gets wiped out with drugs and radiation (McNeil 1). Statistics show that approximately 10 to 30 percent of patients receiving a transplant do not survive (McNeil 1).
Although this procedure is extremely dangerous, it just proves how much closer scientists, doctors, and researchers are to reaching a cure for this global phenomenon. Conclusion With each new treatment that gets released to help those who are diagnosed with AIDS, more hope and knowledge is gained. All in all, there is no guarantee for a one-hundred percent cure of this virus and yet, there is no guarantee that there is not. Every new antiretroviral drug, sexual protections, such as condoms, and miraculous discovery leads to one conclusion; society is well on the way to ridding the world of AIDS.