HIV/AIDS is a relatively new disease. It was only discovered during the 1980s and there has been a significant amount of research conducted in this short amount time with regards to prevention as well as the possibility for a future cure. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and it is the virus that eventually leads to AIDS (Centers for Disease Control, 1). HIV is passed from human to human when infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions come into contact with an uninfected person’s broken skin or mucus membranes (Centers for Disease Control.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This means that AIDS is a disease that a person contracts after birth and immunodeficiency refers to an infected person’s inability to fight infection because of a weakened immune system (Centers for Disease Control, 3). HIV leads to AIDS because this virus weakens a specific type of blood cell within the human body. This type of blood cell is essential for successfully preventing infections to the human immune system. When this type of blood cell becomes weak enough it leads to AIDS (Centers for Disease Control.
HIV/AIDS is a serious public health concern that plagues the entire world. A close examination of the history of HIV/AIDS in Washington D. C. is offered and includes historical information about the first known cases of HIV/AIDS. It also includes information regarding the tracking of new infections and information about laws and initiatives that were put into up until the year 2004. A Description of HIV/AIDS The first known case of HIV was discovered in 1959 from a blood sample gathered from a man living in the Republic of Congo.
There is no known information offering definitive evidence that proves how this man was originally infected with HIV. The virus has existed in the United States since at least the mid to late 1970s. HIV first gained national attention when men who had reported having sex with other men began to visit the hospital with health complaints similar to those seen with pneumonia, cancer and other illnesses. However, these were rare health conditions that merited further study. Doctors discovered that these health problems were not present in human beings with healthy immune systems (Centers for Disease Control, 2).
In 1982, public health officials began to refer to these rare health symptoms as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. At the same time, formal tracking of AIDS cases began in the United States (Centers for Disease Control, 2). Researchers discovered the virus that leads to AIDS in 1983 but it was not until 1999 that researchers discovered the origin of the HIV virus. It is now believed that the first human being was infected from coming into contact with the infected blood of a subspecies of chimpanzees native to west equatorial Africa (Centers for Disease Control.
First Cases of AIDS The first known cases of the virus that would later become AIDS were diagnosed in the United States in June of 1981. Washington D. C. also reported its first known cases of the HIV virus at roughly the same time (The Kaiser Family Foundation, 1). Washington D. C reported the highest concentration of AIDS cases in the nation in 2006. It reported a prevalence rate of 146. 7 per 100,000 people (The Kaiser Family Foundation, 1). There are a number of theories that suggest why the Washington D. C. HIV/AIDS rate has reached such high proportions since the first case was discovered.
One important theory suggests that because Latino and African American populations have a disproportionate number of HIV/AIDS cases and because these two minority populations are so concentrated in Washington D. C. it is one reason why this area reports such high prevalence rates (The Kaiser Family Foundation, 2). Tracking New Aids Cases When it became apparent that HIV/AIDS was a very dangerous disease and was spread through contact with human bodily fluids, Washington D. C as well as the rest of the country realized that it was necessary to track new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. Surveillance refers to the tracking of new incidences of infection as well as tracking total known cases Collins.
The reporting of AIDS cases began very quickly after the first cases of AIDS were discovered. Washington D. C. , just as all other states, was required to provide the names and demographic information of people infected with AIDS to the Centers for Disease Control (Collins, 1). At the same time, Washington D. C. was not required to report the incidences of new cases of the HIV virus which significantly reduced the ability for the Centers for Disease Control to accurately report the HIV/AIDS prevalence in the Washington D. C. area.
1). This system was not foolproof but it did provide important demographic information about the humans who reported having AIDS. However, in the early 1990s, science discovered a variety of highly effective medications that helped prevent HIV from becoming full blown AIDS.
1). Washington D. C. began to see a decrease in the numbers of AIDS patients being reported to the Centers for Disease Control because these new medications were preventing people with the HIV virus from getting AIDS. This was positive for those with the HIV virus but dramatically impacted the ability for public health officials in Washington D. C. to accurately track AIDS (Collins, 1). During the late 1990s, many states began to report HIV virus contraction using confidentiality or coded names in order to protect the privacy of those with the virus.
The fear was that people with HIV would be face discrimination if it became public knowledge that they were infected with the HIV virus. Therefore, this transition to reporting HIV virus contractions was focused on protecting the privacy of those individuals who were living with the virus (Collins, 1). Further, in December of 1999, the Centers for Disease Control highly recommended that all states report all new HIV infections using either confidentiality or coded name systems to protect the privacy of those with HIV.
This recommendation became a law in 2000 with the Ryan White CARE Act. Prior to the passing of this law, funding was based on the reporting and tracking of only AIDS data and did not take into consideration the prevalence of HIV infection. Therefore, this act enabled the government to incorporate HIV case data into case counts for specific areas of the country, including Washington D. C. (Collins, 1). The CARE Act went further to encourage all states and Washington D. C. to use name reporting and partner notification in combination with HIV infection tracking.