In the early years after the discovery and identification of the HIV virus, the carriers of this virus were marked as persona non-grata in nearly every place the disease appeared. Even today, the social stigma placed on a person carrying this virus is still a very real part of an infected person’s life.
Ignorance of the well defined modes of transmission and fear of becoming infected by the ordinary means reserved for other contagious diseases have sometimes led to complete rejection of anyone known to be infected and on occasions to violence against infected persons.
The original idea that AIDS was an evil disease was probably because of its early prevalence among prostitutes and homosexual men. A prominent politician was said to have remarked to the press that “if the disease is left alone it will become a blessing to mankind by eliminating the less desirable elements of our society”, namely the prostitutes and the homosexuals. During this first encounter with the virus it was called GRID (gay-related immunodeficiency disease) but soon after this then real illness was discovered in populations groups outside the gay community. The name was changed to its present form; “Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome.”
Most people still believe that AIDS is a venereal disease but I guess most medical persons would categorize it as a disease of the blood. AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). This virus gains entry in the blood stream by intimate sexual contact with an infected person and contact with contaminated blood. The virus is present in all the bodily fluids of the infected person and during sexual contact it gains access to the uninfected person’s blood stream through openings in the mucous membrane and through breaks in the skin.
HIV is a human retrovirus and once it has accessed the blood stream it then enters the human cells by binding to receptor proteins on the surface of human immune-cells (T cells). The virus then uses the cell’s reproductive mechanisms to replicate itself as many times as it can before the cell dies. With the virus (HIV) using the cell’s reproductive devices the immune cell cannot reproduce itself and over a period of time the immune-cell (CD4) count will drop from 1000 in a healthy person to 200 or less (per microliter of blood) in an infected person and this is when the full blown symptoms of AIDS appears.
With the continued depletion of the body’s immune CD4-T cells, the immune systems will be unable to defend the body against any of 25 or so opportunistic diseases, any combination of which could be fatal. In spite of people’s fear of being near an infected person, no evidence exists that link HIV transmission to casual contact with an infected person such as a handshake, hugging, or kissing on the skin, or even sharing dishes or bathroom facilities.
The HIV virus cannot exist for extended periods when exposed to the normal environment so you cannot pick it up from surfaces like you can with bacteria and other viruses like the ones that cause the common cold. During the last few years, this disease has become rampant among the inhabitants of this country, and it is now invading the islands. It is known that almost one hundred percent of the cases on these islands are attributed to unprotected sexual contact. To avoid contracting this virus, the safest thing to do is to “hold on to what you’ve got” and keep your loving at home and most importantly abstain from causal sex. [/private]