AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a disease caused by a
virus- HIV (human immunodiciency virus). The first cases in this country came to
light in the early eighties. Although the origins of AIDS remains uncertain it
is thought to have emerged decades ago in sub-Saharan Africa. There is a
closely related virus (simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV) that is found
among monkeys in that particular area which AIDS is thought to have evolved from
(Combating AIDS 353). When the virus first emerged in the United States it was
localized to the male homosexual and IV drug user communities. This
localization very quickly disappeared .
AIDS is becoming a global epidemic. No country is safe from it. There
has been AIDS cases reported around the world, in such places as the Caribbean,
Southeast Asia, Southeast Mediterranean , and Oceania. This helps to show that
AIDS knows no geographical boundries (Folks). This disease has been likened to
the Black Plaque that decimated Europe during the middle ages. By April 1984,
scientists had identified the virus responsible for AIDS and by March 1995
developed a blood test for it (Combating AIDS 355). This quick progress in the
battle even lead Heckler, the secretary of health and human services, to say
that a cure was just a few years away. Today, no cure is available and no sure
treatment for AIDS symptoms is at hand. People are still contracting and dying
from AIDS at an alarming rate. AIDS is a fatal disease that does not kill the
patient. Its principle source of infection is the HIV virus which is a
retrovirus. This means that the protein coat contains RNA instead of DNA and
when the virus injects its genetic material into the host cell, it must first
cause the cell to transcribe, using a unique enzyme called reverse transcriptase,
it into complementary- DNA (c-DNA) before replication can occur. The virus is
spherical in shape and is made of two parts: an envelop and core. The envelop
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