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25 Years of AIDS


25 Years of AIDS

In June 1981, first cases of AIDS were identified in United States of America. The patients were young gays and intravenous drug users. They exhibited rare pneumonia and aggressive form of Kaposi’s sarcoma. World’s enemy number one was born then, though reports now tell that the virus had its origins in a species of African Chimpanzee. Twenty five years have gone. The latest disease of humankind has reached every nook and corner of the world. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is the most dreaded disease today. No other epidemic in annals of human civilization has such a record of global reach within such a short time infecting such a huge population. The figures are mind boggling – to say the least.

In 1986 known deaths due to AIDS worldwide crossed 16,300. In 1990 one million children worldwide were estimated to have lost one or both parents. That means within four years more than a million ‘parents’ perished. The deaths are bound to be much more. In 1991 10 million people worldwide were estimated to have tested positive for HIV, the cause of AIDS. In 1990 there were only 1 million children worldwide with one or both parents having died of AIDS. In 1997, in Africa alone, 8 million children had lost one or both parents to AIDS. In the same year death due to AIDS crossed 6.4 million. From a mere 16,300 to 6,400,000 (sixty four lakhs) in just 11 years! Again in Africa, characterized as the epicenter of the AIDS earthquake, 18 million children are expected to be orphaned by 2010. It is an increase at the rate of 20 percent in four years. Calculate the present figure if you are good at mathematics. In 25 years the disease AIDS has claimed 25 million lives and has infected another 40 million. Half of the infected are women.

In 1983, Dr. Luc Montagnier in France, and later, Dr. Robert Gallo in U.S.A. isolated retrovirus later known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), as cause of AIDS. The treatment for AIDS, approved for use in U.S.A., called AZT (azidothymidine), costs USD 6300 per year. The treatment came into vogue in 1987. It is a very costly treatment and only rich people can afford it. Hence the need for governments to come forward and take up the issue. In 1987 AIDS became the first disease ever debated on the floors of the U.N. General Assembly. The then U.S. president Ronald Reagan called the disease as the ‘public enemy number one’. In 1991 Red Ribbon became the global symbol of AIDS awareness. In 1992 first nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor was approved for use in U.S. and first clinical trial of multiple drug cocktails was conducted. In 1996 UNAIDS programmed was launched. In 1996 non nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor was approved for use. In 2003 U.S. government allocated 15 billion dollars for AIDS relief. UNAIDS and WHO jointly launched 3 by 5 initiative, i.e., by 2005 three million patients are to be covered by anti-retroviral therapy. In 2003 only four lakhs patients had access to the therapy.

The world is better prepared to deal with the pandemic than ever before, according to a report recently published by United Nations AIDS agency. Ultimately it depends on the political will of the governments and heads of states, says Dr. Peter Piot, the head of UNAIDS.
There are certain intriguing aspects in the history and geography of AIDS. The first known AIDS patients were from U.S.A. But it is told that Africa is the epicenter of the pandemic. How did it happen? In 2004 one in three pregnant women in South Africa tested positive for HIV. In southern Africa, HIV prevalence continues to go up, says Dr. Piot. The highest density of AIDS population is in South Africa (5.5 million). India is the country where highest numbers of AIDS infected people are living, they say. How come so many people got infected in so short a time? Can wrong sexual practices alone have caused this? Are the people of these countries that loose in sexual morality? Definitely blood transfusions could not have caused the spread because since 1985 screening of the blood has come into practice. For quite some time safe sex is also there. And treatment to stop the spread of the infection from mother to the child in the womb has come. Despite so many initiatives from the top names in the planet, AIDS does not seem to go out of existence. There is something fishy in the whole affair.

To find out the whole truth, first, mankind should look into the face of the disease boldly. No one should feel AIDS is a curse. So many people are leading a normal life with AIDS, of course with proper treatment. The real root causes of the disease should be unearthed. There is much more than meets the eye in the history and geography of AIDS. And fear not AIDS.


Published: 2006-06-02
Author: Narayanasamy Srinivasan

About the author or the publisher
I am a 50 year old man. I completed my post graduate course in English language and literature in the year 1977. I am also a qualified teacher. My fields of interest are classical literature in different languages, current affairs of the world and human psychology.

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