HIV – AIDS
The human immunodeficiency disease and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome was first recognised in 1981. Homosexual men were the first patients to be known with the symptoms of the disease that now characterizes the illness we know as AIDS. The first symptoms of the disease were types of lung infections and skin tumors that had not been seen before.
The lung infections were forms of pneumonia and the skin infections were skin tumors called Kaposi’s sarcoma. All of the patients had a reduced level of cells in the blood that are necessary for immune system functioning. These cells are called T cells and help the body to fight off infections. The disease was then recognised throughout other parts of the world including the U.S., Western Europe and Africa. The virus that has been called AIDS actually belongs to a group of viruses called the retrovirus group. HIV infection is necessary for the illness to be classified as AIDS. However, the definition of AIDS requires the development of a low T cell count and or one or some of the many complications that can result from the illness. Many of the illnesses that AIDS patients contract are opportunistic types of infections such as cancer, neurological problems and syndromes that cause wasting in the body.
The first blood tests used to measure the antibodies that are created from the HIV illness was developed in 1985. This test is called the ELISA. Firstly, if this test finds the presence of antibody’s the test must be confirmed by another test called the western blot. More recently new tests have been developed that can detect the presence of these antibody’s in the saliva within a matter of minutes. It generally takes several weeks for antibody’s to develop after the contraction of the infection. Patients may have the virus in their body but will test negative. Another test must be used to actually test the presence of the virus in the blood to make an actual diagnosis.
The testing procedures for HIV are continuing to improve. There has been an estimate made that possibly as many as 20% of people who have HIV in the U.S. are unaware that they have the disease because they have not been tested. Because of this statistic, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control recommended that all people between the ages of 13 and 64 should have HIV testing if they come into a health care center for any reason. Resources are currently being made available to help people come into HIV testing centers and get checked for the illness.
More education and awareness is being made about the disease in hopes of preventing the spread of it. There are also new medical protocols being used to help those who are suffering with the disease to live longer lives.