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Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is one of the most devastating epidemics
recorded in history. In 1981, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
reported the first cases of AIDS in the United States. Since then, more than 36.7
million people have died from AIDS worldwide. In the United States, an
estimated 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses. While there
have been major accomplishments in understanding the biological mechanism, transmission, and treatment of the disease, there
is no vaccine or cure, and millions of people continue to die each year. Because
there is no cure for AIDS, all forms of therapy are focused on improving the
quality and length of life. However, the “social construction of AIDS” (e.i stigma)
has prevented many people from knowing they are infected and receiving
treatment. Despite the alarming rate at which the diseases was spreading, the
epidemic was not prioritized because those initially at risk- homosexual men,
Haitian immigrants, and drug addicts- were considered society misfits. To
combat all these fear surrounding the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic and
institutional response, organizations like AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power were
forming to invoke awareness and change.  To
combat all these fear surrounding the emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic and
institutional response, organizations like AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power were
forming to invoke awareness and change. 
Nevertheless, the range and complexity coupled with a weak scientific
knowledge of the disease contributed to an irresolute institutional response to
the AIDS epidemic. While eradicating the disease is an unrealistic prospect, we
can create and effectively manage delivery systems to bring awareness and
mitigate the spread. 


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AIDS is life-threatening autoimmune disease
that is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV and AIDS are used
interchangeably to describe the disease, but they are two different diagnoses
as HIV is a virus that leads to AIDS. There are two versions of the HIV virus, both of which
ultimately cause AIDS.  HIV weakens the immune system by destroying
cells, specifically the CD4 cells (also known as helper cells, T-cells, and
T-lymphocytes), which help the immune system fight off diseases and infection.
It can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, anal or oral sex, childbirth,
breastfeeding, blood transfusion, tattoos or body piercing, or sharing
hypodermic needles.

infected with HIV can mitigate the risk of acquiring AIDS and infecting other
people with HIV through safe sex practices, maintaining a CD4 cell count above 500 cells/mm3 ,
and HIV treatment. However, once HIV develops into AIDS, life expectancy drops
significantly.  The first sign of HIV
infection can be swollen glands and flu-like symptoms. Infection is not
automatic, but some people might experience swollen glands and flu-like
symptoms within the first few weeks of becoming infected.  Severe symptoms can may months or years later
after transmission. A CD4 cells count below 500 cells/mm3 can put a person at risk of developing other infections
or infection-related cancers.

Diagnosing and Screening


The only way to diagnose someone with HIV or AIDS
is through three types of diagnostic tests: nucleic acid tests (NAT), antigen/antibody
tests, and antibody tests. According to the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC), it is recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested
at least once. People are risk or sexually active should get tested every 3 to
6 months. First blood tests will usually be either an antibody test or a
combination test. If the first test result is positive for HIV infection, then
follow-up testing is done to make sure that the diagnosis is correct. If the first
test result is negative, re-testing should be done 3 months after the possible
exposure to HIV.


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