Saturday, April 14, 2012


HIV has been found in Chimpanzees in western equatorial Africa. This virus, known as simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), does not readily cause disease in chimpanzees. However, AIDS is a Zoonosis, an infection that is shared by humans and lower vertebrate animals. The practice of hunting, butchering, and eating the meat of chimpanzees may have allowed transmission of the virus to humans, probably in the late 19th century or early 20th century. Genetic studies of a pandemic strain of HIV, known as HIV-1 group M, have indicated that the virus emerged between 1884 and 1924 in central and western Africa. Researchers estimate that this strain of the virus began spreading throughout these areas in the late 1950s. Later, in the mid-1960s, an evolved strain called HIV-1 group M subtype B spread from Africa to Haiti. In Haiti this subtype acquired unique characteristics, presumably through the process of genetic recombination. Sometime between 1969 and 1972, the virus migrated from Haiti to the United States. The virus spread within the United States for about a decade before it was discovered in the early 1980s. The worldwide spread of HIV-1 was likely facilitated by several factors, including increasing urbanization and long-distance travel in Africa, international travel, changing sexual mores, and intravenous drug use. In 1981 investigators in New York and California reported the first official case of AIDS. Initially, most cases of AIDS in the United States were diagnosed in homosexual men, who contracted the virus primarily through sexual contact, and in intravenous drug users, who became infected mainly by sharing contaminated hypodermic needles HIV is transmitted by the direct transfer of bodily fluids, such as blood and blood products, semen and other genital secretions, or breast milk, from an infected person to an uninfected person. The primary means of transmission worldwide is sexual contact with an infected individual. HIV frequently is spread among intravenous drug users who share needles or syringes. Prior to the development of screening procedures and heat-treating techniques that destroy HIV in blood products, transmission also occurred through contaminated blood products; many people with hemophilia contracted HIV in this way. Today the risk of contracting HIV from a blood transfusion is extremely small. In rare cases transmission to health care workers may occur by an accidental stick with a needle used to obtain blood from an infected person Tests for the disease check for antibodies to HIV, which appear from four weeks to six months after exposure. The most common test for HIV is the enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). If the result is positive, the test is repeated on the same blood sample. Another positive result is confirmed using a more specific test such as the Western blot. A problem with ELISA is that it produces false positive results in people who have been exposed to parasitic diseases such as malaria; this is particularly troublesome in Africa, where both AIDS and malaria are rampant As with any epidemic for which there is no cure, tragedy shadows the disease's advance The United Nations designated December 1 as World Aids Day.

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