Research Proposal on HIV
In 2001, 5 million people around the world were infected with HIV. By the end of 2001, there were 3 million AIDS deaths. There are currently estimated to be 50 million people living with HIV/AIDS, with 25 million lives lost by the effects of the infection. This epidemic is shattering, crippling and a very serious problem to the world. It has taken a massive number of lives, and is set to take many, many more. But what is this HIV/AIDS virus?
HIV and AIDS are two stages of the same virus. AIDS is the later stage, and most serious. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and belongs for a group of viruses known as retroviruses. HIV can be transmitted in a number of different ways, in blood, semen, breast milk or vaginal fluids. HIV is most commonly spread by, unprotected sexual intercourse with someone who has the virus, sharing needles or syringes with someone who has the virus, receiving blood transfusions donated by someone with the virus or passing from a woman to her foetus during pregnancy or the birth. You can't tell if someone has HIV, simply by looking at them. Testing is the only way to tell, and figures suggest that one in three people with the virus don't actually know they have the virus. Testing involves looking for the antibodies, which are made by the body to fight the HIV virus. People found out of have the HIV virus are known as "HIV Positive". There are no clear and definite symptoms, but early signs may include fevers, headaches, fatigue and muscle aches. On average, it takes over ten years for symptoms to develop. HIV infects the T-helper lymphocytes and other white blood cells, destroying them. There is a variation between the viruses of each person, and this is the reason why the development of a vaccine has been difficult. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. People are known to have AIDS when their "CD4 count" indicates that there are less than 200 CD4+ cells per cubic millimetre of blood. The CD4 cells are the cells otherwise known as "T-Helper", which are lymphocytes. When there are few CD4+ cells, there are few white cells to fight disease and help defend the body. As time goes on, AIDS reduces the number of white cells and the infected person is said to be immune deficient, as they have no effective immune system. This means they are very susceptible to bacteria and viruses. As they are unable to fight back these bacteria and viruses, illnesses may result in death.
There is no cure for HIV or AIDS. Researchers all over the world are working to develop drugs against AIDS. AZT prevents reverse transcriptase making DNA from RNA, which prevent HIV from making viral DNA from viral RNA so it is not inserted into the host cells DNA to form the provirus. These drugs, however, do not cure the condition; they simply extend the life of AIDS patients, improving their quality of life. So far, there has been no effective vaccine possible, because HIV varies from place to place. There have been attempts at vaccines, which stimulate the immune cells in the body to mop up the virus or destroy it. This would not actually prevent infection and spread of it, but would instead stop or delay progression AIDS and reduces how infectious someone with HIV is. Currently, there is a vaccine for a particular "strain" of HIV common in East Africa, this is in its trial period and not totally known if it is effective.
Treatment of HIV/AIDS is very unequal around the world. In the United Kingdom, the economy is very good and health care is of a very high standard in comparison to many other countries. Treatment for HIV/AIDS is readily available on the National Health Service. Drugs are easily gotten and this is available through the taxes paid by the citizens of the country. The people of the United Kingdom can afford the prices set by the drug companies. However, in third world countries, such as part of Africa, people simply cannot afford drug treatment. In the US, it costs between $10,000 and $15,000 a year for drug treatment of HIV/AIDS. This is way beyond the reach of people in third world countries, where the earnings in a lifetime would never add up to the large costs of drugs for HIV/AIDS in just one year. The international trade laws do not help this matter, by increasing the cost of drugs by placing massive taxes on foreign good imported into the country. To further increase this problem, many drug companies refuse to lower their prices to less fortunate countries, which can't afford the western prices. The major drug companies are reluctant to lower prices, as they have spent many years researching and developing the product, and profit is a high priority.
HIV/AIDS is a hugely threatening infection. Its highly infectious, spreading fast, and already an epidemic in Africa. Although we are in a good position in the west, by being able to access good treatment but we can't ignore the threat of HIV/AIDS. Nor can we forget how millions of people are suffering around the world, unable to afford the treatment, unable to make their life just a touch more bearable. Its very sad that the west is unable to reduce the price of drugs and treatment for the less fortunate countries, however, one cant forget that it was the western countries who developed and produced the drugs in the first place, allowing the world to access treatment to the shattering effects of HIV/AIDS.
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