in the know.

Being in a country with over 12 million aids orphans, our group became quickly aware of how little we know about HIV and AIDS. This is partly due to the fact that there are misconceptions about the illness in the United States, so it becomes a hush hush problem that "happens in Africa and to homosexuals" and is portrayed on popular television shows as a deadly disease that you can contract when someone who is HIV positive so much as breathes on you. In an attempt to shed some light on this illness, I am passing on some (paraphrased) information from my dear friend, Laura, who is a psychologist, counselor, lecturer, mother and runs Voice for the Voiceless with her husband here in Cape Town.

General Facts about HIV

Originally called G.R.I.D (gay related immune-deficiency)

Over 20 years ago Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) was first documented in the United States

More than 15 years ago Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) was linked to and identified as causing AIDS

Since then HIV/AIDS cases have been documented all over the world

First labeled a sexually related illness but later found out that hemophiliacs were also contracting the illness. Soon after it was realized that prostitutes and children were also at risk and than eventually realized that all humans are susceptible.

There are two different types of HIV
HIV 1 -associated with infections in Central East and Southern Africa, North and South America and the rest of the world
HIV 2 -West Africa (acts more slowly)
Often strands cross and people acquire a double infection (1 and 2) which causes the virus to act much more quickly.

HIV first Identified
-Acquired Immunity deficiency syndrome first described in America in 1981.
-Number of men developed a rare pneumonia cause by a parasite
September 1983 scientists in France discovered the human immune-deficiency virus (HIV) to be the cause of this new disease called AIDS
In Central Africa health care workers were discovering a new disease called “slims disease” also due to immune deficiency and it was present in heterosexually orientated people.

Earliest Instances of HIV:
-1959 plasma sample taken from an adult male living in DRC
-HIV found in tissue samples from an American teenaged who died in St. Louis in 1969
-HIV found in tissue samples from a Norwegian sailor who died around 1976

Origins of HIV:
Most accepted explanations:
HIV crossed the species barrier from primates to humans at some time during the 20th century

HIV is related to a virus called SIV (simian immunodeficiency) found in chimpanzees and African green monkeys.

The virus probably crossed over when contaminated animal blood entered open lesions or open cuts on the hands of humans who were butchering of SIV infected animals for food.

While initially the spread of HIV was probably limited to isolated communities various factors such as migration, improved transportation, networks, socioeconomic instability, multiple sexual partners, injecting drug use

Contributing factors to the fast travel of HIV- Complex processes
-National and international travel, especially international travel in the Gay community
-In Africa the virus would have spread along truck routes between towns and within the continent itself. Also liberation wars led to mass rape and pillaging, therefore the soldiers already infected with HIV positive spread HIV rapidly.
-Patient “0”
-Blood industry boomed-as blood transfusions became routine parts of medical practice. The demand for blood began to develop rapidly. In countries such as the USA people were paid for their blood often attracting the most desperate for cash. IV drug users. Doctors were unaware of how easily HIV could be spread and remained unscreened. In the late 1960’s hemophiliacs began to manifest symptoms of HIV
Drug Use-in the 1970’s there was an increase in the availability of heroin following the Vietnam War and other conflicts and helped to stimulate a growth in the use of drugs

Global realities
-More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981
-Africa has m12 million aids orphans
-By the end of 2005 women account for 48% of all adults living with HIV worldwide and 59% in sub Saharan Africa
-15-24 year old kids account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide around 6,000 become infected with HIV every day.
-In developing and transitional countries 6.8 million people are in immediate need of life saving AIDS drugs, of these only 1.65 million are receiving these drugs

South Africans spend more time at funerals that they do having their hair cut, shopping or having Braais.

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