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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome AIDS Today despite the continuing production of better antibiotics since the discovery of penicillin we are facing an infectious disease against which all these drugs are virtually powerless This disease is spreading inexorably killing more people and more people each year AIDS does not know no national boundaries and does not discriminate by race or sex It is rampaging not only throughout the United States but also through Africa India China Russia Europe South America and the Caribbean countries Even infants and children are at risk AIDS is similar to the bubonic plague or the BLACK DEATH that killed perhaps one-third in Europe in the 14th century Yet the difference from the Black Death and AIDS is that it is in slow motion because the infectious agent that causes AIDS can remain dormant in a persons body for several years before it causes illness and because death from AIDS can be slow and drawn out once symptoms appear AIDS is essentially a disease of the immune system The bodys defenses are destroyed and the patient becomes prey to the infections and cancers that would normally be fought off without any trouble In 1984 it was proved that AIDS is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus HIV A virus is a minute infectious particle that enters and kills the immune cells or lymphocytes Because it destroys the very mechanism humans rely on for protection prior to 1996 contracting Aids was considered a death sentence For many years 85 to 90 percent of all AIDS patients died within three years They might have recovered from one infection only to succumb to another a few months later Between infections they remain weak emaciated and unable to work or carry on normal activities In late 1996 almost 15 years after the first reported AIDS cases researchers made the discovery that a certain combination of newly developed drugs could substantially prolong life in some AIDS
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