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HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a variant  virus of HTLV-1 (Human T cell Leukemia-Lymphoma Virus 1) and is the causative agent of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). 


AIDS first surfaced in June 1981 as result of reports from the Los Angeles area, to the Centre of Disease Control, of a type of pneumonia caused by a fungus in homosexual males.

The virus causing this disease was isolated by a group of French and American scientists in 1983.



The virus makes contact with a host cell, enters it and goes through a process of replication which damages and eventually kills the host cell. The infection begins when the virus binds to a protein receptor called CD4 receptor on the surface of helper T cells. Helper T cells are the cells which combat infections and diseases entering our bodies by combining with B cells to amplify antibody production. Through a very complicated process helper T cells are killed and as the process progresses there is a decline in immune functioning.

When HIV kills CD4+ T cells so that there are fewer than 200 CD4+ T cells per microliter of blood, cellular immunity is lost, leading to the condition known as AIDS.
When this happens, Aids sufferers are no longer able to fight viruses effectively, and should go on anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) to prolong their lives.

There can be extreme reactions to the anti-retroviral treatment itself. Nevirapine, particularly, can trigger Steven Johnson Syndrome, which causes excruciatingly painful burn-like blisters all over the body, while cancer in HIV children runs at 20 times the normal rate. Because of this, babies with HIV have only a 50/50 chance of lasting more than a year.

It can thus be said that technically AIDS does not kill a person but allows other opportunistic infections to enter the system. One of the most serious diseases resulting from AIDS is tuberculosis.


The disease is spread via body fluids contaminated with the virus. 


The most common forms of transmission are;

  • Sexual contact between males to males, males to females or female to male through vaginal or anal intercourse with infected people
  • Exchanges of infected blood. This can be from infected blood transfusions or infected  hypodermic needles. Open wounds or mucous membrane exposure is a risk factor in health workers.
  • The virus can also be transmitted from infected mothers to their infants before or during birth, or through breast feeding.
    Although mosquitoes can carry the AIDS virus there is as yet no evidence that the virus can multiply inside a mosquito, nor that they are capable of transmitting the disease.

Two species of HIV infect humans: HIV-1 and HIV-2.
HIV-1 is more virulent and more easily transmitted. and is the source of the majority of HIV infections throughout the world,
HIV-2 is not as easily transmitted and is largely confined to West Africa.

Both HIV-1 and HIV-2 are of primate origin.

HIV-1originated from the Central Common Chimpanzee found in southern Cameroon.
HIV-2 originated from the Sooty Mangabey a monkey occurring in Guinea Bissau, Gabon, and Cameroon.

It is believed by experts that HIV probably infected humans as a result of direct contact with primates, during hunting or butchering them to eat.

A more controversial theory known as the OPV AIDS hypothesis suggested that the AIDS epidemic was accidentally started in the late 1950s in the Belgian Congo by researchers trying to find a vaccine for polio. According to scientists the available evidence does not support this theory.


At this present time there are no safe drugs or vaccines to prevent the spread of AIDS.
The only means of prevention is to stop the transmission of the virus.The male latex condom, if used correctly without oil-based lubricants, is by far the most effective available technology to reduce the sexual transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.(80% effective)

Manufacturers recommend that oil-based lubricants such as petroleum jelly, or butter, and margerine should not be used with latex condoms as they weaken the latex, and makes condoms porous. Manufacturers recommend using water-based lubricants.

Latex degrades over time, making the condoms porous. 


The stigma and secrecy surrounding the virus contributes to the rising HIV/AIDS prevalence rate in Mozambique. It is estimated that 16.2 percent of the population aged 15-49 years old is HIV-positive.

The majority of children living with HIV have been infected by their mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. Most of them have not had to face the psychological trauma of living with the virus because they died within the first two years of life.


Given the fact that there is no vaccine or cure for HIV or AIDS at present, the only methods of prevention are based on avoiding exposure to the virus.


If after a high risk encounter an anti-retroviral treatment called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is undertaken.
PEP has a very demanding four week schedule of dosage. It also has very unpleasant side effects including diarrhea, malaise, nausea and fatigue.


Africa is the hardest hit by this disease and poverty and ignorance are major factors contributing to the spread of the virus. Poverty and unemployment leads to people with nothing to do and so promiscuity increases. This promotes a drift to urban centres looking for employment and as the individual’s circumstances get more desperate so prostitution becomes more widespread. Cultural beliefs and customs and a lack of understanding of the dangers of unprotected sex through ignorance leads to the disease being spread more rapidly. The fact that the disease can lie dormant with no outward symptoms showing, belies the urgency of a radical change of attitude towards multiple sex partners and unprotected sex.


Although governments are embarking on campaigns to educate their people, it is very late in the day and more people than is fully realised are already HIV positive and  sexually active and therefore still spreading the virus.
Children born of HIV mothers have a very high likelihood of contracting full-blown AIDS by the time they are five years old, if they don’t then unless there is a major drive to prevent the disease through education , there is a high risk of them contracting the disease when they become sexually active. This can be around about 10 or 11 years old. 


Given the misinformation on AIDS there are numerous cultural beliefs spread by superstition and so called “Traditional Healers”, for instance, that sex with a virgin will cure the virus. This has led to children being raped at as young as eight months old. There is a culture of  “Non-Accountability” being propagated in some African countries at this time and with no deterrent effects in recourse to law and justice, it would seem that this type of abhorrent crime against children is here to stay for the time being.  This also leads to the inability to contain the disease because of ignorance.

Medical science at the moment is mounting what must be the greatest concentrated effort ever, to find a cure for a single- virus disease.


If this spread of this disease is not stopped then Africa is in danger of losing a whole generation of workers because the children will not live long enough. This impact is already being felt by various chain store groups catering mainly to black buyers. There have been an increasing number of articles in financial publications telling of chain store groups scaling down or closing branches because of the collapse of their customer bases. The financial implications of this can be disastrous to business as well as to agriculture and food production with no market or a dwindling market base.

Malaria makes HIV more infectious.

Malaria could be contributing to the spread of HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa by making carriers more likely to pass it on to their sexual partners.

Scientists have discovered that the amount of virus in the blood, increases by about 10 times when HIV positive people are also infected with malaria, raising the chances of transmission by sexual intercourse.

"The Times London"



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