Since around 1980, a new type of infectious disease has been spreading throughout the world that no one knew about before. It bears the name Aids, which is an abbreviation of the English term " Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome" and translates as "acquired immune deficiency".
Aids is an infectious disease transmitted by viruses. The virus is called HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). It is so dangerous for us humans because it attacks the very cells in our body that mobilize the pathogens and the corresponding defenses during infections such as flu, angina or rubella. Our immune system is weakened to such an extent that pathogens can multiply rapidly and cause severe illnesses. Eventually, our body’s defense system breaks down completely, so that even harmless infections, z. B. cold or common cold, can lead to the death of the person with AIDS.
More than 30 years have passed since the virus that triggered a mysterious pneumonia in America was discovered. Since then, around 40 million people worldwide have been infected with this virus, the HI virus.
According to UNAIDS – a United Nations AIDS control program – around 25 million people worldwide have died of AIDS so far . In 2005 alone, there were 2.8 million. Within one year there were 4.1 million new infections.
Origin and spread
It is assumed that there were earlier, albeit spatially limited, cases of AIDS. However, since the pathogens were not spread further at that time, the cases remained local and the disease became extinct again.
Today, all places in the world can be reached relatively quickly, which means that pathogens can be transmitted from all parts of the world to other regions in a very short time.
The origin of the HI virus is probably in Africa. Probably in the forties of the 20th century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, a monkey virus that was originally harmless to humans has turned into a variant that is dangerous to humans. This was the beginning of the very successful evolution of the virus.
Through monkey bites or the consumption of monkey meat, the virus entered humans and was able to change there. variants emerged that survive selection by the immune system or medication. As few as five changes in the surface structure of the virus are enough to make it "undetectable" for the immune system or drugs. The worldwide spread of the HI virus began in the 1970s. Tourists transmitted the modified virus to their home regions.
In recent years, the diversity of HI viruses has increased explosively. Worldwide mass tourism offers the viruses not only good opportunities to spread, but also the chance to form new variants in other areas.
With regard to the areas of distribution, one speaks of two forms: "Aids-North" and "Aids-South. AIDS North marks the spread of the epidemic in the economically strong western industrialized countries (z. B. USA, Western Europe), AIDS South the spread of the infection on the African continent south of the Sahara and in the Caribbean. Especially in these regions the amount of newly infected people increases strongly.
While almost 25 million people were infected there in 2003, the figure had already risen to 38.5 million by 2006. The age group between 20 and 45 years is particularly affected.
Since the early 1990s, AIDS has also been spreading in Asia and Eastern Europe.
Infection and course of the disease
Aids is an infectious disease . The HI virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is transmitted by virus-containing body fluids such as blood, vaginal secretions and sperm. It is not passed on through sweat, tear fluid or saliva.
Unprotected sexual intercourse and contaminated syringes or. Needles used for drug consumption are the focus of the spread of infection. Children can be infected by their mothers via the placenta, during birth or through breast milk. Once the HI viruses have entered the body, they spread there. The genetic material of the HI viruses can be easily transported and modified. As a result, the viruses are able to introduce their own genetic material into the DNA of the infected host cells and to destroy the host cell (z. B. T-helper cells) to form new viruses. The effect of the HI viruses is shown in Figure 3.
The infection phase with HIV usually goes unnoticed. At most, flu-like symptoms occur. Depending on the intensity of the immune reaction, antibodies against the virus can only be detected a few weeks later ( HIV test ). The disease can be transmitted to others before.
In the subsequent asymptomatic latency period (latency: initial concealment of disease symptoms; a few to more than 10 years), the virus continues to multiply, especially in the lymphoid organs. The virus carriers feel healthy. As the disease progresses, the number of T-helper cells decreases and the viral count increases. The full-blown form of AIDS develops. The immune system breaks down. As a result, infections and certain rare cancers become more frequent. This usually leads to death.
Since no definitive cure is yet possible, efforts are being made to limit HI virus replication as early as possible. It is treated by a combination therapy with several drugs. In addition, the diseases caused by the immunodeficiency (z. B. pneumonia) treated.
Depending on the type of virus, its developmental phase and the symptoms that occur, the drugs administered change. This is why the combination of drugs is determined individually for each patient.
Intensive work is continuing on the development of new, effective drugs and vaccines against HIV and AIDS.
Prevention in the context of AIDS consists of enabling everyone to keep their risks of HIV infection as low as possible. These include u. a.
- the elucidation of the transmission pathways,
- the information about risk-avoiding behaviors (e.g., safer sex). B. safer sex) and
- the distribution of free disposable syringes to drug addicts.
Successes in the fight against AIDS
30 years after the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, the first successes can be seen worldwide. This comes u. a. therefore, because more and more drugs are being used to fight AIDS in poor countries. This has already saved millions of HIV-infected people from death. It is important, however, that these people are supplied with medication for decades.
Also through appropriate education, the spread of the disease has gradually slowed down on a global scale. There are, however, individual regions and countries in which the infection rate continues to rise, z. B. in Eastern Europe and India.
International cooperation in the fight against AIDS and other epidemics
In 2002, the Global Fund to Fight Tuberculosis, Malaria and AIDS was established. This fund raises money worldwide to fight AIDS. It is a fund that is not controlled by the UNO. The money paid in is paid out to countries or organizations for projects in the fight against AIDS.
In addition to this fund, there are many aid programs coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has its headquarters in Geneva. Established in 1948 as the UN’s chief health agency, it coordinates all global health assistance activities. WHO’s mission is to enable all people to lead socially and economically productive lives. A basic prerequisite is the health of the people. The WHO supports and coordinates u. a. following activities:
- worldwide vaccination programs,
- the fight against infectious diseases and health risks,
- the development of health care systems in third world countries,
- the establishment of standards of medical care,
- The collection and analysis of global health data.
Various UN organizations work together in the UNAIDS project to fight AIDS. In addition, there are countless governmental, private and church initiatives, without which many AIDS projects could not be carried out. In addition to prevention and medical care for infected or. sufferers, the fight for the rights of those affected is another concern of the work of these organizations and initiatives.
The 1. December was declared World AIDS Day. scientific conferences are held to discuss the status and prospects of the fight against this dangerous disease. Solidarity events call for assistance and donations.