The "sexual revolution" of the 1960's has been stopped dead in its tracks by the AIDS epidemic. The danger of contracting AIDS is so real now that it has massively affected the behavior of folks who formerly had elected to lead an active sexual life that included numerous new sexual contacts
The "sexual revolution" of the 1960's has been stopped dead in its tracks by the AIDS epidemic. The danger of contracting AIDS is so real now that it has massively affected the behavior of folks who formerly had elected to lead an active sexual life that included numerous new sexual contacts. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome Or AIDS is the disease caused by the virus leading to slow but inevitable death. The disease originated somewhere in Africa about 25 years ago. There it first appeared as a mysterious ailment afflicting primarily heterosexuals of both sexes. It probably was spread especially fast by primarily female prostitutes there. AIDS has already become a crisis of incredible proportions in parts of World.
The AIDS virus turned out to be a very unusual sort of virus. Its genetic material was not DNA, but RNA. When it infected human cells, it had its RNA direct the synthesis of viral DNA. While RNA viruses are not that uncommon, very few RNA viruses reproduce by setting up the flow of information from RNA to DNA. Such reverse or "retro" flow of information does not occur at all in any DNA virus or any other living things. Hence, the virus was said to belong to the rare group of virues called "Retro Viruses". Research provided the means to test donated blood for the presence of the antibodies to the virus, astronomically reducing the chance of ones getting AIDS from a blood transfusion. This was one of the first real breakthroughs. The same discoveries that allowed us to make our blood bank blood supply far safer also allowed us to be able to tell (in most cases) whether one has been exposed to the AIDS virus using a simple blood test.
When the AIDS virus gets into a person's body, the results can be broken down into three general types of situations: AIDS disease, ARC, and asymptomatic
The AIDS disease is characterized by having one's immune system devastated by the AIDS virus. One is said to have the disease if one contracts particular varieties (Pneumocystis, for example) of pneumonia, or one of several particular varieties of otherwise rare cancers (Kaposi's Sarcoma, for example). This disease is inevitably fatal. Death occurs often after many weeks or months of expensive and painful hospital care. Most folks with the disease can transmit it to others by sexual contact or other exposure of an uninfected person's blood to the
blood or semen of the infected persons.
There is also a condition referred to as ARC ("Aids Related Complex"). In this situation, one is infected with the AIDS virus and one's immune system is compromised, but not so much so that one gets the (ultimately lethal) cancers or pneumonias of the AIDS disease. One tends to be plagued by frequent colds, enlarged lymph nodes, and the like. This condition can go on for years. One is likely to be able to infect others if one has ARC. Unfortunately, all those with ARC are currently felt to eventually progress to getting the full-blown AIDS disease.
There are, however, many folks who have no obvious signs of disease what so ever, but when their blood serum is tested they show positive evidence of having been exposed to the virus. This is on the basis of the fact that antibodies to the AIDS virus are found in their blood. Such "asymptomatic but seropositive" folks may or may not carry enough virus to be infectious. Most sadly, though, current research and experience with the disease would seem to indicate that eventually nearly all folks who are seropostive will develop the full blown AIDS disease. There is one ray of hope here: It may in some cases take up to 15 years or more between one's becoming seropositive for the AIDS virus and one's developing the disease. Thus, all those millions (soon to be tens and hundreds of millions) who are now seropositive for AIDS are under a sentence of death, but a sentence that may not be carried out for one or two decades in a significant fraction of cases. Medical research holds the possibility of commuting that sentence, or reversing it.
Sexual activity is one of the primary ways AIDS is transmitted. AIDS is transmitted particularly by the transmission of blood or semen of an infected person into contact with the blood of an uninfected person. Sex involving penetration of the penis into either the vagina of a woman or the rectum of either a woman or a man has a very high risk of transmitting the disease. It is felt to be about four times more likely for an infected male to transmit AIDS to an uninfected woman in the course of vaginal sex than it is likely for an infected woman to transmit AIDS to an uninfected male. This probably relates to the greater area of moist tissue in a woman's vagina, and to the relative likelihood of microscopic tears to occur in that tissue during sex. But the bottom line is that AIDS can be transmitted in either direction in the case of heterosexual sex.
Oral sex is an extremely common form of sexual activity among both gay and straight folks. Such activity involves contact of infected semen or vaginal secretions with the mouth, esophagus (the tube that connects the mouth with the stomach) and the stomach. AIDS virus and infected cells most certainly cannot survive the acid environment of the stomach. Yet, it is still felt that there is a chance of catching the disease by having oral sex with an infected person. The chance is probably a lot smaller than in the case of vaginal or rectal sex, but is still felt to be significant.
Friends and family and coworkers of AIDS patients and seropostive persons have nothing to fear from such casual contact. There is no reason to not show your love or concern for a friend with AIDS by embracing the person. Indeed, there appears still to be no rational basis for excluding AIDS suffers from food preparation activity. Even if an AIDS suffer cuts his or her finger and bleeds into the salad or soup, most of the cells and virus will die, in most cases, before the food is consumed. In addition, it is extremely difficult to get successfully attacked by AIDS via stuff you eat.
AIDS epidemic is a serious problem, with the potential to become the worst plague this species has ever known. And while it does not seem likely we will find either a cure or a vaccine in the foreseeable future, it may be that truly effective treatments that can indefinitely prolong the life of AIDS victims may be found in the next few years. When science and technology do finally fully conquer AIDS, we can go back to deciding what sort and how much sex to have with who ever we choose on the basis of our own personal choice.