HIV & AIDS 30 years later: here’s what we’ve learned | USA TODAY

March 26, 2020 0 By Jose Scott

– About 1.1 million Americans have HIV, otherwise known as the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus. And about one in seven don’t
even know they’re infected. HIV is a virus that attacks cells. After a person is infected,
they may feel flu-like symptoms as the body’s immune system
tries to fight it off. Within a few weeks, the symptoms pass, and an infected person might
feel fine for decades even until one day… they don’t. That’s because HIV has been at work, killing off the body’s T
cells, or white-blood cells, which are essential to the immune system. This, in turn, leaves the body unable to defend against pathogens or anything that might be
dangerous or infectious. And this is when, without
treatment, HIV can lead to AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. When a body’s defenses are so compromised, it can’t defeat even a minor ailment, resulting in severe illness or even death. When AIDS exploded on
the scene in the ’80s, scientists had no idea what was
making the patients so sick. But there’s a very early connection made between the disease
and homosexuality. Before it was called AIDS,
it was classified as GRID, or gay-related immune deficiency. Some even called it “gay
cancer” or the “gay plague.” But over time, other at-risk
groups were identified, including intravenous
drug users and Haitians. Doctors began to hone in on
how HIV was being transmitted. Today, the stigma of the
disease is being chipped away. “Reality, HIV is just a virus. It’s the stigma, that’s
the deadly disease.” – And new treatments mean someone who’s HIV positive can expect to live as long as anyone else. But the first step in fighting
HIV is getting tested.