HIV and AIDS As Threats To Public Health

by Morgan Lehman on March 27, 2014

Human Immunodeficiency Virus is one of the world’s most dangerous killers today. Originating in the late 1940s to early 1950s, HIV most likely developed within the chimpanzee population and eventually jumped over to the human population.[1] This transition from chimpanzees to humans probably occurred by a human touching the blood of an infected chimpanzee either with an open wound or just with skin contact.[2] As with humans, HIV is transmitted through the sharing of blood or bodily fluids. Some examples are sharing needles, intercourse, a child drinking its mother’s breast milk, etc. HIV typically has the symptoms of the flu for the first four weeks, although it is not uncommon for a carrier to be symptomless.[3] This means that it is not uncommon for people to be carriers which means they have the strain of HIV but appear to be unaffected by it, but are able to give it to other people.


Throughout the 1970s and 1980s HIV was most common among homosexual males, although any human is susceptible to it by the sharing of bodily fluids.[4] The reason that HIV is such a problem in the world is because more often than not it leads to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), typically over the course of 10 years.[5] The difference between HIV and AIDS is that HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a condition. Although one leads to the other, they remain fairly independent. Thus, AIDS is the last phase of HIV infection.[6] HIV destroys immune cells called CD4 cells, and when more than a certain number have been destroyed; the patient is considered to have AIDS.[7] The rate at which a person with HIV develops AIDS greatly depends on their lifestyle and nourishment.[8] A healthier person is less likely to develop AIDS than someone who is not adequately nourished for example.[9]  People who have AIDS are unable to fight off diseases, and therefore fall victim to pneumonia, cancer, and tuberculosis (among other diseases).[10] The reason HIV and AIDS are so detrimental to public health is that they are both affecting the working people of the world today.


With so many people being affected or having the potential to be affected by HIV and AIDS, it is crucial that all people are educated on the subject. Education is the first and most powerful weapon against disease. When people are aware of potential harm, they are more likely to prevent it. Because there is no cure to HIV or AIDS yet, the best treatment option at this point in time is prevention. There are numerous ways to prevent acquiring HIV or AIDS such as practicing safe sex, wearing gloves when assisting a person who is bleeding, making sure that all needles used for whatever reasons are sterile, and getting routine HIV testing.[11] There are treatments for HIV that can keep patients alive much longer than they would live without treatment, but there is still no cure or reversal of the disease. If the world is able to prevent new outbreaks of HIV and AIDS, hopefully eventually we will be able to make it an obsolete problem.

Routes of infection


[2] Radiolab




[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.



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