AIDS - Causes and Growth of a Killer Disease


In the middle of the 1970s a new disease emerged. It was called AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome. Scientists and doctors didn’t know anything about it at first but until today AIDS has killed 25 million people and about 50 million may be infected. AIDS occurs all over the world, but southern Africa, Asia and the United States have had more AIDS victims than other countries.


Causes of AIDS

AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV (humanimmunodeficiencyvirus). It enters the body when you get into contact with infected blood or other body fluids. Coughing, sneezing or handshaking do not spread AIDS. And you don’t have to be afraid of being in the same room with an infected person either.

HIV kills white blood cells, part of the body’s immune system, which fight off diseases. Over many years the body gets weaker and weaker. Diseases that normally do not hurt you may kill you. The AIDS virus attacks the nervous system and can cause eye or brain damage. People with AIDS often get pneumonia and die. At first you may not know that you are infected because you don’t feel anything. But even then you may pass on AIDS to other people.

Although doctors and scientists have been working on a cure for a long time, no vaccine has been found yet. With the right treatment you can live with HIV for many years. However people can prevent HIV infection by keeping out of contact with bodies that may be infected.

In the 1980s AIDS also spread through blood transfusions. Today, doctors make blood tests before giving it to those who need it.



History of AIDS

AIDS probably started in Africa, where people didn't know that it existed. American doctors first identified the virus in 1981. It came from a chimpanzee in western Africa. The virus entered humans when people who hunted animals got in touch with infected blood . In the early 1980s homosexual men, mostly in the United States were infected. Other early AIDS patients were drug users who got the disease from dirty needles.


Freddy Mercury - A Famous AIDS Victim

Within ten years after the first case, the disease spread all over the world. It was clear that all kinds of people could get the disease. Patients were infected by blood transfusions; women by their male sexual partners, children by their mothers before they were born. The public was alarmed when famous people, like tennis star Arthur Ashe or Queen lead singer Freddy Mercury became AIDS victims.

Today two thirds of all HIV infected are in central and southern Africa. Another 20% are in Asia and the Pacific. Experts say about 14,000 people are infected every day.




Related Topics




  • acquire = to get
  • although = while
  • attack = hit
  • blood transfusion = to put new blood into another animal or person
  • brain = the organ inside your head that controls how you move, feel and think
  • cause = lead to
  • chimpanzee = a small intelligent ape
  • cure = a medicine that makes a person healthy again
  • deficiency = if you do not have enough of something
  • disease = illness
  • fluid = liquid, something that is watery
  • get in touch = get in contact with
  • homosexual men = men who have sex with other men
  • however = but
  • identify = here: to observe something for the first time
  • immune system = the system by which the body protects itself from diseases
  • infect = to make a disease or illness go from one person to another
  • infected blood = blood that carries HIV in it
  • nervous system = all the nerves in your body
  • occur = happen
  • pneumonia = a very serious illness of the lungs in which it is very difficult to breathe
  • sneeze = air suddenly comes out of your nose and you make a noise; it happens when you have a cold
  • spread = to go from one place to another
  • syndrome = disease
  • treatment = something that doctors do to cure someone
  • vaccine = something that is injected into your body or blood and protects you from a disease
  • victim = a person who has AIDS