Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Since the invention of penicillin, the fear of venereal diseases, particularly syphilis and gonorrhoea, began to lose its grip on the minds of fun seekers in the developed world. If you could cure it, you wouldn’t need to protect yourself from it, right? And as for unwanted pregnancies, it was almost second nature to weed one out as soon as the suspicion struck the woman. Back-alley termination was easy to access and much safer than it used to be. Suddenly, the societal and physical fears that gripped older generations and kept their voraciousness in check seemed to fade away amid ecstasy without consequence. (Francis, 2012)

The sexual revolution had arrived, and with it came unbridled urges and the communities that fed them. Furthermore, the introduction of the contraceptive pill in 1950 cleared the final barricade to sex without fault, and it seemed all was bliss. The reaper sat on his throne of skulls and covered his mouth with his scythe as his new idea came to bear.

The Beginning

In 1981, a study of the increasing number of homosexual men succumbing to otherwise rare or opportunistic infections led to the discovery of a new revolutionary. Names such as gay syndrome, gay-related immune deficiency(GRID), and gay plague followed for what eventually became known as Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Its causative agent, Human Immunodeficiency Virus type-1 (HIV-1), had finally come to the scientific- and soon public- eye.

Origins of HIV

Theories on the origin of this killer vary and place it anywhere from Africa to Asia and Europe. Although first described in the United States in 1981, some theorise that the illness had been infecting Africans since the 50’s. The discovery of simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) related to the two subspecies of HIV and are known to infect other primates (monkeys, chimps and macaques) with or without disease further aids this theory. However, suspicions also show that experimental inoculation of infected blood between monkeys studied in the US may also be responsible for the mutation, transmission, and pathogenesis of the disease in the first place.

Although initially found in homosexuals, an early establishment of mucosal surfaces- like those in the vagina, open sores, and anus- as nodes of infection gave the possibility of heterosexual transmission. Nomenclature of the affected subgroup, the 4H’s (homosexuals, haemophiliacs, heroin addicts, and Haitians), also demonstrated its primary transmission through blood.

The HIV Pandemic

Classified as a pandemic as recently as 2006, HIV is a slow-burning disease. Its total death count of 36.3 million people since 1981 is quite small when considering the length of its existence. Even before treatment by ARVs, it showed symptoms in individuals before taking its time to destroy their immune system, allowing a myriad of other diseases to finish the job.


As a solitary killer, it is useless. It can be called a political one: it focuses on clearing away its opponent’s defenses before feeding them to the wolves. Nowadays, it infects a certain class of people. Sex workers, highly promiscuous individuals, and regions with little knowledge and access to sexual protection constitute the highest incidence of new HIV infections yearly.

With about 7.6 million people, South Africa has the highest number of HIV individuals worldwide. As such, its effect on the sexual proclivities of many were clear but not very easily implemented. Abstinence, faithfulness, and use of condoms were the usual messages, but the adaptation of those views for various groups wasn’t initially considered and first caused only mild adherence. The problems were worse for developing nations. To date, they constitute the highest contributors to the newest infections across all cadres of infection methods.

As of 2020, about 37.7 million people were living with HIV globally, and yearly infections have been on a steady decline since peaking at 3.3 million/year in 1991. About 1.5 million contracted HIV in 2020. Those are the latest incidence reports. The advent of treatment methods and relatively common info concerning its spread and prevention and prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/AIDS has massively helped curb the spread and infection of this disease. It is no longer a death sentence, and recent reports claim total cures in individuals who undergo stem cell transplants for cancer. But the consensus remains control, not elimination.

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