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The AIDS Monster Under Your Bed

by Staci Marks on June 13, 2012

Here we are in 2012, and we are still hearing about deadly diseases that threaten our very existence. At times it seems that for every deadly illness we make advances to, there is another one that will creep up and take its place. That is exactly what medical experts are dealing with right now. Just when it feels like the medical community got a handle on AIDS, we are hearing that there may be another deadly disease, Chagas, which is slowly moving into the United States. Is there anything that experts can learn from fighting AIDS to combat Chagas, and is there anything that we should really be worried about?

History of AIDS

Perhaps the best way to understand how this new disease is spreading is to examine how the AIDS virus developed. Though the first cases were identified in the United States in 1981, it made its first recorded appearance in the Congo in 1959. Since the first strands originated in Africa, it is believed that they were originally spread from chimpanzees after World War II. When the virus was first discovered in the United States it began appearing in gay men. According to AVERT, it is estimated that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States and that more than half a million have died after developing AIDS. In terms of race, the African American population has the highest amount of recorded cases. In terms of sex, most men get it from their male sexual partners while women obtain it through heterosexual contact. It is important that everybody understand the difference between HIV and AIDS. HIV is a immune virus that will lead to AIDS in some patients. Scientists have spent the last few decades trying to find a cure for both HIV and AIDS. Currently there is no specific cure but there are treatments that can help fight HIV from turning into AIDS.

Chagas: A New Concern?

As if our problems fighting HIV and AIDS were not enough, experts are now saying that Chagas could be the new “AIDS of the Americas.” Researchers are calling the new virus that because of the similarities in how it is spreading. The disease itself is currently very hard to detect and can take years for someone to show symptoms — often when it is too late to provide treatment. Chagas was discovered by a Brazilian doctor in 1909 and has mainly been contained into Latin America. However, our desire to travel has made people more exposed to the disease and has thus spread throughout North and South America. People usually obtain the infection from a blood sucking bug called Trypanosoma cruzi. It is a parasite that is injected into the individual’s blood stream. Once inside the body it can move around, manifest itself in the heart and even multiply. Many patients will eventually develop deadly heart conditions as a result. Researchers are now even speculating that Charles Darwin could have died of the infection.

Looking Forward

Though there are several similarities to HIV and AIDS and the comparisons have begun, many are saying that there is no reason that the two should be categorized together. According to Rick Tarelton, president of the Chagas Disease Foundation, the only direct correlation is that this disease originated affecting the poor populations of the world. His feeling is that since there are so many misunderstanding about HIV and AIDS then it is not fair to allow those misconceptions to now be placed on Chagas. One of the main reasons that it is not comparable to AIDS is that it can be treated within three months. The problem that we currently see from the treatment is that many people do not get the treatment for the infection because they can simply not afford it, not because there is not one available.

Even though the infection of Chagas is something that everyone should be worried about, experts agree that it is not as scary as it was originally thought. The reasons for the AIDS comparison was meant to bring awareness to a forgotten disease. Still, if you think that you may be infected get examined immediately, especially if you have been traveling to Latin America.

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