Mankind At Risk

Mankind At Risk

December 1st of humanity in the 20th time in a row marks World AIDS Day. From 2005 to 2010, those days are held under the slogan “Stop AIDS, Keep the Promise!”. We are talking about the leaders of the developed countries the obligation to provide access to modern methods of treatment and prevention of the deadly infection for all those who need them the inhabitants of the world no later than 2010.

According to the World Health Organization, since its inception in 1981, the HIV pandemic has led to 25 million deaths worldwide. The annual number of victims of infections is steadily increasing, and according to the latest forecasts, will increase up to 2012, reaching a peak at about 2.5 million deaths a year. In the current year, according to WHO estimates, the victims of HIV will be approximately 2.2 million inhabitants of the earth.

Already, the death rate from diseases associated with HIV infection, has a powerful negative impact on the demographic processes and socio-economic development of a number of regions. All this makes the HIV / AIDS is one of the most destructive and deadly epidemics in human history.


How it all began?

The official beginning of the HIV / AIDS epidemic is the 5th June 1981 when the weekly report of the US Disease Control and Prevention Centers was reported unusual group PCP disease in homosexual men in Los Angeles. Over the next months, similar groups of patients have been identified in other American cities. In addition, it was found out that those same patients have a number of other infections typical of immunodeficient states. In 1982, California epidemiologists have suggested that the cause of the symptoms is an unusual kind of infection transmitted during same-sex contacts. Estimated disease was the code name “gay-related immune deficiency┬╗ (gay-related immune deficiency, GRID).

Soon, however, it became apparent that an unidentified infection affects not only the gays: similar disease occurred among injecting drug users of both sexes, as well as patients who receive regular transfusions of donated blood. Independent risk factor initially was also recognized Puerto Rican origin. As a result, in August 1982, the disease got its modern name: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS).

However, the causative agent of a new disease was still unknown. In May 1983, a group of scientists from the Institute of Louis Pasteur, led by Luc Montagnier identified new retrovirus from puncture of the lymph nodes of the patient. French researchers have dubbed their discovery lymphadenopathy-associated virus (LAV). A year later, an American virologist Robert Gallo has confirmed the discovery of French colleagues, proposing its own name – the human T-lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III).

The following year, a number of independent groups of researchers have confirmed that Montagnier and Gallo have described the same virus that is the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In 1986, a new pathogen finally got its present name – the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV.

In 2008, Luc Montagnier and his co-author Francoise Bar-Sinoussi shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine with the German virologist Harald zur Hausen, shows the relationship between cervical cancer and human papillomavirus (HPV).

African roots

Soon after the discovery of the virus, immunodeficiency became obvious that before the discovery in the United States it has long circulated in Africa. The earliest, now, HIV samples isolated from tissue samples of several patients who died at the beginning of the late 50’s – early 60-ies of the last century. All of them either were Africans or long lived in Africa.

The closest relatives immunodeficiency virus is a virus that suffer two types of African apes: chimpanzees common (Pan troglodytes) and smoky Mangobo (Cercocebus atys). According to estimates of geneticists, simian viruses have overcome the species barrier and began spreading among humans between 1884 and 1924 in Central Africa. Under what circumstances it happened, it is not fully known, but the most likely version is an infestation of the hunters because of a bite or cutting of carcasses of dead animals.

The frustration and hope

In 1986, a group of prominent American virologists said that an effective vaccine that can protect a person from infection with immunodeficiency virus, would be set up within ten years. After more than 20 years, one of the authors of the initial assessment of David Baltimore admitted that scientists around the world is not enough progress in the search for life-saving drug. The end of 2007 saw the last one of the saddest in the history of frustration numerous attempts to create a vaccine against HIV infection: the most promising drug not only reduced, but also increased the number of risk of HIV infection among vaccinated volunteers from risk groups in clinical trials.

Some cause more optimistic perspective of creating a therapeutic vaccine does not protect against infection, but slows down the development of AIDS in HIV infection. According to Nobel Prize winner Luc Montagnier, such a drug may appear in four years.

Yet long-term efforts of doctors and scientists bring practical results already. Recent data from epidemiological studies suggest that modern antiretroviral drugs prolong the lives of patients for decades. Thus, the life expectancy of a hypothetical inhabitant of Europe or the United States with HIV infection currently is 32 years from the time of diagnosis. This means that in recent years, HIV has passed into the category of controlled chronic diseases such as diabetes, and patients with this infection have every reason to count on long years of full life provided that proper treatment.


Unfortunately, such bright prospects only to citizens of developed countries are guaranteed. The vast majority of infected people in the world still lack access to life-prolonging drugs: ensuring all those who need expensive treatment is beyond developing countries’ health systems, and multi-billion dollar subsidies to the sponsoring countries to date have not changed this situation.

HIV / AIDS pandemic has already put on the brink of survival of the population of some areas of South Africa. In particular, in the South African media incurable infection, according to the World Health Organization, are up to 20 percent of adult men and women. If the rate of spread of the disease will not change in the near future, South Africa and other countries in South Africa is waiting for the inevitable crash.