About aids

What is it?

In this day and age, we would expect that acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and AIDS-related complex (ARC) probably need no introduction. Laymen and scientists have written entire volumes about AIDS since it was first recognized in 1981, and rare would be the talk show, magazine, soap opera, TV drama, or movie company that has not devoted some time to discussing this tragic disease. There really isn't space enough for us to go into great detail about them in a book of this nature, so let us simply give you an abbreviated nutshell description.

About aidsThe underlying process in AIDS occurs because of infection by HIV (the human immunodeficiency virus), which attacks parts of the body's immune defense system. The weak defense leaves people with the virus vulnerable to attack by a variety of infections that a healthy immune system could defend us from easily, and so HIVinfected people contract and sometimes succumb to unusual infections and unusual cancers. And it is these culprits, not the HIV per se, that cause the disability and death from AIDS. They could not do so, however, without the initial assault by the virus to weaken the defenses arrayed against them.

Statistics from 1993 about AIDS estimated that about 85% of the reported AIDS cases in America have been men who got the virus through sex with an infected man, or men and women who were infected through intravenous drug use. The remaining 15% is made up of infants and heterosexual partners of infected people and those who contracted the virus from blood transfusions before screening techniques made the American blood supply safe. However, in Africa, India, and other third world areas, the disease knows no gender, and heterosexual transmission of the virus occurs widely. There is no one of any gender or age group not potentially at risk for this disease.

In that broad gray area between those people who merely test positive for exposure to HIV but are in no way ill and those who suffer calamitous assault by a host of unusual infections or cancers and develop the disease we call AIDS lies what scientists term ARC: people with the virus and with some early signs of immune system weakness, but without active illness. What makes the difference between the ends of this spectrum of disease? Why do some people acquire the disease after coming in contact with the virus and others do not? What caused the explosive degree of heterosexual spread of the virus in African nations? Certainly that is the $64,000 question with a Nobel Prize attached to its correct answer, but a good deal of recent research suggests that at least part of the explanation may lie in the nutritional status of the person under viral attack.

Worldwide, the disease claims far more victims among the poor, the sickly, the very young: groups with inadequate intake of essential nutrients, of good-quality protein, vitamins, minerals, and fats. That is not to say that those of us who strive for nutritional excellence would be immune from attack by the virus—that simply is not the case; however, a strong immune system, which sound nutrition provides, probably makes a difference not merely in resistance to the viral attack upon exposure, but in the course of the illness if it does strike. Let's see what kind of nutrients offer some benefit in strengthening our defenses.

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