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Is the message getting through? We already know enough about AIDS to prevent its spread, but ignorance, complacency, fear and bigotry continue to stop many from taking adequate precautions. We know enough about how the infection is transmitted to protect ourselves from it without resorting to such extremes as mandatory testing, enforced quarantine or total celibacy. But too few people are heeding the AIDS message. Perhaps many simply don't like or want to believe what they hear, preferring to think that AIDS "can't happen to them." Experts repeatedly remind us that infective agents do not discriminate, but can infect any and everyone. Like other transmissible diseases, AIDS can strike anyone. It is not necessarily confined to a few high-risk groups. We must all protect ourselves from this infection and teach our children about it in time to take effective precautions. Given the right measures, no one need get AIDS. The pandemic continues: Many of us have forgotten about the virulence of widespread epidemics, such as the 1917-18 influenza pandemic which killed over 21 million people, including 50,000 Canadians.
The arrival of a new and lethal virus caught us off guard. Research suggests that the agent responsible for AIDS probably dates from the 1950s, with a chance infection of humans by a modified Simian virus found in African green monkeys. Whatever its origins, scientists surmise that the disease spread from Africa to the Caribbean and Europe, then to the U.S. Current estimates are that 1.5 to 2 million Americans are now probably HIV carriers, with higher numbers in Central Africa and parts of the Caribbean. Recapping AIDS - the facts: AIDS is an insidious, often fatal but less contagious disease than measles, chicken pox or hepatitis B. AIDS is thought to be caused primarily by a virus that invades white blood cells (lymphocytes) - especially T4-lymphocytes or T-helper cells - and certain other body cells, including the brain. In...
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