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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 communicable 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. Having been lulled into false security by modern antibiotics and vaccines about our ability to conquer infections, the Western world was ill prepared to cope with the advent of AIDS in 1981. (Retro- spective studies now put the first reported U.S. case of AIDS as far back as 1968.) 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...

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