It’s World AIDS Day, and millions of people are doing their part to raise awareness and funds for the fight against AIDS and HIV. This epidemic continues to ravage the world with an estimated 1.8 million deaths and 16.6 million orphaned children caused by the disease in 2009 alone. Currently, an estimated 33.3 million people are living with HIV or AIDS. Thanks to the efforts of activists, doctors, governments, and everyday citizens, these numbers have continually declined over the past decade. But there is still much we don’t know about AIDS and HIV. [AVERT]
After the jump, five interesting facts about the virus.
- The Cure in Cats: Maybe cats should be upgraded to man’s best friend. Cats suffer from a disease similar to AIDS called FIV or Feline Immunodeficiency Virus. While there are differences, both involve viruses that attack and weaken the immune system. This makes FIV research in cats helpful relevant to studies of the AIDS virus. Now that vaccines are being created for FIV, scientists are hopeful they can use this information to create better AIDS treatments and a possible cure. [Research at the University of Florida]
- Treatments in the Works: The pharmaceutical industry recently announced they are working on at least 100 new drugs and vaccines to combat the effects of HIV and AIDS. These new treatments include medications that work to stay a step ahead of the virus by attacking affected cells while leaving healthy ones alone, as well as work on drugs that prevent the virus from breaking through the cell membrane. The industry is also focused on creating simple and effective one-a-day medication as opposed to complicated drug cocktails. [Drug Store News]
- An American Disease? When AIDS became widespread in the 1980s, the Soviet Union started a program of mass misinformation, “informing” its citizens that the U.S. purposefully introduced the disease globally. While this has been proven a horrible manipulation of the truth, many of the former Soviet Union citizens believe this lie to be true. [CIA]
- There is Immunity: Over time, scientists have discovered that some infected people have an immunity to the virus, and are able to fight it off for decades without the virus taking much of, if any, toll on the body. This immunity has been located to certain type of immune cell called the CD8+ T cells. In those with the immunity, these cells attack and inject poison into any AIDS-infected cells they find. Now that scientists are aware of these special fighter cells and how they work, they hope to use them to create a vaccine that can also be used after infection to potentially fight off the virus. [Cosmos]
- Who’s Affected Most: While scientists are hard at work combating AIDS, the disease still is taking a devastating toll both globally and nationally. In the United States, AIDS in the number one cause of death for African American women age 25-44. For American women of this age group as a whole, AIDS is the number six cause of death. [Discovery Health]