AIDS

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AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a disease of the human immune system. It reduces the body's ability to fight infection, to the extent that without treatment patients are likely to develop a variety of other diseases, generally proving fatal. There is no vaccine or cure, but anti-retroviral treatment can now keep patients healthy for many years, although not without side effects.

History

AIDS was first discovered in the United States in 1981, particularly amongst gay men, and was at one time referred to as "GRID" (gay-related immunodeficiency). The term AIDS was adopted when it became clear that the disease was not restricted to gay men. Terry Higgins was one of the first people in the UK to die of AIDS (in 1982), leading to the setting up of the Terrence Higgins Trust. During the 1980s it became clear that a virus was responsible for AIDS, and in 1986 it was given the name HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).

Over the next few years many people died from AIDS-related infections (see Category:AIDS-related deaths for a few of the more famous UK people); the number reduced sharply with the arrival of new treatments from around 1995.

Prevention

Despite the availability (at least in more affluent societies such as the UK) of anti-retroviral drugs, AIDS remains a serious and life-altering condition, and safer sex, particularly the use of condoms, is seen as extremely important.

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