Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, also know as AIDS, is a silent invader. The first cases of this disease were reported in the early 1980's. AIDS is caused by the infection known as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is a microscopic organism that can grow and multiply inside living cells. HIV attacks and disables the body's immune system the immune system is the system that usually fights off illnesses. "When the immune system breaks down, a person with AIDS will develop life-threatening illnesses. (Flynn& Lound, 6) The invasion of the AIDS virus is an individual's body leaves the body open to an invasion by many other different infections, called "opportunistic diseases. These infections are the main causes of death of AIDS patients. Because there is not yet a cure for AIDS, once the disease invades the body there is no way to get rid of it.
AIDS is a life-threatening disease and those infected are often treated as invaders although they are the ones who were invaded. Although AIDS first appeared in the United States in the early 1980's, HIV "first gained a foothold in humans some fifty or more years ago in Africa. (Joseph, M.D., 14) At that time many hunters and their families killed and ate monkeys that carried the then undiagnosed and unnamed virus. Stephen C. Joseph, M. D. said that in the 1970's, when he practices medicine in Central Africa, he saw "patients with wasting syndromes, atypical progressive infections, bizarre malignancies-all undiagnosed due to lack of laboratory facilities or lack of specific knowledge. Joseph went on to say that "most of the mortally ill children I was caring for had a combination of severe malnutrition and one or more infectious diseases. These children were in a way the analog to today's people with AIDS-they suffered malnutrition to such an extreme that their immune systems collapsed. (Joseph, M.D., 15) The 1970's is when the AIDS virus first erupted in the United S