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Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is an immune-system failure disease caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and is a common Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD). As the immune system weakens, infections are better able to attack the body, and even simple or low-risk infections can become life-threatening.
Today, the rate of HIV infection among African-Americans is eight times greater than in the Caucasian community (ABCnews.go.com). There are many studies regarding the demographics and reason for such a high HIV rate, and none can be definitively proven; some argue for free and better health care and prevention, while others argue for better education and opportunities. Regardless of the cause, it is clear that HIV in the African-American community has become more of a social problem than a medical one; the wide disparity in infection rates points to a problem in the social and sexual structure rather than an opportunistic virus or infectious agent.
Unprotected sex is the major cause of infection, and in about 50% of cases the recipient has had unprotected sex with a man, regardless of the recipient's gender (avert.org). A solution to this is better access to condoms, which remain one of the best ways to avoid STD infection. However, condoms are widely available in the U.S., and relatively cheap compared to other contraception methods, so access is likely not the root problem.
Drug use, especially the sharing of needles and other fluid-transfer mediums, is the next major cause of infection. Another significant area of research is prostitution, which often goes hand-in-hand with drug use; more sexual partners means more opportunities to spread HIV.
Most experts and social advocates agree that the best method of curtailing HIV is education; people who are knowledgeable about their options and consequences are more likely to make smarter decisions. With rates of infection remaining high, it is the responsibility of all members in society to become educated and take on personal responsibility; many people with HIV do not know it. Yearly testing -- more frequently if one commonly has multiple sexual partners -- is a good idea, and would benefit from a free testing program nationwide. Finally, people with HIV have a responsibility to society to be educated about their medical options and to be careful in their actions; even a small transfer of fluid is enough for HIV to take root.
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