Adtdeadly epidemic disease, AIDS, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, marked the 1980s for Americans more than any other medical or health news. AIDS, first reported in 1981, is caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which attacks selected cells in the immune system, leading to its inability to resist disease-causing organisms and certain cancers. Americans were profoundly shocked by AIDS. The disease at first seemed to affect predominantly homosexual and bisexual men. But the medical community soon found that intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and recipients of blood transfusions were also at risk, as were heterosexual sexual partners of AIDS victims. AIDS spread rapidly until 1 million to 1.5 million Americans were estimated to be infected with the virus by the end of the decade. Until AIDS, major killer epidemics seemed to be problems of the past. Americans, with their great faith in scientific technology, assumed medicine would soon provide a "quick fix." But by 1989 no cure or vaccine existed for AIDS. Many of those infected were not even aware that they carried the virus and could spread it through three primary routes: sexual intercourse, either vaginal or anal, with an infected individual; exposure to infected bodily fluids including blood products; and from an infected mother to her child before or during birth. Problems with their immune...
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