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Children and the AIDS virus (Supplement for older students)

All viruses are invisible to the human eye. To see them, scientists use an electron microscope. This special instrument magnifies viruses thousands of times their original size.

The body has three types of fighter cells: T-cells, B-cells, and phagocytes. All of them together make up the natural immune defense system. B-cells are known as "white blood cells."

Under the microscope, each type of virus looks unique. One kind will have a smooth surface. Another will have spikes. Each type of virus causes a different disease.

No medicine kills the cold virus. But cough syrup, nose spray, or hot liquids can help when the body hurts.

A vaccine is a medical preparation usually injected into the arm. The polio vaccine is swallowed. There is no vaccine against chicken pox yet. Some vaccines protect from diseases caused by bacteria.

The body is immune when the fighter cells can easily identify and fight off a certain virus, or other harmful organisms, that tries to infect it.

Doctors identified the AIDS virus in 1984. They call it the HIV Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It causes the loss of immunity in the human body. The word AIDS is put together from four other words: A = acquired, I = immune, D = deficiency, S = syndrome.

ARC means AIDS-related complex. People with ARC have a number of medical problems, but they are not seriously ill.

Doctors are studying HIV to learn why it attacks the immune system in some infected people and not in others.

Outside the human body, the AIDS virus dies quickly. For its survival, it needs a host cell in the human body. After penetrating a T-cell in the immune system, the virus multiplies until the host cell bursts and dies. Each spewed-out virus then repeats the process. Each type of virus chooses its own specific kind of host cell. HIV travels in the blood to different parts of the body.

Doctor's can tell from a special blood test if a person is HIV-infected. Infected means that a virus, bacteria or other parasite has invaded a person's body. If HIV-infected blood comes in contact with skin that has sores, cuts, or lesions, the virus could enter the body through these openings.

There is no risk of contracting a virus from injections given by health care professionals. Their needles and syringes are sterile and are used only one time.

Body fluid is "body water." We have different fluids in our body: tears, saliva (spit), and urine. Men have semen and women have vaginal fluids in their private parts. The HIV has been found in semen and vaginal fluids. But only small numbers of the virus have been detected in saliva and tears. This was also only found where the patient was about to die.

The HIV is dangerous because an infected adult may look and feel healthy and not know the virus is in the body. If that person has sex, the sex partner may become infected, too. To help protect themselves against receiving or spreading the HIV, many people practice safer sex. They use a condom. A condom is a thin piece of latex that encloses the penis. A condom prevents the exchange of body fluids.

Hospitals keep donated blood in blood banks. Since 1989, all blood in blood banks is checked for the HIV. Donating blood is always safe.

Some children and adults are born with blood that doesn't clot properly - a condition called hemophilia. When hemophiliacs are injured, they don't stop bleeding easily. They need a special dotting substance from donated blood. Before 1989, some hemophiliacs received HIV-contaminated blood.

More HIV-infected babies have been born in the last few years because more mothers have AIDS.

The HIV has spread throughout the world, and many adults and children have suffered and died from AIDS.

Intensive AIDS research is conducted in many countries. Scientists have made remarkable progress, but they still face unsolved problems. AIDS medicines are being developed and tested. Today only a few are available to AIDS patients. A drug called AZT does not offer a cure, but it seems to slow down the destruction of the immune system caused by the HIV.

From Children and the AIDS Virus by Rosmarie Hausherr.