Following symptoms may appear single or in combination with others or may be altogether suppressed: significant and unexplainable loss of weight, cough with thick sputum, persistent watery diarrhea, swollen glands in armpits, groin and sides of neck, oral and anal ulcers persistent feeling of tiredness, reduction in the number of white blood cells, red blood cells and blood platelets.
According to a report published to a report published in the British magazine “Nature”, the incurable virus incubation period may last as 15 years. According to U.S. estimates, viral incubation times ranged from 5 to 10 years.
This dreaded disease mainly spreads through homosexual and heterosexual contacts as in the case of American Catholic Clergy. It also spreads through the infected syringes and needles used by drug addicts and through the clinical transfusion of infected blood.
Presence of virus in the body is detected by a simple blood test known as ELISA test (Enzyme linked Immune Solvent Assay Test). Positive results of ELISA test can be confirmed by other tests (Western blot test, immune fluorescence test).
In India, Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is the only organization to have facilities for ELISA test and the Western blot test.
The disease is incurable. But researchers are trying to find an effective but safe drug and a vaccine which would prevent the spread of the disease. A number of drugs have been considered. Dideoxy nucleosides, Azidothymidine (AZT) and Ribavarin appear most satisfactory.
AZT is already being administered to patients in the U.S.A. Vaccine has also been prepared by a French group led by Daniel Zangury which is ready for trial. The trial will have to be done on human beings since animals do not respond to the AIDS virus as humans do.
Scientists at the National Institute of Virology at Pune have discovered a particle which may shed light on several aspects of AIDS. The NIV is engaged in studies on AIDS and is the first laboratory engaged by ICMR to undertake investigation.
The first AIDS patient appeared in 1979 in New York. However, it was only in 1983 that a French Research team of the famed Pastur Institute of Paris headed by Dr Luc Montagnier succeeded in isolating the virus from a French AIDS patient who had got infected in New York. Three months, later, a US research group identified this virus in an American patient.
There is a big controversy as regards the origin of AIDS. Reports appearing in the Western media have claimed that AIDS could have its origin in Africa. The US magazine Newsweek of December 1, 1986 maintained that 50,000 people have died in 11 nations of that continent since the first appearance of AIDS virus.
According to a London-based newspaper report also, there would be 80 million AIDS virus carriers in ‘black Africa’ by 1990. Dr. Jonathan Mann, Director of the WHO AIDS Control Programme has, however, described these reports as “greatly exaggerated”.
The Western media has cited some research reports to assert that the disease has come from the African “green monkey”.
But the mainstream of scientific opinion maintains that the AIDS virus “must be an artificial product, the result of a gene manipulation”. Eminent British Scientist John Seale holds that AIDS virus was produced artificially in a laboratory.
Robert Stracher, an American scientist, holds the same opinion. The French biophysicians Prof. Jacob Segal and Dr. Lilli Segal point out that the U.S. army opened its first laboratory for gene manipulation of pathogens for military use at Fort Dentrick, Maryland, in 1977. The first AIDS patient appeared in the USA two years later.
AIDS, the Segal stress, has resulted from failure in biological warfare research in the US. They say that the virus produced in the laboratory was tested on prisoners.
But as the incubation period of the virus is slow and stretched over a minimum of two years, the military researchers released the prisoners when no effect of incubation was found in their bodies. These people later spread the disease.
The Guardian of London, on October 27, 1986 quoted a US Defense Department testimony before the senate Appropriation Committee in 1969 which said, “within the next five or ten years it would be possible to make a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important respects from any know disease causing organism”.
Most important of these is that it might be refectory to the immunological and the properties upon which we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious diseases”, the testimony added. The AIDS virus, undoubtedly, has all the characteristics mentioned above. Could it be that AIDS originated in the US military lab?
According to World Health Organization experts, AIDS has spread to virtually every country in the world and at least five million people are thought to be infected by the fatal disease.
We are still at the historic moment-which is to say, at the beginning of a worldwide epidemic whose dimensions we are unable of predict,” said Dr Jonathan Mann, the American Director of WHO special programme on AIDS.
In Western Europe AIDS was discovered in 1981; in South Africa and Trinidad in 1983, in Japan in 1984 and so on. Eighty-eight of the cases reported in Nairobi are that of prostitutes at tourist centres frequented by Americans. A number of cases had also been reported from South Korea where US military personnel were stationed in a big way.
The sharp rise in India’s AIDS cases from a mere 2.4 percent (per thousand among those tested) in 1985-86 to a staggering 15.9 percent in 1990 has occurred not without a timely warning from WHO.
The WHO had singled out India and Thailand as the two most AIDS prone countries in South-East Asian region. Following this warning the India Council of Medical Research formed an AIDS committee in 1986 to advise on steps to tackle the disease.
The Government promised to set up surveillance centres for detecting Human Immuno Deficiency virus infection in addition to 29 zonal blood testing centres. Five separate AIDS management clinics were set up at New Delhi, Srinagar, Calcutta, Madras and Bombay.
The authorities have now shifted their emphasis from surveillance to educating the public on preventive measures and creating awareness about the disease.
Since the target group of AIDS patients is the STD (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) patients, the STD control programme has been further intensified during the eighth plan period by (i) establishment of new STD clinics and augmenting the existing ones (ii) Providing free essential drugs to the STD clinics and (ii) opening more survey-cum epidemiological units in states.
WHO has also been asked to assist in implementation of the schemes for prevents and control of AIDS in India.
The Government is to make it compulsory for all foreign students seeking admission to Indian Universities to undergo medical tests to check for the dreaded AIDS disease.
As stated by the Minister for Human Resource Development in Rajya Sabha in March 1987 “we have to be in step with the world and not out of it”, explaining that many countries were tightening up the process.