The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the pathogen responsible for acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), has had a wide-reaching economic, social, political, and legal impact around the world in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Its appearance caught the world by surprise because many had felt that modern medical science had vanquished infectious diseases. The U.S. Surgeon General, in fact, had proclaimed in a report to Congress in 1969 that it was time to “close the book” on infectious diseases. However, the spread of AIDS continues despite improvement in medical treatments, and its ultimate impact remains uncertain.

Nature of the Disease

The virus's attack on the cellular immune system causes the syndrome. It incorporates itself into a cell's genetic processes, inducing the cell to create additional copies ...

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