Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The disease originated in Central Africa when the virus jumped from chimpanzees to humans over a hundred years ago. The first cases were reported in the United States in 1981. Initially thought to infect only gay men, HIV was soon shown to be spread by blood and blood products including the use of blood-contaminated needles. The virus is transmitted in body fluids such as semen and blood. It attacks a subset of helper lymphocytes and in destroying them causes a profound immunodeficiency. As a result, victims die as a result of diverse secondary infections such as tuberculosis or fungal infections. The infection is treatable with antiretroviral drug therapy. As a worldwide pandemic, the disease has killed over 30 million people, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. It still persists in the United States, especially among impoverished minorities.
Great American Diseases Their Effects on the course of North American History 2022, Pages 301-317,