According to the National Institutes of Health (2004), by the beginning of this year, there were an estimated 37.8 million people who were living with HIV/AIDS. Of these, approximately 850,000 to 950,000 are Americans, one quarter of which are unaware of their infection. The NIH further notes that each year, there are 40,000 newly infected people, half of which are younger than 25 years of age. The annual number of AIDS-related deaths is a little over 16,000 people representing a small reduction from 1998. Of these deaths, most tend to be African American (52 percent) or White (28 percent). Figures are lower among Hispanics (19 percent) and very low among Asians, Pacific Islanders, American Indians, and Alaskan Natives (less than 1 percent in all of these categories).
Barnett and Whiteside (2003) report that the consequences of HIV/AIDS are devastating at both the individual and societal level. Consequences include physical deterioration and death, skyrocketing medical bills placing an enormous drain on the healthcare system, extreme psychoemotional stress not only of those with the disease but also family and friends as well as a host of psychosocial problems such as lost productivity and man-hours to businesses, increases in business-provided insurance and so forth.
Despite the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS, there is a good deal of hope. Turpin (2003) reports that new drugs are helping people to live longer, and that the possibility of a vaccine grows stronger. Further, through educational and other prevention efforts, the level of HIV/AIDS transmission in the United States has been somewhat reduced.
Macionis (2004) defines a social problem as social conditions affecting a significant number of people in society in ways that are considered undesirable but which are capable of change. Clearly, even this cursory review of AIDS facts and statistics indicates that HIV/AIDS fits into the standard definition of "social pro...