During WWII the young military were given booklets meant to scare them into avoiding VD, mainly represented by gonorrhea and syphilis. Antibiotics were just beginning to cure these diseases, both caused by bacteria, so there was still access to advanced cases to photograph, gruesome runaway lesions on sexual organs. The shock of these booklets still affects the way we understand HIV/AIDS.
"Bacteria are a large group of unicellular microorganisms that have cell walls but lack organelles and an organized nucleus, including some that can cause disease." Both gonorrhea and syphillis are caused by bacteria. Symptoms tend to be at the point of sexual contact, attacking the tender mucous membranes of sexual organs. The publicity meant to educate military men, assumed to be stimulated to sex by their necessary belligerence, has created an archetype in the public mind that has interfered with understanding HIV.
Bacteria are one-celled "animals" with no nucleus and no other bits of cell floating around inside their skin. They are alive and WERE vulnerable to antibiotics, but even with nuclei they now are adapting to be resistant. They are "plastic." The rates of new cases are going up fast, partly because our new ability to control fertility in individuals has removed a major taboo on sexual activity and partly because "family" as a protected-by-law community has been shattered by drugs and economic failure.
Bacteria are only one kind of disease involved in human sex. https://www.omicsonline.org/conferences-list/viral-fungal-bacterial-protozoan-stds-infections This website lists kinds, but few of us think about all these conditions of tender and slippery places where humans express intimate connection with each other.
"Viral, Fungal, Bacterial & Protozoan STDs & Infections
"Depending on the type of disease, STDs can be spread with any type of sexual activity. STDs are most often caused by viruses and bacteria, both bacterial and viral STDs vary in their treatment. Bacterial STDs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and chlamydia, are often cured with antibiotics. However, viral STDs, such as HIV, HPV (genital warts), herpes, and hepatitis (the only STD that can be prevented with a vaccine), have no cure, but their symptoms can be alleviated with treatment. STDs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis, are classified as "reportable" because when diagnosed they must be reported to a proper health or government agency to prevent their spread. Gonorrhea, one of the most widespread of the STDs, is caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae, some strains of which are resistant to treatment by penicillin as well as the other drugs of choice. 80 percent of women and 40 percent of men diagnosed with chlamydia may not experience symptoms."
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It's not a cell, not a "bug". It's not even "alive" but rather a bit of code about how to be alive. It creates vulnerability to every other disease. It is not only transmitted by sex. It is not local on particular parts of the body, but systemic, acting throughout the body to affect its performance, primarily by eliminating the capacity to defend against any cause of disease, even a mosquito bite. It can be transmitted without sex, by any contact with body fluid like syringes, nursing, splashes of body fluid (blood, phlegm) but not tears or saliva. It can penetrate mucus membranes but works best through cuts or other skin weakness like abrasion or infection.
Again, it interacts with human predilections, like the spreading practice of anal sex, which avoids pregnancy, can be accepted by both sexes, is rumored to be more intensely pleasant, and so on. The anus is not as stretchy or well-lubricated as the vagina.
HIV was first a public raging epidemic among men who defined themselves as "gay" and most medical work has concentrated on males, just as male fertility is declining, male labor is restricted, and the clear lines between "male" and other variations are fuzzed up. The assumption has always been that males who have sex with males are in a category that never has sex with females -- as though intimacy were either/or -- even though it is well-known that the testosterone and adrenaline driven desire to fuck-for-you-life can be expressed by sex with other species and inanimate objects. Obviously, those who could be stimulated and driven to do this will produce more descendants than those who would rather read a book. Gay men can and do produce children.
So HIV is a virus of great irony -- a drive to continue the species that does nothing for the species and kills individuals. The symptoms may be invisible for many years. When they appear, when the virus is powerful enough to destroy many immunity-providing cells, they are likely to be the generalized systemic signs of any physical and even psychic pressure on the person. "Fatigue. Trouble sleeping. Muscle tension or muscle aches. Trembling, feeling twitchy. Nervousness or being easily startled. Sweating. Nausea, diarrhea or irritable bowel syndrome. Irritability."
Modern life can produce these symptoms without any disease intrusions, so how does one even realize HIV except by dying from it? At first this was the case. By now we are able to analyze to the depths of cells, to the specifics of the genome, epigenome, microgenome of the gut and we are able to see that HIV can insert itself into the chromosomes, the genes. Until now, when we are able to extract or silence specific genes, there was no way to get at the rogue code.
I do not have HIV though I should probably have the test. Simply not having sex for decades or needle drugs at all ever may not be protective. There are two other systemic viral disorders, herpes and hepatitis, which can take sexual forms but also generalize to get into the body. I do have diabetes. One suggestion is that at least some forms of diabetes are due to code corruption in the genome.
The idea is that somewhere lurks a genetic device that controls whether energy (glucose) becomes available to the cells to do work, or is stored as fat for later. This genetic device has not been identified yet so we can't tell whether it is present or absent, whether by deletion or by methyl-silencing by the environment through the epigenome. This theory would account for people who once called on by life to put out huge amounts of work that are not now necessary for survival. Their bodies are not regulated for modern life. It's not that they're greedy or eat bad food or are lazy -- it's that their bodies don't meet their environments anymore. Like HIV it is controllable until it is fatal.
Being driven to understand all this will benefit all humans. It is not just a matter of saving individuals -- precious as they may be -- but of saving a species. So many aspects of life today -- bad air, contaminated water, climate heat that can actually cook the cells of the body while you still live -- seem uncontrollable and impossible to sort into priorities. That doesn't make HIV any less pressing. Right behind it are the "prion" disorders which are caused by molecules with a few atoms out of place. How do we cure THAT? Getting a handle on HIV/AIDS may be a step towards figuring out prions. The work is continuous, incremental, crucial, and emotional. And political.