HIV/AIDS and the Black Death, also referred to as the Bubonic Plague, are both diseases that affected and killed millions of people. An estimated 20-40 million people perished as a result of the Black Death. As of 1999 over 13 million people have died of HIV/AIDS. These numbers can arguably qualify these two diseases as the most lethal diseases that affect humans.

The Bubonic Plague originated in China in the 1330s with the oriental rat flea. The scientific name for this flea is the Xenopsylla cheopis. Due to the amount of trading activity in the area during the Middle Ages, the plague quickly moved onto other countries via traders and merchants. By the 1346 the disease had been carried to Europe. It passed from person to person rapidly and, by the 1600s, over 25 million, one third of the population of Europe, was dead.

There were three different forms of the Black Death. These forms were bubonic, septicemic, and pneumonic. The bubonic form took between 1 and 7 days to show symptoms. The name comes from that the lymph node, or buboe, would become enlarged. Approximately 50% of people with this form died. The septicemic form killed almost all of the people who contracted it. The skin of people with this form would turn black if pressure was applied. They died within a day. The pneumonic form killed about 90% of people who contracted it. It was the most contagious. People with this form would cough up blood.

HIV/AIDS is said to have originated in chimpanzees and to have been spread to humans through chimp meat and the use of chimp kidneys for vaccines. The first human diagnosed with the disease was Gaetan Dugas. He was a gay flight attendant who supposedly contracted HIV in Haiti. Because of his profession, he travelled a often. Wherever he went he would infect even more people with the disease. Due to this, the majority of people with early cases of HIV/AIDS were gay males. Homophobia made funding hard to obtain until a larger number of heterosexuals were getting the disease.

AIDS is not, in and of itself, fatal. It cases death by destroying the immune system of the person with the virus. This can turn a simple winter cold into a horrible illness that may result in death. There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS. While there is a good amount of funding, it is expected that another 15-20 years is necessary to find a cure for the virus.

Both the Black Death and HIV/AIDS are able to be transmitted from person to person. The Bubonic Plague was much easier to contract. Touching someone or even being in a room with a large number of patients could possibly expose a person to the illness. HIV/AIDS, on the other hand, is harder to contract. The only way to get this disease is through the exchange of bodily fluids. While it is also possible to contract the Plague this way, most patients didn't live long enough after contracting it to infect others sexually.

Both the Bubonic Plague and HIV/AIDS caused mass hysteria in the areas they affected. Plague killed over one third of the population of Europe. In South Africa, the area with the largest percent of cases, one in five people carry the HIV virus. Because of lack of money to test for the virus, many people do not even know they have it until 5-7 years later when symptoms start to show. These high numbers are causing many people all over the world to fear what the world will be like in a few years.

The Black Death and HIV/AIDS, while dissimilar in the way they attack and kill, both have similar ways of affecting the public. Both are contagious and affect many people. Both cause fear and worry. Both plagues have and will continue to kill people. Black Plague has been cured with the exception of the septicemic form. HIV/AIDS has not.