Academic Journal: The HIV/AIDS Origin Theories

                                         The HIV/AIDS Origin Theories

             Throughout many villages in Africa, men raid the streets savagely raping young girls and infants, all in hopes of a cure to this vast, widespread HIV/AIDS epidemic. The myth of “The Virgin Cure”, as explained in 16th century Europe, where widespread belief suggested that sexual intercourse with a virgin was the cure for syphilis, gonorrhea and other STDs, as well as HIV/AIDS, says MRC News release in (South Africa).

            The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is prodigious. Its origin has perplexed scientist since the illness first came to the United States in the early 1980s, says Princetown University’s Press. When HIV/AIDS hit the United States it spread like wildflowers, sparking an era of terror. During this era, the gay and lesbian communities where harshly slandered and alienated due to stereotypical ignorance and lack of knowledge. Researchers also stated that medical journals and books began to claim that AIDS had come from Haiti and that Haitian immigrants were responsible for the AIDS epidemic in the United States. Though this theory was short lived, they too suffered severe discrimination and cruelty as a result. According to newspaper reports, when a number of gay men in New York and California began to develop rare infections that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment in the early 1980s, AIDS did not yet have a name. For an extensive time period HIV/AIDS was thought to be a disease of homosexuals and drug addicts, especially needle users. This theory would later be put to rest.

                In February 1999, a group of researchers from the University Of Alabama stated that they had found a type of SIVcpz that was almost identical to HIV-1.  SIV is a virus found in chimpanzee’s blood that can live, infect and reproduce in the T cells of a human host, then ultimately transform from SIV to HIV. Researchers made this discovery during a ten year- long study into the origin of the virus. Samples were said to have proved that HIV/AIDS manifested in chimps and at some point crossed species from chimps to humans. There are five major theories as to how HIV/AIDS originated, this one being “The Hunter’s Theory”. It suggests that SIVcpz was transferred to humans as a result of chimps being killed and eaten or their blood getting into the cuts or wounds of hunters. The virus then adapted within its new host and became HIV-1. It has been known for a long time that certain viruses can cross species. This crossover is known as zoonosis.

              The second theory called,“ The Oral Polio Vaccine Theory”, or ‘ The OPV Theory”, states that HIV was transferred through medical interventions. Journalist, Edward Hooper suggested that HIV can be traced to the testing of the oral polio vaccine called Chat. Chat produced live polio vaccines to be cultivated in living tissues and given in kidney cells taken from local chimps infected with SIVcmz. This he claims would have resulted in the contamination of the vaccine with chimp SIV, and a large number of people subsequently became infected with HIV. Others argued that oral administration of a vaccine seems unlikely to cause infection because SIV/HIV needs to get directly into the bloodstream to cause infection. In February 2000, The Wistar Institution of Philadelphia, one if the original manufacturers of the Chat vaccine, ran further testing one the vaccine and in April 2001  announced that no trace had been found either of HIV or chimpanzee SIV. Conclusively “The OPV Theory”, remains unproven.

                  Theory three is the most common; it is “The Contaminated Needle Theory”. This theory argues that the use of disposable plastic syringes became common place around the world as a cheap, sterile way to administer medicine. It claims that syringes were very costly and therefore used to inject multiple patients without any sterilization in between.

                  “The Colonialism Theory”, is one of the most recent theories to enter the debate. It was proposed in 2000 by Jim Moore, an American specialist in primate behavior. His claim is that the colonial rule was particularly harsh and many Africans were forced into labor camps where sanitation was poor, food was scarce and physical demands were extreme. These facts alone were enough to create poor health, so SIV could easily have infected the labor force and taken advantage of weakened immune systems to become HIV. Furthermore a stray or perhaps sick chimp with SIV, would have been an easy meal for the workers. Also many camps actively employed prostitutes to keep workers happy, creating numerous possibilities for onward transmission. Moore further supports his theory by stating that these camps were set up around the same time HIV was believed to been passed into humans.

                   Last but not least is “The Conspiracy Theory”. This theory claims that HIV/AIDS is man-made. A recent survey in the U.S. found that a significant number of African Americans believe HIV was manufactured as a part of a biological warfare to wipe out large numbers of blacks and homosexuals. This genocide attempt was said to have been done under auspices of the U.S. Federal Special Cancer Virus Program with help of the CIA. It’s believed that the virus was spread either deliberately or inadvertently to thousands of people all over the world through small pox inoculation programs, or to gay men through Hepatitis B vaccine trials.

                While none of these theories can be definitely disproved, the evidence given to back them up is usually based upon supposition and speculation. A lot of the evidence ignores the clear links between SIV and HIV or the fact that the virus has been identified as far back as 1959. With the evidence gathered over the years, it seems highly likely that Africa was the continent where the transfer of HIV to humans first occurred. Monkeys from Asia and South America have never been found to have SIVs that could transfer to HIV in humans, says researchers of Princetown University. Meanwhile the HIV/AIDS epidemic hits close to home. People are infected with HIV globally, maybe even some we know. It is a slow killer, heartbreaking to watch and even harder to except; there is no cure.

                The HIV/AIDS epidemic hit the United States and spread like wildflowers, causing an era of terror. The AIDS rates in Africa are devastating and continue to rise. Static’s show that an estimate of 4.2 to 4.7 million individuals in Africa are infected. It shows an average of five children, are raped every hour of everyday, of every week, of every year. Between 1500 to 1700 new HIV/AIDS infections occur daily in South Africa, and this belief of “The Virgin Cure”, is continual. In the United States, a estimate of one million people have been diagnosed with AIDS since the beginning of the epidemic. African Americans accounted for the largest group of people diagnosed in the U.S. An estimated four thousand children under the age of thirteen are also living with HIV/AIDS in the United States. The figures are alarming. However, we will never know the exact dates as to when HIV/AIDS first transpired or exactly how it spread from person to person. For Scientist today, their focus and main concern should diligently be that of a cure, treatment and prevention. The HIV/AIDS epidemic so abominably changed the world and today the world can change to ensure that a similar pandemic never occurs again.

                                                                                                    -Jeanine Monique

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