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WHERE DID THE AGENT CAUSING AIDS COME FROM
Nov 25, 1996

I would like to have more information on the possible origins of AIDS and the HIV viruses. I believe that if we can't trace the origins of the disease, it is possible for anyone to become infected and that the viruscan never be unexistant. WHERE DID THE AGENT CAUSING AIDS COME FROM

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi.Thank you for your question.

The Origin of the AIDS Virus:

From time to time, new diseases are discovered that infect people. Just in the past 20 or so years, we have seen new diseases arise, like Hantavirus, Ebola Virus, Legionnaires Disease, Lyme Disease, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and Toxic Shock Syndrome. Among the new diseases, AIDS has become the most notorious.

AIDS is caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). This disease is believed to have first started in Africa sometime late in the 1950's or early in the 1960's. The HIV virus is believed to have evolved from the monkey AIDS virus, SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus). The hypothesis that HIV evolved from SIV is based on the many similarities between these two viruses, especially at the genetic level. These two viruses are genetically very similar, and are transmitted the same way. However HIV only causes AIDS in humans, and SIV only causes AIDS in monkeys. The SIV virus, like HIV, is found in blood. From what we can tell, the HIV virus entered man via monkey blood. This could have been possible by either drinking the blood of monkeys, eating raw monkeys, or perhaps another direct exposure of monkey blood into humans.

Once HIV entered humans, over time it spread person-to-person primarily through heterosexual contact. In fact, even today, most of the worlds HIV/AIDS cases are spread by heterosexual contact, not by homosexual contact or by needle sharing.

Throughout the centuries, when new diseases spread in people, it took many months, years, or even decades to spread around the world. With the use of airplanes in the 20th century, new diseases can spread around the world much faster than ever before. For example, a person can now fly from the United States to Africa in about one day. Before airplanes were invented, it would have taken months or years to make this same journey. As people fly around the world in a matter of hours, they can spread new diseases with them. In fact, some of the early AIDS cases in the United States were linked to a male Flight Attendant who flew all around the world (including Africa). This man had literally thousands of sexual partners. As he flew around the world, he spread the HIV virus when he had sex with his numerous sexual partners.

There is absolutely no evidence that HIV was man-made. This is especially true when you look at our level of technology back in the late 1950's and early 1960's. Back in those years, we did not have the technical tools it would have taken to "invent" a virus. Even today, we do not have the technology to invent a new virus. To a limited extent, we can now alter viruses, look at viruses under a microscope, and study their genetic make-up. However, these capabilities were not in existence back in the 1950's and 1960's. In fact, the genetic make-up of this virus is so complex, that even today, we do not have a total understanding of how the virus works at the genetic level. There was talk that the virus was spread in a polio vaccine years ago, however this theory was later disproven.

As man encroaches upon the rain forests and jungles of the world, it would not be a surprise if we become exposed to still other new diseases. Diseases are a part of nature. However, we must do our best to prevent spread of new diseases, and to educate people about prevention of the diseases that are already around us.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide). Rick Sowadsky MSPH CDS



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