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By Gary Bell

August 5, 2009

Confused? I had not heard of that word either, until I did a little research for this blog about animal-to-human disease transmission. Zoonoses are emerging infectious diseases that have transferred to humans from animal hosts. I embarked on this research after learning of the discovery of a new HIV strain thought to have originated from gorillas native to Cameroon. This makes the fourth documented strain of HIV: strain "M, the most common and "N," "O" and now "P." The latter three seem to manifest themselves primarily from the Cameroon region.

With so much evidence available that HIV is a Zoonose; i.e., that it originated from an animal host, in this case, chimpanzees, then why do so many people still believe that the HIV epidemic is a government conspiracy or some equally paranoid theory?

In fact, most of the temperate diseases (found in temperate or tropical climates) such as measles, mumps, rubella, smallpox, influenza A and tuberculosis, are believed to have come from domestic animals. Moreover, most of the major infectious diseases also originated in animals: West Nile, Mad Cow, Cholera, Syphilis, Malaria, Ebola, Lyme Disease, Hantavirus, SARS, Swine Flu.

Clearly, we need a little science lesson. It's time to jettison the conspiracy theories and understand that WE -- our behavior, our ignorance, our intolerance and our apathy pose our greatest risk for HIV infection, not a government test tube!

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See Also
10 Harmful Myths About HIV/AIDS
AIDS Myths


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Transition to Hope

This year marks Bell's 14th as the executive director of the Philadelphia-based BEBASHI (Blacks Educating Blacks About Sexual Health), founded in 1985 as the nation's first AIDS organization serving African Americans with HIV. Bell has been widely praised, not only for increasing funding and accountability at a time when HIV donations have plummeted, but also for launching such innovative programs as a women's initiative, prison-discharge planning, and, most recently, a diabetes intervention.

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