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HIV May Have Been Present for 32,000 Years

By Gary Bell

October 11, 2010

Despite the persistent myth that HIV was a man-made disease, unleashed upon the unsuspecting, disenfranchised of our society (read gays and blacks), now comes more evidence that it may have been present in monkeys and apes for millennia. New research, published in Science magazine last month, report the presence of the ancestor of the simian HIV virus in Africa possibly dating back as far as 78,000 years. This fascinating research, that studied monkey species on a volcanic island off of the coast of West Africa, who developed in isolation, found that four of the six species had been infected with HIV.

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Although this study may help to answer certain questions, such as why HIV infects most simian species, but doesn't kill them, it fails to answer the main one: how did a relatively benign monkey virus become one of the greatest health crises in the history of mankind. Many still believe that the human HIV epidemic was caused by, purposely or inadvertently, human meddling.

Evidence of the great age of HIV does point to the likelihood that, over centuries, the virus killed off weaker monkeys leaving behind those who became resistant to it. However, does that mean that it will take thousands of years before we are able to adapt naturally to HIV? Can we survive that long with rising rates, declining government support and the aggressive mutation of the virus?

Our obvious advantage is, of course, our technological superiority. We now have over 30 medications to treat HIV and many believe that a cure is still possible. However, by following the path of HIV and other diseases, it hopefully reminds us of our fragility and vulnerability as we continue, sometimes in the interest of capitalism and expansion, to invade more exotic and isolated lands and interact with previously unknown species.

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See Also
More on the Origins of HIV

Reader Comments:

Comment by: T.rex (Los Angeles) Wed., Oct. 20, 2010 at 3:20 pm EDT
The author cites our 'technological advantage' with the meds... but really, taking meds ain't gonna make humans become resistant to the virus.

Darwin says, survival of the fittest. By fighting the virus with meds, the body is never put to the test. Thus, weak and strong will both survive.

If one day humans become resistant to HIV, it will be from a populace that fought it, naturally, with their bodies only.
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Comment by: JJ (KY) Sun., Oct. 17, 2010 at 12:58 am EDT
If HIV wasn't man made then we would have seen it existing in humans long before the early 80's. I also doubt it was created intentionally because no scientist could ever design or create an organism that has such superior stealth and destruction capabilities as HIV.

In my professional opinion I believe SIV evolved into HIV as a result of the race for life saving vaccinations. The reason I think this is because in the 70's they were using livers of monkeys to create the vaccines they were testing. Even though the scientific community knew about SIV and cautioned one another about using chimpanzee livers in their research, I don't necessarily think all of them listened or took the threat very seriously. Considering how valuable research funding is and how competitive scientists are to make a name for themselves I would not be surprised if there were some who found out they could save some $$$ and chose to purchase chimpanzees at some point instead of the higher priced monkey every other research institute was using. After all, the true threat of SIV to humans was just a theory.

I also believe this type of research was being conducted in Africa in the 70's and that tribal chiefs would force their people to go to these scientists and get medicine that would save the children. I'm referring to the polio vaccine. Hundreds of Africans were probably being used as test subjects on vaccines created by chimpanzee livers. They saw it as free medicine and at the time there was fear of children dying from this crippling disease. One of those vaccines was unknowingly contaminated and unfortunately that's all it took for SIV to mutate and discover a way to enter the human body.

But again....this is just my opinion
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Comment by: Hussein (Toronto) Mon., Oct. 11, 2010 at 2:34 pm EDT
It might have been present for that long, but that doesn't mean someone found and it injected on 'the unsuspecting, disenfranchised of our society' somewhere in the early 80s. The United States apologized recently for a 1946-1948 research study that purposely infected people in Guatemala with sexually transmitted diseases. Hmmm
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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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