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Where Did AIDS Come From?

Nilesh Parekh Oct 03, 2020
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has become very notorious as it is spreading very fast among people all over the world.

HIV Origin Search

Although there are many stories/guesses of how and from where the disease originated, HIV is strongly believed to have been originated in Africa at around 1940.
According to stored records, the first known patient of AIDS disease was from one of the states of Africa in 1959 whose blood was stored in order to find out the possible cause of his death. In the tests that were carried out, the blood was confirmed to have contained HIV.

Detection of the Virus In the U.S.

First Cases

The AIDS virus was first discovered around the year 1980 in the United States. A group of young gay men and some drug users were getting ill often, and there was no trace of the disease that they were suffering from. Most of the diseases that they were falling prey to were related to the immune system.
It is not known how much time the disease took to surface, and how the disease spread. The virus of AIDS found a new home for itself from one man to another in the same group, and also those who came in sexual contact or used the same syringe which was used by an infected person.
After a few years, people from the group began to die, the diseases which killed all those people, were some of the common diseases which affect humans to a much larger extent if they have a damaged immune system.

Identifying Symptoms of HIV

The T cells, also known as CD4 cells, which help the human body in fighting the diseases were found damaged and their level was lowered in the patients suffering from the mysterious disease. It was the outbreak of a new disease and it was identified and named as AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) in 1981.
Doctors started research in order to find out the possible causes of the disease. First, it was not known whether AIDS was caused by viral infection or something else until two doctors, Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo, found the virus causing AIDS. The virus was called Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
Further in 1985, a blood test was formulated which helped in identifying if a person was carrying HIV. Since 1985, this blood test is used effectively for diagnosing HIV infection. Some more tests were also found to help in diagnosing the virus and the disease using the saliva and urine.

Theories on How AIDS Began

It is believed that HIV inherits its properties from a virus, SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), which is found in monkeys. The AIDS virus also has developed its own characteristics along with those which it inherits from SIV.
Primate Theory
SIV has exactly the same genetic structure as that of HIV and both viruses are transmitted in the same way from one host to another. SIV causes AIDS in monkeys and has exactly the same effects on them, but it does not show any effect on humans, whereas HIV causes AIDS in humans, but not in monkeys.
There are again many interesting stories/guesses/hypotheses as to how HIV was born from SIV and how SIV got mixed in the human blood.
According to this theory, the infection occurred due to the consumption of monkey meat by humans. The meat and the blood contained the SIV, which underwent mutation and thus, was responsible for zoonosis (transmission of a disease from animals into humans).
Hunters Theory
The genetic make up of these primates resembles the most with humans, and therefore may have provided a compatible match for the virus to evolve into the HIV. Since this study, the hunting and eating of primate meat has been banned.
Edward Hooper, a journalist brought another theory through his book, The River. He said, an experimental polio vaccine (OPV or Oral Polio Vaccination) called CHAT was given to people in Belgian Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda.
Polio CHAT Theory
This vaccine was believed to have been developed with the help of the living kidney cells of chimpanzees. It is possible that these primates were infected by SIV, and using their cells may have led to mass mutation to HIV.
However, this theory was rejected by experts, and the Winstar Institute of Philadelphia, that had participated in the manufacture of CHAT. They carried out tests on the original sample of the OPV and found that the living cells belonged to a Macaque Monkey, which does not harbor the SIV. Thus the theory was baseless.

Conspiracy Theory

Many believe that HIV was created by man, and developed in a lab after years of testing. It was developed in order to eliminate the African-American and the Gay people through Biological extinction.
The virus is believed to have been created by the 'Special Cancer Virus Program' (SCVP) and the CIA. However, there is absolutely no proof to this theory and has become an apt story line for a science-fiction thriller.

How AIDS Spread

During the first few years of the detection of the new disease AIDS, all the possible reasons of its spread were unknown. This led to quick spread of the disease from one infected person to another.
Back in the decade of 60s, there were very rare chances of a disease spreading across continents or countries.  It was possible only when one person traveled from one country to another and carried the disease knowingly or unknowingly. The spread of AIDS is also said to be related with the same situation.
It is said that the flight attendants who used to fly across the seas, had many sex partners in almost all the countries they visited. This is how AIDS must have spread to America.
Later, it was discovered that HIV can spread from one person to another through blood transfusion, through sexual intercourse between an infected person and a healthy person, use of infected syringes, etc.
Right from the time of its outbreak, the virus has infected and killed millions of people till today. Although scientists are still not sure about the origin of HIV, I hope, they soon discover a drug that can cure AIDS.