Where did HIV come from?
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is the causative agent of AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome). There are actually two types of HIV; HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is the dominant virus worldwide, whereas HIV-2 is largely confined to West African countries and those with links to this area such as France and Portugal.
According to a 2005 survey of African Americans living in the US, almost 50% of the respondents believed that HIV was manufactured in a lab. Furthermore, over 25% believed that this was done by the government. A significant number also believed that it was created in order to control the population of black people/homosexuals.
There is absolutely no evidence in support these theories and a lot of evidence to suggest they’re baloney. Some of the earliest documented cases of HIV were in the late 1950s; it’s absurd to think that scientists would have had the knowledge or technology to create viruses back then. We only identified the structure of DNA in 1953. We’ve only just managed to create the first synthetic bacterial genome, let alone create a virus from scratch. Creating a virus would require knowledge of genetic manipulation. We simply did not have the expertise to be able to achieve something like this at that time
There are a few different theories about how these viruses got into the population. The simplest explanation is that humans came into contact with the blood or other secretions of infected primates which is perfectly plausible since, for example, sooty mangabeys were both kept as pets and slaughtered for bushmeat in West Africa, the same region that HIV-2 is most prevalent. It would be easy for infected bodily fluids to come into contact with broken skin during the bitchering process.
Given the fact that medical resources are costly, it is plausible that during immunization programs in Africa, healthcare professionals would have shared needles, providing ample opportunity to spread infection through the population. This, coupled with an increase in international travel alongside sexual promiscuity and intravenous drug use, seems a logical explanation for the emergence of HIV.
Another theory is that humans became infected from contaminated oral polio vaccines. The vaccine in question was called CHAT which required the use of living tissue for production. The idea was that the kidney cells used in the production line came from SIV infected chimps and thus a large number of people were exposed. However, this theory falls down because as we have seen, not all of the HIVs came from chimps. It’s also extremely unlikely that oral vaccines would result in transmission since, unless compromised, the mouth is a pretty good barrier to infection. Furthermore, researchers found stocks of the vaccine used and when it was tested, no traces of SIV were found. This theory has therefore largely been refuted.
In sum, while it is difficult to definitively prove where HIV came from, we can make assertions based on the best available evidence. This evidence points to a simian (monkey or ape) origin, not the government. Everyone loves to hear about a good conspiracy theory, but it really does not add up here.
(Source: I fucking love science).