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Mongabay.com is considered a leading source of information on tropical forests by some of the world's top ecologists and conservationists. TROPICAL RAINFORESTS: Disappearing Opportunities

The Origin of AIDS



The real origin of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is not an experiment gone awry or a Western conspiracy against Africans, but a virus from the rainforest of West or Central Africa.

AIDS is actually not a single disease but a collection of infections and malignancies that occur as a result of infection by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV weakens the immune system by destroying lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that wards off infection.

There are three known HIV viruses (HIV-0, HIV-1, HIV-2), all which are classified as retroviruses of the lentivirus family. These viruses are descended from simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) present in monkeys and apes. Presently it is still unclear how HIV-1 (the virus that most menaces man) made the species jump from SIV-infected chimpanzees to humans. One theory is that the SIV contamination of polio vaccines administered during widespread immunization campaigns in Central Africa during the late 1950s was responsible for the transfer. Another leading theory suggests that HIV originated from "natural transfers" of SIVs (through bites and scratches) from simians to humans in Central Africa. Under this theory, the relatively recent outbreak of HIV as a global epidemic can be attributed to increasing contact between forest dwellers and the outside world through urbanization, civil unrest, deforestation, immunization campaigns, and the construction of an extensive road network.

At the 7th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco, a team of researchers announced they had traced the divergence of AIDS from SIV to around 1930. The study assumed genetic changes in the virus occur at a constant rate. Should this dating prove correct, it would undermine OPV/AIDS hypothesis.

More HIV/AIDS resources at mongabay.com:
Table showing the impact of AIDS on life expectancy in the Developing World
Anti-HIV compounds from the rainforest
Editorial proposing estimates of AIDS deaths may be exaggerated
AIDS is leading cause of death for South African women [The Wall Street Journal]
FDA fast-tracks HIV vaccine [The Wall Street Journal]
AIDS vaccine trials [The Wall Street Journal]
U.N. Estimates 480 million fewer people [The Wall Street Journal]




Continued: Extinction


Other pages in this section:

Consequences of Deforestation
Erosion
Loss of Renewable Resources
Atmospheric Role
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References
References
References
References
References
Local Climate Regulation
Loss of Species, Disease
Climactic Role
Extinction
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Kids version of this section
- Why are rainforests important?
- Climate
- Home to wildlife
- Water cycle
- Erosion control
- Extinction


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Copyright Rhett Butler 1994-2015

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions generated from mongabay.com operations (server, data transfer, travel) are mitigated through an association with Anthrotect,
an organization working with Afro-indigenous and Embera communities to protect forests in Colombia's Darien region.
Anthrotect is protecting the habitat of mongabay's mascot: the scale-crested pygmy tyrant.

"Rainforest" is used interchangeably with "rain forest" on this site. "Jungle" is generally not used.