Essay on the Origin of HIV and AIDS

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The origin of HIV and AIDS is largely veiled in obscurity, despite a large body of literature on the subject matter, several controversial theories regarding the genesis of HIV and AIDS exist. There exist spurious and valid speculations by a theorist who points to Africa as the cradle for the virus conversely, others detail the origin of the virus as a biological weapon manufactured in the laboratory. In evaluating the theories on the origins of HIV and AIDS, it can be pointed out, that varied theories which include but not limited to, Zoonosis theory, Serial passage theory, Oral polio vaccine theory, Hepatitis B vaccine theory, Contractors theory, and Duesberg theory, have been used to explain the genesis of the virus. These theories will be evaluated to understand the possible origins of HIV and AIDS virus. It however will be explained that these theories are not foolproof and are not a panacea in establishing an accurate origin of HIV and AIDS. All of the aforementioned facets shall be explained in the following write-up.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) belongs to a subgroup of a retrovirus called lentivirus which causes infection and progresses over time to Acquired Immune Deficiency (Gilma, 2018). Conversely, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome represents a lengthy period of HIV infection (Gilma, 2018). The zoonosis theory has been used to explain the origins of HIV and AIDS, by attributing the origins of HIV to animal sources such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and monkeys (Lu et al.,2016). In corroboration, Hunt (1994:160) asserts that the theory usually starts with monkeys, in equatorial Africa. The green monkeys are infected with a simian Immuno-virus also known, as the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). This SIV is pointed as causing an AIDS-like illness, which might have been a precursor for HIV-1 in humans. As this is not convincing, further explanation of the crossover of the virus from animals to humans is elaborated by Hunt (1994: 160) who asserts that

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It is generally speculated that the crossover from monkeys to humans occurred due to some sort of cultural sexual practice in the equatorial regions of Africa. In its most lurid presentation, this crossover occurs because of voodoo or shamanistic sexual practices, such as the injection of monkey blood from the green monkey to enhance sexual performance, pleasure, and excitement by some groups of Africans.

Furthermore, it is argued that primates eating human beings ferried the SIV and it progressed into HIV, moreover it is indicated that there exists a strong phylogenetic correlation between SIV and HIV ( Lu,2016). All the highlighted arguments tend to point to the origin of HIV and AIDS with emphasis to Africa, where primates are assumed to be commonly eaten (Gulma, 2018), this again is used as supporting evidence for this hypothesis. However convincing the theory might be, its veracity has been questioned, Marx et al.(2004) refutes the theory and opines that the zoonosis theory has never been proved and should be questioned. Marx et al (2004) further opined that if AIDS was a zoonosis, evidence of direct transmission from animals should be provided for instance in animal species as in rabies, a disease acquired directly from animals. Lu (2016) questions the theory based on time frame, if HIV and AIDS originated in Africa were primate-eating humans existed ever since time immemorial, why then did the virus only manifest in the 20th century (AD 1981) and not earlier? It should be pointed out that, if animal eating was the cause of the origin of HIV, this epidemic would have occurred hundreds of years ago. One can argue that the theory has a lot of gaps and is not based on veracity, but rather on eurocentrism views. Although so, it explains the assumed origins of HIV and AIDS.

  • The Serial passage of SIV into HIV theory has been used to explain the origin of HIV infections in humans. Lu et al.(2016) opine that the virus may not have emerged from outside sources as assumed in the zoonosis hypothesis. Katrak (2006:8) claims that
  • The process of serial passage commences when a person exposed to SIV, through retroviral zoonosis, receives an injection. When the same needle is used to inject another individual, the SIV gets transferred and infects the second person.

This process is re-repeated and the SIV adapts and grows stronger in the immune system (Katrak, 2006). According to Katrak (2006), inadequate resources led to the re-use of syringes and needles, in which from 1917-1919 six syringes were used to vaccinate 90, 000 people. As such the use of these unsterile needles exponentially exacerbated the opportunity for serial human passaging. Marx, Alcabes, and Drucker (2001) have highlighted in their studies that, SIV became 1000 times more exponentially pathogenic when it was passed to monkeys. Therefore it is probable that in humans it could have the same ripple effect. Although so, Lu (2016) assumes that the change of SIV to HIV was facilitated by genomic mutations of the virus, evolutions, and translocation. Biology Online (2021) notes that mutation is any change in the nucleotide sequence, in which such a change occurs in a chromosome or gene. In other words, the argument in this theory is that the SIV in infected human immune systems, through time and process of transference, to other human immune systems changed, became severely pathogenic, and resulted in HIV and AIDS. This transformed virus became virulent enough to be transmitted through sexual contact and originated the HIV and AIDS epidemic (Katrak, 2006).

Adding to the above paragraph, one can point out that this theory is the most probable and more practical compared to the zoonosis hypothesis, which needs ample verification. Although so, the serial passage theory does not go without criticism, as it fails to provide evidence of how SIV in monkeys metamorphosed as HIV and AIDS in humans. If syringes and unsterile needless were responsible for passage and mutations why did it take so long for the transformation to occur, a tremendous population of 90 000 or more from 1917-1919 were administered with unsterile needless (Katrak, 2006). Why then did the virus become manifest only in 1981, after 70 years, when the pathogenic level in SIV is argued to exponentially increase 1000 times more after every three transference? Moreover, the studies carried by Marx, Alcabes, and Drucker (2001) were on monkeys, and it needs to be highlighted that the evidence from this experiment cannot entirely be supported as foolproof and relevant to the human species. However, this theory remains an 'educated assumption', which has find more acceptance in explaining the origin of the virus.

Furthermore, the oral polio vaccine (OPV) theory assumes that HIV and AIDS pandemic originated from polio vaccines that were grown in chimpanzee cultures of kidney cells and were infected with the SIV virus (Hooper,1999 in Gulma, 2018). Worobey (2004) further authenticates that HIV-1 may have been passed into humans as a result of the contamination of the oral polio vaccine. However, it also needs to be questioned if the polio vaccine developed before 1981 had been contaminated. Gelin, Modlin, and Plotkin (2001) assert that these mass oral polio vaccination campaigns were undertaken in the northeastern Congo region, from February 1957, where polio infections were manifest. In light of such arguments, proponents of this theory ascertain that this could have resulted as the source of HIV-1 in Central Africa. The above claims have sincerely been used as a justification pointing to the inception of the HIV and AIDS virus.

In as much as it is so, the oral polio vaccine has not been spared on its deficits and weakness in explaining the origins of the virus, it has been questioned on several facets, which makes it shallow if not narrow to understand. The first counter-argument was provided by Koprowski (2001) who dismiss Edward Hooper's book (The river) which is the backbone of the oral polio vaccine theory. According to Koprowski (2001: 831) 'The book the river, is based on assumptions and not facts. The argument points that there is no link between oral polio vaccine and the human immunodeficiency virus. Gulma (2018) further highlights that this hypothesis was one of the earliest theories on the origin of AIDS which tried to link HIV with OPV falsely. As this is not convincing, an analysis of some 5 samples of OPV in storage at the Wistar Institute could not find any HIV or SIV sequences or even components of a chimpanzee cellular (Gulma,2018). This led the Journal of ' Nature' (2004) to label Edward Hooper's hypothesis as 'refuted.'

Additionally, Hepatitis B Vaccine (HBV) theory has also been used to explain the origins of the HIVAIDS pandemic. Horowitz (2001 cited in Gulima, 2018) through an article titled 'Early Hepatitis B Vaccines and the ' Man-Made' origin of HIVAIDS' argued that the HB vaccine theory is the strongest and most probable theory relating to the genesis of HIV. In support Cantwell (2011) asserts that the AIDS virus epidemic first began in the US, after a short hepatitis B vaccine experiment from 1978-1981, in these experiments homosexual men were used. Cantwell (2011) further denies that the virus jumped from animals to human beings through chimpanzees. In providing evidence for his claims, Cantwell (2011) notes that the hepatitis B vaccine was administered to 30 homosexual men in Manhattan who had been infected with Hepatitis B, soon after this, the first cases of AIDS appeared in Manhattan. Gulma (2018) assumes that HIV could have been introduced into the population through the hepatitis B vaccine which was being used to treat infected individuals. Whilst others insist that the US government intentionally injected bisexual men with the virus during 1978 hepatitis B experiments (Time, 2019). The assumption is that the hepatitis B vaccine was contaminated with HIVAIDS. Cantwell (2011) cited in Gulma (2018) further corroborates the claims that the United States government scientists had manufactured HIV, and later the virus got its passage through HBV experiments.

In as convincing as the above theory is, one needs to question the veracity of the theory, for instance, the presence of HIV after the experiments could have been a mere coincidence that occurred, as HIV-1 and HIV-2 had arguably been present from other sources such as animal-human passage. Heller (2015) notes that these are part of conspiracy theories, in which evidence to implicate the authorities is lacking. The theorist also fails to provide evidence of the contaminated Hepatitis B vaccines, but only assumes that they could have been there on the mere presence of HIV cases in Manhattan after the HBV experiments. One can argue that this theory represents a body of knowledge that justifies the genesis of HIVAIDS, though lacking veracity. Although so the theory has aided as an alternative viewpoint on understanding the possible genesis of HIVAIDS.

As this is not enough, the contractor's theory has been used to explain the origins of HIVAIDS. The contractor's theory includes two theories that explain the origins of HIVAIDS, implicating the US government. The first theory explains the genesis of HIVAIDS by implicating the US government, as key in making the virus. Gulma (2018) is of the view that Jakob Segal (1911-1995), outlined that 2 viruses were split to produce HIVAIDS. The two viruses were Visna and HTLV-1 manufactured at a U.S. military Fort Detrick. According to Jakob Segal in Gulma (2018) notes that the virus was manufactured around 1977 and 1978 and was tested on prison inmates who in exchange could be compensated with an early release. It is further highlighted that through these prisoner volunteers, the virus spread exponentially to the broader population. The problem with this hypothesis is that Jakob Segal was linked with the Russian KGB Officers in operation Operation Infektion' (Gulma,2018). Therefore Segal could have devised this hypothesis through orders as a way to discredit the US government, which would mean that the theory could be biased. Guller (2018:18) further questions this hypothesis by noting 'One thing confusing is that it was not known whether Jakob Segal proposed his hypothesis based on orders or he did that independently'. In such light of the argument, it would be suicidal to accept the origin of HIVAIDS as entirely based on the aforementioned Jakob Segal hypothesis.

Adding to the above, the second contractor's theory was by Leonard Horowitz (1996). He expressed that HIV was a by-product of Litton Bionetics (Defense contractors for the U.S. Government), with the intent of serving as a bio-warfare and population control strategy. It is further asserted that HIV was deliberately designed in U.S. military laboratories since 1970 for genocidal purposes (Gulma,2018). Of interest was that the theory was neither proven correct or wrong by the U.S. government or the U.S. army. It then gave ample room for people to assume and embrace this allegation as realistic. In as much as it is so, Africa update (2002) notes that it is impossible to determine the truth about biological warfare in the engineering of HIVAIDS, as a scientist involved are sworn to secrecy and silence. Contrary Heller (2015) points that it is difficult to debunk the reality of these theories, as they could be conspiracy theories. Although so this theory explains the origins of HIVAIDS as bio-warfare which was meant to reduce population. However, these theories need not be relegated into oblivion as they could be explaining in truth the genesis of the HIVAIDS virus, at the same time they need to be taken with deep caution as they might be biased in explaining the origins of HIVAIDS virus.

Lastly, the Duesberg hypothesis has been used to explain the origins of HIVAIDS, though very controversial theory as it is backed up from HIV denial perception. The hypothesis is named after Professor Peter Duesberg of the University of California. He ascertained that AIDS was a result of non-infectious factors, though not limited to recreational drug use (Heller,2015). In this theory, HIV is considered to be a 'harmless passenger virus' which does not correlate whatsoever to AIDS, this claim insinuates that HIV is a harmless virus that is incapable of causing AIDS. Therefore the genesis of AIDS is a result of the use of drugs, such as Zidovudine. In corroboration, Duesberg reiterated that anti-HIV drugs such as Zidovudine (AZT) were responsible for causing AIDS (Gulima,2018). Therefore the continued use and dependency on anti-retroviral drugs to enhance the immune system, contrary leads to HIVAIDS infection. However, the verdict was disproved through placebo-controlled studies which proved that AZT when used as a drug for HIVAIDS, produced continued and short-lived improvements, thereby weakening opportunistic infections from developing (Gulima, 2018). The theory is controversial and assumed to be a product of cherry-picking subjective scientific data while relegating evidence in the role of HIV in AIDS (Gulma,2018). Though, provides a unique point in the origins of HIVAIDS.

In conclusion, a myriad range of theories on the origins of HIVAIDS is present, from the most probable to the list probable. These theories remain controversial and unable to holistically detail the genesis of the pandemic. In the above write-up, it has been evaluated that the zoonosis theory, serial passage theory, oral polio vaccine theory, hepatitis B vaccine, contractors, and Duesberg theories are among the prominent theories to account for the origin of HIVAIDS. Although so there are not exhaustive, foolproof, or panacea to solve the myth of HIVAIDS origin, which has perplexed the scientific community.

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