AIDS uproots the very defense system that fends off all ailments and infections. But where did it all begin? Read about the history of HIV/AIDS from the following article to trace the origins of the very manifestation of the legendary Grim Reaper.
The heart of the security agenda is protecting lives – and we now know that the number of people who will die of AIDS in the first decade of the 21st Century will rival the number that died in all the wars in all the decades of the 20th century.
~ AL Gore
Our immune systems act as the burglar-alarm cum defense-commandos of our biological systems that detect and disable the invasion of any foreign entity which they deem suspicious or dangerous if allowed to remain and spread within our bodies. But, what if this danger alarm is turned off? What if these biological soldiers are incapacitated? Wouldn’t that turn our bodies into playgrounds for diseases and infections with germs and microorganisms taking over and running amuck? In fact, once our immune defenses are disabled, previously harmless and insignificant infections can assume fatal proportions – yes, a simple cold or a minor cut can kill you! HIV is one such death dealer which attacks the immune system and renders your body hopelessly vulnerable. But when and how did it all start? AIDS and HIV were almost alien terms in the times of our great grandfathers. How and when did this killer entity come into being. Let’s take a tour of the history of HIV/AIDS to find out the details.
History of AIDS and HIV
The first officially recorded instance in the history of HIV dates back to the year 1981 when the Center Disease Control, US, came across five cases of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in Los Angeles, all five subjects being homosexual males. This instance marked the genesis of the history of AIDS in America. While the concerned US authorities were busy identifying the causal factor (they only knew the disease from the associated conditions which followed an HIV infection), the death-dance of this pandemic had already taken a stronghold in many parts of the African continent.
The history of AIDS in Africa dates back to the time between the late 19th and early 20th century. The origin of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus can be traced back to the Sub-Saharan non human primates during that period. There are several theories regarding how this virus was transmitted to humans but the most practical explanation seems to be the Bushmeat Theory. According to this theory, the virus probably entered the human biology for the first time when an infected primate either bit a hunter or a handler/vendor of primate meat got cut while handling the infected flesh and the virus got transmitted via contact of bodily fluid. HIV is believed to have evolved from the SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) which had originally infected the primates. HIV is the mutated form of SIV. Of the two types of HIV (HIV-1 and HIV-2), HIV-1 is the most ubiquitous and pathogenic viral strain which has traveled out of Africa and is responsible for almost all infections that have occurred outside the Dark Continent. HIV-2 is mostly confined to Africa and the first instance of HIV-2 infection out of Africa was recorded in 1987. It was the first case in the history of AIDS in the US that involved the HIV-2 strain.
The following table recounts a brief chronological journey of the HIV and AIDS phenomenon from 1959 till date. Check out the following chronological HIV facts.
|SIGNIFICANT DEVELOPMENTS IN TERMS OF HIV/AIDS
|25 Year Old British printer David Carr sought medical help for and succumbed to a strange ailment with a variety of symptoms (purple lesions, shortness of breath, rapid weight loss, etc.). The doctors at the Royal Infirmary of Manchester, under whose medical supervision Carr was, suspected tuberculosis as the possible culprit and treated him for the same but in vain. However, an autopsy revealed cytomegalovirus and P. jiroveci infections which puzzled the doctors. His tissues were kept preserved for further study and it was not until 31 years later that HIV tests were performed on them. Needless to say, they tested positive.
|Preserved blood samples of a Congolese man revealed traces of the HIV although it is unknown whether or not he had developed AIDS. Shortly after, a biopsy of a preserved lymph node from a Congolese woman revealed similar results.
|A 15 year old African-American male, known as Robert R., succumbed to Kaposi’s sarcoma. The possibility of AIDS as a cause of death was suspected around 1984 and this was confirmed by medical researchers at the Tulane University School of Medicine in 1987.
|The Noe family (consisting of Norwegian sailor Arvid Noe, his wife and minor daughter) succumbed to AIDS. Noe experienced the first symptoms of AIDS in 1969 which was eight years past his voyage along the West African coast. He had contacted gonorrhea during this period. A test of his and his wife’s preserved tissue samples in 1988 revealed HIV-1 strain.
|The first recorded case of AIDS surfaced when the Center Disease Control, US, came across five homosexual males who were suffering from Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia in Los Angeles. At that time, the disease had no specific name and it came to be known as GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) when a number of similar cases came to be reported in Southern California. All of these subjects were homosexual males and this first triggered the suspicion of the possibility of a sexually transmitted infection as the causal agent.
|Dr. Luc Montagnier’s team at the Pasteur Institute claimed that they had identified the cause behind AIDS as a new strain of retrovirus which they had isolated from lymphoid ganglions. They named the virus LAV (lymphadenopathy-associated virus)
|The discovery of the causative virus was confirmed by Robert Gallo’s team and it was renamed as the HTLV-III (human T lymphotropic virus type III) in 1985. The very next year, more detailed reports were published, citing the LAV and the HTLV-II to be the same virus and originating from the same source and it was confirmed that this virus was solely responsible for causing AIDS.
|The name HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) was officially allotted to the AIDS virus in May 1986 by the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses.
|Robert Shafer’s team at the Stanford University School of Medicine has established that they have detected the presence of an endogenic lentivirus belonging to the same genus as the HIV in the genes of the Gray Mouse Lemur. This means that lentiviruses have existed on Earth for more than 10 million years, way before humans first became aware of the existence of HIV, which is a pretty recent phenomenon.
|Recent researches have proved that monkeys in Bioko (an island that is 32 km off the west coast of Africa) have been infected by SIV since as early as 32, 000 years ago.
You may also check out the following HealthHearty resources for more information on HIV/AIDS:
That was a brief history of HIV/AIDS, complete with a timeline of when it was discovered and what subsequent researches unveiled various aspects about it. The latest discovery that monkeys in Bioko have been infected by SIV since 32, 000 years ago has made scientists to come to a conclusion that it is possible that the human population will develop a similar extent of immunity to HIV infection over a similar stretch of time. This means that it is possible that the human system will evolve and adapt naturally to HIV so that it ceases to cause infection any more.