In the research about the interconnection between genetic predisposition and the conditions that trigger the onset of various modern diseases, the topic under focus is HIV/AIDS. HIV is an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus while AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. This is one of the most dreaded diseases in the world and so far has caused so many deaths, thus threatening the human race since up to now no cure has been identified through researchers and scientists are spending a lot of time and money in trying to come up with a cure.
HIV/AIDS is not just a serious threat to the human race and socio-economic development but it’s a real threat to our very existence. It has reduced many families to the status of beggars, with children being orphaned, families separated and divorced and others suffering psychological trauma. Millions of people are already affected by the disease with a major blow on socio-economic development. In an effort to check the spread of the disease, governments of the world and other organizations such as Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) have come up with innovative responses on how to deal with and contain the disease. The rights of victims living with HIV/AIDS and those affected have been infringed; they have been subjected to public morals at the expense of their human rights. In some countries like the U.S.A, Australia, and the Netherlands, they have been able to contain the disease because it has been accepted as any other ailment and not public health or disaster as is the case in the third world countries.
In the question of where HIV started, various theories, ideologies, and arguments have been brought up by various proponents and researchers. According to research conducted by Moore (2006), HIV illnesses are thought to have come into light in the early 1980s with the first case being reported in the U.S.A whereby a number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed to be resistant to any kind of treatment. However, the discovery of HIV was made later and it was discovered that it is the one that causes AIDS.
However, a research that was conducted by a group of researchers, Beatrice and Share (1999) of the University of Alabama, HIV is believed to have originated from monkeys especially the chimpanzees who were living in the west-central of Africa and more so in Cameroon forest in West Africa. These monkeys, as the research indicates, were infected by a virus by the name Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) which is now generally accepted that HIV is a descendant of simian immunodeficiency virus because certain strains of SIVs bear a very close resemblance to HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-2 is found to be closely related to SIV found in the white-collared monkey which is indigenous to West Africa.
But the question is how the virus managed to crossover from animal species, in this case, the monkeys, to human beings. In response to this, various theories have been brought out to explain how the crossover took place and how the virus managed to continue mutating and thriving in human beings. To begin with is the hunters’ theory, of which of all the theories that explain the origin of the virus seems to be more realistic and to bear evidence. As pointed out by Cohen and John, (2000), the hunters’ theory claims that SIV in monkeys was transferred to humans as a result of chimpanzees being killed and eaten or their blood getting into cuts on the humans. Normally, as the study indicates, the hunter’s body would have fought off the SIV but on a few occasions, it adapted itself within its new human host and became HIV-1. The study also indicates that retroviral transfer from these monkeys to hunters is still taking place even to date.
The other theory advanced to explain the existence of the HIV virus in human beings from monkeys is the colonialism theory. Though the theory has got its bases from the hunter theory, it argues that people in countries that were under colonial rule were being oppressed in that they lacked the basics like food, their sexual needs and were suffering from diseases such as small pox. As a result of these conditions, the colonialists hired prostitutes some of whom were infected by the virus to satisfy their sexual needs and the vaccination against smallpox was done using the same needles on all those living in the camps which further led to the spread of the virus.
Therefore from the above research and the fact that the monkeys that are believed to have transferred the virus to the human being lived in the western and central part of Africa, it can be concluded that HIV originated from African continent though no specific person has been identified to have transmitted the virus to the rest of the world.
Though HIV does not recognize boundaries when it comes to its attack, some individuals have been found to be immune to the virus. According to a research conducted by Dr. Mathew Dolan on aids genetic study (Dolan, 2009), a few people have avoided infection despite being exposed again and again to the virus. In the study, he argues that the ethnic backgrounds and illnesses suffered by ones distant ancestors appear to play an important role in determining whether ones genes allow the virus to take hold in his or her body. He adds that genetic resistance to the virus works in different ways and appears in different ethnic groups with the most powerful resistance caused by a genetic defect limited to people with European or central Asian heritage.
To be protected, one must inherit the genes from both parents. All those with the highest level of HIV immunity share a pair of mutated genes, one in each chromosome that prevent their immune cells from developing a receptor that lets the virus to break in.
The relationship between HIV and aids is so great that it cannot be under estimated. The infection of HIV is the underlying cause of aids. To begin with, AIDS is characterized by progressive loss of CD4+ cells which is as a result of the attack by HIV. The virus attacks these cells which are supposed to boost immunity in the body by attacking disease causing pathogens. As a result of their destruction by the virus, they are weakened and reduced in the body that they can no longer be able to protect the body against other infections. As a result, the body becomes exposed to opportunistic infections, a condition regarded as aids. Therefore, aids can be regarded as a direct result of HIV infection.
When it comes to HIV treatment, so far there is no drug that has been identified to cure the disease. However, the medical practitioners and scientists have tried to come up with alternative treatments that have greatly helped suppress the mutation of the virus and assisted those already infected lead a healthy life just like their HIV-negative counterparts hence prolonging their lives and reducing cases of early deaths. One treatment that has been of great help to the situation is antiretroviral therapy where by those infected are administered a dosage of a drug that helps to suppress the virus, though not completely getting rid of it thus reducing the viral load. Other treatments include complementary and alternative medicine for example herbal medicine and mineral or vitamin supplementation.
The virus can be transmitted through a number of ways. For instance, direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a body fluid containing the virus can be one way of transmitting HIV. This transmission may involve anal, vaginal, or oral sex with an infected person, blood transfusion with the blood of an infected person and even mother to child through breast milk or during birth. However, the transmission can be reduced by taking precautionary measures such as having protected sex, through screening of blood before transfusion and testing of mothers during pregnancy and after birth.
In conclusion, regarding the problem of HIV and its origin, it is likely that we will never know where exactly it originated. From the research, the spread of HIV could have been induced by a combination of many different events whether through injections, travel, wars, colonial practices or genetic engineering. Nevertheless, a more pressing concern for scientists today should not be how HIV originated but how those it affects can be treated and how the world can change to ensure a similar pandemic never occurs again.