Yet another HIV/AIDS controversial theory
Since the emergence of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s, people have speculated about the origins of the disease.
The decades that followed saw numerous theories about the origins of HIV emerge ‑ many of which were quickly disproved. However, a few are refusing to die and are still hotly debated within the scientific community and the public in general.
Last time I talked about three theories ‑ the Hunter Theory, the Contaminated Needle Theory and the Oral Polio Vaccine Theory.
But there is another very interesting and controversial sounds-like theory called Colonialism Theory.
Jim Moore, a biological anthropologist at the University of California in San Diego, introduced this theory.
The Colonialism Theory is based on the history of forced labour camps in Africa. His reasoning was prompted by a book on the history of the Belgian Congo titled “King Leopold’s Ghost” by Adam Hochschild.
Hochschild’s book reveals that Belgian colonial practices in French Equatorial Africa and neighbouring Belgian Congo between 1880 and the onset of World War II were harsher than first reported.
The first censuses taken in the 1920s estimated that the population of the two colonies was about 15 million.
Local people reported that many had lived two or three decades prior to the advent of forced labour camps, which held thousands of workers suffering from poor sanitation, poor diet, and exhausting labour demands.
The intersection between medicine and the anthropological research conducted by Moore suggests that in caring for the health of African labourers, well-meaning but undersupplied doctors routinely inoculated workers against smallpox and dysentery and treated sleeping sickness. These doctors, according to Moore, were unwittingly making serial passages of SIVs (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) that had infected Africans from their practice of eating bush meat while using a handful of unsterilised metal syringes to inoculate many patients.
The evidence of a severe shortage of syringes during this period has accumulated in recent years.
It has been well documented that in one sleeping sickness control expedition conducted by Belgian doctors in 1916, 89 000 people in Ubagi Shari were treated using just six metal syringes. Prior to the introduction of dried smallpox vaccine in about 1914, the only way to transport vaccine to the interior was by serially inoculating people, travelling during the eight-day interval required for the new carrier to develop pustules from which the next inoculation could be derived.
There is record of at least 14 000 people receiving serially passed smallpox vaccine. This method had been abandoned in Europe some 20 years before, because syphilis was all-too-often transmitted accidentally during the process.
The development of HIV, according to Moore, was sealed by officially authorised sex camp workers set up to appease the labourers in many camps scattered across the Belgian Congo. Such circumstances could easily have promoted the evolution of SIVcpz, as a sexually transmitted mutant strain between humans in the form of HIV.
Moore highlighted the gene typing study by Dr Michael Worobey as most compelling because it places the beginning of HIV Clade M in the early decades of the 20th century. If this dating is correct, the colonial policy theory explains how HIV slowly developed during European colonial practices prior to the advent of polio vaccine experimentation.
Finally, I would state that it is likely that we may never know when and where HIV/AIDS actually originated.
Scientists become very attached to their pet theories and insist that theirs is the only true answer.
Arguments over rival theories and in defence of their own, have raged continuously and in the case of the contaminated OPV, viciously and at times far beyond the norms of scientific debate.
From all the four theories, an obvious general conclusion is that for some puzzling reasons, the origin of HIV was not natural.
Something spurred the conversion of the benign SIV into the virulent HIV, although humans have been exposed to SIV for thousands of years.
Lastly, I would like to conclude with the first few lines of the foreword by Professor Bill Hamilton for “The River”. These words have made a lasting impression on me and I would like to share them with you:
“Every time two people put their heads together, TRUTH suffers; when many put their heads together SHE suffers more… when the heads are great ones and have owners with much to lose (employed in perhaps giant companies or government departments) TRUTH can be made so ill that we should all shiver”.