We all know how HIV/AIDS started right? It made a species jump from monkeys, who carried SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), to humans. Most likely through the Cut Hunter Theory. That is to say that a Hunter with an open wound or cut contracted it through the contamination of blood whilst butchering a monkey (bush meat being part of the staple diet in many African regions). This seems plausible but doesn't explain why HIV/AIDS wasn't already rife in Africa, given that it seems likely that SIV has been present in Monkeys and Apes for at least 32000 years.
In the early 90's an alternate theory was put forward in a Rolling Stone article written by a Journalist called Tom Curtis. Curtis’s theory suggested that an experimental Oral Polio Vaccine, which was tested by Hilary Koprowski in Central Africa in the late 50s, was the most likely candidate for an accidental infection of SIV in humans. Now, to understand this we need a quick overview of how the Polio Vaccine was created. Essentially they mashed up monkey organs (principally the kidneys), then grew the live Polio Virus within the tissue culture. This is then inactivated using Formaldehyde. The problem (which didn't appear to bother the pioneers of this Vaccine, or the large Pharmaceutical Companies giving their financial backing to it), was that there was no guarantee against cross contamination from diseases already present in the monkeys. An example of this is SV40, a Simian Virus known to cause Tumours and Lymphomas in Humans. This virus was found in Polio Vaccines produced in the US between 1955 and 1961 (and Soviet Bloc Countries, China, Japan and Africa as late as 1980). It is impossible to say if SV40 was present in Humans before these Vaccinations were administered but there is no doubt that Scientists knew about the threat of cross contamination and there is evidence to suggest that they were told to keep silent about their concerns.
The storm caused by Curtis’s research rumbled on throughout the 90’s until in 2001 the Royal Society of London held a conference to determine the initial cause of HIV/AIDS in an attempt to put the matter to bed once and for all. The conclusion was to see the death of Curtis’s theory as it was decided that Chimpanzees (the main carriers of SIV in the area), were not used during the manufacture of the Vaccine. It turns out that this was only a half-truth. It seems that the Vaccine was originally created using other monkey types, but was mass-produced locally for the 50’s Belgian Congo trial. And the animal caught locally and used at the Kisangani Medicine Facility for all the Oral Polio Vaccines? The Chimpanzee.
So, am I saying that the Oral Polio Vaccine Trials held in 1950’s Africa is the root cause of HIV/AIDS in humans? Well, no actually, but I think it’s an important (real) history lesson. I believe that it may have been responsible for small pockets of the disease and possibly the factor behind the very early cases (although they have only been identified retrospectively following research carried out in the 80’s). No, I’m going to pin the blame on the Early Hepatitis B Vaccinations held simultaneously in New York and Central Africa between 1970 and 1975. African Chimpanzees were used in the manufacture of these early HB Vaccines and soon after these trials AIDS like symptoms were first recorded at these locations, most notably the GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency), cases in New York.
The question remains, given that the knowledge of cross contamination (all be it suppressed) must have been available in the high echelons of Vaccine research and undoubtedly in the Bio-Warfare labs of Maryland and Portland Down, how much was known of HIV/AIDS before the HB Vaccine trials of the early 70’s. Where is the line between accidental infection and the reckless pursuit of Eugenics research?
For further reading of the subject, may I suggest the excellent Emerging Viruses by Leonard G Horowitz. A summary of his research on the HB Vaccine and the origin of AIDS can be found Here.
Curent Music: Moon Safari - Lover’s End