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Sunday, July 21, 2019
DAVAO

Editorial: From monkeys to humans

DID you know that the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) came from Chimpanzees? According to a report by Avert, a United Kingdom-based charity that provides information about HIV, international researchers announced in 2006 that “they have discovered the origin of the HIV virus in a community of wild chimpanzees in southern Cameroon.”

The “hunter” theory is the commonly accepted theory on how the HIV crossed from chimpanzees to humans. In this theory, the butchering and consumption of monkey meat may have caused the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), which attacks the immune systems of monkeys and apes, to transfer to humans.

“Normally, the hunter’s body would have fought off SIV, but on a few occasions the virus adapted itself within its new human host and became HIV-1,” Avert said in its article on the history and origins of HIV.

Avert reported that the first verified case of HIV is from a blood sample taken in 1959 from a man living in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. However, studies showed that first transmission of the SIV to HIV in humans took place around 1920, also in Kinshasa.

“The same area is known for having the most genetic diversity in HIV strains in the world, reflecting the number of different times SIV was passed to humans. Many of the first cases of AIDS were recorded there too,” Avert said.

It was in the 1980s, when HIV was recognized as a new health condition. In 1981, cases of diseases were being reported among gay men in New York. In 1982, scientists “realized the ‘disease’ was also spreading among other populations such as hemophiliacs and heroin users.”

In September 1982, the disease was named acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (Aids). In 1983, researchers from the Pasteur Institute in France isolated the HIV virus and identified it.

In the last three decades, HIV-Aids has become a global health care problem affecting millions of people.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported that globally, around 36.9 million people are living with HIV at the end of 2017 while some 1.8 million people are newly infected in 2017.

However, Avert noted that there has been a decrease in new HIV infections between 2010 and 2017. New infections dropped to 1.8 million people in 2017 from 2.2 million individuals in 2010.

In our own backyard, since 1984 up to present, a total of 2,704 HIV-Aids cases -- 143 females and 2,561 males -- were recorded in Davao City.

With the advances in the medical field, there are new treatments that will lower the chances of the virus being transmitted. WHO has recommended to initiate the use of Antiretroviral drug (ART) in all people living with HIV.

Just like any other public health issues, it is important that we discuss HIV-Aids and how it came to be. Through proper education and awareness, we may be part of the solution in preventing it from spreading further.


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