Another View of The Origins of AIDS

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This film puts forth the controversial hypothesis that the AIDS virus is actually an outgrowth of experiments that eventually produced the polio vaccine. This hypothesis has been going strong for a few years; I first read a Rolling Stone magazine article by Tom Curtis about it in 1992. The article certainly garnered a lot of attention when it was first published, but Rolling Stone and Curtis were successfully sued for defamation by Hilary Koprowski (damages $1, legal fees half a mil) and forced to issue a clarification, which stated, according to Wikipedia:

The editors of Rolling Stone wish to clarify that they never intended to suggest in the article that there is any scientific proof, nor do they know of any scientific proof, that Dr. Koprowski, an illustrious scientist, was in fact responsible for introducing AIDS to the human population or that he is the father of AIDS.

Here’s more about what Wikipedia has to say about the controversy:

Edward Hooper, a former BBC correspondent, has advanced the “contaminated polio vaccine” theory for the origins of HIV and AIDS. In his book, The River, Hooper suggests that HIV-1 (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a mutation or variant of, or the result of animal-to-human transmission of, SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), a virus found in the chimpanzee. He states that Hilary Koprowski, a virologist working for Philadelphia’s Wistar Research Institute, allegedly used hastily concocted chimpanzee kidney culture medium from a Stanleyville research laboratory to create millions of doses of oral polio vaccine for a mass vaccination program in the Belgian colony of the Belgian Congo. Hooper alleges that Koprowski compromised safety in what he considers to be a single-minded drive to beat Salk and Sabin in developing the first commercially-available polio vaccine.

Scientific research has found no support for the OPV hypothesis, and scientific consensus has rejected the hypothesis. Phylogenetic analyses indicate that HIV originated in the late 19th or early 20th century, well before the oral polio vaccine was distributed in the late 1950s. Independent laboratories have tested archived samples of Koprowski’s vaccine and found no evidence of contaminating SIV or HIV. Other molecular tests have found no evidence that chimpanzee cells were used to make the vaccine. Scientists have also questioned whether any HIV contaminating an oral vaccine could cause sufficient infection to support an epidemic, given the protective lining of the digestive tract.

PBS’ Frontline, which produced the documentary series The Age of AIDS in 2006, published this evidence on its website that includes the film with interviews, articles, and other materials:

HIV-1, which is responsible for the vast majority of AIDS cases worldwide, is divided into three groups — the “major” group M, and the much rarer “outlier” group O and “new” group N — that have diverged over years of mutation and evolution. Within the M group — which makes up 90 percent of all infections worldwide — there are at least nine strains, known as “clades,” of HIV-1 that are constantly mutating and merging with each other, creating yet more new varieties. “The M group epidemiologically has overwhelmed what else is out there,” says Dr. Beatrice Hahn of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, who has conducted much of the research into HIV’s origin. HIV-2, on the other hand, is not as virulent and largely confined to West Africa, where it originated.

In May 2006, an international group of researchers led by Hahn answered two major questions about the origin of HIV-1 M, the deadliest and most widespread form of the virus: Where was its cradle, and what kind of chimp did it come from? Answering the questions was literally messy work — researchers collected 599 waste samples from wild chimpanzees and analyzed the viral particles they contained — but the results were immaculate. Three populations of Pan troglodytes troglodytes living in southern Cameroon provided the crucial data. Two of those populations currently carry SIVs that are molecular dead ringers for HIV-1 M, while many chimps in the third group are infected with an SIV remarkably similar to HIV-1 N. Group O’s simian sibling is probably lurking in other chimp populations in West Central Africa, says Hahn, adding that she has “a pretty good idea where it’s going to be … and we’re going to find it.”

Hooper’s book, The River, was released in 1999 after seven years of research. As a result, he was invited by an eminent biologist, W.D. Hamilton, to present his findings at a symposium sponsored by the Royal Society of London. Hamilton felt that the hypothesis might provide insights into further studies. It was the first time a non-scientist had been invited to such a gathering. But Hooper was ambushed; that is, he was brutally and roundly criticized, confronted and denounced for his temerity. His findings have since been termed refuted as the result of studies in Science and Nature magazines.

Kaprowski, in turn, has sued Channel 4 in the United Kingdom from broadcasting this film. However, British citizens have the Internet as well, and they can watch and clip the film from Britain from other sources in the world. I’ve decided to become such a source.

Don’t get me wrong. I remember those days before the polio vaccine was available. It was frightening. I saw children in iron lungs on television. I remember the March of Dimes drives. I saw other children–black and white children–who had to wear pounds of metal on their deformed legs. I was told that god himself President Roosevelt was a polio survivor who saved the country.

And I remember that Sunday in 1962 when there was a mass marshalling of schoolchildren along with their parents in San Francisco, if not the entire country, when the polio vaccine was given to us free on sugar cubes at elementary schools and other institutions. And I was glad that the medicine was sweet as the cube dissolved in my mouth.

The polio vaccine saved the lives of millions in my Jones Generation.

I don’t fully buy the hypothesis that too much fcking got all of us into this mess because that serves the prudes who can only dip their toe into the pool. Nor am I a supporter of the theory that some in the African National Congress as well as the former president of South Africa Thabo Mbeki hold: that AIDS is simply a disease of poverty. His people are still dying, but not just from malnutrition and poor health.

I don’t buy that monkey meat provided the catalyst for AIDS in Africa; Africans been eating such meat for centuries. (I also don’t buy the racist slander that blacks may have been having sex with monkeys either.) However, what is to the finding that the boy Robert R was the earliest to die from AIDS in the United States? The fifteen-year-old African American youngster had never left the U.S., had never left the Midwest, and had never had a blood transfusion. His sexuality, though, has been called into question; still, how could Robert have gotten an opportunistic disease that supposedly came from Africa?

I’m also a genocide denier; that is, I don’t believe that the virus was tailor-made by scientists for the U.S. Government to get rid of Africans, black people, and gays once and for all. There are a lot of Africans alive who were given the vaccine before it was given to people in the West. (I still don’t know what happened to those who took the vaccine and got sick or weren’t helped at all taking the vaccine.) All in all, it doesn’t add up.

On the other hand, I don’t believe that the research laboratory is all that pristine. People make mistakes. Doctors make mistakes. We see it every year with the flu vaccines and in the teaching (i.e., university research) hospitals. If something got loose from researchers even accidentally, and without their knowledge, then the ramifications would be catastrophic for the medical community. Not only in the United States, but worldwide. No wonder Hooper got the reception that he did. He was roughed up not just because he was an upstart who had dared to confront the medical establishment, but because of fear.

It still pays for people to be responsible with the people they love or lust after. Keep yourselves open to all points of view, including the established ones, no matter how ridiculous they may appear. This is not the end of an ongoing conversation.

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~ by blksista on May 1, 2010.

 
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