Why Africa ?

According to the HIV-AIDS model, AIDS is new, and is caused by a new virus, HIV. Supporters of this view imagine that HIV was introduced to the human population in sub-Saharan Africa, and spread from there to the West. Why?

When Robert Gallo introduced this model in 1984, AIDS conditions (tuberculosis, pneumonia, wasting, etc.) were very rare among young American adults, except in three special groups: gay consumers of party drugs, drug injectors (irrespective of sexual orientation), and blood recipients. Gallo found that the distribution of HIV also fit this pattern. Of 164 healthy, risk-free Americans he examined for HIV antibodies, only one (0.6%) tested positive. But of 15 healthy gay Americans, four (27%) tested positive, as did three of five (60%) AIDS-free drug injectors (Science 224:497-508, May 4, 1984).

For people assuming that HIV really was a new virus, these data meant that HIV was more prevalent among the risk groups than among the general population because the virus had been among the risk groups longer. Surely this virus would spread outside those groups, and it would find its natural "endemic" level in the general American population.

But just how high would this level be? And how did gays and drug injectors get this virus?

In 1985, Anthony Fauci examined the HIV-antibody rates of healthy American and African heterosexuals. In his group of 100 Americans, none tested positive. In his group of 100 Africans, though, six tested positive (JAMA 254[18]:2599-2602, Nov. 8, 1985).

Since these groups apparently shared the same modes of transmission (heterosexual contact), one logical interpretation of these data -- assuming HIV really was a new virus -- was that HIV had existed longer in Africa than in the USA. And in time the HIV level in the USA's general population would approach that of Africa's.

Two other factors helped convince Western scientists that "AIDS came from Africa." One was that unlike in America's general population, AIDS conditions were at the time rampant across Africa. The second factor helping this idea along was the imagination of Western scientists, who were apparently agreeable to suggestions of intimacy between African people and jungle animals. This provided an explanation for a source of this supposedly new virus.

But this is not the best explanation of the data.

For one thing, HIV rates have never increased for risk-free Americans in the 12 years that have passed since HIV testing became generally available in 1985. This is powerful evidence that HIV has existed among Americans for just as long as any other virus.

Fauci's data showed that rates for all viruses are very high among both American risk groups and Africans. For example, 3% of his healthy American heterosexuals were positive for Hepatitis B, whereas 85% of his AIDS-free homosexual Americans were positive. And where he found cytomegalovirus antibodies in 42% of his healthy American subjects, he found them in 100% of his healthy African subjects. So the rate of HIV should be higher among the AIDS-risk populations, even if HIV is just as old as those other viruses.

What factors, then, cause so many viruses to infect so many members of the AIDS risk groups? And do those factors play causative roles in the development of AIDS conditions? The people who blame HIV for AIDS seem to have asked neither question.

-- Paul Philpott