May 21st, 2010
Do you remember the mid 1980’s? The media was overwhelmed with warnings about HIV and AIDs. Now HIV is widespread, The Terrence Higgins Trust lists that at the end of 2008 there were 33 million people are infected worldwide.
Of course as time has moved on people have questioned many of the reports… Some doubt that AIDs as a disease even exists at all, seeing it as a general description of how our immune system fails due to a multiple of reasons. But what of HIV?
What caused HIV to spread so rapidly? From the global figure Africa is also reported to have had a staggering 22 million people infected. Could this be connected to the vaccination of smallpox? The report comes from BioMedCentral Immunology (follow the links to the provisional pdf for full information) and is covered by the BBC. However unlike the 80’s it’s not placed on the front page and how it is reported is as interesting as the news itself. The articles address is listed as being health but it’s not listed on the health page, instead it’s buried way down the page on news related to Africa…
BMC report that as the smallpox vaccination declined HIV increased implying that the smallpox vaccine suppressed HIV. However I would warn against blindly accepting this (see my journal article on vaccines). For example we can ask different questions: If one virus is reduced in society is another likely to take its place? In attempting to prevent one illness are we likely to stimulate another? Are vaccines connected to social change? Perhaps to really understand how we are connected to these virus’s we need to look at the big picture as well as the micro.
There have been several proposed explanations for the rapid spread of HIV in Africa, including wars, the reuse of unsterilised needles and the contamination of early batches of polio vaccine. However, all of these have been either disproved or do not sufficiently explain the behaviour of the HIV pandemic.
Smallpox immunisation was gradually withdrawn from the 1950s to the 1970s, following the worldwide eradication of the disease, and HIV has been spreading exponentially since then, they say
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