Lesson 15: HIV and SIV

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Diseases caused by viruses that infect humans have been traced back in some cases to viruses in animals, for example: Avian Flu, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and Mad Cow Disease.  Similarly, HIV, human immunodeficiency virus, has been traced back to SIV, simian immunodeficiency virus.  Two types of HIV have been traced back to two different hosts for SIV.  HIV-1, source of the global pandemic, has been traced back to the Chimpanzee, and HIV-2 has been traced back to the Sooty Mangabey.

The transfer of a virus in an animal to humans often happens because the animal and humans are in close proximity.  In the case of HIV and SIV, humans in Africa came in contact with Chimpanzees and Sooty Mangabeys because they are a source of food and are kept as pets.  Unfortunately, Africans were vilified and maligned about the virus in ways that other populations—SARS and the Chinese; Mad Cow Disease and the British—never experienced.  This disparagement, founded in racism, has greatly contributed to African and African American distrust of the media and medical establishment (See Module/Lesson 14).

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