Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus infection (HIV), and was officially designated an epidemic on 5 June, 1981. The disease has deeply affected humanity, both as an illness and as a source of discrimination and cultural education.
Canadian microbiologist Jacques Pepin, in a new book, appeared to trace the beginning of the AIDS epidemic to a starving World War I soldier who captured and ate infected animals, New York Post reported Saturday.
According to the book, titled ‘Origins of AIDS’, patient zero was one of 1,600 Belgian and French soldiers who traveled to Cameroon from Leopoldville in the Belgian Congo and was injured after killing a chimpanzee infected with something similar to the precursor to HIV – the virus that causes AIDS.
The book corrects a previous version of HIV origin, introduced in the first edition of the tome released in 2011. In the initial edition, Pepin said that HIV was transmitted from monkeys to humans after an injured African hunter killed one of the beasts in 1921 and was infected in the process.
Now, the Canadian microbiologist suggests that it was actually a starving WWI soldier who captured and ate an infected chimpanzee after his regiment got stuck in a forest around Moloundou, Cameroon, without any food supplies.
AIDS was officially declared an epidemic in 1981 as rapidly increasing numbers of gay men in the United States began to die after contracting unusual pneumonia clusters. Since then, the disease has infected about 76 million people globally and has killed an estimated 33 million.
The illness is caused by HIV, a virus that jumped from primates to humans in the early-to-mid 20th century in Africa. It is transmitted by sexual contact, blood transfusions, shared needles and in the uterus from mother to child.
While there is yet no effective cure or vaccine against the disease, antiretroviral therapy, if received on a regular basis, can help slow the course of illness and decrease the risk of death.