Dr. [Jacques] Pepin’s book, The Origin of AIDS, is gaining attention for some of its surprising conclusions. He collects evidence that the virus spread not only through sexual activity but, crucially, through well-meaning European doctors and nurses fighting tropical diseases in pre-independence Africa.
They used syringes and needles to inject hundreds of patients a day in medical campaigns against diseases such as sleeping sickness, tuberculosis and leprosy. In the process, Dr. Pepin believes, they helped turn a virus infecting a lone ape hunter in Africa into a global epidemic with some 32 million victims.
“The chances that this hunter alone could launch an epidemic are very low,” Dr. Pepin said. “But there are all the chances in the world that he went to be treated for a tropical disease and a little HIV stayed in the syringe. Then the next patient was injected with it intravenously.”
The early spread of AIDS is an interesting topic — Wikipedia has a number of articles about people infected with the disease, allegedly and confirmed, prior to 1981 — including a man who was referred to as “patient zero” in Randy Shilts’ landmark “And the Band Played On,” an argument that’s long been a point of contention. It’s possible that we’ll never know the true roots of the AIDS virus, but research like Pepin’s “The Origin of AIDS" is fascinating.
October 22, 2011 // 22:34 // 2 years ago