A new book claims that the first AIDS outbreak occurred in the early 1900s and not in 1980s.
David Quammen, the author of a new book called "The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged from an African Rain Forest," suggests that the AIDS outbreak occurred in 1908. Till now the first AIDS occurrence was recorded in 1981 in the U.S. amongst a group of homosexual men.
The book suggests that in 1908 a hunter killed a chimp near Cameron. During the killing, the hunter was also injured and the chimp's blood mingled with the hunter's blood via the wounds. The hunter is believed to have got engaged in a sexual act with another male who then contracted the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
Quammen reveals that sexual contacts with others spread the disease, which also reached Congo. The disease went unnoticed as the average life expectancy of a person in the region was low and people would have not thought that the deaths were due to AIDS.
From the 1920s through to 1950s, colonial officers were conducting health campaigns in Africa. During that time syringes and needles were used more than once, which helped transmit the virus to more people.
The book suggests that French-speaking people from Haiti, who were working in Congo, returned home and carried the virus with them. Quammen suggest that re-used needles of an infected blood plasma container bought AIDS to the U.S. in around 1969.
AIDS was transmitted to more and more people when drug addicts used the same needles. AIDS was spread in the gay community via sexual transmission, possibly due to sexual contact between an American and a Haitian.
The latest books debunks Randy Shilts' theory about the origination of AIDS in the U.S. Shilts theorized that AIDS was bought to the U.S. by a Canadian steward called Gaetan Dugas. Shilts suggests that the gay steward infected about 40 other men with HIV due to unprotected sexual activity.
If Quammen's theory is to be believed then there is no way Dugas would have bought AIDS in the U.S. and he may have got infected by someone else. Quammen also believes that Dugas got AIDS not in Africa but somewhere closer to home.
"As evidence now shows, HIV had already arrived in North America when Gaëtan Dugas was a virginal adolescent," per Quammen.
AIDS has become an epidemic and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that 50,000 new cases are reported each year in the U.S. About 1.2 million Americans are believed to be living with AIDS.