What Is the Origin of the HIV/AIDS Virus?


Quick Answer

Scientists believe that the HIV/AIDS virus originated in West African chimpanzees, says the AIDS institute. The virus, called the simian immunodeficiency virus in the apes, then jumped species and began to infect humans. Scientists believe this happened because humans hunted chimpanzees for bush meat and were infected through their blood.

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Full Answer

Though AIDS spread explosively during the 1980s, it actually took decades to develop, according to the AIDS Institute. The first case of what scientists believes was HIV-1 infection happened in 1959 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Scientists believed the virus present in this patient's blood evolved from a virus that was present as early as the late 1940s.

Doctors began to notice the HIV virus in the United States in the 1970s, says the AIDS Institute. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, doctors began to see patients suffering from rare cancers, such as Kaposi's sarcoma; pneumonias, such as Pneumocystis jirovecii; and other very unusual health conditions that were usually not present in people with robust immune systems. Many of these patients were men who had had sexual congress with other men. People began using the term "AIDS," or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, in 1982, and scientists discovered the virus that caused the disease in 1983.

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