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  9th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections
Seattle, Washington, February, 2002
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Where Did AIDS Come From: Opening Session at Retroviruses Conference
Reported by Jules Levin
  At the opening lecture at 5pm tonite Dr Beatrice Hahn talked about her reseaerch in Africa and how her research leads her to think that HIV was passed to humans from monkeys in West Central Africa. Her research leads her to believe that HIV was passed from other primates to monkeys thousands of years ago. And she believes that perhaps HIV was passed to humans through the business of hunting and selling bushmeat in Central Africa by humans. The humans were exposed to the blood of primates through catching, killing, and cutting up the animals. She and her team looked at 788 primates/monkeys and 16 species in Central Africa. 13 primate species had HIV-1/HIV-2; 20% of the animals had HIV (range 5-20% among the various species). 90% of the sexually active adults had HIV. She believes HIV was spread from one animal to another by the fighting of animals amongst themselves. Hahn developed a non-invasive way to check urine & fecal samples from the monkeys to test them for HIV. Hahn said that by identifying where AIDS came from and by studying the immune system of these monkeys who are able to handle AIDS (that is, coexist with AIDS), perhaps we can identify a strategy for vaccine and treatment.
I was about to walk out from the opening session to go back to rest up but after hearing the next speaker start speaking about the plight of Africans suffering with HIV and HIV in the developing world I was compelled to stay for the entire talk. But did not stay to hear Bill gates tallk. He said HIV is "destrying the fabric of society" in Africa; HIV is "devastating a generation" in Africa; it is "decimating a continent"; 40 million children will lose their parents. And he said the Western world had to address this problem now or later when it will be more expensive financially.
At this year's conference there is preliminary promising new data on two new NNRTIs in early development for NNRTI resistant virus. There are also several reports on new entry inhibitors that appear preliminarily promising and very early information on the first integrase inhibitor. There is a lot of attention being paid to HCV/HIV coinfection at this conference; more than ever before. And there are a lot of studies reported about lipodystrophy, insulin resistance, bone loss, and heart disease risk.
Stay tuned for reports.
Jules Levin