An Oxford University team has found that HIV is gradually evolving into a less potent virus, and ultimately may “become almost harmless.” They made these conclusions after noticing that HIV found in people from Botswana, which has had an HIV problem for a long time, and South Africa, where HIV arrived a decade later, were significantly different. The reason? When the virus invades the body of a person with a strong immune system, it decides that it must adapt. In adapting, however, it does so in a manner that actually leaves the virus weakened and slower, i.e. it spreads at a much slower pace. The then weakened virus is transmitted to another person creating a cycle where weakened versions of the virus are transmitted.
I, however, hesitated when I read this. I hesitated when I even started thinking about writing this. So many people have lost their lives thanks to HIV. So many could have been saved if the stigma that surrounded it had not prevented many from getting tested. We are now at a stage that people are now more open about the disease, and are getting treatment that is proving effective in, at least, delaying the progression into full-blown AIDS (thanks to people like Magic Johnson). So then why did I hesitate to write this post that cites studies now show that HIV may be evolving into a much less potent virus?
So while this is great news, I do worry about people misunderstanding this as reason to believe that they should not consider HIV as dangerous as before. It will take, at least, an entire generation before the virus is rendered harmless. There will be many people who say that I may be acting paranoid (and I am), but with these types of diseases I feel I should be. People already have a hard time taking HIV precautions seriously in so many parts of the world, even while it is considered such a deadly disease. Now upon hearing news such as these, what do you think their attitude will be like? I worry for those kids that think this disease could never touch them...
I am glad that things are improving. I just hope that people continue (and in many parts of the world, start) taking HIV precautions very seriously.