RICHARDS BAY - A team from Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies explained the origins of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) for scholars of the Aiglon Society at Grantleigh College last Tuesday.
The challenge to incorporate high-level bioinformatics and molecular evolutionary analysis into a high-school format of genetic variation and HIV life cycle was facilitated by senior researcher, Dr Tulio de Oliveira.
In a graphic presentation, he said that HIV originated from primates in West and West Central Africa and then infected humans, similar to tuberculosis (TB) from Bovine in cows, or buffalo as experienced locally; dispelling the myth that HIV was unique.
He highlighted that 'primates have lived normally for over 200 000 years carrying the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV - a virus similar to HIV) whilst their immune systems have learnt to function independantly.
It is only humans that HIV causes the immune system to break down. HIV-1 and HIV-2 are two types of the virus that were transmitted from five different primate sources, namely three events from chimpanzees in HIV-1 and two from a species of monkey (Sooty mangabeys) with HIV-2. The most probable cause of transmission is thought to be via butchered meat as monkey in West Africa is considered a delicacy.' Today, we face 30 million people with HIV, transferred from person to person.
Janet McGrath, Head of Department fro Sciences, said: 'Grantleigh saw a need for their academically talented students to be exposed to a scientific and cultural enrichment programme in order to inspire them.' Illuminating science to students is another leaf in the cap from Africa Centre's commitment to HIV research and interaction with the local community whilst maintaining professional status in population-, clinical- and social science studies.