A new research suggests that the origins of HIV can be traced back millions rather than tens of thousands of years.
HIV, which causes AIDS, emerged in humans in the 20th Century, but scientists have long known that similar viruses in monkeys and apes have existed for much longer.
A genetic study shows HIV-like viruses arose in African monkeys and apes 5 million to 12 million years ago.
The research may one day lead to a better understanding of HIV and AIDS.
The HIV virus affects 34 million people worldwide.
The disease emerged during the 20th century after a HIV like virus jumped from chimps to humans.
Scientists have long known that similar viruses, known as lentiviruses, are widespread in African primates.
Past genetic research has suggested these “cousins” of the HIV-virus arose tens of thousands of years ago, but some experts have suspected this is an underestimate.
Scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle, US, and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, also in Seattle, looked at the genetic signatures of HIV-like viruses in a number of primates, including chimps, gorillas, orangutans and macaques.
A genetic study shows HIV-like viruses arose in African monkeys and apes 5 million to 12 million years ago
Changes in genes that have evolved in the immune systems of monkeys and apes in Africa suggest the viruses arose between 5 and 16 million years ago.
The research, published in the journal PLOS Pathogens, gives clues to how the immune systems of our closest relatives evolved to fight infection.
Dr. Michael Emerman of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center said: “Our study reveals that, while primate lentiviruses may have modern consequences for human health, they have ancient origins in our non-human primate relatives.”
At least 10 Zimbabwean MP have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and AIDS cases.
A small makeshift clinic for carrying out the procedures was erected in Parliament House in the capital Harare.
Blessing Chebundo, chairman of Zimbabwe Parliamentarians Against AIDS, said his main objective was to inspire other citizens to follow suit.
Research by the UN has suggested male circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV and AIDS.
A report by UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation (WHO) said the risk of HIV infection among men could be reduced by 60%.
More than a million people in Zimbabwe are believed to be HIV-positive, with about 500,000 receiving anti-retroviral treatment.
The country was one of 13 African states identified in 2007 as a priority for the development of male circumcision programmes by the WHO and UNAIDS.
At least 10 Zimbabwean MP have been circumcised as part of a campaign to reduce HIV and AIDS cases
Blessing Chebundo said more than 120 MPs and parliamentary staff had shown an interest in the circumcision programme.
At least 10 MPs and 13 other people had the procedure performed.
Blessing Chebundo was the first to undergo the 10-minute operation.
He said there was a possibility that some members of the executive may also attend, including President Robert Mugabe.
The circumcision programme had attracted a lot of attention in Zimbabwe, and had divided opinion.
The issue was raised in parliament in September 2011, when Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe made a plea to her fellow politicians.
At the time, many MPs shunned the idea.
As well as a clinic in parliament, the initiative has seen a tent set up across the road from parliament, where counselling sessions will be held.
Dr. Owen Mugurungi, Director for AIDS and TB unit with the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare, applauded those involved, the Zimbabwe Mail reported.
“We are happy with this initiative and we are happy more leaders will come on board,” he was quoted as saying.
How circumcision may protect against HIV infection?
Specific cells in the foreskin are thought to be potential targets for HIV infection. Following circumcision, the skin under the foreskin becomes less sensitive and is less likely to bleed, reducing the risk of infection.
When AIDS first began to emerge in Africa, researchers noted that men who were circumcised seemed to be less at risk of infection, but the reasons were unclear.
Trials suggest that male circumcision could reduce the risk of HIV infection, acquired through heterosexual intercourse, by up to 60%.
The WHO says the practice is particularly effective in countries with high HIV rates.
But it is not the whole solution. Promoting safe sex, providing people with HIV testing services and encouraging the use of male and female condoms are all seen as equally important.
Some experts also say there is a danger in sending out a message that circumcision can protect against HIV because it could lead to an increase in unprotected sex.
Actor Matt Bomer has revealed he is gay and his partner is publicist Simon Halls.
Matt Bomer, 34, came out quietly at the weekend after accepting an award at Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards in California on Saturday.
White Collar actor has dodged questions in the past about his orientation – despite speculation about his sexuality.
While appearing at the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards on Saturday – where he was honored with New Generation Arts and Activism Award for his activism against HIV/ AIDs – Matt Bomer thanked his partner, Hollywood publicist Simon Halls.
Matt Bomer also made reference to their three children in his speech, saying: “I’d really especially like to thank my beautiful family: Simon, Kit, Walker, Henry.
“Thank you for teaching me what unconditional love is. You will always be my proudest accomplishment.”
Actor Matt Bomer has revealed he is gay and his partner is publicist Simon Halls
Although Matt Bomer has not spoken about his family life in detail, three-year-old twins Walker and Henry are believed to be the sons of Simon Halls while five-year-old Kit is understood to be from a previous relationship of Bomer’s.
The actor only revealed he had children last March while co-hosting the Today Show.
When questioned about his love life during a 2010 interview with Details magazine, Matt Bomer said: “I don’t care about [rumors] at all. I’m completely happy and fulfilled in my personal life.”
Matt Bomer is set to appear in the upcoming stripper movie Steven Soderbergh-directed movie Magic Mike, alongside Channing Tatum and Alex Pettyfer.
He will also soon be seen in the film adaptation of Larry Kramer’s HIV/ AIDs play The Normal Heart.
Matt Bomer said of the movie at the awards show: “My world has really been rocked by doing research for Normal Heart, just in terms of the history of HIV and AIDS.”
“And so I’m very proud to receive this award from an organization that is at the forefront of carrying the torch into a very, very bright future.”
A large debate has sparked among public health advocates in US after the pharmaceutical company Gilead has applied to the FDA to market its HIV treatment medication Truvada as a HIV prevention pill.
Gilead wants to be able to market Truvada (tenofovir+emtricitabine), which is currently used as a HIV treatment, as a preventative pill to uninfected individuals, reports California Watch.
If the product will be approved, it would be the first of its kind.
The move has sparked debate among public health advocates who argue that the wide availability of the drug would discourage safe sex and would, in fact, increase the incidence of HIV.
“I believe that this could be catastrophic in terms of HIV prevention,” said Michael Weinstein, president the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, based in Los Angeles.
There are nearly 42,000 Californians living with HIV as of June 2011.
Michael Weinstein told California Watch that as an HIV treatment, he thinks Truvada is a “fabulous drug – it’s one pill once a day, and it has a low side-effect burden,” which include nausea, vomiting and weight loss.
Gilead wants to be able to market Truvada (tenofovir+emtricitabine), which is currently used as a HIV treatment, as a preventative pill to uninfected individuals
This new pharmaceutical prevention approach to HIV and AIDS is known in scientific circles as “pre-exposure prophylaxis”, or PrEP, and it involves taking the antiretroviral medications on a daily basis.
Clinical trials supported by the National Institutes of Health have shown that when taken daily, Truvada, a blue oval pill, reduced the risk for contracting HIV by between 44% among gay men in four countries and 73% by heterosexual couples in Uganda and Kenya.
Overall, these studies have generated enthusiasm among many medical researchers, reports California Watch.
Truvada is considered to be “an incredible achievement, a wonderful new tool that could be available to people who need additional protection against the acquisition of HIV”, according to Veronica Miller, executive director of The Forum for Collaborative HIV Research and a visiting professor at the UC Berkeley School of Public Health.
But Michael Weinstein said he’s not yet convinced by the research, and he wouldn’t want to see future mass marketing of the drug discourage gay men – the risk group most seriously affected by HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – from using condoms based on “the false belief that they are protected by this”, when there’s a possibility that those taking the medication still could contract the disease.
Some HIV and AIDS awareness organizations say that while they wouldn’t want to see Truvada trump other forms of prevention, they are hopeful that the drug will help reach high-risk individuals.
“It comes down to choices,” said David Evans, director of research advocacy at Project Inform, a San Francisco organization focused on improving the health of people with HIV.
“For those who are high at risk, we want them to know that there is something new and a better option available to them.”
Nevertheless, David Evans said he shares some of the drug critics’ concerns. “We don’t want to see people give up safe sex practices,” he said.
The Annals of the Forum for Collaborative HIV Research noted that the drug had performed well in clinical trials; the safety risk is relatively low; and as a result, doctors can currently prescribe the drug for prevention off-label. However, those who use the drug could develop resistance to it, and if they don’t use it daily, the risk for contracting HIV increases, the forum said.
Other drug companies, including ViiV Healthcare, also are planning studies to sell similar prevention drugs, but given the number of clinical trials performed or under way on Truvada, Gilead’s product is likely to be the first to make it to market.
Gilead did not respond to requests for comment from California Watch.