We know how it spreads, but how did it start? – The arrival of Europeans to sub-Saharan Africa at the beginning of the 20th century may have also been the beginning of HIV. Researchers have now analyzed one of the earliest examples of the virus that has ever been found and traced it to the 1959 Democratic Republic of Congo.

Physicians first started reporting the disease in1981, but researchers now think the virus crossed from chimps to humans during the 40 years between 1884 and 1924. The newly- built colonial cities in places like the Belgian Congo created a type of population density that was formerly unknown in Africa and led to the spread of the disease, which some researchers think may have originated from eating bush meat (chimpanzees). The large numbers of people living in close proximity would have allowed more opportunity for new infections.

BBC News quotes researcher Michael Worobey as saying, “I think the picture that ?changes the human population experienced may have opened to the door to the spread of HIV.”

Art credit: freeimages.co.uk

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