Viral Sex: The Nature of AIDS

The AIDS threat has mobilized an unprecedented research effort to understand and control the disease. We have discovered its agent, HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. Every day we know more about this complex retrovirus and how it works, but we still lack an effective defense strategy. This book will give the nonspecialist an AIDS overview and a vantage point from which to observe and support the continuing struggle with HIV. It also will urge that we look beyond this deadly virus. As we seek vaccines and therapies to stop its fatal course, we must understand that the real cause of AIDS is not HIV. It is the environmental context that allowed the virus to escape its natural host and enter the human population at this particular time in history. The question is why, after millenia of contact between African monkeys and humans, has SIV (Simian immunodeficiency virus) only now entered the human population in plague proportions? Is its introduction a purely random and natural disaster, or is it somehow the result of human social and cultural evolution? This book explains how human encroachment on the African monkey habitat set up conditions that made it possible and almost likely that the virus would successfully jump to a new host, with the consequences that we now see as the world wide AIDS epidemic. It presents the full history of the various subtypes of the virus, and the epidemics they cause, and assembles the future threats in every region of the world. The book argues that facing our responsibility for the AIDS outbreak holds the key to reversing the damage. If we study our actions and this lethal natural reaction, we can find ways to halt the AIDS and prevent similar plagues that could erupt in the future.