12 August 2007

Africa and the human evolution

When we talk of human evolution, we talk of our ancestors migrating from Africa to Europe some 100,000 years ago. Everything we are today happened from that instance; if ‘instance’ is the term we can use to label that epic moment on our human evolutionary timeline.

This ought to be a cause for celebration, if it weren’t for another instance on our evolutionary timeline when a similar migration took place from Africa to Europe, and other parts of the world. This time, the humans carried the AIDS virus with them.

Nobody is really sure when that specific instance really began. But we all know that, because of that instance, we have a crisis on our hands today. Even if you live in places far off from Africa, the rate at which the AIDS virus is transmitted and spreads across migrating populations, it won’t be long before it catches up with you.

For some strange reason, the source of the virus seems to be Africa. Scientists and doctors have identified the virus in a species of monkeys in Africa. But what they can’t explain is how the AIDS virus jumped from monkeys to humans; or, when did it jump and why. What scientists and doctors can neither explain is why the AIDS virus was unheard of before the 1980s; or, how and why it reached epidemic proportions thereafter.

Is this a call for alarm? It sure is. According to an UNAIDS December 2006 report, 25 million Africans are HIV-positive, 2.1 million die from AIDS every year, and 2.8 million are newly infected each year.

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