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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

AIDS as an agent of natural selection

According to recent statistics, AIDS is taking the lives of four school teachers and two police officers every day in Zambia. Statistics like these are responsible for the life expectancy in many African countries now being below 40 years. A 15-year old Botswanan boy has only a 10 per cent chance of staying AIDS-free that long.

Did you ever stop to wonder why AIDS, which was originally diagnosed exclusively in white men in North America, and was later found to disproportionately afflict black men from Haiti, is now most closely associated with black people of both sexes dying in Sub-Saharan Africa? Has any other disease in history done this sort of transmigration? If AIDS actually originated in Africa, as is commonly thought, why was it necessary for it to incubate in America and Haiti before returning to wreak such devastating damage in the continent of its birth?

It's actually a matter of Natural Selection. AIDS can only thrive in societies that nurture the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (also known as the HIV). The societies in North America that are very hostile to this virus--along with some who nurture it, but try not to let it spread--have been able to minimize the spread of the HIV. Should all societies within North America take an equally aggressive stance against its spread, it could go extinct locally within a couple decades. But important to the containment of the HIV is an understanding that it is a deadly agent that must be killed whenever possible, and whose spread must be contained, even at considerable cost (as an example, many Americans are now prohibited from donating blood through public blood banks because they haven't entered the universal tracking system that was set up to contain the spread of the HIV through blood transfusions).

In direct contrast to this approach, the societies among which AIDS runs rampant, whether they be on the African continent or in the Diaspora of Slavery, do not recognize the HIV as the true enemy. As one person recently returning from a month traveling through Southern Africa put it:

The reason why AIDS is such a killer in Southern Africa is due to the fact that people do not connect their behavior with getting AIDS. If they come down with AIDS, they are convinced that it is because someone with stronger magic than theirs has put a curse on them. The only approach they take to preventing AIDS is to wear the most powerful charm that they can buy whilst continuing to engage in behavior that is likely to bring on the disease.

There you have it, folks. AIDS is an agent of Natural Selection, removing animists from the gene pool. Africa is rapidly becoming less and less animist as a result.

2013: There is a follow-up post found here.

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