A theory aims to find an explanation for a specific phenomenon. For researchers at the University of Arizona, theories surrounding the origins of HIV in the U.S. proved to be an important topic. The topic was so meaningful that they conducted a study which aimed to reconstruct the virus’ history in the U.S.

The newest research was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), and builds off of previous work done on the virus’ origins. Evidence from the genetic diversity of the DNA samples used in the study supports the conclusion that the HIV-1 strain was brought over from Africa to Haiti, where it became genetically diverse, and then brought over to the U.S. However, even with DNA evidence to prove the virus was present during the 1970s, there are still critics that say this isn’t definitive.

In an online article, Ed Hooper discusses his opposing views on the topic, and highlights a number of different theories which he believes are all still plausible to explain the origins of HIV in the U.S. These theories include:

  1. The HIV-1 virus moved from Africa to Haiti and finally to the U.S.
  2. The HIV-1 virus moved from Africa to the U.S. and was then transmitted to a Haitian counterpart.
  3. The HIV-1 virus moved from Africa to Europe, then to Haiti, and finally the U.S.
  4. The HIV-1 virus was carried by an infected mother, child of a prisoner, and was transmitted via a clinical polio vaccine which had been prepared in the Congo and contained the virus.

Like all highly debated theories not everyone is going to come to an agreement on which provides the best explanation. When beliefs and stigma about a virus like HIV have been deeply engrained into a society it can become difficult to change an individual’s mindset the subject. What will often prove to be solid evidence is the information provided from DNA samples, like the ones recovered and sequenced in this study. Sometimes all it takes is that closer look at solid evidence to make an theory definitive, but the real question can you break away from what you’ve already been taught? Can you you believe it?



Belluz, J. 2016. “This new research rewrites the history of HIV in America.” Vox. Accessed from http://www.vox.com/2016/3/5/11163582/hiv-aids-patient-zero

Gilbert, M. T. P. 2007. “The emergence of HIV/AIDS in the Americas and beyond.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Accessed from http://www.pnas.org/content/104/47/18566.full

Hooper, E. 2008. “Michael Worobey’s wobbly research into the early history of HIV.” Accessed from https://www.uow.edu.au/~bmartin/dissent/documents/AIDS/Hooper08.pdf

Worobey, M., et. al. 2016. “1970s HIV-1 Genomes Reveal the Early History of the North American HIV/AIDS Epidemic.” Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections. Accessed from http://www.croiconference.org/sessions/1970s-hiv-1-genomes-reveal-early-history-north-american-hivaids-epidemic

Worobey, M. 2016. “HIV Virology: Putting It All Together.” Accessed from http://www.croiwebcasts.org/console/player/29705?mediaType=audio&