Thursday, 17 July 2008

HIV/AIDS - susceptibility in Africa

Photo from Flickr user jonrawlinson. Creative Commons Licence.

It has been noticeable that HIV/AIDS rates vary tremendously throughout the world. It has frequently been blamed on different social conditions and sexual behaviour, though scientists have thought that there may be a genetic factor to the problem.

Researchers from University College London and the University of Texas have recently published a study which indicates that this may be the result of having a gene, the DARC gene, which gives protection against malaria but which at the same time seems to increase susceptibility to the HIV virus by 40%. At the same time, it appears to prolong survival causing AIDS to develop more slowly.

HIV affects 25 million people in sub-Saharan Africa, a far greater burden than any other region, and 90% of Africans carry this gene.

UCL news release


  1. I, too, heard this piece of news on the BBC today. It's great to think that something genetic may be cured by science in years to come. But, in the meantime, how many will die?

    I lived in Zimbabwe for several years pre AIDS and pre Mugabe. Heaven! (For the Whites.)

    my Blog is Rinkly Rimes

    Brenda Bryant

  2. Sickle cell anaemia also protects from malaria, but is bloody rotten if you have both genes, don't know about it's relationship to HIV - will start digging.

  3. I was going to comment on this yesterday, and for some reason I didn't.

    I had a friend from Niger and he worked as a nurse, I believe for the government. One of the things he had to do was to go throughout the country visiting village midwives and teach them the importance of sterilizing the razorblades they used to cut umbilical cords. It was the government's hope that this would help to decrease the the rate of infections. In the areas where the midwives did heed his advice, they noticed a drop in infection rates.

    I also saw a documentary several years ago (I think on PBS or BBC) about how government researchers were studying rates of infections between several neighboring tribes in a region. A few tribes already had in place as part of their culture, the practice of circumcision while the other tribes didn't.

    What researchers found was that the circumcised tribes had lower rates of infections. They managed to pursued a few tribes to begin the practice and when doing so saw that their rates of infections also dropped.

    Sometimes it is the littlest things, and most of all access to information that has the most affect.

    I've rambled on, but interesting article nonetheless.


  4. Hi A. --

    As you know, I've been to Africa a few times. In 1992, was in Tanzania for 6 weeks. That was when I first heard of relatives or friends of people I knew there dying of AIDs. Then, when I lived in Tanzania in 1995-1996, I personally knew of people who others strongly suspected of having died of AIDs -- which people there often call "slim" because those who die become very thin before dying.

    A truly awful disease, it definitely affects a lot of people -- even those who aren't infected by the AIDs virus as they have to watch and wait for those infected dear ones to take such a long time to die, draining economic along with emotional resources in so doing.

    I really hope a cure can be found for it, and before too long. AND be inexpensive so that those millions of poor people who have it will be able to afford the medication.

  5. It's an incredibly complex subject, HIV in Africa, with so many different variables. Although the line taken by this research looks promising, it seems a very long way before it might yield some useful way to help. As Brenda says, how many will die in the meantime.

    The point about affordable cures is a whole other subject, and one I've had in outline in draft for quite some time "Who owns science?".


Forethoughts, afterthoughts, any thoughts. Tell me.


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