Hope on the horizon for HIV/AIDS

At least it’s not all grim news with HIV/AIDS. Scientists have identified a population of people who are immune to HIV/AIDS. They simply cannot be infected by it, no matter how often they are exposed. And since the people they’ve identified with this immunity are long-serving prostitutes in African countries suffering from severe infection rates of the disease, you can be pretty sure that they are exposed to HIV on a daily basis.

The immunity very likely exists in the general population at the same rate that it does in the prostitute population, but one isn’t very likely to notice it in non-prostitutes, as most non-prostitutes who don’t have HIV/AIDS don’t have it because they have simply never been exposed, not because they are immune. But this does provide a great hope for eventually curing HIV/AIDS. As we’ve seen time and time again, there is no disease that is fatal to 100% of the population. There’s always going to be some segment of the population who are immune to any given disease, and figuring out why this is the case is oftentimes the secret to curing the part of the population that isn’t immune.

Look at the Bubonic Plague in Europe. It was very deadly, yes, but there was a good level of background immunity too. The people who were susceptible died, while the people who weren’t susceptible (or could survive an infection) lived, and passed on the beneficial genes. There never was another outbreak of the plague nearly as large as the first one. In the worst case, the same will happen with a modern outbreak of, say, super avian flu. Yes, lots of people will die, and modern society will be severely disrupted, but it won’t get everyone. And hopefully we can solve the HIV/AIDS problem without having to fall back on the “let everyone who is susceptible die” strategy.

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