Roundup: Origin of HIV Dates Back More Than 100 Years

Roundup: Origin of HIV Dates Back More Than 100 Years

Brady Swenson

Researchers trace origin of HIV virus back more than a century; Federal officials ease ban on HIV positive visitors to the US; Columnist calls out Utah congressmen for playing politics with reproductive rights; Catholic Sister explains why she is voting for Obama; Genital herpes virus infects 28% of women by age 49.

HIV Dates Back to Around 1900, Study Shows

The Los Angeles Times reports that a study led by evolutionary biologist Michael Worobey of the University of Arizona at Tucson has determined that the virus that causes AIDS has existed in human populations for more than a century.  Worobeby’s team analyzed a genetic sample from 1960 found preserved in ice-cube-size blocks of paraffin at the University of Kinshasa and compared that sample with modern strains to determine
its mutation rate. Then they matched that rate with a 1959 sample,
tracing their common ancestor to between 1884 and 1924.

"I’ve been trying to track down old samples like this for quite a few
years now," Worobey said. "As soon as you have that one other sequence
from that same time period, it really snaps the whole evolutionary
picture into sharp focus."

The researchers surmised that the
creation of colonial cities around the turn of the century was the
catalyst that allowed the virus to take hold.

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Dr. Steven M.
Wolinsky, a co-author of the study, said that colonial cities meant not
just more potential hosts for viruses living in closer quarters, but
also prostitution and other high-risk behaviors for transmitting the

"Urbanization was probably the main trigger," said
Wolinsky, an infectious diseases specialist at the Feinberg School of
Medicine at Northwestern University in Chicago.

Feds Ease Ban on HIV Positive Visitors to the US

Federal officials have eased restrictions on HIV positive visitors seeking to stay in the US for less than 30 days, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.  The measure is the next step toward implementing the promise of a section of the recently passed PEPFAR re-authorization that removed the requirement for HIV to be on a not-allowed list of communicable diseases:

In 1993, amid a nationwide hysteria about transmission, Congress
approved adding HIV to the list of communicable diseases that prevented
infected visitors from entering unless they went through a lengthy
waiver process. Since then, activists, advocates and some lawmakers
have been fighting to get rid of that law.

They made progress in July when President Bush’s global AIDS relief
plan included legislation that removed the statutory requirement that
HIV be included on the list of diseases that pose a health risk.

But that did not automatically change the regulations, and the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services must make the decision to
remove HIV from the list of "communicable diseases of public health

Until that happens, the Department of Homeland Security, which
handles some immigration services, is streamlining the process for
HIV-infected visitors obtaining visas for less than 30 days.


Columnist Calls Out Utah Congressmen for Playing Politics with Reproductive Rights

Yesterday’s roundup included an article in the Salt Lake Tribune on the announcement by four congressmen that they would once again attempt to pass a ban on abortions in Utah.  Today Salt Lake Tribune columnist Rebecca Walsh says the four congressmen are playing politics with an eye on the upcoming election:

Nothing sells in American politics like abortion.

It’s one of the major reasons Republican presidential nominee
John McCain picked an obscure, female and, most importantly,
evangelical governor from the West to be his running mate. In the
zero-sum game of picking Supreme Court justices, sometimes the only
litmus test is an anti-abortion stance.

Well-versed in using the wedge, four male, Republican state
lawmakers staged a show 35 days before Election Day to remind voters
that they want to save the babies. 

Walsh goes on to wonder why, if these legislators are so concerned about reducing abortions, they do not support programs that have been proven to actually work toward that end:

Never mind statistics that
show the American women who get abortions are no longer flighty white
teenagers but older black and Latina mothers. Rather than try to figure
out why (poverty? large broods already?) or add something that actually
works to Utah’s state-sanctioned abstinence-only sex education and
rhythm-method family-planning programs, lawmakers are going for the
expensive but easy fix.

Planned Parenthood Action Council Director Missy Bird says
government could save $4 in other costs – welfare, food stamps,
education – for every $1 spent in realistic sex education and family
planning that acknowledges people have sex for reasons other than procreation.

"The place where they could
have the broadest impact in this state is in preventing unintended
pregnancies in the first place," Bird said. 


Catholic Sister Explains Why She is Voting for Obama

In a letter to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Sister Mary Traupman, who is also a practicing attorney, explains why she is diverging from the stance of leaders in her church to support Senator Barack Obama in the coming election:

What does "pro-life" actually mean? It means subscribing to "the
consistent ethic of life," according to the late Cardinal Joseph

That is much more than opposing abortion. Cardinal Bernardin often
made reference to many life issues, including racism, abortion,
euthanasia, capital punishment, welfare policy, the arms race, human
rights — all the issues important in the Catholic Church’s history of
dedication to social justice.

You cannot be pro-life if you oppose abortion but support a
pre-emptive war, oppose fixing Medicare, oppose universal health care,

On the other hand, pro-choice does not equate with pro-abortion. I
know many people who are pro-choice and who oppose abortion. They just
don’t want it to be a crime.

Those who are anti-abortion may wish to reverse Roe v. Wade. John McCain may say he wants to reverse Roe v. Wade. That will do nothing to change the abortion statistics, since the matter will go to the states, which will then decide.

Barack Obama will do something that will change the statistics — by
providing health care, education and other support for mothers.

Let’s stop politicizing abortion and start doing something about it. Barack Obama will.


Genital Herpes Virus Infects 28% of Women by Age 49

Genital herpes may infect 28 percent
of women by age 49, according to the World Health Organization’s
first global estimate
of the prevalence of the incurable disease.  Women are more likely than men to have been infected with
the main type of herpes simplex virus that causes the sexually
transmitted infection, according to a report in the October
edition of the WHO’s monthly bulletin. In some areas of sub-
Saharan Africa, prevalence among women is as high as 70 percent.


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