When conspiracy theories looked for origins of HIV in the 1980s: from "divine punishment" to the work of the CIA

The deployment of 5G, the trails left by airplanes in the sky, Avril Lavigne or the beliefs that the Earth is not spherical, but flat, are some of the bases that support the most popular conspiracy theories in recent years. The coronavirus pandemic is probably the greatest event of our era and is not far behind when it comes to creating stories about its origin, despite the fact that they do not have any type of scientific support: since its birth as a biological weapon with the one that the United States planned to attack China until global control by Bill Gates and thanks to the arrival of 5G.

History tends to repeat itself, and in this case, nothing bears as much resemblance to these conspiranoias as those that erupted with the emergence of HIV in the early 1980s. The rapidity of the era of social networks and the digital press makes the scandals of the present the vague memories of the future, but there is always room to review the newspaper archive and see what was said back then about the origin of HIV, and even what their denialists were saying.

God's punishment

Freddie Mercury, one of the most famous victims of AIDS. Image: NikoRetro (Flickr).

One of the most popular conspiracy theories around HIV and AIDS is the one who believed that this was a disease resulting from divine punishment for homosexuality in general and for sexual practices that they believe to be immoral, specifically for anal sex among men, something that was revealed as a highly infectious practice in the case of those infected, since HIV is spread mainly through the fluids of those affected (blood, semen, vaginal discharge, etc.).

The high rate of contagion among gay and bisexual men fueled the theory that it was "divine punishment" for "inappropriate sexual behavior"

Of the nearly 40,000 new HIV cases diagnosed in the United States during 2017, 70% were bisexual or gay men, a figure that helps to chronicle the myth for those who viewed homosexuality itself as inappropriate.

Although this was an especially widespread belief in the 1980s and 1990s, it still survives in our era. Both in developed countries (almost one in six Americans believe that HIV is a punishment from God) and in underdeveloped countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where rates of HIV infection are up to 1,000 times higher than that of the United States, especially in the southern cone.

Work of the CIA

Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine revealed that half of the Americans surveyed in 2013 suspected that HIV was a deliberate creation by the CIA. A myth that goes back a long way: in 1986, three scientists from different countries claimed that HIV had been created in a laboratory, an approach that did not have a subsequent scientific journey but gave wings to the CIA theory.

Some online publications still today include this legend, which has already been denied, since the origin of HIV was located in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in the 1920s, as the mutation of a similar virus that affected apes, beginning its worldwide expansion. from the sixties.

Intentional population reduction

In line with the above, a variant also specified that HIV was created by the American Pentagon in 1972, as part of a project called MK-NAOMI and carried out by the Government with the aim of reducing the population, especially that of blacks, drug addicts (HIV infection was also common in heroin addicts who shared syringes) or "enemies of the United States".

This Malthusian practice of population control and demographic theory was "revealed" by Milton William Cooper, a radio journalist and writer famous in the world of ufology. Some variants of this theory spoke of a somewhat later creation, in 1977 or 1978, succeeded by tests on prisoners who had volunteered for an experiment in exchange for a reduction in their sentence. These prisoners had been, according to this theory, those who had begun the contagion when leaving the jail and infecting other citizens.

The 'Malthusian catastrophe' is the demographic theory that argues that the geometric increase in population is incompatible with the arithmetic increase in food production, something that ends with food shortages and therefore famines.

Malthus predicted it for 1880, and although one hundred and forty years have passed since then without reaching that extreme, the theory continues to study situations that may make the survival of a part of the planet unfeasible if population growth persists. In this context, this theory was placed to explain the intention of developing a lethal virus that decimated the population.

2020 without vaccine

Although these theories have survived to this day in certain circles, in 1984 the US Secretary of Health, Margaret Hackler, pronounced the theory with greater consensus within the scientific community, which of course has nothing to do with them:

"The likely cause of AIDS, a variant of a known human cancer-causing virus called HTLV-III, has been found."

After four decades, there is still no vaccine against HIV, something motivated among other reasons by its high mutation rate

Although there is a strong consensus on the relationship between HIV and AIDS, there are many aspects of the virus that we are still unaware of, even four decades after its discovery. There are even signs that its resistance to drugs is improving, according to the WHO, although on the other hand, drugs are also being explored to prevent it.

However, after four decades, there has also been no effective vaccine against HIV, a virus that kills 700,000 people each year despite advances to improve the longevity of those affected, which number about two million new infected a year. they have to face, in addition to the disease, the stigma.

Hopefully the coronavirus vaccine will take less, much less, and be more effective than those developed against HIV, which have not been successful. It helps that their mutation rate is much lower than that of HIV, at least for now. Although the chain of conspiracy theories about him began as soon as his name began to appear on the news.

Featured Image: Obama White House Archives.

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