A stunning article in the Washington Post shines a light on the connection between the early growth stages of HIV, and its coinciding with the West’s “Scramble for Africa” during the late 1800’s/early 1900’s.
Scientists have been able to trace the origins of HIV to Central Africa; and its initial outbreak to a bustling port city called Kinshasa. Colonialism in Africa created large, chaotic, bustling cities like Kinshasa; perfect breeding grounds for an epidemic.
The article asserts that without Colonialism, it is likely that HIV would never have reached even a fraction of the tens of thousands of people that is has reached.
Written by Craig Timberg and Daniel Halperin, and excerpted from their book Tinderbox, “Colonialism in Africa helped launch the HIV epidemic a century ago” is a fascinating read that perfectly conveys how the plundering and exploitation of people and places at the hands of the West had many deadly, unintended consequences.
“For decades nobody knew the reasons behind the birth of the AIDS epidemic. But it is now clear that the epidemic’s birth and crucial early growth happened during Africa’s colonial era, amid massive intrusion of new people and technology into a land where ancient ways still prevailed. European powers engaged in a feverish race for wealth and glory blazed routes up muddy rivers and into dense forests that had been traveled only sporadically by humans before.
The most disruptive of these intruders were thousands of African porters. Forced into service by European colonial powers, they cut paths through the exact area that researchers have now identified as the birthplace of the AIDS epidemic. It was here, in a single moment of transmission from chimp to human, that a strain of virus called HIV-1 group M first appeared.
In the century since, it has been responsible for 99 percent of all of the world’s deaths from AIDS — not just in Africa but in Moscow, Bangkok, Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco, New York, Washington. All that began when the West forced its will on an unfamiliar land, causing the essential ingredients of the AIDS epidemic to combine.
It was here, by accident but with motives by no means pure, that the world built a tinderbox and tossed in a spark.”
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