When Did AIDS Begin?

A new study of the oldest known HIV suggests the virus jumped from animals to humans in the 1940s

The year was 1959. Location: the central African city of Leopoldville, now called Kinshasa, shortly before the waves of violent rebellion that followed the liberation of the Belgian Congo. A seemingly healthy man walked into a hospital clinic to give blood for a Western-backed study of blood diseases. He walked away and was never heard from again. Doctors analyzed his sample, froze it in a test tube and forgot about it. A quarter-century later, in the mid-1980s, researchers studying the growing AIDS epidemic took a second look at the blood and discovered that it contained HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.


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