Thursday, July 17, 2008

Genetic Susceptibility

Researchers are reporting further evidence that susceptibility to HIV infection after being exposed to it is connected to genetics, and that it may partially explain why certain groups -- Africans and African-Americans in particular -- are harder hit by the pandemic. This research has been going on for many years; I remember reading quite a while back about one theory that Europe may have had an outbreak -- or many outbreaks -- of HIV centuries ago which may have caused somewhat of a natural immunity over time among many there compared to people in Africa.

The research presented here is a bit different, discussing a genetic mutation that protects against malaria -- and actually slows HIV progression -- but allows more easily for HIV infection. It's interesting for a number of reasons, but one that I think is important is that this research, notwithstanding the impact of issues such as poverty and the lack of education and services, cuts to the racist stereotype of black gay men being more sexually irresponsible and reckless:

The study appears to confirm the theory that the risk of contracting HIV is not solely connected to behavior, said Phill Wilson, chief executive of the Black AIDS Institute, an HIV/AIDS think tank in Los Angeles.

"Black gay men's behavior is no more risky -- and often less risky -- than white gay men, yet their vulnerability is so much greater," Wilson said.