Is the Polio vaccine linked to HIV?
In the 1990s, certain critics began to blame the testing of a live, weakened polio vaccine in Africa in the 1950s for the spread of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Those behind the accusation argued that chimpanzee cells were used to create the vaccine, and that those cells had been contaminated with a virus that sometimes affects chimps: simian immunodeficiency virus, or SIV. When the vaccine was given to children in Africa, they argued, SIV mutated to become human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, which causes AIDS.
The accusations, however, were demonstrably false for a variety of reasons. Most notably, the weakened polio vaccine was not made with chimpanzee cells, but with monkey cells. The vaccine was later tested using a technique that can detect viral DNA (the PCR technique, or polymerase chain reaction); it did not contain SIV or HIV.
Researchers at the University of Birmingham in Alabama demonstrated in 2006 that while HIV was in fact a derivative of SIV, chimpanzees in Cameroon that had been infected with SIV in the 1930s were the most likely source of the AIDS epidemic—decades before the weakened polio vaccine was tested in Africa.