The headline of this rather weird story from NPR is “Origin of AIDS Linked to Colonial Practices in Africa”:

Monday marks the 25th anniversary of the first report of AIDS. But only recently have scientists come to conclusions about where HIV came from. The current thinking is that the colonial horrors of mid-20th-century Africa allowed the virus to jump from chimpanzees to humans and become established in human populations around 1930. But there is still uncertainty as to why AIDS was first discovered in Los Angeles and New York, and not Cameroon, where scientists say it surely started.

I had to read this twice to believe my eyes. How on earth did “colonial horrors” cause the AIDS virus to migrate from chimpanzees to humans? Puzzled, I listened to the NPR report accessible from the page linked above. Here’s the theory, as laid out by NPR’s “expert”: chimps had the AIDS virus for a long time, but it only jumped to humans, circa 1930, because–perhaps–an African saw a European boat heading up a river, became frightened, ran into the jungle, and caught and slaughtered a chimpanzee in a clumsy manner so that the chimp’s blood became mingled with his.

There is, of course, no evidence for this theory, and no explanation of why only the sight of a European boat could lead an African to kill a chimpanzee. The only possible explanation is the reflexive insistence of many liberals that everything bad that happens in Africa must, somehow–anyhow–be a consequence of colonialism.

Ironically, NPR’s expert does offer one plausible explanation of how European “practices” could have facilitated the spread of AIDS. That is, the inoculation of large numbers of Africans against sleeping sickness, using a limited number of syringes, could possibly have spread the virus. But this, far from representing an instance of “colonial horrors,” illustrates the humanitarian impulse that motivated so many of Europe’s contacts with Africa. And, of course, the debilitating spread of the AIDS virus through sub-Saharan Africa occurred long after the colonial era ended, and accelerates even today.

But that brute reality just can’t be made to fit with NPR’s worldview. So, somehow, the dreaded disease must be the result of “colonial horrors.”


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