Human Exceptionalism

New Strain of HIV Leaps to Humans From Gorillas

So we have the Great Ape Project, passed in Spain, that says humans and gorillas are part of a “community of equals,” and that none can be “tortured,” e.g., used in medical experiments.  In this country, we have legislati0n pending that would outlaw all medical experiments on apes and chimps.  But what are supporters of such bans to do with this news?  A new strain of deadly HIV has apparently passed from gorillas to humans in Africa. From the story:

A new strain of the virus that causes AIDS has been discovered in a woman from the African nation of Cameroon. It differs from the three known strains of human immunodeficiency virus and appears to be closely related to a form of simian virus recently discovered in wild gorillas, researchers report in Monday’s edition of the journal Nature Medicine. The finding “highlights the continuing need to watch closely for the emergence for new HIV variants, particularly in western central Africa,” said the researchers, led by Jean-Christophe Plantier of the University of Rouen, France.

The three previously known HIV strains are related to the simian virus that occurs in chimpanzees. The most likely explanation for the new find is gorilla-to-human transmission, Plantier’s team said. But they added they cannot rule out the possibility that the new strain started in chimpanzees and moved into gorillas and then humans, or moved directly from chimpanzees to both gorillas and humans.

If we are going to understand this new strain, if we are going to be able to fight it, if we are going–hopefully–to one day find a vaccine, it seems to me we have to be able to conduct properly planned and humanely conducted experiments using gorillas and other animals–of at least the option needs to be available to scientists.  No one like it.  But it is either that or not do our best to save human lives from this terrible scourge.