A *very* common exchange I have with the general public regarding HIV-1:
Person– Where did HIV-1 come from?
Me– HIV-1 is related to a virus we can find in African primates, SIV. SIV crossed over from chimpanzees to the human population to make ‘HIV’ sometime in the late 1800s, early 1900s. This event happened at least three times, giving us the three groups of HIV-1, Groups M, N, and O, however it most likely has occurred numerous times over the course of human evolution, it just never lead to a pandemic like what we have with HIV-1 today. You can go get blood samples from African hunters right now and find viruses not found in any other human.
Person– *makes a face* From eating monkeys? It wasnt from (whispers) having sex with monkeys?
Me– I seriously doubt it. People in other parts of the world hunt and eat monkeys the same way we hunt and eat deer. Technically, I would actually bet it would be easier to have sex with an unwilling deer than an unwilling chimpanzee. Opposable thumbs and like twice the strength of a human and such.
This observation isnt meant as social commentary, but I do think its *REALLY* funny that some people think it is more believable that we got HIV-1 from having sex with chimpanzees, than from eating chimpanzees. Some yall is messed up. LOL!
Yes, humans around the world do, in fact, eat non-human primates for food. This is a problem from an ecological standpoint, as they are killing endangered creatures, and its a problem from an epidemiological standpoint (see: HIV/AIDS). The next pandemic could be hiding in someones dinner.
And though some of you might be thinking you are safe, thousands of miles away from someone eating a monkey in Africa or SE Asia, Ive got bad news for you. That person sitting across from you in the break room might be eating a MLT (monkey lettuce tomato) sandwich for lunch, cause literally tons of bushmeat (including monkey meat) is illegally exported allllllll over the world. The meat, plus all of their associated viruses. The next pandemic might be *from* Africa, but *start* in Miami. And because all of this stuff is illegal, we have no idea to what degree the transport and sale of the meat is going on, much less the levels of potentially threatening viruses. We dont know what the risk is, but it could be very, very bad.
So various government wildlife and medical research centers got together to test meat confiscated at a New York airport:
SPOILER: They found lots of monkeys infected with lots of viruses.
So, if you are a jackass eating illegally imported monkey heads, let me offer a couple bits of advice. 1) Make sure you wear gloves and proper safety precautions while preparing your monkey head. Cutting yourself while butchering could start another pandemic. 2) Make sure you cook your monkey head thoroughly. I know, I love me some raw monkey head as much as anyone else, but consuming raw monkey could start another pandemic.