New research suggests that HIV has been infecting human beings for around a century,; much longer than previously thought.
The discovery comes after scientists at the University of Arizona in Tucson, USA, led by professior Michael Worobey, studied a tissue sample from an African woman taken almost 50 years ago.
The sample was found to contain traces of the HI virus, which when analysed, indicated that the virus has been infecting people for 100 years.
Previously, scientists thought that HIV had only begun plaguing human being around 1930, but the new research suggests that this most likely began taking place from around 1884.
The breakthrough was reported in the journal Nature.
The researchers said that growing urbanisation in west-central Africa, where the virus strain arose when it moved from chimps to humans, played a part in its spread.
“I think the picture that has emerged here, where changes the human population experienced may have opened the door to the spread of HIV, is a good reminder that we can make changes now that could help reverse the epidemic,” said Worobey