October 15, 2007

What causes the high rates of AIDS in Africa?

From the New York Review of Books:

How, and How Not, to Stop AIDS in Africa

By William Easterly

The Invisible Cure: Africa, the West, and the Fight Against AIDS
by Helen Epstein

Epstein's view is that the cause of the AIDS crisis in Africa is what has now become known in AIDS jargon as "concurrent" relationships. Africans have about the same number of sexual partners as anyone else; they are just more likely to have more than one long-term partner at a time. Crucially, both men and women have multiple partners, in contrast to other poor societies where men may often stray but women's monogamy is jealously guarded. Western men and women are more likely to practice serial monogamy or engage in one-night stands. To oversimplify a little, Africa's AIDS tragedy is that it combines greater Western-style sexual equality for women with social norms that permit simultaneous long-term sexual relationships for both partners.

Multiple long-term relationships are prevalent in Africa for many reasons. In southern Africa (where the epidemic is concentrated), one of the few opportunities for gainful work open to men is to become long-distance migrants to the mines. Both husbands and wives may have other long-term partners during the months when they are separated. The African tradition of polygamy (described by historians like John Iliffe as a cultural response to maximize fertility in what used to be a lightly settled continent) has given way to modern relationships between older, well-to-do, gift-bestowing men and multiple young girlfriends. This is not so different from the successive trophy wives of American fat cats, but much more widespread since Africa's poverty often makes it a matter of survival for African young women to have a rich (older) boyfriend. The desire of young women for young boyfriends can be accommodated on the side.

For many reasons, concurrent, long-term sexual relationships are much more dangerous for the spread of AIDS than serial monogamy. When both men and women have concurrent relationships, they are part of a huge web of sexual partners by which the HIV virus moves through the population. Long-term relationships are much more likely to spread AIDS than one-night stands because of the low probability of a single sex act spreading the virus. Since the HIV-positive are most contagious soon after they themselves become infected, a long-term partner who has just become infected in another relationship poses much more risk than a prostitute who has been infected for a long time. Serial monogamy in the West kept the virus largely trapped within single relationships, a fact Epstein nicely illustrates with some clever graphs. Her explanation based on concurrent relationships has gained broad acceptance and has been confirmed by mathematical modeling and by surveys of sexual habits in various countries; but one still wishes the evidence was a little more extensive for such a critical issue. At this point, however, it looks like much stigma, denial, and inaction took place simply because of lack of understanding of African sexual behavior. ...

To illustrate the role of political agendas, Epstein discusses the famous success story by which AIDS infection rates in Uganda decreased as a result of the ABC campaign—"Abstain, Be Faithful, and Use Condoms." Epstein damns both the Western right and left for their misuse of the lessons of Uganda. The religious right played up the "Abstain" part because it happened to fit their particular moral preferences. People on the left, who had different sexual morals, said just use condoms. The "Be Faithful" message, precisely the one in Epstein's story that was critical in Uganda (led by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, who called for "Zero Grazing"), was a political orphan, disdained by both left and right. ...

When well-conceived efforts to improve prevention do exist, they often run afoul of the aid industry. Epstein observes that there was already a huge international bureaucracy devoted to combating population growth by distributing condoms. When suddenly condoms became marketable for preventing AIDS as well as pregnancy, this presented a huge new growth opportunity for family-planning organizations (which had been losing foreign aid market share as people realized that population growth was not as scary as originally thought). The condom bureaucracy did what it does best, which is flood countries with condoms. Alas, supply does not create its own demand. Condom-saturated countries like Botswana have made little progress in reducing new AIDS infections, since people there don't like to use condoms and are not yet convinced that they are at risk of HIV infection if they don't. Meanwhile, the "Be Faithful" message was neglected because it was not of interest to the bureaucracy concerned with AIDS. As Epstein muses acidly: "Zero Grazing" had "no multimillion-dollar bureaucracy to support it." ...

Epstein argues that it violates both common sense and the evidence to put much faith in vague, happy-sounding messages about self-esteem and safe sex. During visits to Africa I have often seen the ubiquitous donor-funded "AIDS prevention" billboards, featuring beautiful young couples who are meant to convey—well, what exactly? Epstein (backed up by an epidemiological study of the Uganda prevention success story) argues that the prevention campaigns could use less sexiness and more fearfulness. What worked in Uganda, she writes, was the "ordinary, but frank, conversations people had with their family, friends, and neighbors—not about sex—but about the frightening, calamitous effects of AIDS itself."

This is Epstein's "Invisible Cure." ... One still wishes that the evidence for what works was a little more substantial than one Ugandan success story that lasted a few years, but Epstein is such a persuasive storyteller that she earns a serious hearing. To illustrate what's needed, Epstein draws an analogy to the medical activism of women's groups in nineteenth-century America. Once they understood the germ theory of disease, they were able to spread habits of hand washing, covering your mouth while coughing, not spitting in public, etc. This successfully reduced disease even before the invention of antibiotics.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

33 comments:

Vol-in-Law said...

It seems to me that the 'be faithful' message ought to be compatible with the Christian mandate of no sex outside marriage, ie "Don't have sex outside marriage. If you have sex outside marriage, be faithful to him/her".

Anonymous said...

That's easy: 'unsafe' promiscuous sex. What used to be called sexual immorality, before that became unfashionable.

eh

Anonymous said...

"Africans have about the same number of sexual partners as anyone else; they are just more likely to have more than one long-term partner at a time."

This could work if it were a closed group that didn't have the occasional one night stand. I say they should create an African style monogamy that includes frequent AIDS tests and a pledge to group members.

I know you old married guys breathe a sigh of relief that you aren't dating anymore. Just imagine the diseases that that seemingly nice woman could be carrying and not even know it!

Incidentally, do Africans just get AIDS or are other STDS common as well.

Sideways said...

"The African tradition of polygamy (described by historians like John Iliffe as a cultural response to maximize fertility in what used to be a lightly settled continent)"

I got about 30 seconds of laughter out of that. Social scientists can be remarkably dense.

RobertHume said...

I think there are no closed groups under the African system as described.

M1 is married to F1. M1 has F2. F2 also has M2. M2 also has F3, ... ; in both directions.

This is exacerbated by the fact that F1 and F2 are hundreds of miles apart, not in the same community at all. So it couldn't close within a single town

manindarkhat said...

"What causes the high rates of AIDS in Africa?"

The Catholic church, the pope, colonialism and the hegemonic western capitalist mindset. What else? C'mon, you don't think blacks are ever personally responsible for anything bad that happens to them? Every good liberal knows that they're not fully human and have no free wil-- er, that they're the victims of centuries of white racist oppression.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe any of this nonsense for a second.

AIDS is raging in Africa because African [Black] men are much more likely to be bisexual than the kinds of men we are familiar with here in the West.

They may not talk much about their bisexuality, and they may not admit it to sociologists and epidemiologists, but that's what's happening, and that's what's caused the AIDS pandemic.

Dreyfus said...

Steve, the planted axion is that there's such a thing as AIDS in Africa. HIV-AIDS is an epiphenomenal chimera. Everything else is just pissing in the wind.

Anonymous said...

And then there is the whole leftist mantra that AIDS is a "heterosexual disease" in Africa, implying that it's going to get us too (not just the Peter Puffers)!

Researchers unencumbered by political correctness soon found that not only were there long term relationships away from marriage, but some of those "relationships" were between men. Africans just aren't burdened with the celebratory cultural enshrinement for this practice/act/behavior, that we call "homosexuality" in the West.

Anonymous said...

"What causes the high rates of AIDS in Africa?" How about Africans? Specifically, their genetic, intellectual and cultural behaviors tending towards impulsive, short-term gratification without regard to long-term consequences.

Leave it to the NYT to find a contortionist way to explain how Africans are really just like their urban yuppie Manhattan readership, just stuck in different circumstances. The double speak is insidious. What has recently been front page NYT news as dangerously evil polygamous Mormon cults (and formerly sexists sleaze bag alpha males Republicans oppressing women or pages) become a culturally respectful “concurrent” relationship in Africa.

America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were much less sparsely populated than many of the settled hospitable areas of Africa yet they curiously never developed polygamy in response as John Iliffe theorizes. What variable has the greatest explanatory power here?

Mark said...

Some lyrics to a very popular song of a few years back:

Honey came in and she caught me red-handed, Creeping with the girl next door. Picture this, we were both butt naked, banging on the bathroom floor

But she caught me on the counter (It wasn't me). Saw me bangin' on the sofa (It wasn't me). I even had her in the shower (It wasn't me). She even caught me on camera (It wasn't me).

She saw the marks on my shoulder (It wasn't me). Heard the words that I told her (It wasn't me). Heard the scream get louder (It wasn't me). She stayed until it was over.

This song with these lyrics was played over and over and over and over on the radio, almost non-stop. Need I point out that it was performed by a black singer?

What Ms. Epstein fails to address is the 800 trillion pound elephant in the room - the hypersexualization of the black race. Amidst all the hos and bitches and whatnot in the lyrics and language of blacks it should be obvious. And it is by no means a new thing. For no matter what decade you pick, it is black culture that has always been pushing the boundaries of taste and public decency.

That's the problem with her argument. It may indeed explain the situation in Africa, where (allegedly) tens of millions of men travel hundreds of miles for work (raising the obvious question of why don't they just move their families to said location?)

But that situation doesn't exist among blacks in America - and yet they still have much higher rates of HIV infection (not to mention higher out-of-wedlock birthrates) than whites. What's more, the primary reason that it isn't worse among blacks in America probably has more or as much to do with the First World healthcare they receive.

So the real question is: why are blacks so hypersexual? Why isn't monogamy as valued as it is in other races? Is it an evolutionary adaptation, like a sexual arms race: one man gets that way and so everyone else has to be that way too in order to pass on their genes?

Or is monogamy (relatively speaking) the new thing, evolved because it enabled civilized life?

I'd suspect the latter. But either way, how sexuality differs between races and groups is an interesting question ripe for research, although the researcher who attempts it will have to mask his true aim to keep from running afoul of the PC gestapo.

Crucially, both men and women have multiple partners, in contrast to other poor societies where men may often stray but women's monogamy is jealously guarded.

Yet another strong argument against "equality."
Africans practice it, therefore it's a bad idea. There was also that study that argued that the reason Homo sapiens outdistanced and displaced competing hominids
is that we developed division of labor between the sexes. All that and the declining birthrates in nation where feminism is dominant make pretty strong arguments.

Epstein damns both the Western right and left for their misuse of the lessons of Uganda.

Yep, it's all our fault, ain't it? Always is. Nevermind that AIDs is a disease that originated in Africa, not in the Mountain Dew bottling factories of America secretly owned by the CIA and Universal Exports.


The religious right played up the "Abstain" part because it happened to fit their particular moral preferences...The "Be Faithful" message, precisely the one in Epstein's story that was critical in Uganda...was a political orphan, disdained by both left and right.

Since when in hell has the religious right been opposed to the concept of faithfulness? I forget, did they ditch that plank before or after Bill Clinton was impeached for having oral sex with an intern? Before or after preachers Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, and Ted Haggard were publicly humiliated for various adulterous affairs?

Of course the religious right's alleged disdain for fidelity will be completely forgotten next week, when our lesson will be on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.


Both husbands and wives may have other long-term partners during the months when they are separated.

But if they're "long-term partners" then it's more like Western serial mongamy, right? Well, unless it's multiple long-term partners - aka "promiscuity," which appears nowhere in the article.

During visits to Africa I have often seen the ubiquitous donor-funded "AIDS prevention" billboards, featuring beautiful young couples who are meant to convey—well, what exactly?

What they convey is that you shouldn't be happy unless you have a young, beautiful wife/partner who could qualify for the swimsuit issue. Show the disease.


This is not so different from the successive trophy wives of American fat cats, but much more widespread since Africa's poverty often makes it a matter of survival for African young women to have a rich (older) boyfriend.

But black women in America have no problem surviving without a rich older "patron," and yet they're in the same mess.

And "successive trophy wives?" Come on, now. We're talking about a second or maybe third wife, not a fiftieth or sixtieth. Even in America when you hear about famous men bedding hundreds of women (think sports stars), they are almost always black men, not whites.

rob said...

No mention of the possibility that Africans and their descendants may be genetically more susceptible to contracting the virus, even with the exact same sexual behaviour as races less affected by AIDS.

TabooTruth said...

It's not quite fair for you to denigrate the left's rejection of the "faithful" message. For most conscientious whites, abstinence only is a disaster, and there is NOTHING wrong with promiscous sex, as long as protection is used.

Arguments against sex with multiple partners (from the right) are purely based on irrational religious dogma carried over from ancient times when the dogma was useful.

Unfortunately, most Africans are, sad to say, not rational, educated sex partners who can make good health decisions. That's when the dogma has to be reinserted.

It is difficult to allow the whites their use of open sexuality (a good thing) while condemning blacks to Islamic norms because they can't behave with responsibility with sexual freedom.

I wonder where Sudan's 2.3% infection rate comes from? Aids being ultra prevalent in the south and Darfur region?

Rob said...

Hi Steve,

Not related to the post, but I thought you might find this interesting

"Early-onset morbid obesity linked with low IQ scores"
http://www.rxpgnews.com/research/metabolism/obesity/article_4914.shtml

Development Dave said...

The "high rate of AIDS" in Africa is supported by remarkably little data. HIV testing is rare. The most valid statistical study, done in South Africa and which still had major problems with its methodology, estimated that 10% of the population was HIV positive. You usually see much greater figures thrown about in the media. And nothing close to a systematic study has been done in the other countries.

Efforts to fight AIDS attracts funding that is not available to fight more mudane diseases as typhoid and maleria. There is a huge incentive for health workers in Africa to label someone dying as having AIDS. The nature of the syndrome itself supports this, since what actually kills is a separate "opportunistic" disease that the immune system can't fight off. And people in Africa are being diagnosed as having AIDS without actually being tested for HIV.

The best explanation for the high incidence of AIDS in Africa is simply that there isn't a high incidence of AIDS in Africa.

Mark said...

For most conscientious whites, abstinence only is a disaster, and there is NOTHING wrong with promiscous sex, as long as protection is used.

Ummm, proof, please?

Look, I have no religious objection to promiscuity, but by what measure or statistic do you base the claim of "nothing wrong with promiscuous sex"?

Life expectancy? Number of children? Educational attainment? Income? General health? What measure would you choose for determining whether promiscuity is harmful, beneficial, or irrelevant?

Keep in mind that I'd absolutely love for you to be right. (What red-blooded man in his right mind wouldn't?) But my general impression is that men (and even moreso women) who are basically faithful do far better on most of those measures than do more promiscuous types.

Arguments against sex with multiple partners (from the right) are purely based on irrational religious dogma carried over from ancient times when the dogma was useful.

True, the biological consequences of infidelity can be mitigated: condoms, genetic testing, etc. But our genes are still hard-wired to dislike infidelity. The psychological and physiological effects remain.

Anonymous said...

Blacks have high rates of AIDS pretty much everywhere- America, Africa, Haiti, Jamaica, etc. Cultural explanations can only go so far here.

I don't think anybody here is racist or bears any malice towards Africans, but we need to acknowledge the facts before we can find a solution to the AIDs epidemic. One of the main facts is that Africans are, on average, a highly promiscuous population group. The consistently high rates of teenage pregnancy rate, out of wedlock births, and STDs all point to this. Groups as far apart as rural white southerners and Arab traders have noted black hypersexuality.

Another fact is that Westerners are not, on average, sexually promiscuous. Particular groups within the West (African-Americans/African immigrants, gays, New agers, bohemians, etc.)
may be promiscuous, but general mainstream society has few sexual partners and tends strongly towards monogamy.

One mistake the right makes is to assume that the historic Western model of limiting people to 1 sexual partner (though men sometimes had more....) can be applied to Africans.

Africans have about the same number of sexual partners as anyone else

Oh, really? So, Africans and, let's say, Chinese have the same number of sexual partners? Does that sound plausible to anybody?

Anonymous said...

A post by Robin Hanson, Doctors Kill, on the Overcoming Bias blog (overcomingbias.com), suggests that stupidly high rates of needle re-use is a likely leading cause of high HIV rates in Africa.

Also, I have seen references (don't remember where, and don't care enough to Google it) that support Development Dave's claim that AIDS rates in Africa are grossly overstated.

Anonymous said...

The claim that HIV causes is very likely the most significant case of scientific fraud in the last hundred years.

There is now a long list of dissenting world class scientists. These scientists now have to be taken very seriously.

Africans are dying from diseases that have been around for years, which are now being classified as AIDS caused by HIV

Africans are dying from the usual diseases caused by poverty.

If you are serious about understanding the scientific fraud behind AIDS science you can start with late mathematician Serge Lang's website where he has deveoted hundreds of pages devoted to exposing and dissecting the HIV AIDS hoax.

Anonymous said...

"there is NOTHING wrong with promiscous sex, as long as protection is used. "

Ummmmmm huh? So you wouldn't care if your 16 year old screwed the entire junior class as long as they had an ample supply of condoms?

fwood1 said...

"The "high rate of AIDS" in Africa is supported by remarkably little data. HIV testing is rare. The most valid statistical study, done in South Africa and which still had major problems with its methodology, estimated that 10% of the population was HIV positive. You usually see much greater figures thrown about in the media. And nothing close to a systematic study has been done in the other countries."

I agree with Development Dave. If AIDS truly was so widespread in Africa, wouldn't it make a dent in the population growth?

Fred said...

Maybe AIDS is to Africa what obesity is to America. All Americans know what causes it but most don't care -- they enjoy the risky behavior more than they worry about a shortened lifespan.

Africans are undoubtedly more fatalistic, since, in most cases, their parents died so young. They probably just assume they're not going to live to see 50, so why not enjoy life as much as they can?

TabooTruth said...

Mark,

"Life expectancy? Number of children? Educational attainment? Income? General health? What measure would you choose for determining whether promiscuity is harmful, beneficial, or irrelevant?"

I'm not using any of those measures, because they are largely irrelevant to the question. Sex alone has many health benefits, and if people engage in promiscuous sex, I'm guessing that means more sex all around. I'm pro protection and pre-emptive birth control also.


Anonymous 8:09,
Don't you think we should be moving to a more progressive version of morality instead of the dogma-based abstinence only bs?
Look, sure I wouldn't be comfortable with my daughter sleeping with the whole grade, but it's not gonna happen because of peer pressure and her own desire not to be labeled slutty. And I think that societies that stone their daughters to death for having sex outside of marriage are infinitely worse than those that promote safe sex.


It would be very interesting to explore the evolutionary reasoning behind the African sex drive. Possible roots to the lack of need of male influence in children leads to a lower degree of pair bonding.

This may sound like an odd question, but if it were possible to measure, chemically, the amount of love someone has for someone else (dopamine or seritonin levels), would blacks score lower on levels between man and wife and between father and children compared to other races? Would that explain promiscuity and illegitimacy?

A recent times article reports:
"Of the patients found no longer to be taking the drugs after two years, 40 percent died and the rest missed scheduled appointments, failed to pick up medication or may have transferred to other clinics. A small percentage stopped their treatment but continued to get other medical care at clinics where they started AIDS drugs."

not sure how to interpret this.

Sideways said...

If AIDS truly was so widespread in Africa, wouldn't it make a dent in the population growth?
Well, let's see, the highest AIDS rate is Swaziland, their population growth is negative. #2: Botswana, 1.5%. #3: Lesotho, .14%. #4 Zimbabwe, .6%. #5: Namiba, .5%.
They're not exactly exploding in population.

peewee said...

10% seems pretty high to me especially when you consider that's taken as a percentage of the whole population, not just the adult population ... so it's really more like 20 to 25% of adults that are infected. And the population in some southern African countries is in fact going down despite a high birth rate. I am not denying that some AIDS figures are probably off, but the rate of AIDS in southern Africa is still extremely high.

To add a bit: when I was younger I used to say that Christianity's loose morals were the cause of the high AIDS rate in Christian Africa, since it's mostly the Christian countries that have the highest rates and some Muslim nations are not that badly off. I'm not sure enough to make a statement either way anymore, though.

fwood1 said...

Thanks for the info, Sideways.

Anonymous said...

Jerry Falwell was mentioned as having an affair. Is this true?

Kent

none of the above said...

When I hear about Westerners trying to "help out" in Africa, I start with the assumption that they're interested in trying out their pet theories, proving their moral worth to themselves, or otherwise using the Africans as tools to accomplish their own goals. It's not surprising that a lot of that aid, maybe most, ends up not helping. That's not what it's for.

And some people surely do want to help, and some of them may even do a good job. Though I expect a lot of them p-ss away their money and time without helping. Imagine a wealthy, smart, accomplished Nigerian coming here and trying to fix the ghettoes. Most likely, they'd spend their fortune, and make themselves feel good, and have little impact, just because they wouldn't know enough about the culture of America.

Mark said...

"there is NOTHING wrong with promiscous sex, as long as protection is used."

Ummmmmm huh? So you wouldn't care if your 16 year old screwed the entire junior class as long as they had an ample supply of condoms?

Great answer.

Another fact is that Westerners are not, on average, sexually promiscuous. Particular groups within the West...may be promiscuous, but general mainstream society has few sexual partners and tends strongly towards monogamy.

I recall once reading that the average American has 6 sexual partners over a lifetime. A brief Google shows other stats of around 8.6-10.5. That average is also probably heavily skewed by people who are very promiscuous. The median I'm sure is much lower.

Even colleges - the alleged dens of immorality - have done surveys revealing that 80% of students in the typical year had one or no partners.

Whether you think 8-10 partners over a lifetime is a little or a lot, the fact is that in Africa the average is probably a helluva lot higher.

I'm not using any of those measures, because they are largely irrelevant to the question. Sex alone has many health benefits, and if people engage in promiscuous sex, I'm guessing that means more sex all around. I'm pro protection and pre-emptive birth control also.

In other words...no proof. Like I said, I have no philosophical objection to your argument. I would LOVE LOVE LOVE for it to be true. It almost certainly isn't. The data I've seen show that men who get married and stay married tend to be much wealthier, on average, than those who constantly play the field.

I am not talking about outliers - billionaires, movie stars, athletes. Such people are rare and exceptional and able to avoid the consequences of much of what they do.

And even if you proved that, on average, men who'd had more partners were healthier, richer, smarter, etc. then you'd still have to prove causation, because you'd expect such men to have greater success finding women to bed if they wanted to do so.

Jerry Falwell was mentioned as having an affair. Is this true - Kent

Sorry, I meant Jimmy Swaggart.


Imagine a wealthy, smart, accomplished Nigerian coming here and trying to fix the ghettoes. Most likely, they'd spend their fortune, and make themselves feel good, and have little impact, just because they wouldn't know enough about the culture of America.

Actually the wealthy, smart Nigerian would have a better chance of doing something that'd help, because he'd be dealing mostly with people of his same race who he's dealt with his whole life. He'd only have to add a little knowledge of the bizarre incentives created by the American welfare system, which is rather easy compared to understanding the motivations and demons that exist in a particular group of people.

I used to say that Christianity's loose morals were the cause of the high AIDS rate in Christian Africa, since it's mostly the Christian countries that have the highest rates and some Muslim nations are not that badly off.

Muslim men can have multiple wives. Muslim men are circumcised, while Christian Africans usually aren't. Muslim African women are more tightly controlled. Muslim African women are more likely to be circumcised, which reduces the pleasure they derive from sex, and discourages infidelity.

if it were possible to measure, chemically, the amount of love someone has for someone else (dopamine or seritonin levels), would blacks score lower on levels between man and wife and between father and children compared to other races?

Oxytocin and vasopressin are the hormones most often associated with human affection and fidelity. In monogamous mammals the receptors are found in the "reward regions" of the brain - the same part where drug addiction forms. Love for your wife is, literally, an addiction strengthened by the act of intercourse.

My understanding is that humans vary dramatically as to the location of these receptors and the strength of the response.

It would be very interesting to explore the evolutionary reasoning behind the African sex drive.

You may be looking in the wrong place. It is monogamy that is the exception, not promiscuity. Monogamy is one evolutionary development that aided the rise of civilization. It is one more example of evolution at work within the human species.

Because the reality is that before the existence of the nanny state, and before the spread of first world medicine into third world regions, monogamous populations were rapidly outbreeding all the rest. That's why it was the (again, relatively) monogamous West, not Africa, that had the surplus population to settle three newly discovered continents.

Mark said...

More on the vasopressin/oxytocin connection.

Larry Young, a collaborator of Insel's in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Emory University, chose to examine the connection between high levels of vasopressin receptors in this area and monogamy. Specifically, he incorporated the gene for the vasopressin receptor into a virus, which was then injected into a reward region, selectively increasing the concentration of vasopressin receptors there. He, Insel and other colleagues from Emory University and the Harvard Institutes of Medicine reported their findings in the September 15, 2001 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Voles infected with the virus carrying the gene for the vasopressin receptor were more social and were able to pair bond even without mating. "Now it is love at first sight," says Young. "Normally," he explains, "they have to mate all night long for the pair-bond to form. By increasing the receptors, we were able to reduce the threshold of social stimuli needed to form that bond." Young and Insel are now manipulating the amount of oxytocin receptors in the brain of female prairie voles. These investigators expect that the females will respond in the same way as the males, forming a preference for one partner without the need for sex.

One thought: given the burden of raising human children, have some populations adapted alternative methods to ensure paternity, such as the extreme possessiveness seen in Arab peoples?

Mark said...

When I hear about Westerners trying to "help out" in Africa, I start with the assumption that they're interested in trying out their pet theories, proving their moral worth to themselves, or otherwise using the Africans as tools to accomplish their own goals.

There may very well be little we can do about AIDs. Perhaps it will turn out to be an evolutionary bottleneck, eliminating those members who are less faithful, more impulsive, etc.

Perhaps that sounds cruel, but that's how evolution happens.

Mark said...

it was the (again, relatively) monogamous West, not Africa, that had the surplus population to settle three newly discovered continents.

Another thought: fidelity is (was?)to the birthrate what property rights are to economic productivity. Humans are more likely to invest effort in something when they know the output (crops, babies) is theirs.

byrdeye said...

The head of the Catholic Church in Mozambique has told the BBC he believes some European-made condoms are infected with HIV deliberately.