Can HIV Change Human Behavior?

HIV has wreaked havoc on mankind for decades, but some of its effects on the body are still being studied. This is the case with the behavior modification that this virus can cause, according to some studies.

In this article, we’ll explore this problem to find out what types of behaviors it refers to, under what conditions this effect occurs, and other important characteristics.

    Can HIV Change Human Behavior?

    Although the human immunodeficiency virus was discovered in the early 1980s and huge amounts of studies have been done on it, the truth is that in some ways it is still relatively unknown. One of the questions researchers continue to try to answer is whether HIV can modify human behavior.

    Before we delve deeper into this issue, we need to take a brief look at the implications of this virus in order to position ourselves. The HIV appears to come from another virus, SIVcpz, which has attacked certain species of monkeys, such as chimpanzees. Somehow, this virus made the leap to the human species, culminating in HIV, a relentless agent against humans..

    HIV is transmitted mainly through fluids, so the sexual route quickly became the main source of infection, before it was sufficiently known to act in this regard and prevent the rapid progression that this epidemic experienced in the 1980s. .

    Before we move on to studying the ability of HIV to modify human behavior, it is important to know that the main problem with this virus is that in the long term, usually 10 years, thanks to the pharmacological advances that have been made in this virus. regard, the host so-called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS.

    Once this disease has developed, the subject who suffers from it sees his immune system deteriorate gradually to the point of becoming extremely prone to infections or other illnesses, such as cancer. Under these conditions, the life expectancy of this person is considerably affected.

    While it is true that drugs to slow this effect are increasingly effective, the truth is that a fully effective vaccine has not yet been developed to end this terrible disease once and for all.

    The influence of HIV on behavior

    We asked ourselves at the beginning of the article whether HIV could modify human behavior. From some studies that we will know below, everything seems to indicate that yes, HIV has the capacity to modify the behavior of the host in a very determined way.

    More specifically, what the results of the latest research seem to indicate is that HIV would modify the sexual behavior of people affected by this virus, and more particularly of men. But when we say if HIV can modify human behavior, what exactly do we mean in the sexual realm?

    According to studies, it seems that HIV is the cause very subtle but effective changes in the host intended to cause the host to have higher sexual activity and even to take more risks, Maintain relationships with more people. At the adaptive level, this mechanism has a very obvious meaning: maximum propagation.

    A virus isn’t exactly a living organism until it joins a host, but the laws of natural selection also apply to it. Therefore, viruses which manage to “reproduce” (with the help of the host) in a more optimal way and thus spread to successive generations will tend to survive.

    Considering this mechanism and the fact that HIV is transmitted through fluids, with the simplest sexual route, it seems clear that the strategy is to ensure that the host has as many encounters as possible. it would be an excellent method to ensure the survival of the virus, Jumping from one individual to another, allowing it to reproduce.

      Studies on the modification of the behavior of this virus

      This is the phenomenon studied, among others, by Philip T. Starks and colleagues, collecting data from different works to perform an analysis that would allow them to answer the question of whether HIV can modify human behavior. From the observed data, these authors claim that indeed, HIV is capable of such a task.

      To reach this conclusion, Starks observed the reports of the study participants analyzed and realized that people who were in the acute phase of HIV infection would have had much more sex and riskier behaviors. (New couples, no protection, etc.) than people in the non-acute phase.

      Not only that, but also it appears that in addition to the viral load in the patient, riskier sexual behaviors practiced by the male host. Therefore, with regard to the question of whether HIV can modify human behavior, it would appear that the answer is yes and that it also becomes more effective in this task the higher the viral load of the individual.

      However, the researchers are cautious and call on the scientific community to put more emphasis on the conduct of such studies in order to solve this problem once and for all and to give a categorical answer to the question posed to us. Only then will we know for sure whether HIV can modify human behavior.

      Other cases of behavior modification by viruses

      To delve deeper into the question of whether HIV can modify human behavior, we can look at similar cases.. And there are other viruses that also modify the behavior of the host, even if it is not human, to achieve similar effects. Let’s go through some of the best-known cases to get a better perspective on this phenomenon.

      1. IIV-6 / CrIV virus in grids

      For example, there is a virus called IIv-6 / CrIV which affects crickets, causing infertility. However, outdoors it does not generate any manifestations, so a grill infected with this pathogen is visually indistinguishable from a healthy grill. However, one of the effects seen in people affected by the virus is precisely similar to what we have reviewed in this article.

      it seems like crickets infected with IIv-6 / CrIV would see their sexual behavior altered, so that they would maintain more relationships and with a greater number of individuals. The goal is the same as the one we observed when studying the question of whether HIV can modify human behavior: to spread the virus to the maximum, ensuring its survival.

      To see this phenomenon in numbers, you should know that a healthy grill takes on average about 10 minutes to start making a follow-up call in front of a woman. In contrast, a man infected with this virus took about 3 minutes to perform this action, seeking sexual intercourse. As in the case of HIV, this behavior modification has only been effected in the case of male hosts.

      2. Cycadina cicada Massospora mushroom

      There are other examples in the animal world. One of them is the fungus Massospora cicadina and its effect on cicadas. It seems that when an individual of this species is infected with this fungus, they suffer from an effect similar to what we have seen when answering the question of whether HIV can modify human behavior.

      In fact, the effect of Massospora cicadina is even more lethal. It can make the male host’s wings flap like a female would, because attract the attention of other male individuals and be able to come into contact to deposit the spores of this fungus.

      The most dramatic part of the process is that the fungus gradually breaks down the body of the carrier locust, but this does not make it lose its effectiveness in its dispersal mechanism, so you can see the locusts that have broken off. The genitals and even the abdomen due to infection, which continues to spread the fungus to everyone who can.

      3. Entomophthora fly in DIPTERA

      A case very similar to the one we we have seen in the previous point is that of the fungus Entomophthora muscae and dipterous insects, where mosquitoes, flies, tadpoles and other animals are included. It is thought that this fungus elicits in these individuals a response that would resemble the question of whether HIV can modify behavior. Human.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Adamo, SA, Kovalko, I., Easy, RH, Stoltz, D. (2014). Grilling aphrodisiac from the Gryllus texensis grill. The Journal of Experimental Biology.
      • Boyce, GR, Gluck-Thaler, E., Slot, JC, Stajich, JE, Davis, WJ, James, TY, Cooley, JR, Panaccione, DG, Eilenberg, J., De Fine Licht, HH, Macias, AM, Berger, MC, Wickert, KL, Stauder, CM, Spahr, EJ, Maust, MD, Metheny, AM, Simon, C., Kritsky, G., Hodge, KT, Humber, RA, Gullion, T., Curt, DPG , Kijimoto, T., Mozgai, D., Arguedas, N., Kasson, MT (2019). Psychoactive alkaloids associated with plants and fungi of two pathogens that modify behavior. Fungal ecology. Elsevier.
      • Coyle, MC, Elya, CN, Bronski, M., Eisen, MB (2018). Entomoftovirus: Insect-derived iflavirus that infects behavior that manipulates the fungal pathogen of Diptera. BioRxiv.
      • Starks, PT, Kelsey, MMG, Rosania, D., Getz, WM (2020). Does HIV infection increase men’s sexual behavior? Evolution, medicine and public health.

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