Polio vaccine trials that were conducted in 1954 are not related to the AIDS epidemic.
Multiple social media users recently claimed that the polio vaccine trials in the 1950s caused the AIDS epidemic. This narrative has previously appeared on social media multiple times. Among some, there is a persistent belief that the AIDS virus may have crossed into humans due to contamination of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) with the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). This view further holds that HIV was transmitted to humans when chimpanzee tissues were allegedly used to prepare OPV. The narrative first appeared in a 1992 article by journalist Tom Curtis in Rolling Stone magazine. The story discussed the polio vaccine as a possible source of HIV. However, this is not true. Polio vaccines administered in the 1950s are not related to the AIDS epidemic.
HIV can be traced to the 1920s in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, years before polio vaccine trials were conducted in the 1950s. HIV came to global attention only in the 1980s when it started to spread in the U.S. and the rest of the world, becoming epidemic.
A Washington Post article from 2001 cites three studies refuting the theory that the AIDS epidemic began after the oral polio vaccine was administered in the 1950s. Further, the studies tested old polio vaccine samples, and none showed evidence of contact with tissues from chimpanzees. The polio vaccines were made from the tissue of monkey species that don’t carry AIDS-like viruses. Additionally, the tested DNA samples where SIV infection was detected came from macaques, a genus of Asian monkeys, but SIV was not detected in the sample of DNA from chimpanzees. HIV is a mutated version of a chimpanzee virus and is not related to monkeys.
Poliovirus is a single-stranded RNA virus member belonging to the picornaviridae family and is an acute paralytic disease. The first inactivated polio vaccine was produced using a virus grown on monkey kidney cells, which was administered to 1.6 million children in Canada in 1954, according to a publication by NCBI titled “History of polio vaccination.” These inoculations were carried out decades after HIV came to exist.
Furthermore, there is no evidence showing an uptick in AIDS transmission following the polio vaccine trials or rollout. While cases of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) have been detected for decades, none of these instances were clinically linked to the polio vaccine.
We have marked this claim as false as the AIDS epidemic is caused by the HIV virus and the polio vaccines contain inactivated poliovirus. No clinical link has been established between AIDS and polio vaccines.