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The claim: These STDs were made in a lab and can be easily eliminated from the body
Sexually transmitted diseases are at an all-time high in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prenvetion.
But a post on social media claims those diseases are more easily treated than generally thought.
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"Aids, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhea, recurrent vaginal infections and any other diseases that they made in the lab can be easily eliminated from the body," reads a Jan. 11 Facebook post. "Alot (sic) of healers know that for a fact."
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The post received more than 500 likes and 200 shares in two days.
That's not true. Research shows the listed STDs had natural origins, and USA TODAY found no evidence they were created in a lab. Two of the diseases remain in the body forever, though treatments exist for all four, experts say.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment.
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The origins of STDs
Though research into the histories of the listed STDs is ongoing, USA TODAY found no evidence any of them were manufactured in labs.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a type of lentivirus, meaning it targets the immune system, according to the American Public Health Association. The last stage of HIV is AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
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Though the virus was identified in the 1980s, researchers have since discovered that simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which attacks the immune systems of monkeys and apes, "crossed the species barrier" to create the new pathogens of HIV-1 and HIV-2 in humans.
HIV-1 is thought to have traveled from chimpanzee to human, while HIV-2 is thought to have traveled from the Old World monkey sooty mangabay to human, according to a 2011 study. The M group strain of HIV-1, which caused the AIDS pandemic, is thought to have emerged in colonial west-central Africa in the late 17th or early 18th century, Britannica and the study say.
A 2014 study by the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine determined that the two main herpes viruses — human herpes simplex virus, or HSV-1 and HSV-2 — originated millions of years ago. Researchers estimate that HSV-1 infected hominids 6 million years ago, before their evolutionary split from chimpanzees. They also found that HSV-2 traveled from ancient chimpanzees to Homo erectus, the oldest known early humans.
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Chlamydia trachomatis is a bacterium that causes chlamydia. Its origin has not yet been discovered, but an article published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences said the bacteria "evolved with humans and shared a common ancestor with environmental chlamydiae some 700 million years ago."
A 2020 article published in the Journal of Skin and Sexually Transmitted Diseases reported that gonorrhea's history "dates back to the history of mankind."
"A disease resembling gonorrhea was described by the Chinese emperor, Huang Ti, 2600 B.C., in his textbook," reads the report. "It is believed that the mention of 'an issue of seed' in the Book of Leviticus in the Old Testament and the precautions suggested refers to this disease. Gonorrhea was termed 'strangury' by Hippocrates, 460–375 B.C., who claimed that it resulted from the 'pleasures of Venus.'"
A Greek physician named Galen, who lived between A.D. 131 and 200, is believed to have coined the term "gonorrhea," meaning "seed flow" or an unwanted discharge of semen, according to the article.
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Treatment for the listed STDs
The post claims the listed STDs can be "easily eliminated from the body." That's only true of two of the listed diseases.
Both chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured by antibiotics, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Repeat infections are common, from both new partners and old partners who didn't receive proper treatment.
Once herpes and HIV enter the body, they're there for life, the CDC says.
Herpes viruses remain latent in the body by getting into nerve roots and spreading to sensory nerve ganglia, which is where nerves from all over the body join together, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Treatments exist for herpes symptoms.
HIV progresses while it's in the body, but slowly, even without treatment, according to University of Michigan Health System. The virus infects and destroys white blood cells called CD4+ cells, which weakens the immune system. HIV can remain latent in clusters of white blood cells, but the cells in those "latent HIV reservoirs" can become active at any time, the National Institutes of Health says.
Once HIV progresses to AIDS, people are more prone to infections and cancers due to their lower count of CD4+ cells, according to the University of Michigan.
If HIV is diagnosed before it becomes AIDS, treatment can slow or stop the virus' damage to the immune system, according to the University of Michigan. There are also medicines to make immune systems damaged by AIDS healthier.
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Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that the listed STDs were made in a lab and can be easily eliminated from the body. Research shows the listed STDs had natural origins, and USA TODAY found no evidence they were created in a lab. Two of the diseases remain in the body forever, though treatments exist for all four.
Our fact-check sources:
CDC, April 13, 2021, Reported STDs Reach All-time High for 6th Consecutive Year
American Public Health Association, January 2005, Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS)
Avert, Oct. 30, 2019, ORIGIN OF HIV & AIDS
Cold Spring Harbor Perspective in Medicine, September 2011, Origins of HIV and the AIDS Pandemic
Britannica, retrieved Jan. 13, The origin of HIV
University of California San Diego School of Medicine, June 10, 2014, Herpes Infected Humans Before They Were Human
Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, August 2011, Evolution of Chlamydia trachomatis
Journal of Skin and Sexually Transmitted Diseases, Oct. 15, 2020, Gonorrhea: Historical outlook
University of Michigan Health System, retrieved Jan. 13, HIV Infection
NIH, Aug. 4, 2021, What is a Latent HIV Reservoir?
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Battle over carbon capture as tool to fight climate change
Polly Glover realized her son had asthma when he was nine months old. Now 26, he carries an inhaler in his pocket whenever he’s out and about in Prairieville, Louisiana, part of Ascension Parish. “He probably needs to leave Ascension quite frankly,” Glover says, but he hasn’t because “this is his home and this is our family and this is our community.” The parish is part of the 85-mile (137-kilometer) span between New Orleans and Baton Rouge officially called the Mississippi River Chemical Corridor, more commonly known as Cancer Alley.
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An Indonesian activist holds an electric candle during a vigil commemorating World AIDS day in Jakarta, Indonesia, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. World AIDS Day is observed on Dec. 1 every year to increase awareness about AIDS.
A red ribbon is seen on the lapel of Ann Ricketts, associate vice president in the office of the vice president for research and the University of Iowa, during "The Reading of Names" hosted by IC Red Week on World AIDS Day, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021, in Iowa City, Iowa. IC Red Week is an undergraduate organization promoting HIV/AIDS awareness around the Iowa City area. (Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen via AP) ORG XMIT: IAIOP302
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A panel from the AIDS quilt is viewed during a "Rock the Ribbon," ceremony at the Galeria Mall in Fort Lauderdale, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2021. December first is World AIDS day.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: False claim that sexually transmitted diseases were made in a lab
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