Man has created plenty of inherently evil things: weapons of war like guns and bombs, addictive drugs like nicotine, opioids, and crack cocaine, but none are more evil or responsible for more death than the creation of God.
Religion was the law before the law. It was a means to control populations of peasants and slaves through fear and pain. Egyptian emperors propagandized their godliness so slaves would die building the pyramids that would serve as their final resting places and lasting reminders of their godliness. People worshiped gods and goddesses and continue to do so out of fear or to relieve pain inflicted upon them by authoritarians or unfair economic systems and circumstances.
More wars have been started and more people killed in the name of god than for any other reason. Reconquista, or the Iberian Religious Wars between Christians and Muslims for the Iberian Peninsula, killed an estimated 7 million over 721 years. The Christian Crusades—nine of them—sanctioned by the Latin Church to acquire the Holy Land from Muslims, are estimated to have killed 1.7 million people. The French Wars of Religion between Roman Catholics and Huguenots are estimated to be responsible for the deaths of 3 million people. That’s 11.7 million deaths. The Jewish-Roman Wars push the total over 12 million. The German-led genocides of the Jews and Christian Poles killed another 12 million at least.
The Bible has been and continues to be used to justify slavery and white supremacy, demonize bisexuality, and deny climate science. “The Immaculate Conception” is still used to justify the violation of living, breathing women’s rights—even raped women—in favor of unborn babies. And Pope Benedict XVI actually said the use of condoms could worsen the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa, with Catholic Churches telling African children not to use condoms, contributing to the spread of the epidemic.
Organized religion is also responsible for thousands of sexual crimes against children throughout the world. The Illinois Attorney General found that more than 500 priests accused of sexual abuse have not been publicly identified by Catholic Church. In Boston, more than 130 people have alleged former priest John J. Geoghan fondled or raped them over the course of three decades through a half-dozen Greater Boston parishes. From 2001 to 2010, the Holy See, the central governing body of the Catholic Church, considered sex abuse allegations involving about 3,000 priests dating back fifty years.
Religion has certainly saved plenty, but its track record of evil is well-documented. Religion’s rap sheet is long, which should make you skeptical of its intentions, regardless of whether it’s saved someone you know. Personal experience means very little when considering thousands of years of documented history.
Over the past 3 decades, researchers have made phenomenal gains in the fight against HIV. The deadly virus attacks the T-lymphocyte cell, specifically CD4, then causes the immune fighting cell to churn out more HIV virus’. CD4 T cells send signals to the body’s immune system when something foreign is in its path, recruiting more immune cells to the scene. When HIV has used the CD4 T lymphocyte cell to replicate itself, the latter dies. As CD4 cells drop, so do immune defenses. HIV could lead to AIDS, Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome, giving rise to infections that healthy immune systems could normally withstand, but an immuno-compromised patient could not.
Anti-HIV drugs have targeted how the virus attacks the T-cells, and specifically how its DNA enters the T cells to cause its parasitic replication; however, millions of HIV individuals have yet to be “cured”, even if their viral load remains low or undetectable. Many cases have been reported of an individual with undetectable HIV coming OUT of remission, with reactivation of the virus. If T-lymphocytes have short life spans, how does HIV persist? The assumption exists that HIV hides out in a reservoir. But where?
Researchers from the University of North Carolina discovered that the HIV virus can live in macrophages. Macrophages are derived from monocytes, a type of white blood cell that finds, engulfs, and destroys pathogens as well as debris and dead cells in the body. I picture them to be Pac-Men that can gobble up unwanted microscopic particles, including bacteria, and will “digest” the substances they engulf with enzymes. Moreover macrophages alert the immune system of their work and that something foreign is in the body, just as CD4 T cells do. However, one major difference is that the macrophage can live for months, even years. This could make a cozy home for an HIV virus that hasn’t been destroyed by the macrophage’s enzymes.
According to Dr. Jenna Honeycutt, lead author and postdoctoral research associate in the UNC Division of Infectious Diseases, “The fact that HIV-infected macrophages can persist means that any possible therapeutic intervention to eradicate HIV might have to target two very different types of cells.” Their findings were published this week in Nature Medicine.
In January, Professor Ravindra Gupta, from the University of College London, and colleagues also found HIV to infect macrophages. HIV replication appears to be active in the brain, where the virus targets macrophages.
With these new developments, researchers want to now investigate where infected macrophages hide and hopefully find new therapeutic interventions that would limit HIV’s entry into this ubiquitous immune cell.
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Daliah Wachs, MD, FAAFP is a Board Certified Family Physician. The Dr. Daliah Show , is nationally syndicated M-F from 11:00am-2:00pm and Saturday from Noon-1:00pm (Central) at GCN.