Genetic Trait In Blacks Increases HIV Risk

Armen Hareyan's picture

Specific genetic trait in blacks, which protects them against malaria, increases the risk of HIV infection.

A team of researchers from University College London and University of Texas examined data from a 25 year study of people living in Africa. Researchers looked at a specific genetic trait called Duffy Antigen Receptor for Chemokines (DARC) gene and found that 90% of Africans have this gene variation that in turn increases the risk of HIV.

DARC gene is protecting people from malaria, which is widespread in Africa. People with this gene were found to be 40% more likely to be HIV infected. However, these people live two years longer with HIV than those who doesn't have this gene.


Researchers were suspecting that not only social status and sexual behavior affect the risk for HIV infection, but they were sure there is a link between genetic background and HIV risk. However, they were unable to solve the puzzle. This research finally found that DARC gene is responsible for the link.

Researchers still don't know why people with this gene live longer with HIV.

Dr Ade Fakoya from the International HIV/AIDS Alliance said: "There has always been this myth that people in sub-Saharan Africa were more likely to get HIV because of differences in their sexual behaviour, or that they are more promiscuous. This shows that it's not that simple, and I think it will be an important message for education programmes in these areas."

There are about 24.5 million people living with HIV in Africa and about 2 million people dying from the disease. DARC gene accounts for about 11% of all cases, which is millions of people suffering from infection because of gene vulnerability.