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Scientists Now Know Precisely What To Blame for Spreading HIV Between Two Men. And It Isn’t Satan

Well sure, we know that HIV can pass between two men when they have sex with each other, and one man’s semen enters the other dude’s body, but hello, it’s more complicated than that. And now scientists have found out exactly which part of your jizm is responsible for infecting other people.

In a new report published in the journal Science (abstract here), UC San Diego’s Dr. Davey Smith and colleagues reveal that it’s the RNA in semen — which is composed of sperm, white blood cells, and seminal plasma fluid — that’s responsible for spreading the virus between two men; the research didn’t include data on transmission during lesbian sex.

“HIV in semen comes in two contagious forms — DNA in the white blood cells and free-floating RNA in the seminal fluid,” summarizes CBC. “Until now, researchers did not know whether HIV RNA or DNA was transmitted during sex. Smith and his colleagues used genetic analysis to trace the ancestral history of the virus in six pairs of men, the source partners, who sexually transmitted their HIV to other men, the recipient partners. To investigate, the researchers compared the virus found in the recipients to the DNA and RNA versions in the men who infected them. RNA was the closest match, leading the team to conclude HIV originated from RNA in the seminal fluid of the source partners.”

What’s all this mean? For one, it’s great news for drug companies looking to cash in HIV drugs, particularly HIV vaccines, as they have more direction on how to target the transmission zone. And secondly, it’s given us the opportunity to whip our our eighth grade biology textbooks and remember what the difference between RNA and DNA is.