By Celia Farber
Spin June 1992
a deathly conspiracy of silence, the medical establishment is
ignoring powerful evidence that HIV doesn't spread sexually, and
it may in fact be harmless. Celia Farber reports.
They call HIV
the AIDS virus, and it's this generation's symbol of terror. It
has come to rule us, our lives, our relationships, our sexuality.
A microscopic dictator. We have erected buildings, organizations,
conferences, and global programs in an attempt to placate it. It
is a demon, and we worship it with our terror.
But what is
it really? Do we know that HIV is a deadly virus? Do we know for
sure that it causes AIDS? The answer is no. We don't know. The final
cause, or causes, of AIDS are not known, and the more you learn
about HIV, the less you're inclined to believe that it causes AIDS
all by itself. More and more scientists are beginning to question
the hypothesis that HIV single-handedly creates the chaos in the
immune system that leads to AIDS. Despite ten years of intensive
research, scientists don't actually know whether HIV is any more
than one of the signposts of an immune system gone haywire. The
fact is, a growing body of data suggests that HIV isn't the culprit.
media have offered the American public a very simplified, sound-bite
version of AIDS and HIV's role in it. In the swirl of disinformation,
politics, and rhetoric that has clouded AIDS discourse, several
basic and critical facts have been suppressed or ignored.
In 1991, a
study published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility addressed
a very basic question: Can HIV be found in the semen of HIV-positive
men? The results were deeply perplexing. Semen samples of 25 HIV-positive
men were studied, and it was discovered that only four showed any
trace of HIV. While epidemiological reports indicate quite clearly
that AIDS is spread two ways - through blood and semen - the findings
cast considerable doubt on the role HIV plays in relation to the
disease. The authors of the study acknowledged, in a rather understated
way, that "...very little information exists regarding [HIV's]
prevalence in semen and mechanisms underlying its sexual transmission."
The semen samples
were taken from people both with and without AIDS and were tested
with a new, hypersensitive technology, known as polymerase chain
reaction (PCR), which measures the presence of viruses far more
accurately than previous methods have. Amazingly, however, similar
information about HIV and semen has been available almost since
HIV was first isolated back in 1984. Dr. Robert Gallo, a top retrovirologist
at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), having pronounced the newly
discovered retrovirus HIV as the cause of AIDS, published a paper
stating that he had found HIV in the semen of two AIDS patients.
Curiously, Gallo failed to mention how many patients he had studied
and not found HIV in. "We don't know how many people he looked
for HIV in. He simply reported that he found it in two," says
Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein, a professor of physiology at Michigan
State University who has spent the past several years scrutinizing
the HIV-AIDS data and is becoming one of the leading authorities
on AIDS in this country. "In terms of peer review," he
says, "it failed utterly and miserably. It's hard to believe
what kind of nonscience they got away with."
reported around the same time at Gallo's, examined the semen of
12 AIDS patients and found HIV in only one. Yet this seemingly startling
observation went largely unnoticed, undiscussed, for years. "Those
first two papers were the only ones around on HIV in semen for several
years, and they were very misleading," says Root-Bernstein.
"They made it seem like, 'Well, we looked at these people and
clearly HIV is present in the semen and so AIDS can be transmitted
by way of semen.' And that's how it was left. The fact is, we still
do not know how AIDS is transmitted."
In 1986 through
1988, several more studies were done on HIV in semen, using more
accurate testing methods. "What they found," says Root-Bernstein,
"was that between 25 and 30 percent of the AIDS patients they
looked at had HIV in their semen. But if you read the paper carefully,
it turns out they're talking about one to ten 'copies' per ejaculate,
or one copy of virus per million units of sperm, which isn't enough
to spread an infection. HIV is present to that degree in salvia,
breast milk, vaginal fluid - and those are not modes of transmission.
You generally need thousands or millions of copies of any virus
for it to be infective."
It is premature
and unwise to leap to the conclusion that AIDS is not infectious,
but certainly this data raises questions about HIV's infectivity.
The very question is so taboo that one hesitates to ask it: How
does HIV transmit, if it's not in semen? Dr. Michael Lange, an infectious
disease specialist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in New York
City, believes that AIDS is transmitted sexually, but is skeptical
of HIV's role in the transmission of the disease. "I think
there's definitely an infectious agent at work here," Lange
says. "I'm not entirely convinced that it's HIV, or that it's
one agent - it could be a combination. But certainly AIDS is infectious."
been told that HIV isn't spread through any bodily fluids associated
with casual contact. And now, we learn that HIV, where it is present
in semen, isn't detectable in quantities large enough to be infectious.
Something is wrong with the picture. "I've heard," says
Root-Bernstein, "that they're pretty concerned about this over
at the NIH. I would be, too, if I were them."
at the NIH were unavailable for comment, a spokesperson at the NIH
headquarters says that while two workshops have been held on the
question of how HIV transmits, in light of the semen studies, researchers
do not feel that the 1991 data is significant. They claim that a
1992 study found HIV in the semen of 28 out of 28 studied.
published by the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes,
in fact confirms the 1991 data, if you look closely enough. HIV
was not found in 28 out of 28, but rather HIV antibodies were found
in only 7 of the 28, which reflects the 25 percent figure found
in earlier studies.
to distinguish between HIV antibodies - which aren't infectious
- and HIV itself. Antibodies are like footprints - evidence that
the body has come into contact, at some point, with the virus. Generally,
when the body produces antibodies, that means it has neutralized
the infection. This is the underlying principle of vaccination,
which tricks the body into mass-producing antibodies. The so-called
"AIDS test" actually tests for HIV antibodies, not the
virus itself - which is difficult and costly to test for and therefore
not routinely measured.
Even in patients
with full-blown AIDS, HIV is often hard to locate. Studies of AIDS
patients have shown, since HIV was isolated in 1984, that only 50
percent of them have evidence of the virus itself, while 90 percent
have antibodies. A good percentage of those who are HIV-positive
may not actually have the virus.
have calculated that it takes between 500 and 1,000 unprotected
sexual encounters before an HIV-negative partner seroconverts to
HIV-positive. But confusingly, there have also been cases in which
people swear they've gotten AIDS from one single sexual act. Although
the media favour the dramatic, terror-ridden, Russian roulette model
of HIV-AIDS transmission, it is noteworthy that those cases are
so rare that we know each victim by name. Alison Gertz, for instance,
the young, affluent heterosexual woman who said she caught AIDS
from a man she slept with once, has graced magazine covers across
the country. Suddenly, the media were making a tremendous deal out
of what is in reality a very rare example, while insisting that
the cases like it were the wave of the future.
How HIV is
or isn't spreading has been one of the most inflammatory points
of the entire AIDS debate. But by now it seems clear that the "explosion"
of heterosexual AIDS is a no-show. A recent flurry of press reports
has drummed up hysteria again, saying HIV can now been found in
one out of every 250 Americans, suggesting rampant spread. In fact,
this figure suggested the opposite, if you do the math. There are
250 million Americans. If 1 in 250 has HIV, that's 1 million people
- less than the previously predicted figure of 1.5 and 2 million.
of how many HIV-positive people there are, the number of potential
cases of AIDS in the heterosexual community appears to be self-limiting,
because unlike most sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), AIDS
does not transmit easily in both directions between males and females,
therefore inhibiting heterosexual spread. In New York City, for
example. Adult cases of AIDS In New York City in 1990 as a result
of female-to-male transmission totalled one. In 1991, there were
none. Since 1981, out of a total of 30,943 men with AIDS in New
York, there have been only eleven documented cases of female-to-male
It's the same
in Europe. A recent report in the English medical journal The Lancet
tested 4,097 women attending pregnancy clinics in London. Only one
tested positive for HIV who could not be tied to one of the groups
most at risk for AIDS, such as haemophiliacs or intravenous drug
users. Germany reports a grand total of four presumed heterosexual
transmissions of HIV not tied to other high-risk behaviour since
the virus was first tracked.
of the heterosexual AIDS explosion has been volleyed back and forth
between the two opposing camps - those who say it will happen and
those who say it won't - for years, unresolved despite a conclusive
body of data that shows AIDS is not erupting among heterosexuals.
The vast campaign to convince the heterosexual community that "AIDS
does not discriminate" is turning out to be politically correct
but factually bankrupt AIDS-speak. Ten years after the first AIDS
cases appeared, it still remains contained, for the most part, among
the initial risk groups.
Sonnabend, a pioneering AIDS researcher and founder of the American
Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR), walked out on the organization
he had started primarily because he refused to participate what
he saw as the fraudulent terror campaign. "The AIDS Medical
Foundation was sending out this press release saying that nobody
is safe, everybody is going to get it - and all that." He recalls.
"When I heard this, I totally freaked out. It was all just
nonsense. I called them up and said, "Do you know what's going
to happen as a result of what you are doing? You're going to freak
out heterosexual men, you're going to destroy relationships, marriages.
And other thing, you're going to promote violence against gay men.
People are going to say this thing is a plague and it's coming from
gay men, and they're going to beat them up at random.' All of which
has come true."
At the time,
however, AmFAR's then public relation director, Terry Beirn, who
has since died of AIDS, was not about to let Sonnabend or anybody
else get in the way of the fund-raising that was just getting into
full swing. "I couldn't fight Terry," says Sonnabend.
"He was very determined. It was pretty clear already then that
AIDS was not a significant threat to heterosexuals. He knew that
this heterosexual AIDS thing was a hoax, but he said have to do
it to raise money. And certainly, you could argue that unless those
heterosexual male politicians in Washington thought that sex could
kill, they weren't going to release any money. But my response to
that was, if you raise money on a false premise, that money's going
to be put to no good. And in fact, that's exactly what happened.
The money was raised to protect heterosexual men from a disease
they're not going to get anyway. So what have these hundreds of
millions of research dollars given us? Nothing. AIDS education?
All I see is terror and confusion. And AZT, which is a disaster.
the other hand, I can see the value in supporting this notion of
spread, primarily in order to protect women," he adds. "Because
women are getting AIDS from men, but men are not getting AIDS from
women. And men will only wear condoms if they think themselves are
interesting thing about any disease is how to control it,"
says British epidemiologist Gordon Stewart, who was asked by the
World Health Organization (WHO) to write a report on social and
behavioural factors in communicable diseases, including AIDS, in
1983. Now retired, Stewart, emeritus professor of public health
at the University of Glasgow, has been making statistical projections
of AIDS for several years. His projections are based on what the
pattern of spread has been - not what it might be in an imagined
worst-case scenario. While projections made by the WHO and other
health organizations have been grossly exaggerated, by tens and
sometimes hundreds of thousands from what has actually come to pass,
Stewart's have been uncannily precise, sometimes off by just a few
wants to look at the facts about this disease," says Stewart.
"It's the most extraordinary thing I've ever seen. I've sent
countless letters to medical journals pointing out the epidemiological
discrepancies and they simply ignore them. The fact is, this whole
heterosexual AIDS thing is a hoax."
the most obvious risk group for any STD, are baffling AIDS researchers.
Among American prostitutes, HIV is not spreading, despite studies
showing that most of them do not generally use condoms. And even
if they had begun to use condoms in recent years, surely cases should
haven been cropping up from the years before there was awareness
about AIDS. But all the studies with prostitutes conclude the same
thing: HIV is primarily found among prostitutes who are also IV-drug
buy the hype also that AIDS is caused by HIV alone: "It's an
unpopular view, but I've always said that AIDS is a behavioural
disease. It is multifactorial, brought on by several simultaneous
strains on the immune system - drugs, pharmaceutical and recreational,
sexually transmitted diseases, multiple viral infections."
AIDS has been
lodged in the public's mind as a sexually transmitted disease, above
all else. But no other STD behaves this way. Gonorrhoea, syphilis,
herpes, and genital warts, for instance, all spread rapidly and
indiscriminately, and the organisms that cause them are found in
abundance in semen.
work exponentially," says Dr. Peter Duesberg, a molecular biologist
and a central protagonist of the HIV debate since 1987. "Their
purpose is to infect as many people as possible in as short a period
of time as possible. They rise until they hit a plateau." But
HIV's estimated level of spread is the same today as it was in 1985,
when it was estimated at around 1 million. According to Duesberg,
since it's not spreading exponentially, this suggests another startling
possibility: that HIV is not a new virus, it's an old one. Which
means it would have been around a lot longer than AIDS has, so,
if it causes the disease, why didn't it before?
When the first
small explosion of AIDS cases appeared around 1980, in gay men in
New York and San Francisco, it took a few years before anybody really
took notice. But as the cases accelerated, interest grew, until
finally the new disease was being caused by a deadly transmissive
agent, and they were knocking each other to find it.
The field of
retrovirology took of in 1970 with the discovery of a group of viruses
that convert their RNA to DNA by an enzyme called reverse transcriptase.
Although retroviruses are common in animals, they had never been
known to cause disease in humans before. Robert Gallo, an ambitious
retrovirologist from the NCI, had discovered the first human retrovirus
in 1980 which he called HTLV-I, and tried to prove caused a certain
type of leukemia in Japan. When his theory failed to gain acceptance,
Gallo was infuriated. By 1983, he was publishing papers trying to
convince his peers that it also caused AIDS.
for the omnipotent National Institutes of Health medical complex,
of which NCI is part, steamrolled his way through the scientific
process by way of intimidation, meeting very little resistance on
the way. "The whole thing about HTLV-I and AIDS was ridiculous,
but nobody would say a word against Bob Gallo," recalls Dr.
Sonnabend. "When a few colleagues and I tried to show that
HTLV-I was not involved in AIDS, all the journals refused to publish
On April 23,
1984, at a packed press conference in Washington D.C., Gallo made
his way to the podium through throngs of reporters and TV cameras
to make his historic announcement: The cause of AIDS had been found.
Bulbs flashed. Cameras clicked furiously. It was a new retrovirus,
supposedly isolated in Gallo's lab; he was calling it HTLV-III,
to assert that it was a member of the family of so-called leukemia
retroviruses he discovered previously.
didn't mention was that the same virus had been isolated in France
almost a year earlier, and dubbed LAV. The French research team
from the Pasteur Institute, headed by Dr. Luc Montagnier, had isolated
the virus and sent it to Gallo, asking him to take a look at it.
The French were cautious - they were not at all prepared to say
that the new virus was the cause of AIDS. All they had was a strong
correlation between it and AIDS patients. Most, though not all,
AIDS patients had antibodies to the virus. Half of them had detectable
live virus. And in the test tube, HIV seemed to be killing T cells,
the same immune system cells that were wiped out in AIDS patients.
It wasn't, however killing very many cells.
But Gallo was
convinced. As an aggressive and notorious contender in the burgeoning
new field of retrovirology, Gallo was determined to prove that a
retrovirus could cause a fatal disease. Never quite accepted into
the top ranks of science, Gallo stalked onto the wide-open scene
of AIDS research, determined to settle the score on HTLV-I as well
as several other false alarms and scientific setbacks that had characterized
his turbulent career. Year after year, he had been trying to acceptance
into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, but with his
weak reputation among his peers as a scientist, the Academy kept
rejecting him. Now, claiming to have discovered the virus that caused
AIDS, Gallo's moment appeared to have arrived.
In her introductory
speech, Margaret Heckler, then secretary of health and human services,
mentioned "other discoveries... in different parts of the world,"
but the gold medal belonged to America. "Today we add another
miracle to the long honour roll of American medicine and science,"
she said, smiling for the cameras, Gallo at her side. Then she made
the next great claim. The discovery of the virus, she promised,
would launch the development of a vaccine against AIDS that would
be available by 1986.
remembers the period following Gallo's announcement well. It quickly
became clear to him, as well as many scientists, that what Gallo
was claiming as his own discovery was really the virus that the
French had discovered. "I remember feeling sick to my stomach,"
says Sonnabend, "I wanted to protest, but all my colleagues
told me to just keep quite. As none of the science reporters seemed
to see what was going on." Pictures later released of Gallo's
HTLV-III were identical to pictures of Montagnier's LAV, and the
only way they could have been identical is if they came from the
had actually sent LAV samples to Gallo twice. The second time, in
September of 1983, he also sent a contract stating that the American
lab could not use the samples for commercial interests. The very
same day that the press conference was held in Washington, a U.S.
patent was filed on an HIV test kit developed by Gallo. The market
for AIDS testing kits was estimated at $100 million per year.
A war erupted.
The French government sued the American government for the rights
to the patent and credit for the discovery of the virus that would
eventually be named HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. The whole
affair was quieted down very quickly; U.S. President Ronald Reagan
and the French prime minister Jacques Chirac intervened and forged
an agreement. The two countries would share proceeds from HIV testing,
and each scientist, Montagnier and Gallo, would be credited as "codiscoverer"
that HIV was the cause of AIDS was certainly far from conclusively
proven. But at the time, given the pressure, the intensity, the
public fear, the newness of it all, and the glory of the new discovery,
the American scientific community settled for less. The announcement
was made. An industry was born. A whole generation of retrovirologist
was suddenly given its raison d'être.
was certainly committing open and blatant scientific fraud,"
Sonnabend says. "But the point is not to focus on Gallo. It's
us - all of us in the scientific community, we let him get away
with it. None of this was hidden. It was all out in the open but
nobody would say a word against Gallo. It had a lot to do with patriotism
- the idea that this great discovery was made by an American."
Dr. Lange echoes
the regret of many practicing AIDS physicians. "I was far from
convinced by the data they had then and I'm still not convinced,"
he says. "We were all forced into a very dogmatic and simplistic
view of what caused AIDS. Today, I think even the greatest proponents
of HIV no longer believe that it does all that damage to the immune
system by itself. There have to be other factors involved. And because
of the HIV hypothesis, there's been little or no research done on
what those other factors may be."
very upset," Lange continues. "The cause of AIDS was discovered
by government fiat. I had been working with the Pasteur Institute
for six months, but then that announcement was made at the press
conference. As far as I'm concerned, from that point on AIDS research
turned into seedy, criminal politics, and it remained that way."
Dr. Kary Mullis,
a biochemist and the inventor of PCR, shakes his head. "Why
they did it," he says, "I cannot figure out. Nobody in
their right mind would jump into this thing like they did. The secretary
of health just announcing to the world like that that this man Robert
Gallo, wearing those dark sunglasses, had found the cause of AIDS.
It had nothing to do with any well-considered science. There were
some people who had AIDS and some of them had HIV - not even all
of them. So they had a correlation. So what?"
It was in1987
that molecular biologist Peter Duesberg launched his first blistering
attack on the HIV-AIDS theory in the journal Cancer Research. Duesberg
a world-renowned scientist and long-standing member of the National
Academy of Sciences, was in an ideal position to take a crack at
AIDS. He had discovered oncogenes (cancer-causing genes), and had
helped map the genetic structure of retroviruses. Even Gallo boasted
that his then friend and colleague Duesberg "knows more about
retroviruses than any man alive." Duesberg was one of only
23 scientists in the country deemed worthy of prestious NIH "Outstanding
Investigator Grant" which specifies that the recipient "venture
into new territory," "conduct high-risk research,"
and "ask creative questions."
did. He asked how HIV, a latent, inactive retrovirus, could kill
billions of cells when it infected only a few. How could it cause
a deadly disease when it could barely be isolated in patients even
in the last stages of disease? How could there be AIDS patients
with no trace of HIV? And why wasn't there an animal model for HIV
- in other words, when HIV was injected into test animals, why didn't
they get AIDS?
every single paper written on AIDS and HIV, and spent nine months
writing his paper for Cancer Research, in which he concluded that
HIV, far from being a deadly virus, is harmless. "I wouldn't
mind being injected with that virus," he stated flatly. "It's
At first there
was silence, a kind of stunned, embarrassed silence. Gallo, when
asked by a few journalists and the odd medical journal editor, to
respond to Duesberg's criticisms of his theory, simply blustered
that his claims were too ridiculous to waste precious time answering.
The rest of the scientific community followed suit and simply ignored
At the time,
the notion that HIV was the undisputed cause of AIDS was so entrenched
that Duesberg seemed to come out of nowhere, like some kamikaze
pilot smashing into the side of a building. The first reaction to
him was shock, followed by anger, perhaps some pity. Here was a
brilliant, respected scientist, just a breath away from a Nobel
for his discovery of oncogenes, who suddenly and inexplicably went
off his rocker. And yet however hard his detractors tried, they
couldn't quite dismiss the fact that Duesberg is one of the world's
foremost authorities on retroviruses. Duesberg was known as a "troublemaker";
in the '70's, after discovering viral oncogenes, he turned around
and said that another type, cellular oncogenes, couldn't cause cancer.
So this was not the first but the second time he was raining on
the parade - sawing off the branch both he and his colleagues were
It didn't take
long before he was excommunicated: He was no longer invited to speak
at scientific conferences, or if he was, he was asked to promise
not to bring up HIV. For the first time in his 25-odd years of practising
science, he could not get papers published. Then came the death
blow: In October 1990, Duesberg was informed that his $350,000-a-year
research grant would be terminated when it ran out in 1992, Duesberg,
a native German, had been funded by the U.S. government for over
20 years , but with this, he would be effectively silenced. He appealed
the decision, pleading conflict of interest: The review committee
that made the decision to discontinue his funding included Dr. Flossie
Wong Staal, Gallo's long-time mistress and the mother of one of
his children, and Dr. Dani Bolognesi, who holds a long-term patent
on HIV antibody tests. The appeal was rejected, although a few government
officials have rallied to Duesberg's defence, among them congressmen
Ron Dellums and William Dannemeyer.
the AIDS research establishment has kept a lid on the controversy
by throwing the same old bone to those who questioned. It was a
nonanswer, to say the least: Every "thinking scientist,"
they assured us, is convinced that HIV is the cause of AIDS.
This is hardly
true. In the past year, a group of 40 scientists, including a number
of eminent retrovirologists, epidemiologists, and immunologists,
have banded together to form a coalition that calls itself the Group
for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. Founded
by Harvard biologist Dr. Charles A. Thomas, Jr., who has been following
the debate since 1987, when Duesberg's first paper was published,
the groups purpose is to ensure that the question of what causes
AIDS is opened to scientific debate and held to critical scrutiny.
Asked what inspired him to put the group together, Dr. Thomas said,
"I feel that for scientists to remain silent in the face of
all this doubt is tantamount to criminal negligence."
By 1990, even
Dr. Luc Montagnier, the French discoverer of HIV, had backed away
from the notion that HIV alone causes AIDS. Montagnier stunned his
colleagues at the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco
in 1990, when he announced that HIV could not cause AIDS without
a cofactor. He proposed as a cofactor a bacterial agent known as
mycoplasma, which Dr. Shyh-Ching Lo of the U.S. Armed Forces Institute
of Pathology discovered causes AIDS-like disease and death when
injected into monkeys. Montagnier's brief presentation was met with
outbursts of anger from his American colleagues in the audience.
He left the conference early and flew back to Paris.
John Maddox, the editor of one of the world's top science journals,
Nature, sent shockwaves through the scientific communities in both
the United States and Great Britain when he wrote an editorial essentially
apologizing for not having more credence to Duesberg's views. What
prompted him, among other things, was a study that showed that mice,
when injected with their own lymphocytes (immune system cells, of
which T-cells are one class), may test positive for HIV antibodies
despite never having been exposed to HIV. Maddox wrote, "Now
there is some evidence to support [Duesberg's] long fight against
the establishment (among sadly he counts this journal)." He
concluded his piece, which speculated that AIDS could be an autoimmune
disorder, by saying that although he by no means feels that HIV
is irrelevant to AIDS, the new research proves that AIDS is infinitely
more complex than the original theory proposed. 'Duesberg will be
saying, 'I told you so,'" he wrote. The editorial was met with
shock and outrage, and Maddox printed a partial retraction the next
month, reassuring the scientific community that he was not saying
he agreed with Duesberg about HIV, but that, as he said in a subsequent
interview, there was more to AIDS than "baby-talk stories we've
all been fed for years."
A federal investigation on Gallo has been going on for almost three
years. Back in 1989, in the Chicago Tribune, investigative reporter
John Crewdson revealed in merciless detail how Gallo allegedly took
as his own the virus sent to his lab by Montagnier, thereby explaining
how they both independently discovered identical viruses.
On March 1
of this year, the New York Times reported on an internal NIH investigation
which concluded that discrepancies in Gallo's 1984 paper printed
in the prestigious journal Science - one of four Gallo published
around the same time on how HIV causes AIDS - stemmed from "misrepresentation
and falsifications." Now, Gallo having already admitted that
he may have mistakenly contaminated his own samples with Montagnier's
(the other possibility, still under investigation, is that Gallo
stole the virus outright), the French government is demanding full
recognition for the discovery of the virus, and suing the United
States for approximately $20 million the U.S. has received from
royalties on HIV testing kits, as well as the several hundred thousand
dollars in royalties that Dr. Gallo has received personally.
shrugs. "To me that whole affair is just a story of who stole
whose fake diamonds," he says. "The point that everybody
is missing is that all those original papers, Gallo wrote on HIV
have been found fraudulent. Well, then, that throws into question
the entire HIV hypothesis, doesn't it? The HIV hypothesis was based
on those papers."
The HIV hypothesis
is essentially this: When a person is exposed to HIV, the virus
gobbles up T cells like a Pac-Man, gradually eating away at the
immune system until it finally collapses, leaving the victim vulnerable
to a vast array of infections - ultimately fatal - that the immune
system would normally be able to combat.
main point, which few in the scientific community debate, is that
HIV infects and kills only an insignificant number of cells, about
1 in 10,000, and the body replenishes cells much faster than this.
like saying you're going to conquer China by shooting three soldiers
a day," Duesberg says. "It would take forever."
Many AIDS researchers
acknowledge this, but evasively point to "unknown mechanisms"
underlying HIV's cell-killing activity. Their logic depends on a
strange assumption: Since the cells are missing and HIV is present,
HIV must be killing the cells, they reason. They've constructed
widely divergent speculations about how this cell-killing action
takes place. Recently, in the New York Times, three very different
were elaborated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National
Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and one of
the highest-ranking government scientists working on AIDS, said
all three were plausible.
In the United
States, of the 1 million Americans estimated to be positive for
HIV antibodies, only 3 percent, or 30,000, go on each year to develop
symptoms of AIDS. While 75 percent of all haemophiliacs have been
exposed to HIV-infected blood, only 1 percent annually have been
diagnosed with AIDS, and many of those cases may actually be the
result of immune suppression brought on by regular dosing of immunesuppressive
blood-clotting products. In 1989, a study published in the Journal
of Allergy and Clinical Immunology compared the immune abnormalities
of a group of HIV-positive haemophiliacs with those of an HIV-negative
group and found them to be identical in both groups. Another study,
published in 1985 in the American Journal of Haematology, offered
similar results. "The results of our study as well as the results
of previous studies," the authors reported, "allow us
to hypothesize similarly that frequent and long-lasting exposure
to protein blood products may render haemophilic patients immunologically
unresponsive by assaulting their immune system every time they receive
has been said that transfusion recipients who were infused with
HIV-tainted blood have died from AIDS brought on by HIV, a study
published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1989 compared
those deaths with transfusion recipients who had not been exposed
to HIV and found that the death rates were similar. While 41 percent
of those who were known to have been infected with HIV died within
a year of transfusion, 50% of those who had not been exposed to
HIV also died within a year of transfusion. The authors of the study
concluded that the recipients who had gotten AIDS had also been
through more transfusions than those who hadn't gotten AIDS. They
wrote, "Recipients who have received more transfusions, may
be exposed to other viral cofactors, or may have more severe underlying
no study has ever been done to determine what factors, aside from
HIV, AIDS patients have in common. It has been reported anecdotally,
however, in testimonies from doctors with large AIDS practices and
from AIDS support-group leaders, that those who come down with AIDS,
like haemophiliacs and multiple-transfusion recipients, have a wide
range of immunosuppressive factors aside from HIV.
with AIDS tend to have a history of repeated STD's, and have overused
both antibiotic and recreational drugs. Dr. Sonnabend and others
have theorized that repeated exposures to different semens can severely
compromise the immune system. Infants, is argued, inherit the drug
addiction of their mother, so if she is debilitated from drug abuse
the child will be born with a failing immune system, regardless
is believed to cause death, we've wound up in a perpetual chicken-or-the-egg
state of confusion. If HIV is present and death or disease occurs,
HIV is held responsible. Rarely is the possibility considered that
identical scenarios can take place without HIV - that all diseases
associated with AIDS can occur on their own, particularly in already
immune-compromised individuals. Various studies have reported on
dozens of cases of indisputable full blown AIDS in which no trace
of HIV could be found. How do the proponents of HIV explain cases
like these? Their answer is simple, if unscientific. The virus is
hiding. Every single discrepancy connecting the virus to AIDS is
swept under the carpet with the explanation that the virus is simply
mysterious, that it causes destruction silently, invisibly, inexplicably.
Despite evidence that it's barely there. The medical research establishment
has spent ten years and nearly $2 billion studying, splicing, sequencing,
cultivating this virus, and yet it hasn't gained an inch on it.
How could this virus be so immensely complex and advanced, and cause
symptoms as diverse as those seen in AIDS?
While the majority
are comfortable with the explanation that HIV is simply that new
and mysterious, other scientists insists the virus is downright
is one of them. Although Mullis's PCR technique is now used in virtually
every HIV study, he is, ironically, a member of the Group for the
Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. "The mystery
of that damn virus," he says, "has been generated by the
$2 billion a year they spend on it. You take any other virus, and
spent $2 billion, and you can make up some great mysteries about
has gained him world-wide recognition and made him a contender for
a Nobel Prize. Using PCR, a kind of molecular amplifier, scientists
are now able to see viral particles in cells that they couldn't
detect before. Like a great searchlight turned on the seething dark
world of organisms, PCR makes it possible for viruses to hide. Ironically,
when the techniques was first applied to HIV research around 1989,
researchers claimed to have put to rest Duesberg's complaint that
HIV was barely detachable in cells. Several articles touted the
news that with PCR, HIV was 100 times more detectable. But to this
day, Mullis fails to see the connection between his invention, HIV
it easier to see that certain people are infected with [HIV],"
Mullis says, "And some of those people came down with symptoms
of AIDS. But that doesn't begin, even, to answer the question, 'Does
HIV cause it?' Human beings are full of retroviruses. We don't know
if it's hundreds, or thousands, or hundred of thousands. We've only
recently started to look for them. But they've never killed anybody
before. People have always survived retroviruses."
This has always
been one of Duesberg's main arguments - that retroviruses have never
caused human disease. "Retroviruses typically don't kill cells,"
says Duesberg. "On the contrary. They often promote cell growth.
Retroviruses have never posed a treat to humans. My feeling is that
virtually the whole field of retrovirology is redundant. So it's
no wonder they're so obsessed about HIV. It's all they have to justify
their work with!"
editor of the science journal Bio/Technology, has been skeptical
from the start. "HIV is an ordinary retrovirus." he says.
"There is nothing about this virus that is unique. Everything
that is discovered about HIV has an analogue in other retroviruses
that don't cause AIDS. HIV only contains a very small piece of genetic
information. There's no way it can do all these elaborate things
they say it does.
hypothesis has to explain and predict," Bialy continues growing
indignant. "I ask you, what kind of scientist continues to
support a hypothesis that fails to explain and fails to predict?
We've been willing to turn immunology up-side-down and inside out."
A few years
back, if you remember, HIV-positive pregnant women were urged to
abort their children, 100 percent of whom would certainly be born
with AIDS, it was claimed, and would die soon after birth. In fact,
of all infants born to HIV-positive mothers, all are indeed born
with HIV-antibodies, but within 15 to 18 months a full two-thirds
seroconvert to HIV-negative. The explanation given for this is that
the infants aren't showing their own antibodies yet, but rather
the antibodies of the mother, which they have inherited. If a child
born to an HIV-positive mother can expel HIV from its system, isn't
it tenable to say that HIV antibody is a far cry from AIDS itself?
But when asked if this phenomenon could be applicable to adults,
a physician specializing in children with AIDS at New York Hospital
said that adults have never been known to seroconvert.
having scoured the literature, disagrees. He says he has found three
dozen cases, at least, of people who have gone from HIV-positive
to HIV-negative. In addition, there are cases of people who have
received transfusions of HIV-positive blood and yet have themselves
never developed antibodies to HIV.
the confusion, even the more accurate test for HIV antibodies, the
Western blot, produces a cross reaction in people with autoimmune
diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. In other words,
people with antibodies to these diseases can test positive for HIV
even if they've never come into contact with the virus. Malaria
is another disease that sometimes crossreacts with HIV. Could this
possibly account for the staggering number of HIV-positive cases
in certain regions of Africa?
most important question for people faced with a positive HIV-antibody
test is that their chances are staying healthy versus getting sick.
Early on, it was stated that the latency period, which varies depending
upon whom you ask, has grown considerably, a phenomenon that Duesberg
calls "moving the goal post" that a person might live
for 30 years with HIV and not get sick.
enough of a health detachment among the public, the media, and the
HIV theory with all its implications, to make room for a rational
debate on this issue. When AIDS was taken on by the media and by
AIDS organizations, it was endowed instantaneously with a set of
political, social, and moral implications, and an extraordinary
righteousness set in, a fevor so sure of itself that it refused
to tolerate any questions.
some of the terms of "AIDS-speak" appear to deliberately
obscure the facts. Calling HIV "the AIDS virus" implies,
for example, that there is no doubt that HIV causes AIDS. "The
AIDS epidemic" implies that AIDS is spreading at an uncontrollable
rate, though not all agree: Some statisticians assert that AIDS
in the United States and in Europe has actually peaked and is now
on the decline. The number of new AIDS cases grows slowly each year,
a fact not widely trumpeted by the media or any of the country's
16,000 AIDS organizations.
Would it be
overly cynical to propose that we have on our hands an industry
that is devoted not so much to the fulfilment of its goal - which
would lead to its dissolution - as to its own self-perpetuation?
It's well known that many scientists who undertook AIDS research
jumped straight from the rotting ship of the cancer industry. Fuelled
by billions and accountable to no one, the cancer industry did exactly
what the AIDS industry is doing: It stomped out any dissent from
the orthodox view, refused to fund research into alternative treatments.
Says Duesberg, "I could understand them saying I am so horrible
and irresponsible if they were showing any results with their theory,
but so far they haven't saved a single life. After ten years there
is still no vaccine, and the only therapy is AZT, which is, in my
view, making people sicker."
scientists," says Kary Mullis, "Scientists don't believe,
they have evidence. We don't believe like Christians believes, our
souls are not on the line. I've never seen anything like this.
he continues, "I think most of them have done it innocently.
They're not evil people, they're just trying to do their job. My
reading of most virologists is that they are neurotic. They have
been co-opted over a long period of time by a system that is very
large, very complex. The system that they have been gaining their
information from for a long time has been progressively more and
more unreliable. What they call facts is what is published in the
journals by them, and that is becoming more and more muddled and
asked a lot of really intelligent people - I get around these days,
and I talk to the very best scientists. I've talked to people at
the CDC, the NIH, you name it. I generally say, 'Excuse me, but
as an independent scientist I often have to write papers on AIDS
for the company I'm hired to work for, and the first sentence I
write is often, "HIV is the causative agent in AIDS."
Now, I would like to be able to reference that.'
say, 'Yes, you know, a reference. Would you mind writing down for
me the references that you think, if I read them, I would agree
with that statement. I mean, I don't want it to be my idea.'
never gotten a straight answer to that question from any virologist.
They say 'Yes, yes, of course. As soon as I get back to my office
I'll have that for you.' And I call them back, and they don't have
it. There is no such body of knowledge. The thing has been contrived
from newspaper reports, word of mouth, agreement in the back rooms
of the virology labs - whatever they do when all ten thousand of
them get together in Europe and have their big HIV meeting. It doesn't
derive from anything that could be called scientific tradition.
The only goddamn person that ever sent me anything back was a virologist
from this company called Diagnostic Products. And do you know what
he sent me? He sent me the attack that Robin Weiss made on Duesberg
in Nature! All that article said was Peter Duesberg is a fool. We
don't need to look at the virus. We don't need to look at the facts,
at the spread of AIDS, nothing. I couldn't believe it." (Robin
Weiss, incidentally holds the English patent on HIV test kits.)
It seems hard
to believe. Virtually every scientist working in the field of aids
believes that HIV is the cause, and yet nobody can cite a single
reference from a body of scientific data that leads them to conclude
that that is true? Several scientists over the years have remarked
that although it hasn't been proven that HIV is the cause, the correlation
between HIV and AIDS is so strong that this is sufficient proof.
Such a correlation might indeed suggest the need for research into
the relationship, but what about ten years later, when the hypothesis
has failed to stand up to the most basic questions?
The HIV apologia
goes like this: Just because we can't see it killing cells, doesn't
mean it's not killing cells. It is. But it's a lenti-virus, a slow
virus. It may take years for it to wreak its havoc, but it gets
there. It gets there, they say, as they arbitrarily increase the
latency period from HIV from two to three years to anywhere from
15 to 30 years. Moving the goal post.
with the typical irreverence: "There are no slow retroviruses,
only slow retrovirologists." Duesberg has remained incredulous,
wondering what has gotten into his colleagues, improving like this
with the most fundamental scientific concepts as if their project
were some abstract creation. As a scientist, you don't mold your
theory to fit your assumption; you assume nothing, and let the facts
fall where they may. Eventually, you may have a theory. And once
you do, your duty as a scientist is to throw it right into the lion's
den of scientific scrutiny. Peer review. If it's correct, it will
prevail; if not, it deserves to disintegrate.
The phone never
stops ringing in Peter Duesberg's lab these days. He shuffles about
in his white lab coat greeting a German film crew, stopping to help
a graduate student understand some material, fielding phone calls.
His assistant, Jane Byrd, looks exhausted. The phone rings and she
stares at it. "Did I tell you Barbara Walter's office is interested
in this?" she asks with the faint smile. "Even they're
starting to catch on.
was once a drip is now becoming a deluge. People are fed up with
fraud, and they're determined to get to the bottom of this. It's
like being in the middle of a hurricane."
The phone rings