at AAAS Conference
The Truth Is Bustin' Out All Over HIV
By John Lauritsen
New York Native 18 July 1994
"Who ever knew truth put to the worse in a
free and open encounter?"
John Milton, 'Aeropagitica'
Critics and defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis met in open debate
for the first time on 21 June 1994, at a day-long symposium in San
Francisco. The symposium, "The Role of HIV in AIDS: Why There
is Still a Controversy", was sponsored by the Pacific Division
of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The AIDS Establishment did not want this event to take place. Beginning
in mid-May, a campaign was whipped up in the pages of California
newspapers and the British popular science magazine, Nature,
to have the program canceled or at least altered beyond recognition.
Up to the last moment it was not known whether the symposium would
happen at all, or exactly what form it would take.
But it did take place, and was a triumph for the side questioning
the HIV-AIDS hypothesis and other AIDS orthodoxies. The AIDS-skeptics
achieved a critical mass, and spoke with confidence and authority.
Those who attempted to defend the official dogmas were apologetic
and defensive; they failed to rebut or even acknowledge the points
made by the skeptics; and in short, they put on a very poor show.
It is now clearer than ever that the official AIDS experts cannot
compete in a free and open debate, which is undoubtedly the reason
for the intense censorship that has impeded AIDS discourse for the
It would be an imposture and an affectation for me to pretend that
I am neutral in this controversy, as I have criticized the AIDS-virus
etiology in print for over ten years. I do not intend artificially
to balance out the debate that took place. I will, however, try
to be fair and accurate in my reporting. First, I'll describe the
controversies and contentions that occurred prior to the event.
The Struggle to Hold the Symposium
The symposium, "The Role of HIV in AIDS: Why There is Still
a Controversy", was organized by Charles Geshekter, Professor
of History at California State University, Chico, who had for some
time been aware of the suppressed AIDS controversies. Dissatisfied
with previous AIDS sessions at both the Pacific Division and the
National AAAS-"consensual gabfests" in which only one
point of view was presented-he began in 1993 to put together an
interdisciplinary panel of distinguished scientists, whose ranks
included molecular biologist Peter Duesberg and other prominent
critics of AIDS orthodoxy. The Executive Committee of the Pacific
Division AAAS approved the symposium, including the list of speakers,
at its January 1994 meeting. An announcement of the symposium appeared
in the 25 January 1994 issue of the Pacific Division Newsletter.
In early April, Geshekter met with Alan Leviton, Executive Director
of the Division, to review the final program, including speakers,
and work out speaking order. Despite there being eleven speakers,
ample time was reserved for intra-panel discussion and questions
from the audience. The panel included Kary Mullis, the 1993 Nobel
Laureate in chemistry, as well as two members of the National Academy
of Sciences (Peter Duesberg and Harry Rubin) and a member of the
American Society of Actuaries (Peter Plumley). No problems up to
this point. Everything seemed set.
Then, in mid-May, an intense flak campaign erupted. Two AIDS researchers,
Warren Winkelstein and William Ascher in Berkeley, put pressure
on the AAAS to cancel the program. Winkelstein was quoted by David
Perlman of the San Francisco Chronicle as saying: "The
views to be expressed on this program have potentially serious adverse
public health consequences." It is perhaps not coincidental
that one scheduled talk on the symposium was to be a critique of
research conducted by Winkelstein and Ascher.
The 26 May 1994 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle ran
an article by Science Editor David Perlman, with the headline:
"AIDS REBELS TRY TO STEAL SHOW: But Scientists Stymie Plan
By Mavericks Who Deny HIV Link." The first paragraph read:
Blindsided by a small band of AIDS gadflies, America's largest
scientific organization moved yesterday to avoid sponsoring a one-sided
spate of oratory over the causes of the global AIDS epidemic.
This is the kind of disinformation we have come to expect from
the HIV establishment. It is preposterous to imply that the "AIDS
rebels" were attempting some kind of stealth campaign, when
in fact organizer Charles Geshekter had gone through all of the
proper channels, and had publicized the program well in advance.
It is abusive to characterize the scheduled panelists as "rebels"
and their would-be censors as "scientists", when in fact
the scientific reputations of the former are far more distinguished
than those of the latter. And the panel was not really "one-sided",
as it included Harry Rubin and Peter Plumley, both of whom are agnostic
as to whether or not HIV plays at least some role in AIDS pathogenesis,
as well as Raphael Stricker, who does believe that HIV causes AIDS.
Control over the symposium was taken away from Geshekter, without
his consent or knowledge, by other AAAS officials. In the 26 May
1994 issue of Nature, the Executive Director of the AAAS,
Richard Nicholson, was quoted as saying: "All options are open,
including cancellation." Geshekter first learned from a journalist,
on June 3, that the symposium remained part of the program. Following
is Geshekter's account of what happened:
Between May 18th and June 4th, without ever
contacting me to solicit my input or gain my support, Bob Bowman
[Counselor, San Francisco State University], Michele Aldrich [AAAS
Liaison to the Pacific Division] and Alan Leviton [Executive Director,
Pacific Division] reconfigured the symposium. Under a blanket of
silence, they added seven speakers to the program, changed the starting
and concluding times, inserted a 90 minute "panel discussion"
in the morning and afternoon sessions, appointed a separate moderator
for them, and designated her to summarize the entire proceedings.
Between May 18th and June 9th, I received
no phone calls, faxes, or letters from either local organizers of
the Divisional Meeting or from the Liaison Officer in Washington
to tell me about these changes. I only learned about some of them
from articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and from the
reporter for the Sacramento Bee.
Not until Friday, June 10th did Dr. Leviton tell me
exactly how substantial the changes were, even though he admitted
they had all been finalized a week earlier. He then faxed me the
program, a fait accompli, eleven days before its scheduled
As a result of all these changes, I was inundated with last minute
questions and complaints from the original speakers. The unilateral
and secretive intrusions by Leviton and Bowman seriously undermined
my efforts to run a scientific symposium and their organizational
infractions compromised my effectiveness as Chairman. While responsibility
for presiding as Symposium Chairman remained mine, Dr. Leviton emphatically
and unambiguously reminded me on June 10th that final
authority and ultimate power to interfere in my session rested with
Eager to placate the media and acquiesce to outside critics, Bowman
and Leviton operated in a capricious, non-consultative, arbitrary,
and anti-democratic manner. Their authoritarian and deceptive practices
violated the principles of open scientific discourse which we assure
our members and the public are scrupulously upheld by the AAAS.
[Statement to the Council of the Pacific Division, American Association
for the Advancement of Science, from Charles L. Geshekter, Chairman,
History and Philosophy of Science Section, 22 June 1994]
The planned intrusion of the two 90-minute panels amounted to sabotage,
as 100% of these panelists were defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
The symposium would have ended with a 90-minute panel attacking
the ideas of the "AIDS rebels", followed without discussion
by a "summation" from Ann Auleb of San Francisco State
University, a woman known to be bitterly opposed to AIDS-critics.
Fortunately for free speech, it did not happen this way.
The night before the symposium, a band of "AIDS rebels"
had dinner at a very fine Chinese seafood restaurant at the tip
of the Emeryville marina in Oakland, guests of Phillip Johnson,
Professor of Law at Berkeley. A powerful esprit de corps
developed, and all agreed that the final panel, as planned, would
be intolerable. The inclusion of the pro-HIV speakers elsewhere
in the program had both advantages and drawbacks. On the one hand,
this would force the "AIDS experts" into debate, something
they had been running away from for years. On the other hand, the
extra speakers meant that speeches would have to be shortened, and
there would be much less time for discussion and audience participation.
With support from his comrades, many of us newly introduced to each
other, Charles Geshekter resolved to assume his right, as organizer
of the symposium, to moderate everything except the panel at the
end of the morning session. He would insist that the final panel
include all of the speakers, not just the pro-HIV people
listed in the program, and that the panel would take questions from
Geshekter did prevail the next day. He was in charge of the symposium,
from beginning to end. The final panel did include all of the speakers,
with devastating consequences for the defenders of AIDS orthodoxy.
The symposium included twelve main speakers, plus another half
dozen or so in the panels. For various reasons, including length,
I'll not attempt fully to cover all of the speakers.
Defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis were in a difficult spot.
With facts and logic arrayed against them, they had a limited number
- say untrue things
- say irrelevant things
- make unfounded assertions
- engage in ad hominem attacks
- ignore points made by opposition
And by and large, this is what they did. I see no reason for me
to report extensively on comments made by these people, when they
were merely reiterations of the AIDS myths that we have already
encountered thousands of times in the mainstream media. What I will
do is highlight comments that were egregiously untrue, unsupported,
or unresponsive to points made by the opposition.
Following, in chronological order, is a description of the speakers
and events of the symposium:
Berkeley Law Professor Phillip Johnson set the tone for the entire
day with his talk, "The role of HIV in AIDS: Why there is still
a controversy". His magisterial overview, of the official AIDS
paradigm and its defects, solidly established that the HIV-skeptics
would occupy the high ground, intellectually and in terms of civility.
After relating that AIDS researchers themselves now have to admit
they are at an impasse, that their efforts so far have amounted
to failure, Johnson dissected the puzzle of how HIV could be responsible
for the mass destruction of T4 cells, even though it infects only
a minuscule number of them:
Official explanations of how an ordinary retrovirus can kill cells
it never infects have grown ever more complicated as the prospect
of a cure or vaccine has grown ever more distant. Even Dr. Robert
Gallo, originally a vigorous proponent of the direct infection model,
now speculates about indirect mechanisms in which HIV somehow sets
off a course of programmed cell destruction that may not even require
the continuous presence of the virus. In Dr. Gallo's own words at
a 1993 conference, "The molecular mimicry in which HIV imitates
components of the immune system sets events into motion that may
be able to proceed in the absence of further whole virus."
Dr. Anthony Fauci's description to the New York Times of
how HIV does its destructive work attributed almost supernatural
capacities to the virus: "It [HIV] overexcites some immune
signaling pathways, while eluding the detection of others. And though
the main target of the virus seems to be the famed helper T-cells,
or CD-4 cells, which it can infiltrate and kill, the virus also
ends up stimulating the response of other immune cells so inappropriately
that they eventually collapse from overwork and confusion."
When a scientific research project encounters this degree of failure
and confusion, scientists ordinarily ask the obvious question: "Have
we somehow made a fundamental mistake in our assumptions?"
HIV-science is not ordinary science, however. Its basic premise
was established at a press conference, and never subjected to the
kind of critical scrutiny that ordinarily protects the scientific
community from endorsing a catastrophic error. The theory became
fact in an atmosphere of near panic, in which the demands for an
easy answer and a miracle cure were irresistible. The virus theory
satisfied everyone's hopes and interests. Politicians accused of
doing nothing could point to a spectacular success; the virus hunters
who had failed to find a cure for cancer could justify and continue
their very expensive laboratories; and the groups threatened by
AIDS were promised a vaccine in the near future. Nobody had an incentive
to be skeptical, and nobody was skeptical. Once the research agenda
was set in concrete, those who subsequently tried to challenge the
basic assumption were met only with silence or ridicule, and their
applications for research funding received a cold reception.
Johnson criticized the question, "What causes AIDS",
as being overly general, and bearing with it the unwarranted assumption
that all AIDS diseases, in all countries and all risk groups, are
one and the same thing. Instead:
To have a more productive discussion, it is necessary to put aside
the most general questions and to focus on more specific issues
on which a degree of agreement may be reached. That is the method
of science, and it is also the method of law and diplomacy. I propose
to illustrate this method by focussing on two relatively specific
(1) What is the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma? and (2) What is really
known about the role of HIV in causing disease in Africa?
Johnson's analysis of Kaposi's sarcoma was partly based on my own
report, which appeared in the Native a few weeks ago ("NIDA
Meeting Calls for Research into The Poppers-KS Connection",
New York Native, 13 June 1994). His salient points were:
1) KS occurs not infrequently in gay men who are negative on the
HIV-antibody test, and 2) Robert Gallo and other AIDS researchers
now concede that HIV is not the cause of KS. He then posed the question:
If KS is not caused by HIV, and if many other AIDS-defining conditions
occur both in the presence of HIV and in its absence, should we
not reconsider the definition of the syndrome, and hence the role
of HIV in AIDS?
With regard to AIDS in Africa, Johnson described the lack of testing
in making AIDS diagnoses, the extreme unreliability of the tests
even when they are used, the shoddy epidemiological studies conducted
The claims that HIV is killing millions of people in Africa richly
deserve a critical re-examination. In a word, what we are hearing
about "African AIDS" is not science, but hype.
He concluded his talk:
For essentially political reasons, HIV science has been ruled by
unexamined assumptions. It is time at long last to have the scientific
debate that wasn't allowed to occur ten years ago. Let the politics
be put aside, and let the science begin.
Harvey Bialy, a molecular biologist and Research Editor of BioTechnology,
spoke on "HIV-AIDS: A hundred thousand papers and no proof".
He began by saying that hypotheses need to be clearly stated, and
then articulated the 1984 version of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis:
HIV, A NEW, MUTANT RETROVIRUS, CAUSES AIDS BY KILLING CD4+ LYMPHOCYTES.
The operative terms are new, mutant and kill, so: Is HIV new? Is
it mutant? Does it kill CD4 cells?
HIV cannot be new, in the U.S. at least, as it occurs in teenagers
who could only have acquired it perinatally (from their mothers).
HIV would have to be mutant, as common, garden variety retroviruses
are not pathogenic; however, there is no evidence that HIV is mutant.
Bialy showed a genetic map of HIV, and said:
"For all intents and purposes this could be the map of 50
other retroviruses." HIV has no extra gene; there is nothing
whatever unusual about it.
Does HIV kill CD4 cells? "It certainly doesn't kill the T
cell lines that are used to produce kilograms of the virus for the
AIDS industries." And in fact, the leading AIDS researchers
now admit that HIV does not directly kill CD4 cells.
Therefore, the 1984 version of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is not tenable.
If HIV were the cause of AIDS, then a high viral load ought to
coincide with illness. Bialy showed a slide, which he had labeled:
"WE WISH IT WERE SO VIRUS LOAD DISEASE PROPORTIONALITY SLIDE."
This slide consists of a "y" axis, an "x" axis,
and three lines which represent levels of antibodies, virus, and
CD4 cells. As the virus goes up and the antibodies go down, the
CD4 cells go down. This slide, frequently employed by advocates
of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, shows things as they ought to be, if
HIV were the cause of AIDS. Bialy stated that it is a fantasy graph,
backed up by no evidence of any kind.
In fact, experimental research found just the opposite: that at
all stages of AIDS, and at all levels of CD4 counts, the HIV viral
load ranged from the minuscule to the non-existent. "In other
words, HIV behaves like a typical opportunistic infective agent,
not like a pathogen." [Piatik et al. Science 259:1749-53
Since the 1984 version is clearly untenable, Bialy suggested a
reformulation of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, which he called: THE VIRUS-AIDS
HYPOTHESIS (AS EMPIRICALLY TESTED BETWEEN 1984-1994):
HIV, AN ESTABLISHED, CONVENTIONAL RETROVIRUS, CAUSES AIDS BY KILLING
CD4+ LYMPHOCYTES BY MECHANISMS PREVIOUSLY AND PRESENTLY UNKNOWN
Even so, the modified Virus-AIDS hypothesis is unable to explain
such things as:
- Why HIV, unlike any other pathogenic virus, only causes disease
in the presence of neutralizing antibodies.
- The long, and unpredictable incubation period between infection
- How such a biochemically quiescent virus, that infects only a
small fraction of the cells it is said to kill, can be so virulent
as to kill its only natural host with efficiencies approaching 100%,
and yet be so difficult to transmit horizontally [through sex].
- Why such a deadly virus is unable to cause any disease whatsoever
in chimpanzees, even though they are fully susceptible to HIV infection.
- Why HIV, unlike any other pathogenic virus, only causes disease
in the presence of neutralizing antibodies.
- The long, and unpredictable incubation period between infection
Bialy concluded his talk by asking:
Is undertaking questioning of this sort really grounds to be castigated
as a "flat-earther bogged down in molecular minutiae and miasmal
theories of disease", or as "irresponsible and delusional"
or is it rather those who insist on the unassailable, inviolable
truth of their hypothesis to whom these epithets apply?
In the discussion period Bialy was asked, what are the strongest
arguments raised in favor of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
Epidemiology and correlation, which may be sufficient to *dis*prove
something as being involved in the etiology of a disease, but absolutely
insufficient to *prove* it.
In response to another question he replied:
Once you remove HIV from the AIDS equation, what is the reason
for considering the tuberculosis of a drug addict, the Kaposi's
sarcoma of a drug-abusing homosexual, the diarrhea of an African,
the internal bleeding of a hemophiliac, and the kidney failure of
a transfusion recipient-as being the same disease?
To someone who asked about the sexual transmissibility of HIV he
replied: "It takes 500-1000 heterosexual contacts to transmit
HIV from a man to a woman."
Celia Farber, whose AIDS column in SPIN has run for over
six years, spoke on "AIDS as a mirage of modern media: How
the media reconstruct reality in The Information Age." She
began by saying that the two sides in the present debate were not
so much pro versus anti-HIV, as pro versus anti-debate.
She spoke of "totalitarian AIDS science", of a "self-righteous
campaign to stamp out debate", maintaining that people had
become "hypnotized by the extremely powerful, red ribbon-wearing
Zeitgeist", by "self-appointed 'AIDS professionals'".
"This Zeitgeist controls all thinking and discourse on AIDS."
Focussing on the medium of television, Farber recounted several
instances of behind-the-scenes censorship involving Peter Duesberg:
In 1988 Good Morning America scheduled Professor Peter Duesberg
for a program, flew him from Berkeley to New York, booked him into
a hotel, and on the night before the show called him to cancel because
"something urgent had come up". I turned on the television
in the morning, and there was Tony Fauci, talking about HIV, AZT
The scenario was repeated in 1989 when McNeill-Lehrer came
to Duesberg's lab to film, saying they intended to broadcast a 20-30
minute piece. All that ever appeared was a spot, about 2 seconds
In 1992 a CNN crew came to the lab, filmed Duesberg, and again
said they would run a whole segment on all the scientists who were
opposing the HIV hypothesis. This was reduced down to a 20 second
Finally, in 1992, Duesberg was scheduled to be on Larry King
Live. On the morning of the show Duesberg received a call from
the producers, who said, "Sorry, Dr. Duesberg, but something
urgent came up with the election.
Duesberg tuned in, and again saw Tony Fauci on the screen. "The
most reliable standby for me in television is Tony Fauci",
Television, as part of the dumbing down of America, "does
not lend itself to complexity." Furthermore, television careerism
is not compatible with bucking the establishment:
The big journalists are the least likely to rock the boat, and
in fact I was educated on this by none other than Robert Gallo,
who called me in 1988, after he'd read something I'd written. And
he said that he just wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk. He said,
"You seem like a nice girl-and you seem to have your head on
straight-and I want to advise you that this is no way to make a
career for yourself." He said, "Don't you want to be like
Barbara Walters? How do you think Barbara Walters got to be where
she is? It certainly wasn't by attacking and criticizing and following
lunatics around." [laughter from audience]
Charles Thomas is a molecular biologist and former Harvard Professor,
head of the Helicon Foundation (a private research institute), and
founder of the San Diego-based Group for the Scientific Re-Evaluation
of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. He spoke on "The marketing of AIDS
and other apocalyptic visions."
He began with the premise that AIDS needs to be understood in the
context of what he called "scary science"-the offspring
of mass psychology and the funding demands of specialized government
bureaucracies. Among current Scientific Scares he listed the following:
- NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS CAUSE CANCER.
- PESTICIDES / POLLUTION CAUSES CANCER.
- GLOBAL WARMING WILL KILL EVERYONE (eventually).
- OZONE HOLE CAUSES CANCER / DESTROYS ENVIRONMENT.
- POLLUTION CAUSES ACID RAIN; KILLS TREES, LAKES.
- AIDS CAUSED BY NEW VIRUS; WILL KILL EVERYBODY.
- ASTEROIDS WILL IMPACT EARTH, EXTERMINATE US LIKE DINOSAURS.
While acknowledging that one or more of the scares might have some
basis in reality, Thomas indicated that they had certain common
features. First and foremost, they were mysterious -- indeed,
in order to be successful, they *must* be mysterious. In addition,
successful scientific scares shared other properties:
- SCARES EVERYONE: Everyone is at risk (sound familiar?)
- FEW EXPERTS: Only few experts understand the subject.
- NO MULTIEXPERTS: No experts in more than one scare.
- GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: Experts are government employees
- POWERFUL BUREAUCRACIES promote and market these scares
- NATIONAL (government) RESPONSE is required. Private responsibility
- FUNDING CREATES CONSTITUENCY: Careers can be made on the basis
of the resulting flow of tax-dollars
All of these can be understood as requirements for getting funding.
If, for example, everyone were not at risk for AIDS or death from
ozone depletion, there would be no public support for the bureaucracies
feeding off these scares.
Similarly, the requirement that there be few and highly specialized
experts is essential to retain a monopoly on the scare, as well
as to sustain its air of mystery. Even knowledgeable scientists
are forced to take the word of experts- an enormous advantage for
the scare mongers, as the experts are paid by the government:
Virtually all of the basic scientists in the U.S. are government
employees. That is, they are paid directly by government or indirectly
through easily revokable contracts called "grants." These
monies are usually dispensed on the basis of "peer review"
- that is on the basis of the opinion of other scientists working
the same field.
Research work can be stopped dead by non-renewal, and principal
investigators know this very well. How well do you think a grant
proposal debunking the "ozone hole" scare would fair before
a committee whose members run laboratories that are making a living
out of "studying the ozone hole." Do you suppose a proposal
by Peter Duesberg, to test the drug-hypothesis for some kinds of
AIDS diseases, would survive before a committee composed of research
workers who are making a living from studying the molecular biology
of HIV? We know the answer to that: he was defunded.
Maintaining that Scientific Scares are only partly, and dubiously,
scientific, Thomas suggested an elegantly simple solution for the
AIDS problem: cut off the funding! He said:
In my opinion Peter Duesberg destroyed the HIV hypothesis with
his 1987 paper-to say nothing of his subsequent papers. As Phil
Johnson has said, the HIV hypothesis was never properly established
in the first place. Duesberg has destroyed it many times over since-
yet the HIV- causes-AIDS Mythology is still with us, terrorizing
These Scientific Scares are what might be named "political
diseases" and they are not susceptible to scientific refutation.
However, they can be cured by cutting off their supply of money.
Consider the following "thought experiment": Imagine
the present $6 billion that goes annually to AIDS research, education,
treatment, etc. being reduced sharply to ZERO. There would be howls,
of course, but AIDS would disappear in two weeks. In its place would
be the component diseases that were swept under the common rug and
given the name AIDS. These separate diseases would be treated as
such, and the (former) AIDS patients and the rest of America would
be much better off.
Peter Duesberg, Professor of Molecular Biology at Berkeley, spoke
on "The drug-AIDS hypothesis". Since his ideas are laid
out in detail in the many monographs he's written refuting the HIV-AIDS
hypothesis, particularly in his 1992 paper (see Reading List at
the end of this article), I'll give just the highlights of his talk
He began with some remarks about the formation of belief systems,
citing the work of Konrad Lorenz on "imprinting". We tend
to believe what we are first exposed to-whether a mother, a language,
a religion, or a hypothesis. Thereafter, Love (or belief or loyalty)
requires one to stop questioning. However, scientists are
supposed to behave differently, for according to Albert Einstein,
"The most important thing for a scientist is not to stop questioning."
He then proceeded to pose a series of rhetorical questions.
I ask you now, would you have accepted this hypothesis ten years
ago, if you had known then that AIDS as a STD would not explode
into the general, sexually active population, as it was predicted
to, by Margaret Heckler, Robert Gallo, Anthony Fauci, the Surgeon
General, and others? Would you have believed it was a STD if not
even prostitutes would get AIDS from their clients, or clients from
the prostitutes? ... Would you have believed then that AIDS is a
STD if you had known the statistics ten years later -- 300,000 AIDS
patients in America, and not one doctor, and not one health care
worker has ever contracted AIDS from his or her patient. Not even
one documented case in the literature. Yes, there are a few cases
who became HIV-antibody-positive, and a few of those have been treated
with AZT and have become sick. But these's not one documented case
of a doctor picking up AIDS from his or her patient-in 10 years,
from 300,000 patients.
Would you have believed that AIDS was a sexually transmitted or
transfusion transmitted disease if you had known that not even one
Kaposi's sarcoma had been transmitted through a blood transfusion?
KS was once the hallmark disease of AIDS, as Harvey Bialy pointed
out earlier today....
Would you have believed ten years ago that AIDS was an infectious
disease when HIV replicates within 24 hours, very much like all
other viruses, but would cause a disease only ten years later? All
other viruses that replicate in 24 hours cause a disease within
a few days or weeks, or they don't cause a disease. The incubation
period of a virus to a disease is a function of the time it takes
to replicate. HIV replicates in 24 hours, just like measles, mumps,
polio, and flu viruses, and should cause a disease in the same time
period that these viruses do. But not HIV. It's said to take ten
years to make up its mind whether to cause a disease or not. And
often it doesn't....
As Harvey Bialy pointed out, would you have believed that AIDS
causes the loss of T-cells, when at the same time the virus was
patented to be mass-producible in T-cells, which are not dying from
the virus? They're still growing in the same culture.
Would you have believed that AIDS is an infectious disease, when
it only occurs after the virus has been neutralized by antibodies-the
only weapon against viruses? You can never get AIDS before immunity,
only afterwards-that's what the AIDS test predicts. In fact, immunity
is so good that leading AIDS researchers often fail to find the
virus in AIDS patients.
And so, after the most expensive effort ever made against a microbe
in the history of microbiology-ten years of effort, tens of thousands
of scientists, 22 billion dollars from U.S. taxpayers, and we have
come up totally empty handed-no vaccine, no drugs, not even one
patient has ever been cured from AIDS. [I disagree with Duesberg
on the last point; there are people who have received an AIDS diagnosis
and who have recovered their health.]
Duesberg then said that the most critical question we should have
asked is: "Is AIDS really an infectious disease?" After
reviewing epidemiological and clinical evidence, he concluded:
"AIDS does not fit even one of the known criteria of
an infectious disease!"
Perhaps the most powerful argument against the HIV-AIDS hypothesis
is the last of biochemical activity on the part of HIV:
"The microbe must be abundant and very active when it is causing
a disease. If not, it's what's called an asymptomatic infection."
HIV, however, is never sufficiently active that it could cause illness.
In many AIDS cases it can't even be found. "In some AIDS cases
there isn't even one active microbe."
Duesberg dissected the most fundamental premise of the AIDS construct,
that all of the 29 (at last count) AIDS-indicator diseases are caused
by a condition of "immune deficiency" caused by HIV infection.
Only about 61% of all U.S. and European AIDS cases have anything
to do with immune deficiency. All microbial diseases are consequences
of some form of immune deficiency-t-cell, b-cell, antibody, you
name it. In America in 1992, 61% of the AIDS diseases were immune
deficiency diseases. But 39% were not; they were not caused by,
and often were not even associated with immune deficiency. Kaposi's
sarcoma occurs in the absence of immune deficiency, and also in
the absence of HIV. Lymphoma is observed, at least initially, in
the absence of immune deficiency. Dementia occurs in the absence
of immune deficiency, and so does the wasting syndrome, which is
officially defined by the CDC as a weight loss akin to anorexia
or cachexia, which has nothing to do with a microbial infection.
So, a full 39% of the AIDS diseases have nothing to do with immune
deficiency, and need an explanation that cannot be based on a loss
of t-cells, b-cells, or antibodies.
As an alternative to the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, Duesberg presented
his own DRUGS-AIDS HYPOTHESIS, which states:
"AIDS in the U.S. and Europe is caused by the long-term consumption
of recreational drugs and AZT." The remaining AIDS cases-hemophiliacs,
transfusion recipients, and other cases from non-risk groups-reflect
the normal incidence of these diseases, simply under a new name.
As Phil Johnson and Harvey Bialy pointed out, hemophiliacs are actually
living longer now, they have fewer diseases, than ever before, in
the history of hemophilia. African AIDS is a consequence of malnutrition,
parasitic infections, and poor sanitation.
He then went through epidemiological correlations between drug
use and the incidence of AIDS, the correspondence between the well-documented
toxicities of heroin and cocaine and the conditions associated with
AIDS in intravenous drug users, the AIDS-indicator diseases found
in those on AZT therapy, and the poppers-connection, about which
he made an amusing digression:
The nitrite inhalants that were used by gays were regulated by
the Food and Drug Administration to one part in 100,000, because
of their known carcinogenic and mutagenic potential. So if you eat
frankfurters, they cannot have more than one part in a million.
But if you inhale 15 milliliters at a party, then you couldn't in
fact be sold in the meat market the next day, according to the Food
and Drug Administration. [laughter] But if you point that out, then
you are a homophobe, a bigot, dangerous, and irresponsible. [laughter]
Because you have to say they should have checked their condoms for
Duesberg reached the conclusion:
The Drugs-AIDS hypothesis is eminently testable. If it were correct,
AIDS, unlike most other diseases, would be entirely preventable.
And education could do a whole lot by just pointing out to people:
maybe it's not just putting on condoms and using clean needles that's
going to help you, but maybe you should watch what's going through
those needles, and what you are doing while you are wearing condoms,
what drugs you are needing.
Jerold Lowenstein, of the University of California Medical Center
in San Francisco, was the first of those who had been added to the
symposium in order to achieve "balance". His talk was
entitled, "The medical and scientific evidence for HIV being
the cause of AIDS".
He did not, in fact, present a reasoned argument, backed by evidence,
that HIV was the cause of AIDS. He failed even to acknowledge the
points made by the previous speakers. He gave no indication of ever
having read the literature critical of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis,
which by now is extensive.
Instead, Lowenstein trotted out the usual AIDS myths, that we all
have heard thousands of times. Any popular book on AIDS, the special
issue of Scientific American, almost any newspaper of magazine
article on AIDS will contain the facts and factoids presented by
He sarcastically said that "what we're hearing today"
was like early theories of AIDS causation, involving nitrites and
sperm. There theories, he claimed, were rejected when "other
groups of people with AIDS began appearing (IVDUs, hemophiliacs,
transfusion recipients, adults from central Africa, infants whose
mothers had AIDS)". This "new pattern", asserted
Lowenstein, "strongly suggested a viral agent, so people began
looking very hard for a viral agent, specifically a retrovirus."
Lowenstein's model above, is that "AIDS" is a single,
coherent disease entity with only a single cause, a model which
Robert Gallo and other establishment AIDS experts have already come
to reject. Why the "new pattern" should suggest a "viral
agent, specifically a retrovirus", as opposed to a bacterium,
fungus, toxin, DNA virus, or something else, is left to the imagination.
Lowenstein talked about Gallo and Montagnier, without a hint of
the strife between them, and after several very forgettable minutes,
made the following statement, which I wish to examine:
At the present time it appears that all AIDS patients throughout
the world are infected with HIV, and nearly all HIV-positive individuals
will eventually get AIDS-although there does seem to be a small
subset who escape that fate. [verbatim]
Yes, that, word for word, is exactly what he said. The statement
is outstandingly untrue, and it is difficult to believe that Lowenstein
didn't know better. (For thorough refutations see the Bio-Technology
articles of Eleopulos  and Duesberg  in the Reading
List following this article.) Even Gallo and Montagnier, who are
each committed to the HIV-AIDS hypothesis to the tune of $100,000
per year, now admit that most HIV-antibody-positive individuals
will not get sick.
And he showed a slide of an artist's rendition of HIV, with colored
knobs and so on, and he asserted that the knobs did something or
other. And he showed an electromicrogram of HIV. And he talked about
how CD4 cells decline. ("When it gets down to about 200, virtually
100% of all AIDS patients develop AIDS ... they get opportunistic
infections ... they get very, very sick, they waste away, they get
And he talked about there being "several different patterns
of AIDS throughout the world", which he described at length-
totally ignoring the arguments previously made by Phillip Johnson,
Harvey Bialy, and Peter Duesberg, that European/American AIDS and
African AIDS are clearly two different epidemics, with different
epidemiologies and different diseases.
And he talked about SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) which causes
illness in monkeys in captivity (though not in the wild). He did
not, however talk about HIV in monkeys, which would have been more
relevant, but would have weakened his case. In fact, chimpanzees
were injected with HIV over ten years ago; they became infected,
as evidenced by the formation of antibodies; and nevertheless they
remain perfectly healthy.
And he informed the audience that "HIV belongs to the lentivirus
family of viruses." ("Lentivirus" means "slow
virus"; it is meaningless nomenclature devised to rationalize
the alleged 10-year latency period between initial HIV infection
and the appearance of the first AIDS symptoms. Peter Duesberg once
remarked, "There are no slow viruses-only slow virologists!")
And he asserted, "There's a very rapid rise these days in
AIDS cases acquired heterosexually, in the U.S."
Lowenstein's conclusion consisted of a series of assertions, none
of which was true:
"In conclusion: the reason why I and 99% of my colleagues
are convinced that HIV is the cause of AIDS is that all AIDS patients
are infected with HIV, virtually all HIV-positive individuals will
get AIDS, elimination of HIV from blood products has stopped this
route of AIDS transmission ... the anti-HIV drug AZT greatly reduces
mother-fetus transmission of AIDS, the use of condoms has curbed
the AIDS epidemic in homosexuals in San Francisco, AIDS did not
occur in countries like Thailand until HIV was introduced, and finally,
health care workers with no other risk factors get AIDS from accidental
needle-sticks-there are several dozen such cases."
In the discussion period following his talk, Lowenstein received
his comeuppance for making unfounded assertions.
Someone in the audience asked him how he would reconcile the differences
between his statistics and those presented by Duesberg, regarding
the numbers infected. Lowenstein replied:
"They come from all the leading scientific journals: Science,
Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, the epidemiology
journal, Scientific American -- all my data comes [sic] from
standard sources, CDC ... but according to some of our earlier speakers,
all these organizations are engaged in a huge conspiracy to delude
us-so if that's so, then I'm deluded too."
Peter Duesberg then interjected: "Who said they were in a
conspiracy? I haven't heard that. I was here since eight o'clock."
[Someone in audience]: "Those were your words."
[Duesberg]: "My words?"
[Someone in audience]: "No, those were his words. That's
what he said."
[Lowenstein]: "Well, that was the impression I got."
[Duesberg]: "Oh, it was an impression. I see."
Molecular biologist Harry Rubin then commented:
I was confused by some of Dr. Lowenstein's slides, because in some
cases the slides referred to the spread of HIV and in other cases
to the incidence of AIDS. But they seem to be conflated. He talked
about HIV spreading as though it were AIDS spreading. That's something
that one has to be very careful about. I think it's become somewhat
of a habit to confuse the one with the other.
The second point is that Dr. Lowenstein said that 99% of his colleagues
accepted the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. I don't know whether he's polled
his colleagues, and I don't know who his colleagues are. I suspect
they are people who are closely associated with the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
I haven't polled my colleagues either, but in my discussions with
them I'd say that most of them are pretty confused. And they're
also scientists-virologists and molecular biologists. And they're
very uncertain at this point. They're certainly not willing to make
a definitive conclusion. I'd like to know what this figure comes
from, that the predominance of, or the great majority of, or almost
100% of scientists agree that HIV causes AIDS.
Finally, I'd like to ask a question about the heterosexual rise.
Now, in this past year "AIDS" has been re-defined again,
as it was in 1987, to include such conditions as cervical cancer
and tuberculosis, and as a result there's been a 50% increase in
the number of AIDS cases. I wonder to what extent the rapid rise
in heterosexual AIDS is due to re-defining AIDS in order to maintain
the public scare that Dr. Thomas was talking about, that AIDS is
a threat to the heterosexual community. That's for Dr. Lowenstein.
[Lowenstein]: "That was quite a question. [laughter] There's
not much I can say."
[Rubin]: "Well, why don't you say what you can say?"
[Lowenstein]: "Well, among my colleagues who see and treat
AIDS, I don't know of anyone who doubts the HIV-AIDS association."
[Duesberg]: "But aren't we talking about cause, not association?
That's very different."
Someone in the audience then asked for a clarification of obvious
disagreement between what Duesberg and Lowenstein said on health
care workers. "Are they really at risk for either HIV or AIDS?"
[Lowenstein]: "According to the literature, as I read it,
and from my own experience, a number of health care workers who
had no other apparent risk factors have acquired AIDS as a result
of accidental needle-sticks.... AIDS, I'm talking about AIDS."
[Duesberg]: "AIDS, Dr. Lowenstein? Could you give me the reference
for that? [pause] If you know the literature? [pause] Oh, you don't
know the literature? Then you don't know those numbers. I think
it's very impressionistic here. Anyway, I did check the literature,
and I couldn't find one such reference, except for Fauci
reporting on Nightline that city health care workers got
AIDS disease, but he also added that they were treated with AZT,
which is a sufficient cause for AIDS. ... That's the only literature
I could find on health care workers getting AIDS."
[Lowenstein]: "Two individuals in Holland got AIDS as a result
of accidentally being injected with blood from AIDS patients."
Harvey Bialy then put a series of questions to Lowenstein:
You made the statement that HIV replicates in and destroys t-cells.
This is the crux of the entire debate. What is your evidence?
Secondly, you showed a slide, which was basically the same slide
that I showed, and I went to such pains to show that the slide had
no basis in experimental reality. You seemed to ignore that completely,
and went on to show the slide as though it were true. So how do
you reconcile the data from Piatik et al. with that slide you showed
about the course of HIV replication and the loss of t-cells?
And finally, why are hemophiliacs not dying of AIDS? They were
all infected ten years ago or more-way long enough to have exceeded
the latency period. Half the hemophiliacs in the United States should
be dead or dying of AIDS now, and yet it's less than 12%. You need
to explain that. Please!
[Lowenstein]: "I don't see why I need to explain that.
Hemophiliacs are dying of AIDS."
[Bialy}: "The HIV-AIDS hypothesis postulates a ten-year latent
period between infection and disease. That means that if you have
16,000 people with the infection, after a ten-year period, approximately
half of them should have the disease. But only 10-12% have the disease.
This is a discrepancy! How do you explain it?"
[Lowenstein]: "How do you explain the 10-12% who *do* die?"
[groans from audience]
[Bialy]: "What are they dying of? They're dying of the same
diseases that hemophiliacs always die of, but now they're called
"AIDS" because they've been diagnosed as having HIV-antibodies."
[Duesberg]: "Those hemophiliacs are not immortal." [laughter]
[Bialy]: "What is your evidence that HIV is destroying t-cells
by infection? I would love to see it. I've been waiting ten years
[no response from Lowenstein]
The Morning Panel
At the end of the morning session came the panel, moderated by
Ann Auleb of San Francisco State University, which was supposed
to comment on what had been said so far. The panel did not include
any critics of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
First was Jan Kuby, an immunologist at San Francisco State University.
Virtually her entire whole talk consisted of speculation, which
was irrelevant to evaluating the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. She talked
about autoimmunity, t-cell activation, antigens, apoptosis (programmed
cell death), etc.
Kuby talked about highly inbred mice known as "SCID mice",
which are severely immune deficient. Researchers injected bits and
pieces of human cells and HIV into the SCID mice, with ill effects.
She made an attempt at humor: "None of the mice were using
poppers, taking AZT, or injecting drugs." No one laughed.
She speculated that AIDS dementia might be explained by HIV infection
of brain macrophages, by cell fusion, and/or by cytokine imbalance.
She digressed that a cytokine, IL1, may be implicated in Alzheimers.
She informed the audience, "98% of the t-cells are in lymphoid
tissues, but most data is [*sic*] based on blood", and she
The virus is infecting cells in the lymph nodes- massive amounts
of virus are being produced there ... even before we can see anything
going on in the blood at all.
The above statement is simply not true. The lymph nodes do collect
viruses and viral debris-just as the lint filter in a clothes dryer
collects lint-but if "massive amounts of virus" were being
produced anywhere in the body, there would also be massive amounts
of virus in the blood.
I see no need to report more of the same. After the extremely lucid
presentations of the HIV-critics, it was several steps down to the
muddled techno-babble of Jan Kuby.
Next came Michael Ascher, of the California State Department of
Health Services. He is co-author, with Warren Winkelstein, of an
article, "Does drug use cause AIDS?" (Nature, 11
March 1993), which aspired to refute Peter Duesberg's Drugs-AIDS
hypothesis on the basis of a cohort study. He made it clear up front
that he does not believe in the direct-killing HIV hypothesis, but
rather in the "genetic mimicry" version (to be presented
later by Raphael Stricker).
Whereas the HIV-critics had been unflaggingly courteous, both in
their talks and during discussion periods, Ascher's style of debate
was heavily dependent on sarcasm. He repeatedly referred to Duesberg
as "Peter", although the two are not friends. He ridiculed
the nitrites-KS connection, apparently unaware that at least part
of the AIDS establishment is now moving in that direction. He expostulated
that saying AZT causes AIDS diseases is like saying insulin causes
diabetes, apparently unaware of Duesberg's extensive analysis of
In a brief talk with Ascher afterwards, I found out that neither
he nor Winkelstein has ever had professional survey research experience,
even though survey research is what they attempted to do. (As I
myself have been in professional survey research since 1966, I'll
have a few words to say about the Ascher-Winkelstein study later.)
Next came Robert Schmidt, a physician, who presented a multifactorial
approach to diseases of the elderly. It was a thoughtful and interesting
talk, but quite irrelevant to the central topic of the symposium.
In the discussion period, a graduate student confronted Ascher
with serious methodological flaws in his study, in particular the
fact that the investigators failed to verify drug use. Ascher replied
that it was a random sample, and that ought to take care of the
problem, as any biases in replies on drug use would be randomly
distributed. The sheer, overwhelming fatuousness of this answer
had members of the audience groaning and shaking their heads in
A physician in the audience asked Ascher if he would take AZT if
he had stuck himself with an HIV-infected needle. Ascher said nothing,
made a face, and shook his head "no". However, Lowenstein
said that he would take AZT.
The first speaker of the afternoon session was Peter Plumley, Consulting
Actuary, whose talk was entitled: "An actuarial analysis of
the AIDS epidemic in the United States." His central thesis
was that official AIDS statistics, and pronouncements of the Public
Health Service, have greatly distorted and exaggerated the epidemic,
resulting in unrealistic perceptions of the relative risk of various
sexual acts. The excessive fear of AIDS has adversely affected the
lives of many people.
In his opening comments, Plumley said that "AIDS has replaced
smoking as the greatest single cause of statistics." His interest
in the topic of AIDS developed from seeing "so much bad
interpretation of data."
While agnostic as to whether or not HIV causes AIDS, Plumley clearly
leaned to a multifactorial approach, and suggested emphasizing the
message, "Good Health Prevents AIDS". For the purposes
of his talk, he made the assumption that HIV is the cause,
and then evaluated the risks of becoming infected by various activities.
Most of his talk was geared to the "vast majority of people",
heterosexuals who are in good health and free of STDs, and not involved
in a regular relationship with a gay man or IV drug user. For them
the risk of HIV infection is so slight, even with multiple sexual
partners, that "using a condom is comparable to wearing a hard
hat for a walk down Main Street."
For gay men the risk of acquiring HIV infection or AIDS is higher,
not least because of the "immunosuppressive risk factors"
affecting some gay men. Eliminating these risk factors is as important
as taking precautions to avoid HIV.
Kary Mullis is the 1993 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. He is a superbly
gifted entertainer, with a wonderfully expressive voice, a perfect
sense of timing, charisma, and a sense of humor that is both zany
and analytical. The first part of his talk dealt with the enigma:
Why is there no monograph which marshals all of the arguments in
favor of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, and which replies to the criticisms
that have been raised by Peter Duesberg and others?
Mullis was writing a report on the use of PCR for HIV, when he
came across the phrase, "HIV is the probably cause of AIDS".
In his own words:
I asked the guy sitting beside me, "What is the support for
that, what's the reference?" And he said, "You don't need
a reference, everybody knows that."
I assumed there must be such a reference, and that there might
be a controversy over who got credit for it, because I was under
the impression that Gallo and Montagnier might have been fighting
over who had first shown that HIV was the cause of AIDS.... I went
back over their early papers, and found that neither of them had
shown that HIV was the probable cause of AIDS.
I was running into a lot of people who were doing AIDS research,
and every time somebody would give a talk, I'd go up to them afterwards
and ask politely: Who I should quote -- was there a paper or a review
that I should quote for that statement? It seemed like a perfectly
reasonable question to ask. Some people took offence. Most people
said the same thing: "But everybody knows, you don't have to
prove it." Well, you know, everybody knows the sequence [of
a certain chemical], but they also know where to find the references.
And I started getting uncomfortable with the fact that nobody seemed
to know. So I changed the question to, "When did you, personally,
become convinced that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS? (I mean,
you're working on it as though you are.) [laughter] What papers
did you read?" And they'd say, "I've got it in my office."
And I'd say, "Would you send me the titles, so I can look them
up." ... [They never did.] And some would say, "Read the
CDC report." So I got that and looked through it, and said
to myself, "Now the CDC doesn't get credit-they didn't do the
experiments to demonstrate that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS."
And then finally, Luc Montagnier came to San Diego, and gave a
talk, and I thought, this guy will know. [laughter] After the meeting
I asked him, and he first mentioned the CDC report, and I said I
had already looked at it, that it wasn't what I was looking for-that
I wanted a scientific paper that would support the notion that HIV
is the probable cause of AIDS, not the consensus of a bunch of people
who'd already begun looking at it. He said, "Well, let's see
..." (and there was a little knot of people around us at that
point, thinking, the man must have an answer to that question),
and he said, "Why don't you quote the SIV work?" And I
said to myself, "Oh my god! There really isn't such a paper,
there can't be, or he wouldn't have to refer ... to a virus that
might kill a monkey ... to illustrate the probability that HIV is
the cause of AIDS!"
Mullis described his hearing and then meeting Peter Duesberg, and
his entry into the ranks of HIV-skeptics. The remainder of his talk
consisted of a half-serious, half-facetious description of "another
hypothesis, that has no experimental support." His "interesting
hypothetical disease" is a variation of the "immune overload"
hypothesis, the idea being that infection with millions of *different*
microbes, through contact with thousands of people, who each had
contact with thousands of people, might lead to a breakdown of the
Harry Rubin, Professor of Molecular Biology at Berkeley, is regarded
as the Dean of Retrovirology, as four decades ago he created many
of the techniques for studying retroviruses and trained many of
the people who are now the world's leading retrovirologists. He
spoke on "The rush to simplification of complex problems in
biomedical science: Cancer and AIDS."
Describing himself as a "chronic fence-sitter", he said
he was agnostic as to whether or not HIV might play some role in
AIDS, and was willing to be convinced either way, however:
I came here expecting to hear some really convincing defence of
the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, and maybe that will occur later this afternoon.
But so far, I must say, I've been disappointed.
He spoke of the difficulty of having open, scientific discussion
of AIDS: "What's transpired in the development of this symposium
is illustrative of the difficulty of making a critical scientific
analysis of the AIDS problem. It's really more of a political than
a scientific problem." He then went on to lambaste the reporting
of David Perlman, Science Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rubin then described his pioneering work forty years ago on the
Rous sarcoma virus:
This was the first virus identified and characterized as a retrovirus-the
one that, at least until AIDS, was the one most studied and worked
This kind of virus has been associated since 1910 with several
types of leukemia in chickens. Notice, I used the words, "associated
with". They were given the name, Avian Leukosis Virus, indicating
they cause a type of leukemia in chickens, along with many other
symptoms, incidentally. Now what I learned from my own work-I developed
the way of assaying these viruses in culture so they could be worked
with, in a fairly expedient manner-is that these leukemias could
and would occur in the absence of the retroviruses.... Every cell
in the chicken is infected, and every cell is constantly producing
virus, but even then ... only 15% of those chickens, who were congenitally
infected, developed the leukosis. In spite of these findings, these
viruses are still called Leukemia or Leukosis viruses, as they have
been for 85 years. The assumption is made that they are the sole,
or at least the prime, cause of the disease in chickens.... One
of the things I want to point out is the tricky business of naming
a virus. Naming something HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Avian
Leukosis Virus, Avian Myelocytosis Virus-all of those names fix
in the minds of those who use them, or work with them, that *this*
is the proof. It's like Noah naming the animals, a way of controlling
Rubin then described meeting held by AmFAR in Washington, DC in
1988, which I also attended. (My report, "Kangaroo Court Etiology:
AmFAR Holds a Forum to Discredit Duesberg, But Winds Up Confirming
Shabbiness of 'Proof' of HIV as Sole Cause of AIDS", appeared
in the New York Native of 9 May 1988.):
Now I've come to my point about the politicization of this issue.
In 1988 the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) convened
a meeting in Washington, DC, which had the obvious purpose of silencing
Peter Duesberg. As I had discussed the matter with Peter on many
occasions, he asked me to join the meeting, even though he knew
I was an agnostic about the role of HIV-more like Erasmus than Martin
Luther. I reluctantly agreed, feeling I could play the role of an
intermediary. How naive I was! I did some extensive reading before
the meeting, and a lot of questions occurred in my mind, that I
thought needed discussion. When I raised those questions at the
meeting, I got the response you might expect from a bunch of fundamentalists
confronted with someone who questioned the virgin birth. [laughter]
For example, Anthony Fauci interrupted me at one point, in a rage,
saying how could anyone doubt the compelling role of HIV, when there
was this HIV-infected baby, who had never been exposed to other
viruses, bacteria or drugs, and developed AIDS. Well, I had no answer.
If I did, I couldn't get up, he was so mad. Well, I later learned
that the mother of that baby was an intravenous drug user who had
all sorts of health and nutritional problems. Anyhow, the infant
did not have a shortage of t-cells, which was supposed to be the
characteristic marker of HIV, but a shortage of b-cells. So there's
at least some question here. But that question wasn't allowed to
Then I questioned the role of immune deficiency in producing a
tumor known as lymphoma. I had spent a fair amount of time working
of a strain of mice that were genetically unable to produce t-cells,
that were severely immune deficient-more immune deficient than the
worst AIDS cases. But in fact that strain of mouse, the so-called
"nude mouse" or "a-thymic mouse", had no higher
incidence of any tumor than did a normal mouse, and that includes
lymphoma. I was then treated to an angry lecture about the presence
of killer cells in these mice. Well, killer cells they may have,
but these were totally ineffective in rejecting tumors. So the question
remains, how can we say that lymphomas develop from immune deficiency,
when the best and strongest model, the nude mouse, for immune deficiency,
produces no lymphomas. We didn't get a chance to discuss that either.
Subsequently after that meeting, at a little social gathering,
I had a discussion with a medical corps major (I won't mention any
names) who was the Army's leading AIDS specialist. He told me that
he had seen AIDS cases with Kaposi's sarcoma in recruits, a condition
then commonly associated with AIDS, at least in homosexuals. He
told me that some of these cases were AIDS. And I asked him if they
differed clinically from the other six cases [which were not AIDS].
He said, no, they didn't differ clinically at all, but they had
antibodies to HIV. So I realized then I was dealing with a self-fulfilling
prophecy. If there are HIV antibodies when you have Kaposi's, then
it's AIDS, and if no antibodies when it's Kaposi's, then it's not
AIDS, just Kaposi's. No wonder there's such a strong association
between the virus and AIDS, if the diagnosis is based on the presence
of the virus. He told me then that I didn't really understand medicine.
[laughter] He's telling the truth.
I'm kind of glad that I don't. [laughter and applause] He told
me that the role of the virus had been proved, to the extent that
"AIDS" was no longer a "Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome"-the
"syndrome" was the "s" part of "AIDS"-
but "Human Immunodeficiency Disease", Now, what's the
difference? He told me, "You are taught in medical school,
that 'syndrome' means you don't know the cause of a disease, and
'disease' means that you do know the cause. And since now we're
calling this a disease, therefore we know the cause, and it's HIV.
So quite asking questions. And let's have another drink." [laughter]
Rubin then went into a somewhat technical discussion of mutation,
epigenetics, and cancer, which led him to conclude:
Cancer can only be understood at the level of the complex dynamics
of cellular interaction with the aging process and other such considerations
as diet, smoking, lifestyle, etc.-what in fact Dr. Schmidt presented
us with this morning. The trouble with that is it doesn't make easy
reading for the public, or for science writers who won't take the
trouble to dig things out. That's not the kind of thing that the
editor's going to print, that cancer is complex. We've got a gene
that's been isolated and reported in Nature and Science
this week-that really gets some excitement.
The same basic process is at work in AIDS. Ten years ago there
was tremendous pressure (I don't think most people remember it)
for NIH, for epidemiologists and virologists, to come up with a
cause of AIDS that everyone would understand. It was very important
that everyone understand it. And sure enough, Robert Gallo did so.
The result was trumpeted in a big news conference put on by Margaret
Heckler, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Here was
this vast complex of 25 diseases, and more have been added since,
and it was all due to this one retrovirus. Well, someone who has
spent every day of his adult life working in the field and at the
bench, and who's had the experience of the questionably named Chicken
Leukosis Virus, found this a little hard to swallow in its unexpurgated
form. I didn't deny that it might have some role, but this was too
simplistic. It still is too simplistic, in my estimation. It may
be part of the truth, but it's certainly not the whole truth. At
this moment it's the greatest bar we have to a deeper understanding
of a very serious problem.
If there ever was a case of multifactorial disease occurrence,
in my estimation, AIDS is the case. In closing, let me say a word
about Peter Duesberg, who has been pilloried from post to post in
the press, as you have seen. I made it clear that I do not go along
with his total rejection of a role for the virus. I will say, that
if it were not for Peter Duesberg, there would be no one raising
questions at all, including me. [applause for Duesberg] So while
I continue to disagree with him, and find him a pain sometimes [laughter],
I respect what he's done, and I might say that he's done it at enormous
sacrifice to his reputation and to his career. [applause]
Raphael Stricker, MD, spoke on "Autoimmune processes that
contribute to the pathogenesis of AIDS." In his highly technical
talk, he rejected the explanation that HIV caused AIDS by direct
viral infection. Instead, he speculated that autoimmune processes
may be responsible for much of the pathogenesis in AIDS. Since there
exist certain homologies between HIV and human cells, a "genetic
mimicry" may operate, in which the body becomes confused, runs
amuck, and starts destroying itself.
I do not regard this hypothesis as even slightly tenable, and consider
that Harvey Bialy refuted it more than adequately in the morning.
HIV is a perfectly ordinary, perfectly conventional retrovirus.
If the immune systems of our bodies were so easily confused, our
species would have died out a long, long time ago.
Bryan Ellison is a graduate student in molecular and cell biology
in Berkeley. His talk, "Drug use does cause AIDS: A reappraisal
of the San Francisco Men's Health Study", was based on a paper
jointly written by himself, Allen Downey (a statistician), and Peter
Duesberg. It was a severe critique of the article by Michael Ascher,
Warren Winkelstein, et al., ("Does drug use cause AIDS?",
Nature, 11 March 1993), which purported to show that HIV
and HIV alone was responsible for the development of AIDS in a cohort
of San Francisco men.
It had been claimed in the Ascher report that AIDS and t-cell depletion
occurred only in the men who were HIV-antibody-positive, and that
drug use had no effect whatever on either t-cell depletion over
time or on the development of AIDS.
Ellison said that he and his colleagues had obtained the raw data
from Ascher and Winkelstein, and found that Ascher et al.
had seriously misreported the data. By using a circular definition
of AIDS, which required HIV seropositivity in order for diseases
to be recorded as AIDS, Ascher et al. overlooked at least
45, and possibly as many as 200 AIDS-related diseases among the
According to Ellison, Ascher et al. made it look as though
some of the HIV-antibody-positive men who developed AIDS had been
nonusers of drugs, which they did by defining drug use in a narrow
and capricious way, focussing only on four drugs (marijuana, nitrites,
cocaine, and amphetamines), and only on self-reported use during
a two-year period. AZT use, reported by 54% of the seropositive
men in the cohort, was ignored by Ascher et al. entirely.
By these stratagems Ascher et al. included users of marijuana,
nitrites, cocaine, downers, hallucinogens, and AZT among their "no
drug use" group. It turned out that the only two men in the
study who never claimed drug use, also did not lose t-cells over
By ignoring huge gaps and striking selection biases in the database,
Ascher et al. reached the unsupportable conclusions that
HIV-positive and HIV-negative men used similar amounts of drugs
and that levels of drug use were not related to the risk of developing
AIDS. In contrast, we found that HIV-positive men used significantly
more heavy drugs than did HIV-negatives, and that drug use was more
highly correlated with AIDS-related diseases than was HIV.
A striking feature of the article by Ascher et al. had been
a line chart, which allegedly showed trends in t-cell levels over
time, according to both HIV-antibody status and drug use. In the
HIV-positive group, t-cells declined steadily, regardless of drug
use. In the HIV-negative group, t-cells remained steady, also regardless
of drug use. Ellison charged that this result had been obtained
by "some unexplained 'adjustment'", and that the inclusion
of error bars "exposed much greater variability in t-cell counts."
In conclusion Ellison said that drug use did indeed cause AIDS.
He characterized the misreporting of data by Ascher and Winkelstein
a "serious breach of scientific ethics", and called upon
them to retract the paper.
A Digression on the Ascher-Winkelstein Report
I myself have also criticized the Ascher-Winkelstein report, but
using a very different approach (John Lauritsen, "Surveying
Ascher and Schechter", Rethinking AIDS, May 1993). It
was clear to me from reading the report in Nature that the
methodology was dubious, the charts had a too-good-to-be-true quality,
and above all, the data did not make sense. As a professional analyst,
I will not comment on data until I am sure they are valid. To do
this thoroughly would require obtaining a clear and comprehensive
description of methodology, as well as copies of all questionnaires,
recording forms, tabulation specifications, and computer runs. In
addition, at least some of the interviews would have to be independently
validated-meaning that respondents would be contacted and interviewed
to determine whether previous interviews had been done competently
I wrote to Ascher, asking for copies of blank questionnaires, etc.,
and received a reply from Winkelstein, in which he said that if
I were in San Francisco, and paid a search fee of $25 per hour,
it might be possible to obtain some of the materials I wanted. Considering
that the study was publicly funded, and therefore subject to the
Freedom of Information Act, his response was preposterous.
An unvalidated survey has little or no credibility, and since the
Ascher-Winkelstein study is not even open to validation, it deserves
to be rejected on this basis alone.
It has been my experience as an analyst, without exception, that
when data don't make sense it is because there is something wrong
with them. It doesn't make sense that a single, biochemically inactive
microbe could be the cause of the 29 (at last count) AIDS-indicator
diseases. It doesn't make sense that drugs don't do anything.
The Moderator of the symposium, Charles Geshekter, spoke on "rethinking
the AIDS epidemic in Africa." Official statistics, he maintained,
have been unreliable to the point of absurdity.
Africa is supposed to be saturated with HIV, its population ravaged
by the AIDS epidemic. And yet, since 1981 -- thirteen years-there
have been only 151,000 confirmed AIDS cases in all of Africa.
Most AIDS cases are diagnosed on clinical symptoms alone.
The HIV antibody tests, ELISA and Western Blot, are almost useless,
as they cross-react with antibodies to many diseases that are endemic
to Africa. Furthermore, the symptoms attributed to "AIDS"
are indistinguishable from those that have plagued Africa since
the beginning of the 20th century.
Geshekter debunked the media myth that the African AIDS catastrophe
can only be averted through the intervention of Western science.
After describing some of the shoddy AIDS science that has been foisted
on Africa, he defined an "expert" as "a person who
can tell by the wrinkles on a bed whether the screwing was for love
or for money."
Particularly dangerous, in Geshekter's opinion, is the pressure
to use the toxic, DNA chain terminator drug, AZT, on HIV-positive
Warren Winkelstein, Professor of Public Health at Berkeley, spoke
on "Inferences from epidemiological data." His brief talk
mostly presented points from the report he had co-authored with
Michael Ascher (Nature, 11 March 1993). He showed a slide,
in which none of the HIV-negative men developed AIDS, whereas those
who were either HIV-positive upon entry into the study, or became
so later, did develop AIDS.
Winkelstein then addressed Bryan Ellison's claim, that at least
45 HIV-negative men had developed AIDS-diseases. This was ridiculous,
said Winkelstein, because if these 45 HIV-negative men had really
had AIDS, then 36 of them ought to have died, according to the latest
AIDS projections. However, only [ONLY!] 7 of them had died. Presumably
this meant that Ellison was wrong, and they couldn't really have
Let's examine Winkelstein's logic here. First of all, no matter
how sick the 45 HIV-negative men were, they would not officially
have been diagnosed as having "AIDS", since a positive
result on the HIV-antibody test is necessary for the diagnosis.
In consequence, they would not have received a prognosis of death;
they would not have been programmed to die. Above all, they would
not have been prescribed AZT! If these data were reliable, one could
argue that an AIDS diagnosis is deadlier than AIDS itself.
Winkelstein made no further attempt to refute the criticisms made
by Ellison, and the rest of his talk was not of general interest.
Warner Green, virologist at the University of California Medical
Center, San Francisco, was still another of those added for "balance".
His brief talk consisted mostly of unsupported assertions, which
he asserted were facts.
"HIV infections from accidental needle sticks, in health care
workers, who had no concomitant drug use or other risk factors,
have led to death." [No such case has ever been reported.]
"We now know that HIV can be recovered from 100% of AIDS cases."
[This statement is flatly untrue.] HIV does kill t-cells.
"I don't see what the problem is here." [Not only all
of the HIV-skeptics, but most proponents of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis
now accept that HIV does not kill t-cells.]
And so on. Nothing that Green said addressed the points made by
the critics of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
The Final Panel
For the final panel, Charles Geshekter had all of the speakers
come on stage. He said that, since there were a dozen and a half
of them and many people from the audience wanted to speak, both
questions and answers would have to be brief. He displayed a cow
bell, which he would ring if someone ran on for too long.
Asked to define "epidemic", Warren Winkelstein began
by saying, "An epidemic is an unusual occurrence of disease."
He went on from there, and several minutes later Geshekter had to
ring the bell on him.
Peter Plumley commented that the teen-aged AIDS cases have gone
down for the past two years.
Harvey Bialy pointed out that the perfect, 100% correlations that
were shown in Warren Winkelstein's slides, fell apart when the data
were examined independently.
Bryan Ellison followed up by saying that in the Ascher-Winkelstein
study, there were enormous gaps in the data, and that the questions
had been poorly set up. No one has ever done a rigorous survey of
the surveys themselves.
Michael Ascher then attacked Bryan Ellison-something to the effect
that candidiasis of the mouth wasn't an AIDS-defining illness, whereas
candidiasis of the esophagus was.
Peter Duesberg then jumped into the fray, saying that the Ascher-Winkelstein
study, which allegedly refuted the drugs-AIDS hypothesis, was incredibly
irresponsible and dangerous-for it appeared to recommend
the use of drugs.
A student of epidemiology asked Winkelstein why he had not verified
drug use with widely accepted serological tests, to which Winkelstein
replied that "survey research technology is widely accepted"-an
unresponsive answer, to say the least.
A woman in the audience asked Ascher and Winkelstein how they determined
if someone were HIV-positive or -negative, citing the Eleopulos
study (see Reading List) which indicated that both antibody tests
were unvalidated and highly unreliable. Ascher replied that all
of the tests were reliable.
Harvey Bialy, in response to a question from a man in the audience,
said there were 15 to 18 ways HIV could cause AIDS, but no
proof. All of the hypothesized indirect mechanisms were admissions
Michael Ascher ridiculed the direct-killing mechanism, saying it
was dead, that "Fauci would be the first to tell you."
Warner Green replied that he still held to direct mechanisms.
Asked why he did not consider HIV-AIDS to be a falsifiable hypothesis,
Kary Mullis cited two points: 1) the increase in the postulated
latency period, and 2) the switch from direct to indirect mechanisms.
Harvey Bialy indicated the absurdity of the claim that HIV causes
AIDS in 100% of those it infected, whereas the polio virus, for
example, causes polio in only 3-4%.
Warner Green responded, "This is a most unique retrovirus",
and said that HIV had extra genes.
At this point Kary Mullis exploded, "If you spend 22 billion
dollars, you can fucking find some extra genes!"
Peter Duesberg informed Green that all retroviruses have the same
number of nucleotides; all have 9 kilobases of genetic material.
Warren Winkelstein, who had seemed in a deep funk, ever since the
bell was rung on him, rebuked the panelists and the audience for
a lack of seriousness. "People are dying", he said Without
missing a beat, Kary Mullis turned to him and said, "We're
not laughing at AIDS, we're laughing at you!"
After a few desultory comments, that was the end of the symposium.
If the HIV-skeptics were in high spirits at the end of the symposium,
it came from the awareness that they had carried the day. The other
side utterly failed to rebut any of their major points.
In contrast, the HIV-defenders wore tense, defensive, hang-dog
expressions, as though they were on trial for something. Although
they could still parrot the old, and a few new, AIDS myths, none
of them were able to put together a reasoned argument.
The principle of "balance" really ought to be applied
to future AIDS programs of the AAAS and all other groups. Never
again should only the HIV-AIDS point-of-view be represented.
The HIV-AIDS hypothesis is dead. Only in a genuine spirit of Free
Enquiry can we discover exactly what "AIDS" is and what
its causes are. *