Book review.


Neville Hodgkinson, 'AIDS; The Failure of Contemporary Science' Fourth Estate, London UK 1996, 420 pages, ISBN 1-85702-337-4.


This is the book that all of us in the AIDS dissident movement have been waiting for. After leaving his job as science editor at the Sunday Times, the author, after a short period of time, took up residence in an eastern religious retreat near Oxford University in England in order to complete the manuscript for this book. It would appear that the benefits of this period of reflection are manifested in the final work through a balanced and well-reasoned argument that marks a turning point in the history of AIDS as well as science. In the process of unraveling this web of deception and fraud we are introduced to most of the principal AIDS dissidents-Michael Callen, Joe Sonnabend, Jody Wells, John Lauritsen, Celia Farber, Peter Duesberg and ultimately the author himself in an autobiographical account of his own awakening to the errors of modern science and medicine. The process has been difficult; so difficult that at times he felt he was not going to complete the book. The world can be grateful that he was able, through the encouragement of his friends, to find the courage to finally regurgitate this enormously diabolical and perfidious story of a biomedical establishment that has run amok, betraying the trust that we have historically bestowed upon them. I doubt if science and medicine will ever be the same again within our lifetimes.

Coupled with Peter Duesberg's book, Inventing the AIDS Virus (Washington, D.C., Regnery Publishing, 1996) the dissidents have raised issues which can no longer be ignored by the bastions of conservatism and reductionistic science along with their myopic and increasingly ineffective stepchild-modern science-based medicine. This revolution is long overdue. Everyone should look into this overarching problem facing us in order to take an intelligent stand in the midst of the chaos which is bound to ensue when the truth finally comes out. Neville Hodgkinson first burst upon the dissident scene as the Science Editor of the Sunday Times. His now legendary revelations about AIDS, and how we have been deceived, were published in one of the most important newspapers of the western world, resulting in a controversy which still has not abated, although the AIDS "epidemic" in the United Kingdom is now almost a thing of the past, especially in the heterosexual world. With the full support of the paper's editor, Andrew Neil, he was able to continue his expose until circumstances would not allow either himself or Andrew Neil to continue in their positions.

Perhaps one of Hodgkinson's greatest accomplishments during this period was to expose the African AIDS hoax. By traveling in Africa he was able to get a firsthand account of what was supposedly one of the greatest pandemics of all time and found it to be without substance. The racial and economic reasons for the construction of this "pandemic" become clear.

Having said all this, I, as a gay man, must take exception with the author's leaving us with the impression that anal intercourse is a contributing factor to the syndrome. On page 377 at the beginning of the chapter, "A Better Fit" (no pun intended) he qoutes to us the following: "Eleopulos's oxidative stress theory, however, both accommodates and explains the data. Aids can be sexually acquired by a homosexual man who is a frequent passive recipient of sperm. The risk could come from the challenge to the immune system presented by the seminal fluid and sperm itself, synergistically increased by repeated exposure to sperm heavily infected with known microbes such as cytomegalovirus, which became hugely prevalent in promiscuous gay men during the 1970s 'gay lib' sexual revolution. But the theory predicts that sex in itself will not put at risk a gay man who never has sex as a PASSIVE PARTNER [emphasis mine]." Although he is somewhat ambiguous on this point throughout the book, the casual reader will get the impression that anal sex can cause AIDS. Not only is this far from the truth; it is also based on the wrong idea that anal sex, as with homosexuality itself, is only a matter of choice. There are those who are anally oriented who can ONLY get sexual fulfillment in this manner-it is not a matter of choice. They will be driven to it by their psychological compulsions (which may even be BIOLOGICAL) and to tell them that they might die in the process is nothing short of diabolical. I will not believe that any kind of human sexuality should be thought of as unwholesome or pathogenic-that idea itself is pathological. Lamentably, many of the other key players in this drama have adopted this argument and Hodgkinson takes the trouble to point this out. "Buggerphobia" is so deeply ingrained in western consciousness that it was almost inevitable that this anomaly should appear in an otherwise impeccably constructed manuscript. It is based on two faulty ideas: (1) that anal intercourse is largely restricted to gay men, and (2) that some of these men engage in it with uncontrolled lasciviousness and as a matter of choice. Let us look at number one first. For all those genuinely wanting to become informed on this subject, I would recommend they read the chapter "Heterosexual anal intercourse" in AIDS and sex, ed. by Bruce Voeller, et al., New York, etc., Oxford University Press, 1990 (The Kinsey Institute series, vol. IV). Some very interesting facts emerge from this study, viz. "Based on the review of the research presented in this chapter, a conservative figure of at least 10% seems an appropriate lower limit for the number of sexually active American women who engage in anal intercourse with some regularity." (ibid.,p. 296). That is a very large number of women which this source estimates at around 8 million. The total number of those who practice regular anal intercourse in the U.S. is placed at around 16 million the other 8 million, of course, being men. Where are the bodies and the AIDS cases? There is no evidence that gay men engage, or have engaged in, more anal sex than any other group of people past or present. Furthermore, there is no AIDS to speak of in China and Japan. China has a population of well over 1 billion, most of them extremely virile as we all know. As the librarian for the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, where we had a large collection of erotica, I can assure you from what I have seen in that collection, anal intercourse is not unknown to the Chinese or the Japanese. And not only do we have whole populations largely free of AIDS, we have an historical record of anal intercourse going back to prehistoric times. Yes, semen was discovered in the anus of the man from Neolithic times found frozen in the Alps a few years ago. Anthropologically also we have very interesting studies that would tend to indicate that anal intercourse in and of itself does not constitute a health threat. "Selected other cultures also differ in the extent and sort of homosexual activity. Among the Siwan of Africa, 'all men and boys engage in anal intercourse...and males are singled out as peculiar if they do not indulge in these homosexual activities'" (ibid., p. 299). So far as I know, they have not died out, and there are many other anthropological studies indicating active anal intercourse amongst "straight" males. Of particular interest is the almost universal acceptance of this in prisons. This is not a new phenomenon by any means. The case for gay men screwing themselves to death rests largely on the confessions of Michael Callen, who was a self-confessed "pig bottom." He admits that by the age of 27 he had had "3,000 different sex partners" and goes on to further attribute his AIDS to all the diseases he contracted during that period. (See: AIDS Inc., by Jon Rappaport. San Bruno, CA, Human Energy Press, 1988, p. 341). There is no doubt that all of us get sick for multiple reasons-that is the emerging medical paradigm-but Michael took no responsibility for his own health. He relied almost exclusively on his doctors and traditional western medicine based on pharmaceuticals. When I heard him lecture, he downplayed the role of diet, admonishing us to eat a whole box of chocolates if we so desired. What Michael needed was a thorough detoxification, a good diet, including dietary supplements, exercise in the fresh air, etc. and he might have been still with us. His doctors, apparently, did not recommend this course of action. With regard to point two above, I would like to point out that the straight world's prejudice against gay men and their perceived wanton sexual practice has blinded them to the real causes of AIDS and allowed this aberration to creep into the dissident argument. I too was a participant in the sexual revolution of the '60s and '70s and seldom saw the supposed gangbang phenomenon that, according to this theory, is supposed to have led to our acquiring AIDS. Gay men, even at the height of the sexual revolution were always looking for "Mr. Right" in the midst of it all and still showed some discrimination and judgment in their sexual practices. I did not know many who really wanted "sloppy seconds." At least I never did, nor did all the others I associated with. This charge leveled against us is based on blind prejudice, misunderstanding about sexual practices in general and gay sexual practices in particular. Furthermore, one person who has studied this research has come to the conclusion that one episode of "anal insemination" is no more injurious to the immune system than "a glass of wine" (Paul Philpott of "Reappraising AIDS"). If that be the case, how can one make a correlation with AIDS and anal sex when there are so many other such pernicious influences on us? I could go on, but it just is not so, and I believe the research, based on preconceived ideas about us, and remaining only a THEORY, should be totally discarded as a major contributing factor in AIDS. It has been my observation that those who are most opposed to the gay lifestyle have taken up this theory and used it against us. Having said this, however, I do believe that there probably is some evidence that EXCESSIVE anal sex (as well as all other forms of sex with unknown partners because of the diseases they may carry) can contribute to the decline of an already stressed immune system. Dr. Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and her colleagues at the Royal Perth Hospital have demonstrated this is a possibility through their research. For anyone who is physically stressed out and on the edge it would be advisable to restrict this activity to a minimum just as they should eliminate all other presumed immune suppressers, including recreational drugs, alcohol, lack of sleep, environmental toxins, etc. Peter Duesberg, in his analysis of the situation (See his, "Inventing the AIDS virus."), argues that recreational drugs together with prescribed drugs are the principal cause of the problem and I must agree with him based on my experience in the fast-lane lifestyle for over twenty years. Although initially caused by lifestyle and drugs, AIDS has now become largely an iatrogenic disease caused by prescribed drugs, and to go back and try to reconstruct what took place almost fifteen to twenty-five years or more ago is futile. (N.B. One must go back this far to explain drug illness, because it is not only the quantity used, but also the LENGTH OF TIME, as with cigarettes. Although Peter Duesberg's drug-AIDS hypothesis seems the most logical explanation of AIDS to me, there is also no doubt in my mind that there were other factors that contributed to our downfall.)

AIDS is a construct-"invented," as Peter Duesberg says, for political and monetary reasons. It is for this reason alone that we should not look for a single cause or group of causes. There are probably as many "causes" as there are sick people, so that each one of us became ill for a different set of reasons. Those of us who have survived have used a combination of orthodox and alternative medicines. Hodgkinson, with his background in science reporting, does an excellent job of deconstructing this chimera along with the other abominations it has spawned such as "viral load" and the Ho and Wei study. The split in the dissident camp between Peter Duesberg, who believes that HIV exists as a harmless retrovirus, and the others, principally the Perth research group who believe that it does not even exist, is adequately explained here in a popular book for the first time. As of this writing, the debate goes on-largely in the pages of Continuum magazine. As an AIDS activist I have been struck by the underlying unity of feeling suffusing those of us who dare to question. This is a feeling based on love and a genuine desire for a better and more humane medicine and a science based less on reductionism and more on the macro level of humans and the environment. The situation is urgent, so that we must rally around those who have formulated the argument in order to bring about fundamental change. It is long overdue. Hodgkinson's last chapter, "Shedding the illusions" points us in the right direction. He quotes Professor Richard Strohman, Professor Duesberg's colleague at the University of California, Berkeley, as saying that the model "DNA -> RNA -> Protein -> Everything else, including disease" has led us nowhere, and it has become especially pernicious in the case of AIDS. The book ends with this poignant report: [begin quotation] Mullis was aware, Farber said that his view of AIDS-one that encompasses each person's history or 'lifestyle'-was rejected by virtually all AIDS organizations, researchers, and activists, who considered it 'blaming the victim.' 'It's not blaming the victim,' he argued. 'It's not anybody's fault. They just did something that didn't work, that's all.' Later in the interview, as Mullis pondered on the lives ruined by the HIV diagnosis and AZT (and other 'scary' medical practices seen 'through the glasses that you've developed through looking at this thing'), Farber realized that on the other end of the phone, this Nobel laureate, pioneer of the DNA revolution, had started to cry. Mullis told her: God, I hate this kind of crap...Sometimes in the morning, when it's a good surf, I go out there, and I don't feel like it's a bad world. I think it's a good world, the sun is shining. I'm really optimistic in the mornings. But, you know, it's not because of you calling me. It's just thinking about this issue, it just drives me to-I'm making tears thinking about it. I don't see how to deal with it. I can't possibly write a book that will describe it to somebody. You can't do a damn 22.8-minute TV thing that is really going to have any effect except to get somebody to shoot through my window and hit me. I feel like I'm on a hostile planet. I have felt a bit like that too, at times, when under attack on all sides, over a protracted period, for my reporting on the HIV/AIDS debate. Even if it achieves nothing else, writing this book has helped me gain a sense of perspective. Not necessarily into the molecular mechanisms I have tried to explore, but at least into the fundamental goodness of those on all sides of the controversy who, despite their differences, and despite their failings, ultimately wish to do what is right by their fellow human beings.[end of quotation] Wisdom comes through a marriage of the heart and intellect. Those of us who have taken this tiger by the tail and cannot let go must, in the process, also evolve and thus contribute to a solution of this problem by manifesting more love and understanding. The broader picture must be looked at in order to find a solution and, with the world beginning to change exponentially, I am sure we will come out of this dark tunnel sooner than later. Hodgkinson has contributed mightily to this process by writing this book. *

Review by: Fred Cline
Source: Rethinking AIDS discussion group, Sept. 1996