Book review.


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



If WHO estimates are to be believed, millions of Africans should be in the grave by now, killed by AIDS; and a heterosexual spread of the disease should be killing millions more around the world. But the apolycapse hasn't materialised. Now a new book, AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science, written by the British journalist Neville Hodgkinson has nailed all the nightmare scenarios about AIDS firmly in the coffin. "It is good to know that this epidemic which was going to wipe out Africa is just a big bubble of soap", one expert says in the book. It is a riveting read, but the AIDS Establishment will not be pleased. Baffour Ankomah has been reading it lately.

Neville Hodgkinson is a bit like St Paul. They have two things in common—a Damascus-roadexperience and an undying desire to undo the damage they did to the public good in the past.

St Paul, formerly called Saul, was one of the bad men of his era who terrorised the early Christian movement. But later smitten by the hand of God while en route to Damascus on a terror mission, Saul changed his name to Paul and became Christianity's foremost writer and propagandist.

Neville Hodgkinson, in many ways, is like St Paul except that he is yet to meet God. But whether he meets God or not, Hodgkinson is already carrying his cross high over his shoulder and nothing, he thinks, can stop him from delivering the message to the "deceived" masses of the world.

And his message is simple: AIDS, he says, is not caused by HIV alone, if at all. Second, the disease has always been, and still is, a gay and heavy drug-users' problem. Third, Africa is not in a grip of a deadly epidemic.

It has all been a "deadly deception", Hodgkinson thunders. "Even the HlV-test itself is flawed (see bellow).

Hodgkinson's conversion is now total. He used to be one of the Western journalists used by the AIDS Establishment to lend respectability to the hypothesis that HIV alone causes AIDS, and that the virus originated from Africa.

He now says (in his new book): "Ten years of reporting on HIV and AIDS, and three years of deep involvement in a controversy over AIDS causation, have led me to the conclusion that a decade ago we became ensnared in a mass illusion surrounding the issue.

"It came about originally because of a misinterpretation of biochemical events by scientists racing to find a microbial cause for the syndrome.

"The illusion was powerfully promoted by a gay community who also desperately wanted to be able to blame a new virus for AIDS, rather than face the likely contribution of the wild lifestyle characteristic of the gay liberation years.

"Furthermore, religious and political leaders, public health officials, charities and the media found in HIV a ready-made, relatively uncontroversial target for expressions of feeling and morality".

Hodgkinson's conversion actually happened in April 1992. No ray of light suddenly shone on him from the sky like St Paul. But The Sunday Times journalist knew his time was up.

From then, fully supported by his editor Andrew Neil, Hodgkinson wrote a series of highly controversial stories for The Sunday Times that sought to dismantle the "illusion" that HIV was the sole cause of AIDS, and that the world (especially Africa) was in the crin nf a heterosexual spread of the disease.

With his new book, Hodgkinson is taking the fight further into enemy territory.

In it, he writes: "Stretching or disregarding facts to fit a comfortable theory—or to avoid the discomfort of admitting error—has been a human weakness since ancient times, but there has rarely been a more dramatic example, or one with such far-reaching consequences, as that surrounding the theory that the collection of immune deficiency diseases known as AIDS is caused by a deadly new virus called HIV...

"A reader new to the HlV-AIDS controversy mav he outraged to find me referring with such apparent certainty to "illusions' surrounding the subject. After all, has not the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared that 30-40 million people worldwide will be HIV infected by the end of the century, that AIDS cases in Africa soared from 2.5 million to 4 million during 1993, and that cases in Asia increased eight-fold, from 30,000 to 250,000, over the same period?

Haven't numerous scientific and medical bodies declared HIV to be 'beyond reasonable doubt' as the cause of AIDS?

"It is true not merely that most of the world's doctors and scientists accepted the HIV theory, but that the theory itself has more merit than some of its critics have acknowledged.

"I have been on a long journey of inquiry myself. As medical correspondent of The Sunday Times during the second half of the 1980s, I was responsible for many articles that accepted and promoted the prevailing view of HIV as the universally accepted cause of AIDS, and reported warnings that because it was a virus either new or newly spreading within humanity, almost everyone could be at risk.

"It was not until 1992, now playing the somewhat different role of science correspondent, that a special set of circumstances made me aware that a serious scientific challenge had been mounted to the orthodoxy.

"Somewhat reluctantly, because of all I had previously thought and written about HIV, I checked out the arguments and many of the references and the responses given by the mainstream to the dissident voices.

"After some weeks, in April 1992, colleagues decided that the case for questioning HlV's role was compelling enough to be put before a national newspaper audience for the first time.

"We were not convinced at that time that HIV had no role in AIDS, let alone that the microbe which thousands of scientists had spent years studying could be a figment of their collective imagination.

"But since then the evidence has mounted to the point where I have reached the view that the HIV theory does not fit the facts as they have now been established.

"A false paradigm of AIDS causation is harming patients, the public, the public purse, and the image of two great professions. A new approach is urgently needed to establish the true causes of the conditions known as AIDS, and how to prevent and treat them".

The wrong virus

But poor Hodgkinson would have to borrow the pen and debating skills of St Paul if he was to succeed in swaying the AIDS Establishment to his point of view.

He himself concedes the fact that AIDS is bringing to American researchers alone a whopping $1.3 billion a year. The money flows in because the world believes that HIV alone causes AIDS. lf the hypothesis is thrown out the window tomorrow, the money will dry up and the AIDS Establishment will become an emperor without clothes. Hundreds of thousands of highly-paid jobs linked directly or indirectly to the AIDS industry will go. And the Establishment knows it! So they will keep both the "hypothesis" and the "illusion" going for as long as they can.

But by doing so, as Hodgkinson says in his well-researched book, the whole world will continue to suffer as researchers will take longer to find a cure, if one can be found at all.

Already, as Hodgkinson has so clearly proved in his book, the AIDS Establishment has been looking at the wrong virus for the last 15 years. This, he says, explains why a cure has not been found yet because no one actually knows which virus is causing the disease.

"I have no words to express my anger at what has happened", says one American scientist Joe Sonnabend. "I know that if many, many promising leads apparent eight years ago had been explored, we might well have developed effective treatments. The AIDS research establishment is responsible for this tragedy. The marketing of HIV, through press releases and statements, as a killer virus causing AIDS without the need for any other factors, has so distorted research and treatment that it may have caused thousands of people to suffer and die".

The Gay Connection

The pity of it is that the Establishment is not even prepared to admit its error. Rather, dissident voices in the medical, science and journalistic world that want a reappraisal of the AIDS hypothesis are shouted down or frozen out of the system all together.

This is in spite of the overwhelming evidence published in the last few years pointing to the fact that a mistake had been made.

In Britain, for example, the AIDS Establishment is currently trying to pass the buck by calling recent attempts by the Tory government to re-focus AIDS funding on the gay community as the "regaying of AIDS".

They are also, strangely, criticising people like Neville Hodgkinson and Andrew Neil for getting it right.

Hodgkinson and Neil, the Establishment claims, are "rightwing commentators" now presented with "opportunities for a bout of we told you so".

But don't Hodgkinson and Andrew Neil, and others like them, deserve to be proud about their victory?

Figures recently published in Britain and elsewhere clearly support the argument that AIDS is not mainly a heterosexual problem, although the disease affects heterosexuals and some have indeed died from it.

"Statistics from the Public Health Laboratory Service", The Guardian (New African's big neighbours across the road) reported on 18 July, "shows that of 12,565 UK AIDS cases to date, only 161 were the result of heterosexual transmission with no evidence of high-risk partners".

This had earlier been confirmed by a report in the London-based daily, The Independent: "A total of 16,303 gay and bisexual men have tested [HIV] positive in Britain since 1982. 6,611 of them have died from [full blown] AIDS", the paper said.

"In the UK, where the number of HIV cases has reached almost 27,000, there is also cause for quiet optimism: the rate of infection appears to be slowing and a heterosexual epidemic has been averted", The Guardian said in its article quoted above.

The Guardian, unlike The Sunday Times, is stridently pro-AIDS Establishment. Its 18 July article tried unsuccessfully to mask the truth, which is that, Hodgkinson and their friends had been right all along: AIDS has always been a gay problem and that the rest of the world was conned into believing that a heterosexual spread of the disease was around the corner.

Jamie Taylor, one of the top officials of the British safer-sex education group, Men Fighting AIDS, has admitted that the heterosexual fear factor was deliberately introduced by the gay lobby to persuade governments around the world to take the HIV virus more seriously by providing funds for research.

"The money that we needed to combat the epidemic in the gay community would only have been forthcoming if the disease appeared likely to affect Middle England", Jamie Taylor said on a BBC Radio 4 programme this June.

Years before his admission, some American researchers, and even some gay men themselves, had been saying the same thing again and again but nobody would listen to them.

Michael Callen, an American gay who was diagnosed as having full-blown AIDS in 1982 and who spoke and wrote at length about the disease before he died in 1994, repeatedly emphasised that "it was within his 'brotherhood of lust' that most of the homosexual AIDS cases were to be found.

"You try by having 3,000 men up your butt by the age of 26 and not get sick", Callen said. "And I was a baby! I knew the first wave of people with AIDS: they were founders of what we called the 10,000 Club; they had had 10,000 or more different sexual partners".

Callen was convinced that not just anyone developed AIDS. His view was supported by a study conducted by the American Centre for Diseases Control (CDC) of the first 100 gay men with AIDS in America. Their median number of lifetime sexual partners was 1,160.

"That number", according to Callen, "indicates a very specific type of gay person with a very specific lifestyle. In plain English, only excessively promiscuous gay men like me are developing AIDS".

Anal sex, too dangerous

Callen's remarks were not new to the ears of the initiated. When AIDS started making the rounds in America in 1980, it was called GRID — GayRelated Immune Deficiency.

At the time American researchers rightly believed that the disease was caused by excessive promiscuity on the gay circuit leading to a multiple of illnesses that damaged the body's immune system. Once the immune system was damaged, any slight opportunistic infection could lead to death.

In fact, studies conducted around that time had found that GRID (or its modern name, AIDS) was not caused by one agent but a multiple of them. The studies had found that AIDS "can occur without HIV, and seropositivity to HIV can be widespread without AIDS". The mode of transmission, according to the studies, was more through anal sex than anything else.

In its 18 July article quoted above, The Guardian reported that in 1985 when the British government under Mrs Thatcher finally woke up to the dangers of AIDS, "the first draft of newspaper adverts and the mass leaflet campaign [mounted by the Tory government] contained valuable information about the specific dangers of anal sex:

"As the rectum is far more delicate than the vagina, it is more easily damaged. This means anal intercourse is the easiest way of becoming infected", the first draft of the Tory government's ads campaign said.

"But this warning was excised on the firm instruction of Margaret Thatcher, who, according to her Principal Private Secretary, regarded the wording as better suited to lavatory walls, 'like that old information they used to have about VD", The Guardian reported.

Mrs Thatcher's cut of that paragraph deprived Britain of a vital weapon in the fight against AIDS.

Because research elsewhere— in America and Europe—had clearly proved that anal intercourse was to be avoided by all and sundry if AIDS was to be kept at bay.

A European study, Hodgkinson reports in his book, had shown that the relative risk to women of becoming HIV positive through sex with an HIV positive partner was increased more than five-flid in anal intercourse compared to vaginal intercourse.

Raw data from this study had shown that a massive 46% of women who had had anal intercourse with HIV infected men became HIV positive.

Elsewhere in America, researchers were sounding the same warnings. "Avoidance of anal intercourse must be the principal focus of efforts to reduce risk in the male homosexual community. This message must be given the highest public health priority", they pleaded.

When the warnings fell on deaf ears, one sad American doctor, Dr Victor Lorian of the department of epidemiology and infection control at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Centre in New York, was moved to write:

"It is unfortunate that anal sex has not been considered separately from other practices as the main mode of HIV transmission, regardless of the gender of the partners. Calls for abstinence and warnings that all forms of heterosexual activity are equally dangerous are invalid. Warnings that anal intercourse is dangerous are valid, can be understood by most lay people, and could save many lives".

The Western 'pariahs'

But these warnings were thoroughly ignored by not only the AIDS Establishment but also governments around the world.

Instead, a concerted effort was made to ridicule the voices that wanted the orthodox thinking on AIDS re examined.

One of those voices belonged to Professor Peter Duesberg, a molecular biologist at the University of California at Berkeley.

"Duesberg", Hodgkinson writes, "was once a golden boy of virology, California's scientist of the year and recipient of a $350,000 'outstanding investigator' award from the National Institutes of Health.

"He had been arguing for several years that HIV was harmless and could not possibly be doing the damage attributed to it. He had first been ignored, then pilloried for his views, then deprived of his research funds".

Another dissident was Dr Joe Sonnabend who qualified medically in South Africa and had a scientific background in virology with Britain's National Institute for Medical Research. He was the founding editor, in 1984, of the magazine AIDS Research, the first scientific journal devoted to the syndrome.

Sonnabend was one of the early scientists who rejected the CDC definition of AIDS as being caused by one agent, HIV. His own research had led him to the conclusion that there were some AIDS cases that had no trace of HIV at all, and therefore AIDS could not be caused by HIV alone.

Sonnabend's views were particularly anathema to the Establishment, but in 1992, at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, the Establishment finally conceded that even the French researcher Luc Montagnier (who shares the credit with the American scientist Robert Gallo for being the first scientists to 'isolate' the HIV virus), had reported from his laboratory in France that he had been seeing some clearcut AIDS cases in which no trace of HIV could be found.

Yet long before the Amsterdam conference, Sonnabend had been declared a pariah and forced to resign his position as editor of AIDS Research.

Another pariah is John Lauritsen, a Harvard-educated survey research analyst who began reviewing AIDS research in 1983. His writings on AIDS greatly irked the Establishment. In 1993, Lauritsen took the fight further into enemy territory by publishing a book, The AIDS War.

Lauristen has an "infuriating" habit of putting AIDS in inverted commas because he considers it a phoney construct.

"It is an epidemic of lies", he wrote in 1993, "through which hundreds of thousands of people have died and are dying unnecessarily, billions of dollars have gone down the drain, the Public Health Service has disgraced itself, and Science has plunged into whoredom".

Lauritsen was surely courting trouble with that sneerng piece of writing. He was soon put to sleep, finding a home in the league of the pariahs.

Another dissident who is giving the Establishment endless trouble is the "tiny lady of Greek origin", Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos who joined her family in emigrating to Australia in the late 1960s after training in nuclear physics at the University of Bucharest, Romania.

The "tiny lady" is currently leading a small group of Australian scientists in Perth who are preparing themselves for what, according to Hodgkinson, "may prove to be the most remarkable role of all in the AIDS saga.

"They are developing a challenge that goes heyond the question of HlV's role in AIDS... They question the very existence of the entity that has come to be known as HIV", Hodgkinson reports in his book.

According to Eleopulos' group, HIV, unlike other viruses, has "never been isolated as an independent, stable particle", even to this day.

"In the vast majority of cases where 'isolation' was claimed, the basis of the claim was the detection of the enzyme reverse transcriptase (RT). This had been thought to be associated exclusively with retrovirus activity, but there was evidence, amply confirmed since, that all cells were capable of expressing it".

The "tiny Greek lady" provides the coup de grace: "The presently available evidence does not prove even that [HIV] is an endogenous retrovirus, because what we see, the phenomena collectively known as HIV, are non-specific. RT is non-specific; virus-like particles are non-specific; the antigenantibody reactions are non-specific; PCR is non-specific. You can't even say you have a retrovirus there".

Her views are supported by another doctor, Val Turner, an emergency physician at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia:

"HIV", Turner says, "is a metaphor for a lot of quasi-related phenomena. No one has ever proved its existence as a virus. We don't believe it exists".

The 'African' pariahs

Close to home in Africa, our most famous "pariahs" have been the French "AIDS researchers" Philippe Krynen and his wife Evelyne who both trained in France as nurses. Because they could not have children of their own, they decided to dedicate their lives to Third World orphans—and so they landed in Tanzania. Philippe was a former pilot and Evelyne a teacher.

In 1988 they travelled through central Africa looking for a suitable place to set up a branch of the French charity Partage which had agreed to support them. Finally they set up shop in the remote Kagera district of northern Tanzania where Africa's first cases of AIDS were diagnosed as far back as 1983, and was considered the epicentre of AIDS in Africa.

After a three-day tour of the district in 1989, Philippe and Evelyne filed a report back to France that greatly delighted the AIDS Establishment. They had found, they claimed, whole villages and towns in the district destroyed, the people were continuously dying of AIDS and thousands of children had been made orphans.

"Here, AIDS does not choose its victims among marginal groups", the Krynens wrote. "It touches the entire sexually active population, men and women alike. Extreme sexual liberty, a weak sense of hygiene and lack of medical and social support have made the populations of these parts a particularly homogeneous risk group".

That was the message the AIDS Establishment wanted to hear. And Western newspapers, magazines, TV stations, charities and medical groups had a field day.

Soon Western money was dropping all over the heads of the Krynens. They got enough to employ 230 full time Tanzanian staff, including a doctor, a pharmacist, nurses and scores of office workers, to help 7,000 children in 15 of Kagera's villages.

But as Philippe and Evelyne assembled the data coming from the 230 staff, they began to see that something was not quite right. The data in front of them run counter to what they knew about AIDS.

"When we came here", Philippe told Hodgkinson in 1993, "we had the textbook knowledge of AIDS in our minds... This was what we had learned from our medical studies... What I wrote in my journal [in 1989] was with 100% bonne conscience".

But later, a pilot test offering HIV tests to the 230 staff under the Krynens, proved beyond doubt that Philippe's bonne conscience had feet of clay. He himself was surprised to find that only 5% of his 230 staff were HIV positive, although all were young and sexually active.

So Philippe and Evelyne had to repeat the tests. In 1992 they tested 850 people in Bukwali, a village on the Tanzanian border with Uganda where some of Africa's first AIDS cases had been reported in 1982.

To their shock, only 13.7% were found to be HIV positive, much lower than the village had been led to believe by Western scientists. Repeat tests came up with the same results. Philippe and Evelyne now had to eat humble pie.

"All of a sudden, you put all you have been told about the disease in the garbage can, and try to reconsider", Evelyne told Hodgkinson who interviewed them for The Sunday Times in November 1993 (also run by New African in Dec 1993).

"The 15 villages we have looked at are in the most affected area of a region that is supposed to be the epicentre of AIDS in Africa... Nothing is sure; everything is just wind", Evelyne said.

Philippe added: "In all the children we have lost, there was a very well designated reason, an illness we could not cope with because we hadn't the means to do it: heart failure, TB treated too late, cerebral malaria, acute hepatitis—probably caused by a drug taken for the wrong reasons.

"You have no right to call any of these deaths AIDS. I can't tell you of a single child I have followed who has died of a socalled AIDS-related illness.

"It is good to know that this epidemic which was going to wipe out Africa is just a big bubble of soap... It is time to come back to science and abandon magic thinking", Philippe said.

In fact, the so-called "millions of AIDS cases in Africa" forecast by the WHO, as Hodgkinson points out in his book, have more to do with the WHO's "unworkable" definition of African AIDS: "Weight loss of more than 10%, chronic diarrhoea lasting more than a month, and prolonged fever (intermittent or constant) lasting more than a month".

"We see here", Hodgkinson says, "what a mental tangle the HIV story has created... Tuberculosis plus a positive HIV test result lis] AIDS in Africa, but not in America".

In fact, the WHO definition of African AIDS was attacked in a November 1991 letter to the British Medical Journal by a group of Western doctors led by K. M. de Cock who asked for more widespread HIV testing in Africa before the continent was condemned.

They wrote: "Many patients with TB, irrespective of HIV state, have weight loss, fever, and cough, and the WHO clinical case definition for AIDS therefore has a low specificity in this population. Unless the results of HIV tests are known, many patients with TB who have no HIV infection might be reported as having AIDS".

This was exactly what the Krynens found in Tanzania but their findings were unpalatable to the ears of the AIDS Establishment. Suddenly, "the stars of African AIDS research" as Philippe and Evelyne had been seen by the Establishment, had to be dropped from grace to grass.

All the long international Aid conferences that the Establishment had sponsored Philippe to attend and present papers did not matter any longer. The Empire wanted its pound of flesh. And the knife came swiftly.

First, the Krynen's annual grant of PS 350,000 from the European Union was withdrawn. Then they were given 14 days to leave Tanzania. Only an 11th-hour reprieve by the forward-looking Tanzanian Prime Minister J. S. Malecela saved the day for Philippe and his wife. Malecela saw through the pressure from abroad and decided he would not throw out the French couple whose only sin was to be truthful about the state of AIDS in Africa.

"I am not afraid at all", Philippe said afterwards. "Missing money doesn't mean you are missing the point. The 'Aid-makers' know that the figures have been inflated. They have their backs to a wall that is crumbling down".

But Phillipe was to suffer later: Evelyne could not stand the heat of the international opprobrium heaped on them and left for France, then the 5-year-old Tanzanian boy, Joseph, whom they adopted died on 27 March 1994 from pneumocystic pneumonia. Joseph had been found by the Krynens in 1989 wasting away in a local hospital, diagnosed as having AIDS. They took him home, nursed him and he lived for more than five years.

"The truth is always good to be said", an unrepentant Philippe said later. "The AIDS definition has to be re-thought. AIDS should be renamed. As long as you don't rename it, rethink what it is, you will never find a cure. It is misleading the people [and] misguiding the government. As long as we have stocks of AIDS tests, as long as we have to make trials with a vaccine for HIV, we need AIDS in Africa. AIDS has become a political and commercial issue."

In his book, Hodgkinson could not have found a better epitaph for the Krynens than this:

"[They] had nothing to gain other than a clear conscience, and a lot to lose, from attempting to lift the 'HIV' curse put upon the African people by Western scientists, who had unwittingly acted as witch-doctors of the worst kind.

"My own experience in Africa did not show me anything that was inconsistent with the description and analysis offered by the Krynens, and there was much to support it.

"I salute them, and others like them in Africa and elsewhere, who have been prepared to risk everything for the sake of fighting a deadly deception". *

Review by: Baffour Ankomah
Source: New African Sept. 1996