Book review.


Peter H. Duesberg, 'Inventing the AIDS Virus' Regnery USA 1996, 720 pages, ISBN 0-89526-470-6.


Everybody knows AIDS is caused by HIV. That's what science has been telling us for a dozen years.

So why does Peter Duesberg, a pioneering researcher on retroviruses at the University of California at Berkeley, disagree so strongly?

In a controversial new book, "Inventing the AIDS Virus," (Regnery; $ 29.95), Duesberg accuses the government of leading medical science down the wrong path when it comes to AIDS.

He says medicine's failure to make progress against the disease proves it. HIV, he says, has nothing to do with AIDS.

"Tragic deaths, time and money wasted, hysterical public debate over a harmless virus - these have been the fruits borne of a scientific establishment grown too large for genuine science," he writes.

The establishment says Duesberg doesn't know what he is talking about, but several hundred scientists, including a handful of Nobel laureates, aren't so sure. They back Duesberg and want the HIV-AIDS hypothesis re-examined.

Whether Duesberg's premise is right or wrong, the book is a fascinating look at the politics that appear to have tainted the world of scientific research.

While he concedes HIV can be passed during sex, intravenous drug use, transfusions and from mother to baby, Duesberg contends it is a harmless virus.

Rather, he says, the illnesses said to be the result of HIV's weakening the immune system - Kaposi's sarcoma and more than 25 others - are caused not by HIV, but, in nearly all cases, by rampant drug use.

Duesberg says that includes both recreational and prescription drugs, including AZT, given to those with HIV or AIDS.

While many of Duesberg's ideas may seem unbelievable, the 722-page book is complete with 200 pages of appendices and footnotes that make them at least worthy of attention.

Kary Mullis, who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his invention of the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) technology, thinks so.

In the book's forward, Mullis writes: "We have not been able to discover any good reasons why most people on earth believe that AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV. There is simply no scientific evidence. "

That lack of evidence is Duesberg's main problem with the HIV-AIDS theory. While there are more than 100,000 scientific papers about AIDS, none proves the connection.

Government scientists, who announced in 1984 that HIV causes AIDS, say there is a strong correlation, in that nearly all who have come down with AIDS-defining illnesses also test positive for antibodies to HIV. To officially be diagnosed with AIDS, one must be HIV-positive and have one of the 30 illnesses.

But Duesberg notes there have been more than 4,600 documented cases of patients with such illnesses, but no HIV.

He says the growth of AIDS parallels the drug epidemic and that 94 percent of AIDS cases remain within the original risk groups - gay men, injecting drug users and hemophiliacs.

He notes that each of these groups suffers its own unique AIDS diseases and says no germ could differentiate among its victims in this way.

Of the 94 percent, about one-third are heroin addicts; about two-thirds are male homosexuals, nearly all of whom had abused recreational drugs or went on AZT when they learned they were HIV-positive, he says.

Duesberg says all of these drugs, including AZT, can damage the immune system, allowing the development of the opportunistic infections that define AIDS.

For example, tennis star Arthur Ashe, who contracted HIV from a transfusion, and Kimberly Bergalis, who may have gotten it from her dentist, were both AZT victims, Duesberg charges.

Review by: Michael Lasalandra
Source: The Boston Herald 18 March 1996