"The Biggest Lie of the Century" Under Fire

By Baffour Ankomah

New African Dec. 1998

1st December is "World AIDS Day". In the run-up to it, the AIDS Establishment has been issuing some dubious figures about a "pandemic" of AIDS in Africa. TV documentaries to be broadcast on, or before, 1 December have been lined up in Britain and elsewhere to reinforce the Establishment line. But how accurate are these figures? One African doctor calls it "the biggest lie of the century". Joan Shenton, the award-winning British TV producer and journalist says "it's all bad science". Fortunately, the evidence on the ground in Africa so far doesn't support the "pandemic" figures. Baffour Ankomah reports.

The balance sheet of "African AIDS" for the year 1998 looks like this: August: A "new class" of HIV, the virus said to cause AIDS, was "discovered" in a Cameroonian woman by French researchers in Paris. The new virus is said to be so different to all other strains of HIV-1.

21 October: At the closing of the Second Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD II), UNAIDS, the UN outfit headed by the Belgian Peter Piot, managed to sneak the following paragraph into the "Tokyo Agenda for Action" - the newest blueprint for African development in the next century adopted at the conference:

"HIV/AIDS," the paragraph said, "has exacted a tremendous toll in human suffering, death and lost productivity. Currently, of the 31 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, 21 million of them live in Africa. Eighty per cent of all women with HIV/AIDS are in Africa. As a result, life expectancy is declining, infant and child mortality are on the rise, and individuals' productivity and economic development are threatened. The insidous effects of HIV/AIDS affect the entire spectrum of economic and social activities."

Only a passing reference was made to malaria, the scientifically proven single biggest killer on the African continent. Why, after the failures of the past decade in AIDS research and forecast, UNAIDS still wants the world to concentrate billions of dollars on HIV/AIDS - a "disease" that is yet to be scientifically proven - at the expense of malaria, the already proven "biggest killer" of Africans, should worry us all.

28 October: Came the biggest news of all. The Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs announced that "AIDS has achieved pandemic proportions in several of 34 sub-Saharan countries where at least one in four people is infected with HIV".

The report, part of the UN's world population survey for 1998, said AIDS is dramatically cutting the life expectancy in many African countries and will leave their populations far below what was expected in the next 10 to 15 years.

"In Botswana, the hardest hit country in sub-Sahara Africa, life expectancy which stood at 61 years only five years ago, has dropped to 47 and is expected to drop further to 41 between 2000 and 2005", said the New York Times, quoting the UN population survey. "In Zimbabwe, where one in five adults is HIV-positive, the mortality rate is significantly reducing the country's population growth, from 3.3% a year between 1980 and 1985 to 1.4% now, and a projection of less than 1% beginning in 2000. "Were it not for the virus, Zimbabwe's population would probably now be growing at 2.4%", the UN report added for good measure.

However, it made no mention of the activities of the thousands of Western condom and family planning evangelists who descended on Africa in the last 10 years under the sponsorship of the very same UN agencies spewing out those bogus figures. No one needs a PhD to know that the chances of making babies are considerably reduced with increased condom use. Thus, the more Zimbabweans use condoms or plan their families, the more their country's population growth rate will decline. It has nothing to do with any virus. The same can be said of population growth rates elsewhere in Africa.

As far as the figures go, the most disturbing thing is that in their haste to do Africa's image the most harm, the UN agencies do not apparently cross-check with one another, or even co-ordinate their figures before rushing to announce.

In Tokyo, while UNAIDS bamboozled the 51 African countries present at the TICAD II conference with the "fact" that: "Of the 31 million adults and children living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, 21 million of them live in Africa", the UN population survey barely two weeks later was telling the world: "Of the 30 million persons in the world currently infected with HIV, 26 million or 86% reside in 34 [African] countries. In addition, 91% of all AIDS deaths in the world have occurred in these 34 countries."

So who do we believe? UNAIDS or the UN Population Division?

At the Tokyo Conference, UNAIDS distributed what it called "Epidemiological fact sheet on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases" on every African country. The table (right) shows a small selection of the "facts" as distributed by UNAIDS at the conference:

If UNAIDS is to be believed, the mortality rate from HIV/AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa is well over 90%. If this actually reflects the reality on the ground, then African cemeteries should be filling up by now - as Africans do not cremate their dead, they bury them. But you don't see cemeteries filling up in Africa. "So where are the graves?", as the eminent Ghanaian doctor Felix Konotey-Ahulu so eloquently put it 10 years ago when the same "pandemic" announcements were being made about African AIDS.

In fact UNAIDS itself at some point must have found its own figures so hilariously comical that it felt obliged to include a "health-warning" in the "factsheets" distributed in Tokyo.

"In 1997 and during the first quarter of 1998," the health-warning began, "UNAIDS and WHO worked closely with national governments and research institutions to recalculate current estimates on people living with HIV/AIDS. These calculations are based on the previously published estimates for 1994 and recent trends in HIV/AIDS surveillance in various populations.

"Epimodel 2, a microcomputer programme originally developed by the WHO Global Programme on AIDS, was used to calculate the new estimates on prevalence and incidence of AIDS and AIDS deaths, as well as the number of children infected through mother-to-child transmission of HIV, taking into account age-specific fertility rates. An additional spreadsheet model was used to calculate the number of children whose mothers had died of AIDS.

"The current estimates do not claim to be an exact count of infections. Rather, they use a methodology that has thus far proved accurate in producing estimates which give a good indication of the magnitude of the epidemic in individual countries..."

Notice the words, "calculations", "microcomputer programme", "spreadsheet model", and the extraordinary admission that "the current estimates do no claim to be an exact count".

In other words, Africans can safely go to sleep with the knowledge that the alleged 26 million of their countrymen, women and children living with HIV/AIDS are mere "calculations" made by a "microcomputer programme" using a "spreadsheet model" prepared by the discredited and now defunct WHO Global Programme on AIDS. The figures, therefore, do not reflect the true situation on the ground.

In the past, these extremely alarming figures are known to have been used to cajole governments and institutions into giving more money to the UN agencies and others dealing with AIDS.

To Africans, the most troubling aspect is that people around the world do take these figures at face value, and thus believe that almost every African is riddled with the HIV virus from head to toe and only waiting to die of AIDS in 10 years time or so, if not dying now.

Thus, for Africa's own self-belief and confidence, it is time African governments shed their apathy, spoke out and challenged these figures as the Haitians did in the early 1980s when they were falsely blamed for the origins of AIDS. After all, it is the African governments who live with the 26 million of their citizens said to be on death row. So they must know the extent of the "pandemic", if ever there is one.

At the TICAD II conference in Tokyo, the UNDP assistant administrator for Africa, Ms Thelma Awori (originally from Uganda, this writer was told) even had the temerity to attack African governments at a press conference for "denying" the extent of the AIDS "pandemic" in their countries.

She, however, neatly ignored the fact that 13 years ago, the UN agencies were saying much the same about Uganda being "the hardest hit" in Africa and how Uganda's "heavily infected" population would be wiped out in a matter of years. That dire prediction never came to pass. Now in AIDS circles, the talk is about the "Ugandan miracle". So what happened to Uganda's "heavily infected" population? They got some AIDS cure perhaps?

Since those apocalyptic days, the UN agencies (the WHO then in the forefront), have been shifting the goalposts - they have moved the "hardest hit country tag" from Uganda to Tanzania to Zambia to Malawi to South Africa, a bit of Zimbabwe

And Ms Awori, an African woman powerful enough to challenge these figures at the highest level with the view of making the AIDS Establishement return to the days of "good science", is rather blaming her own people for not accepting the bogus figures churned out by microcomputers. She must surely know that the HIV hypothesis itself and the HIV tests based on it, have been proven to be hugely unreliable.

"It's a lie, the figures are all lies, the biggest lie of the century," said an African doctor attending the TICAD II conference in Tokyo. He did not want to be named out of fear that his career prospects could be harmed by the AIDS Establishment.

To impartial onlookers, the attempt by the Establishment to destroy the reputations and careers of dissenters challenging the HIV=AIDS=Death hypothesis, is a very troubling one. Too troubling that it is one of the main themes of a book published earlier this year by the award-winning British TV producer and journalist, Joan Shenton. Titled Positively False - Exposing the myths around HIV and AIDS, the book tells how Joan Shenton herself survived the Establishment onslaught on her reputation and career, and how the dirty tricks are still being used to frustrate her independent TV production company, Meditel Productions. In the past year alone, Joan has had several contracts for TV speaking engagements and documentaries cancelled or "demoted to six-minute news items" by even some of the liberal-minded TV executives in Britain.

In the book, Joan tells how she entered the AIDS debate with a certain journalistic campaigning innocence and zeal. "Gradually, I began to realise that the wall of opposition was unbreachable. We were up against massive collusion between a dogmatic scientific establishment and sheepish governments being bullied into handing over thousands of millions of dollars to further research into a bogus and unproven hypothesis."

In the first 10 years, Joan Shenton's career in medical journalism saw the making of 100 TV documentaries which won her company seven international awards. Seven of those documentaries were on HIV/AIDS alone, two of which won the Royal Television Society Award and the British Medical Association Award.

The story is best told by Joan herself:

"The story of HIV," she reveals in her book, "and the panic over AIDS has led to over 100,000 published papers on HIV and AIDS. Some $40 billion of the US taxpayers money and 2 billion in the UK has been spent on AIDS since 1984... Yet, in all this time, no cure for AIDS has been found...

"Why? Because the AIDS edifice is built upon the false hypothesis that the retrovirus HIV is the cause of AIDS and that AIDS is an infectious disease. In fact, the AIDS syndrome has not behaved like an infectious disease would. It has remained restricted to certain high risk groups; groups that are already prone to severe immune suppression."

She continues: "What I have learned over these years is that the scientific community is no longer free. Today science can be bought, and the individual dissenting voice is able to be silenced and dismissed because of the enormous sums of money involved in protecting a prevailing hypothesis, however flawed it may be.

"Politics, power and money dominate the scientific research field to such an extent that it is now no longer possible to put a hypothesis that has become dogma to the test.

"Scientific trials sponspored by pharmaceutical companies often involve many different university faculties at one time and consequently tie up most of the expert voices. The dogma is written up in tablets of stone in medical textbooks and young science students swallow it without question. Those that are already in well paid jobs find it easier not to rock the boat. What would be the point? They would simply lose their jobs."

Joan Shenton laments the fact that the AIDS debate has been driven by money, money, money. "The sale of HIV test kits [have] become a source of immense revenue," she writes. "Each time a drop of blood [is] tested, it [means] 43 pence for the company producing the kit. Many scientists researching into the AIDS virus themselves [have] companies selling test kits and [own] millions of dollars in company shares. AIDS for these individuals [is] a very profitable business."

She continues: "The story of AIDS is also special because it is the first time in the history of medicine that so much money has been thrown into one particular disease.

"With $40bn spent in 14 years in the US alone, it is the biggest industry next to the defence department. The money was fuelled by the plague terror tactics used by well-established organisations like the US Centers for Diesease Control and its offshoot, the Epidemic Intelligence Service [also known as the medical CIA] whose members are strategically placed in positions of power and influence in the media.

"There is yet another complex reason for the support of an infectious agent as the cause of AIDS. In the West, those affected by the syndrome are 90% male, of whom 50% are homosexual habitual drug users - both intravenous and recreational.

"During the 1980s, the gay community had a powerful lobbying voice with governments that were anxious to be seen to be 'politically correct'. An infectious cause of AIDS was more expedient for the gay community."

Joan recalls that money was at the root of the legal battle in the mid-1980s between the French and American "co-discoverers" of the HIV virus itself. They all wanted a monopoly over the test kit patent revenue.

On the very same day, in the spring of 1984, when Margaret Heckler, the US Health Secretary, with Robert Gallo by her side, announced at a press conference in Washington DC that "the probable cause of AIDS has been found", Gallo filed a US patent for the HIV blood test kit he had developed. His claim that he was the sole discoverer of the virus was soon challenged by the French doctor, Luc Montagnier who happened to be the first to have "discovered" the virus.

"So, at he behest of President Ronald Regan and [the then] French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac," Joan Shenton writes, "Gallo and Montagnier met in a Frankfurt hotel room to work out a settlement.

"The end result was that the French and Americans settled the lawsuit. In March 1987, they agreed to share the credit for discovering the virus and split the royalties from the blood test kits. By 1994, those royalties had amounted to $35 million. "Gallo holds 13 US patents and has applied for 29 others. His inventions have brought his previous employers, the National Institutes of Health, half of its income from royalties. The University of Maryland will hold the patents on new inventions emerging from Gallo's Institute of Human Virology, but will split the profits 50-50 with the inventors. Great hopes are pinned on Gallo."

Here again, Joan Shenton shows that money was at the root of the alarming AIDS figures put out by the UN system, especially the WHO. In the past, she writes, WHO figures were "bumped up by hundreds of thousands of presumptive diagnoses in Third World countries where AIDS is diagnosed without an HIV test.

"In the early 1990s, the WHO's Global Programme on AIDS [later to be taken over by UNAIDS] was employing between 2,000-3,000 people. They continually fed highly inflated figures to the press, and officials at public meetings began to quote their estimated cases for AIDS in order to drum up funding, quietly dropping the actual reported figures. "We challenged these figures at a meeting at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine in 1993, and there was a red-faced acknowledgement that the figures they were using as fact, were no more than guess work.

"In April 1995, the WHO Global Programme on AIDS dismissed 750 of its workers because none of the 'pandemic' predictions had come true. Clearly, none of the established principles about HIV and AIDS had stood up to the test. AIDS had not spread into the heterosexual community in the West and AIDS had not ravaged Third World countries." In fact, in Britain and elsewhere in the West, recent reports say some AIDS clinics are being closed down because "AIDS patients" are getting better and going home instead of dying as predicted. And this is "the disease" that has no cure yet.

In her book, Joan Shenton tells how she interviewed "the discoverer" of the HIV virus, Luc Montagnier and how the great man backpedalled on some of his earlier beliefs about HIV.

Joan recounts: "Until our meeting with Montagnier that day in early March 1990, the world had been led to believe that if you caught HIV it would kill you willy nilly. Yet we were about to hear shattering news that the very scientist who discovered HIV was now backpedalling on the virus' ability to be the sole cause of AIDS. [Montagnier admitted]: 'At first, yes, we thought we had the best candidate for this virus to be the cause of AIDS. But after a while - even from the beginning actually - we thought maybe for the activation of that virus in cells, we had to, we need some co-factors. So I would agree that HIV by itself, or some strains of HIV are not sufficient to induce AIDS.'

Peter Duesberg, one of the heavyweight AIDS dissenters and one of the best known retrovirologists in the world - once the blue-eyed boy of the American medical establishment with research funding thrown at him from every corner - came to Joan Shenton's rescue:

"I believe," Duesberg told Joan, "that AIDS is not, or cannot even be an infectious disease. An infectious disease, believe it or not, has a criteria to it; how it happens, when it happens. For example, if you get infected by a bug or by a virus, within weeks or months after contact or after that infection, you will have symptoms of a disease.

"In HIV and AIDS, however, we are told you get sick 10 years later, 10 years after infection! That is not how viruses or bacteria work. They work faster or never. They are a very simple mechanism like a little clock that can do only one thing - go around the dial once, and that takes 24 to 48 hours with a virus.

"There is no way that a virus could possibly slow down or wait a week or wait 10 years. That is totally absurd.

"AIDS, as it is thought of, is primarily a result of, I suspect intoxication - Acquired Immune Deficiency - as the word actually says. In AIDS, you acquire it by consuming drugs and through malnutrition that is often typically linked to it. Once that has happened, once you are immune deficient, then you are open to many infections that are secondary or opportunistic as we say. That is not therefore an infectious disease. It is the result of that."

No wonder Duesberg has had his research funding cancelled and has become the most vilified virologist in the whole wide world.

Joan Shenton next asked him: If the infectious hypothesis is proved wrong at the end, what then?

"The implications would be very serious", Duesberg replied. "Very, very serious in fact. Millions of lives that could have been saved won't be saved if we work on an ungrounded or poorly grounded hypothesis..."

It was time for Joan Shenton to take a closer look at "African AIDS". At the end of 1992, she travelled with her team to Africa to shoot a documentary on AIDS, after a research trip a few months earlier. She remembered that as early as 1988, Dr Harvey Bialy, another of the American heavyweight dissenters had said:

"There is no scientific literature about AIDS in Africa. It is 100% ad hominem, anectodal trash... I had thought for a long time that what was being classified as AIDS in Africa, which was a completely different syndrome of diseases than what was being called AIDS in the West, was in fact nothing more than a new name for a collection of old diseases. Diseases that are called AIDS are classical African diseases in populations that have for a very long time been subject to these infections. When that is readjusted in terms of terribly, terribly sero-epidemiology, in regard to the so-called AIDS virus, the picture becomes a very grim one, at least a statistically grim one. The whole notion of African AIDS is sick to begin with. Why is there such a thing as African AIDS? Do we have American AIDS, Asian AIDS, French AIDS?"

Joan and her team of researchers travelled to Africa to find out for themselves. She cites two studies in Ghana and Cote d'Ivoire in which "AIDS without HIV" was found in 227 patients in Ghana and 135 patients in Cote d'Ivoire. All of them were suffering form the "classical symptoms of "African AIDS": weight loss, diarrhoea, chronic fever, tuberculosis and neurological diseases. Yet 227 of them in Ghana and 135 in Cote d'Ivoire were HIV-negative.

Joan asked Dr Kevin de Cock who was then working for the American Centres for Disease Control (CDC) and had a laboratory in the Ivorian capital, Abidjan, to explain why 2,400 documented "cases of AIDS" in his (de Cock's own) study and others had turned out to be HIV negative.

Dr de Cock replied: "If we're talking about AIDS we should perhaps scrap the word and talk about HIV disease. All right? It's very clear what is HIV disease. Now it's not surprising that the constellation of symptoms, signs, and indeed opportunistic infections, occasionally - occasionally - occur in people without HIV infection."

If he thought he could get away with that lame answer, he was mistaken. Joan next asked him: "Those 2,400 cases were called AIDS, for all intents and purposes, in all the literature. And yet you're saying they shouldn't have been called AIDS. But they were identical to AIDS. So are you saying..."

Dr de Cock: "But they were HIV negative."

Joan: "So you are saying there have been 2,400 misdiagnoses?" Dr de Cock: "Are you talking about - we're talking about the quality of surveillance data."

Joan: "The [2,400] documented cases of full-blown AIDS which, when tested, were HIV negative."

Dr de Cock: "Well, then they're not AIDS cases. They're not AIDS in the way we talk about HIV disease."

Joan: "But they were called AIDS in the documents. They were called clinical case definition Bangui AIDS. Do you see?"

Dr de Cock: "Of course I see. Any case definition, particularly one which is clinically based is not going to be perfect."

This reminded Joan Shenton of what Dr Martin Okot-Nwang, one of Uganda's leading TB specialists had told her in Kampala:

"A patient who has TB and is HIV positive would appear exactly the same as a patient who has TB and is HIV negative. Clinically, both patients could present with long fever, both patients will present loss of weight, both patients will present with a prolonged cough, and in both cases the cough could be equally productive. Therefore, clinically, I cannot differentiate between the two. Even when I look at the blood analyses, I may find some similarities between the two groups."

Joan Shenton already knew, from a study her own Meditel Productions had done back in London between June and October 1996, that false positive results and inconsistencies between one test kit and another and between different laboratories, were rampant in the trade. For example in the study, one sample given by a volunteer, Peter Nicholls, went from HIV-positive three times to HIV negative twice - all in the space of one month.

Joan Shenton was left to ask: "Are TB and Malaria being called AIDS in Africa?". The Ugandan health minister, Dr James Makumbi proferred an answer: "We have more than 700 non-governmental organisations operating in the AIDS field in Uganda," the minister said. "This raises concern, because a few of them are doing a very good job. But a good number of them, my ministry is not aware of what they are actualling doing, and there is no way of evaluating them. Unfortunately, a good number of them do rush in, collect data and go away with it, and the next we hear about it is when it is being printed in journals. And we have not had any input. Some of the work has been done in very limited areas, not reflecting the rest of the country."

Is the world surprised, then, to hear that a microcomputer says there are 26 million Africans living with HIV/AIDS?

Badru Ssemanda, a Ugandan, summed it all up: "People are trying to make a living out of AIDS. They think that if they publicise it and they exaggerate it, they might win sympathy from the international community and will get aid. We need assistance but not through bluffing people and saying that people are dying at a rate which is not true." *