By Celia Farber
Spin June 1992
In a deathly conspiracy of silence, the medical establishment is ignoring
powerful evidence that HIV doesn't spread sexually, and it may in fact be
harmless. Celia Farber reports.
They call HIV the AIDS virus, and it's this generation's symbol of terror. It has
come to rule us, our lives, our relationships, our sexuality. A microscopic dictator.
We have erected buildings, organizations, conferences, and global programs in an
attempt to placate it. It is a demon, and we worship it with our terror.
But what is it really? Do we know that HIV is a deadly virus? Do we know for sure
that it causes AIDS? The answer is no. We don't know. The final cause, or causes,
of AIDS are not known, and the more you learn about HIV, the less you're inclined
to believe that it causes AIDS all by itself. More and more scientists are beginning
to question the hypothesis that HIV single-handedly creates the chaos in the
immune system that leads to AIDS. Despite ten years of intensive research,
scientists don't actually know whether HIV is any more than one of the signposts of
an immune system gone haywire. The fact is, a growing body of data suggests that
HIV isn't the culprit.
The electronic media have offered the American public a very simplified,
sound-bite version of AIDS and HIV's role in it. In the swirl of disinformation,
politics, and rhetoric that has clouded AIDS discourse, several basic and critical
facts have been suppressed or ignored.
In 1991, a study published in the medical journal Fertility and Sterility addressed a
very basic question: Can HIV be found in the semen of HIV-positive men? The
results were deeply perplexing. Semen samples of 25 HIV-positive men were
studied, and it was discovered that only four showed any trace of HIV. While
epidemiological reports indicate quite clearly that AIDS is spread two ways -
through blood and semen - the findings cast considerable doubt on the role HIV
plays in relation to the disease. The authors of the study acknowledged, in a rather
understated way, that "...very little information exists regarding [HIV's] prevalence
in semen and mechanisms underlying its sexual transmission."
The semen samples were taken from people both with and without AIDS and were
tested with a new, hypersensitive technology, known as polymerase chain reaction
(PCR), which measures the presence of viruses far more accurately than previous
methods have. Amazingly, however, similar information about HIV and semen has
been available almost since HIV was first isolated back in 1984. Dr. Robert Gallo, a
top retrovirologist at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), having pronounced the
newly discovered retrovirus HIV as the cause of AIDS, published a paper stating
that he had found HIV in the semen of two AIDS patients. Curiously, Gallo failed
to mention how many patients he had studied and not found HIV in. "We don't
know how many people he looked for HIV in. He simply reported that he found it
in two," says Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein, a professor of physiology at Michigan
State University who has spent the past several years scrutinizing the HIV-AIDS
data and is becoming one of the leading authorities on AIDS in this country. "In
terms of peer review," he says, "it failed utterly and miserably. It's hard to believe
what kind of nonscience they got away with."
Another study, reported around the same time at Gallo's, examined the semen of
12 AIDS patients and found HIV in only one. Yet this seemingly startling
observation went largely unnoticed, undiscussed, for years. "Those first two papers
were the only ones around on HIV in semen for several years, and they were very
misleading," says Root-Bernstein. "They made it seem like, 'Well, we looked at
these people and clearly HIV is present in the semen and so AIDS can be
transmitted by way of semen.' And that's how it was left. The fact is, we still do
not know how AIDS is transmitted."
In 1986 through 1988, several more studies were done on HIV in semen, using
more accurate testing methods. "What they found," says Root-Bernstein, "was that
between 25 and 30 percent of the AIDS patients they looked at had HIV in their
semen. But if you read the paper carefully, it turns out they're talking about one to
ten 'copies' per ejaculate, or one copy of virus per million units of sperm, which
isn't enough to spread an infection. HIV is present to that degree in salvia, breast
milk, vaginal fluid - and those are not modes of transmission. You generally need
thousands or millions of copies of any virus for it to be infective."
It is premature and unwise to leap to the conclusion that AIDS is not infectious, but
certainly this data raises questions about HIV's infectivity. The very question is so
taboo that one hesitates to ask it: How does HIV transmit, if it's not in semen? Dr.
Michael Lange, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital in
New York City, believes that AIDS is transmitted sexually, but is skeptical of HIV's
role in the transmission of the disease. "I think there's definitely an infectious agent
at work here," Lange says. "I'm not entirely convinced that it's HIV, or that it's one
agent - it could be a combination. But certainly AIDS is infectious."
We've already been told that HIV isn't spread through any bodily fluids associated
with casual contact. And now, we learn that HIV, where it is present in semen, isn't
detectable in quantities large enough to be infectious. Something is wrong with the
picture. "I've heard," says Root-Bernstein, "that they're pretty concerned about this
over at the NIH. I would be, too, if I were them."
Although scientists at the NIH were unavailable for comment, a spokesperson at
the NIH headquarters says that while two workshops have been held on the
question of how HIV transmits, in light of the semen studies, researchers do not
feel that the 1991 data is significant. They claim that a 1992 study found HIV in
the semen of 28 out of 28 studied.
The study, published by the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes,
in fact confirms the 1991 data, if you look closely enough. HIV was not found in
28 out of 28, but rather HIV antibodies were found in only 7 of the 28, which
reflects the 25 percent figure found in earlier studies.
It's important to distinguish between HIV antibodies - which aren't infectious - and
HIV itself. Antibodies are like footprints - evidence that the body has come into
contact, at some point, with the virus. Generally, when the body produces
antibodies, that means it has neutralized the infection. This is the underlying
principle of vaccination, which tricks the body into mass-producing antibodies. The
so-called "AIDS test" actually tests for HIV antibodies, not the virus itself - which
is difficult and costly to test for and therefore not routinely measured.
Even in patients with full-blown AIDS, HIV is often hard to locate. Studies of
AIDS patients have shown, since HIV was isolated in 1984, that only 50 percent of
them have evidence of the virus itself, while 90 percent have antibodies. A good
percentage of those who are HIV-positive may not actually have the virus.
Several studies have calculated that it takes between 500 and 1,000 unprotected
sexual encounters before an HIV-negative partner seroconverts to HIV-positive.
But confusingly, there have also been cases in which people swear they've gotten
AIDS from one single sexual act. Although the media favour the dramatic,
terror-ridden, Russian roulette model of HIV-AIDS transmission, it is noteworthy
that those cases are so rare that we know each victim by name. Alison Gertz, for
instance, the young, affluent heterosexual woman who said she caught AIDS from
a man she slept with once, has graced magazine covers across the country.
Suddenly, the media were making a tremendous deal out of what is in reality a very
rare example, while insisting that the cases like it were the wave of the future.
How HIV is or isn't spreading has been one of the most inflammatory points of the
entire AIDS debate. But by now it seems clear that the "explosion" of heterosexual
AIDS is a no-show. A recent flurry of press reports has drummed up hysteria
again, saying HIV can now been found in one out of every 250 Americans,
suggesting rampant spread. In fact, this figure suggested the opposite, if you do the
math. There are 250 million Americans. If 1 in 250 has HIV, that's 1 million people
- less than the previously predicted figure of 1.5 and 2 million.
Regardless of how many HIV-positive people there are, the number of potential
cases of AIDS in the heterosexual community appears to be self-limiting, because
unlike most sexually transmitted diseases (STD's), AIDS does not transmit easily in
both directions between males and females, therefore inhibiting heterosexual
spread. In New York City, for example. Adult cases of AIDS In New York City in
1990 as a result of female-to-male transmission totalled one. In 1991, there were
none. Since 1981, out of a total of 30,943 men with AIDS in New York, there
have been only eleven documented cases of female-to-male transmission.
It's the same in Europe. A recent report in the English medical journal The Lancet
tested 4,097 women attending pregnancy clinics in London. Only one tested
positive for HIV who could not be tied to one of the groups most at risk for AIDS,
such as haemophiliacs or intravenous drug users. Germany reports a grand total of
four presumed heterosexual transmissions of HIV not tied to other high-risk
behaviour since the virus was first tracked.
The question of the heterosexual AIDS explosion has been volleyed back and forth
between the two opposing camps - those who say it will happen and those who say
it won't - for years, unresolved despite a conclusive body of data that shows AIDS
is not erupting among heterosexuals. The vast campaign to convince the
heterosexual community that "AIDS does not discriminate" is turning out to be
politically correct but factually bankrupt AIDS-speak. Ten years after the first
AIDS cases appeared, it still remains contained, for the most part, among the initial
Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, a pioneering AIDS researcher and founder of the American
Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR), walked out on the organization he had
started primarily because he refused to participate what he saw as the fraudulent
terror campaign. "The AIDS Medical Foundation was sending out this press release
saying that nobody is safe, everybody is going to get it - and all that." He recalls.
"When I heard this, I totally freaked out. It was all just nonsense. I called them up
and said, "Do you know what's going to happen as a result of what you are doing?
You're going to freak out heterosexual men, you're going to destroy relationships,
marriages. And other thing, you're going to promote violence against gay men.
People are going to say this thing is a plague and it's coming from gay men, and
they're going to beat them up at random.' All of which has come true."
At the time, however, AmFAR's then public relation director, Terry Beirn, who has
since died of AIDS, was not about to let Sonnabend or anybody else get in the way
of the fund-raising that was just getting into full swing. "I couldn't fight Terry," says
Sonnabend. "He was very determined. It was pretty clear already then that AIDS
was not a significant threat to heterosexuals. He knew that this heterosexual AIDS
thing was a hoax, but he said have to do it to raise money. And certainly, you could
argue that unless those heterosexual male politicians in Washington thought that sex
could kill, they weren't going to release any money. But my response to that was, if
you raise money on a false premise, that money's going to be put to no good. And
in fact, that's exactly what happened. The money was raised to protect
heterosexual men from a disease they're not going to get anyway. So what have
these hundreds of millions of research dollars given us? Nothing. AIDS education?
All I see is terror and confusion. And AZT, which is a disaster.
"But on the other hand, I can see the value in supporting this notion of spread,
primarily in order to protect women," he adds. "Because women are getting AIDS
from men, but men are not getting AIDS from women. And men will only wear
condoms if they think themselves are at risk."
"The only interesting thing about any disease is how to control it," says British
epidemiologist Gordon Stewart, who was asked by the World Health Organization
(WHO) to write a report on social and behavioural factors in communicable
diseases, including AIDS, in 1983. Now retired, Stewart, emeritus professor of
public health at the University of Glasgow, has been making statistical projections
of AIDS for several years. His projections are based on what the pattern of spread
has been - not what it might be in an imagined worst-case scenario. While
projections made by the WHO and other health organizations have been grossly
exaggerated, by tens and sometimes hundreds of thousands from what has actually
come to pass, Stewart's have been uncannily precise, sometimes off by just a few
"Nobody wants to look at the facts about this disease," says Stewart. "It's the most
extraordinary thing I've ever seen. I've sent countless letters to medical journals
pointing out the epidemiological discrepancies and they simply ignore them. The
fact is, this whole heterosexual AIDS thing is a hoax."
Female prostitutes the most obvious risk group for any STD, are baffling AIDS
researchers. Among American prostitutes, HIV is not spreading, despite studies
showing that most of them do not generally use condoms. And even if they had
begun to use condoms in recent years, surely cases should haven been cropping up
from the years before there was awareness about AIDS. But all the studies with
prostitutes conclude the same thing: HIV is primarily found among prostitutes who
are also IV-drug users.
Stewart doesn't buy the hype also that AIDS is caused by HIV alone: "It's an
unpopular view, but I've always said that AIDS is a behavioural disease. It is
multifactorial, brought on by several simultaneous strains on the immune system -
drugs, pharmaceutical and recreational, sexually transmitted diseases, multiple viral
AIDS has been lodged in the public's mind as a sexually transmitted disease, above
all else. But no other STD behaves this way. Gonorrhoea, syphilis, herpes, and
genital warts, for instance, all spread rapidly and indiscriminately, and the
organisms that cause them are found in abundance in semen.
"Viruses work exponentially," says Dr. Peter Duesberg, a molecular biologist and a
central protagonist of the HIV debate since 1987. "Their purpose is to infect as
many people as possible in as short a period of time as possible. They rise until
they hit a plateau." But HIV's estimated level of spread is the same today as it was
in 1985, when it was estimated at around 1 million. According to Duesberg, since
it's not spreading exponentially, this suggests another startling possibility: that HIV
is not a new virus, it's an old one. Which means it would have been around a lot
longer than AIDS has, so, if it causes the disease, why didn't it before?
When the first small explosion of AIDS cases appeared around 1980, in gay men in
New York and San Francisco, it took a few years before anybody really took
notice. But as the cases accelerated, interest grew, until finally the new disease was
being caused by a deadly transmissive agent, and they were knocking each other to
The field of retrovirology took of in 1970 with the discovery of a group of viruses
that convert their RNA to DNA by an enzyme called reverse transcriptase.
Although retroviruses are common in animals, they had never been known to cause
disease in humans before. Robert Gallo, an ambitious retrovirologist from the NCI,
had discovered the first human retrovirus in 1980 which he called HTLV-I, and
tried to prove caused a certain type of leukemia in Japan. When his theory failed to
gain acceptance, Gallo was infuriated. By 1983, he was publishing papers trying to
convince his peers that it also caused AIDS.
Gallo, working for the omnipotent National Institutes of Health medical complex, of
which NCI is part, steamrolled his way through the scientific process by way of
intimidation, meeting very little resistance on the way. "The whole thing about
HTLV-I and AIDS was ridiculous, but nobody would say a word against Bob
Gallo," recalls Dr. Sonnabend. "When a few colleagues and I tried to show that
HTLV-I was not involved in AIDS, all the journals refused to publish it."
On April 23, 1984, at a packed press conference in Washington D.C., Gallo made
his way to the podium through throngs of reporters and TV cameras to make his
historic announcement: The cause of AIDS had been found. Bulbs flashed.
Cameras clicked furiously. It was a new retrovirus, supposedly isolated in Gallo's
lab; he was calling it HTLV-III, to assert that it was a member of the family of
so-called leukemia retroviruses he discovered previously.
What Gallo didn't mention was that the same virus had been isolated in France
almost a year earlier, and dubbed LAV. The French research team from the
Pasteur Institute, headed by Dr. Luc Montagnier, had isolated the virus and sent it
to Gallo, asking him to take a look at it. The French were cautious - they were not
at all prepared to say that the new virus was the cause of AIDS. All they had was a
strong correlation between it and AIDS patients. Most, though not all, AIDS
patients had antibodies to the virus. Half of them had detectable live virus. And in
the test tube, HIV seemed to be killing T cells, the same immune system cells that
were wiped out in AIDS patients. It wasn't, however killing very many cells.
But Gallo was convinced. As an aggressive and notorious contender in the
burgeoning new field of retrovirology, Gallo was determined to prove that a
retrovirus could cause a fatal disease. Never quite accepted into the top ranks of
science, Gallo stalked onto the wide-open scene of AIDS research, determined to
settle the score on HTLV-I as well as several other false alarms and scientific
setbacks that had characterized his turbulent career. Year after year, he had been
trying to acceptance into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, but with
his weak reputation among his peers as a scientist, the Academy kept rejecting him.
Now, claiming to have discovered the virus that caused AIDS, Gallo's moment
appeared to have arrived.
In her introductory speech, Margaret Heckler, then secretary of health and human
services, mentioned "other discoveries... in different parts of the world," but the
gold medal belonged to America. "Today we add another miracle to the long
honour roll of American medicine and science," she said, smiling for the cameras,
Gallo at her side. Then she made the next great claim. The discovery of the virus,
she promised, would launch the development of a vaccine against AIDS that would
be available by 1986.
Dr Sonnabend remembers the period following Gallo's announcement well. It
quickly became clear to him, as well as many scientists, that what Gallo was
claiming as his own discovery was really the virus that the French had discovered.
"I remember feeling sick to my stomach," says Sonnabend, "I wanted to protest,
but all my colleagues told me to just keep quite. As none of the science reporters
seemed to see what was going on." Pictures later released of Gallo's HTLV-III
were identical to pictures of Montagnier's LAV, and the only way they could have
been identical is if they came from the same patient.
Montagnier had actually sent LAV samples to Gallo twice. The second time, in
September of 1983, he also sent a contract stating that the American lab could not
use the samples for commercial interests. The very same day that the press
conference was held in Washington, a U.S. patent was filed on an HIV test kit
developed by Gallo. The market for AIDS testing kits was estimated at $100
million per year.
A war erupted. The French government sued the American government for the
rights to the patent and credit for the discovery of the virus that would eventually
be named HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. The whole affair was quieted
down very quickly; U.S. President Ronald Reagan and the French prime minister
Jacques Chirac intervened and forged an agreement. The two countries would
share proceeds from HIV testing, and each scientist, Montagnier and Gallo, would
be credited as "codiscoverer" of HIV.
In retrospect, that HIV was the cause of AIDS was certainly far from conclusively
proven. But at the time, given the pressure, the intensity, the public fear, the
newness of it all, and the glory of the new discovery, the American scientific
community settled for less. The announcement was made. An industry was born. A
whole generation of retrovirologist was suddenly given its raison d'être.
"Gallo was certainly committing open and blatant scientific fraud," Sonnabend says.
"But the point is not to focus on Gallo. It's us - all of us in the scientific
community, we let him get away with it. None of this was hidden. It was all out in
the open but nobody would say a word against Gallo. It had a lot to do with
patriotism - the idea that this great discovery was made by an American."
Dr. Lange echoes the regret of many practicing AIDS physicians. "I was far from
convinced by the data they had then and I'm still not convinced," he says. "We
were all forced into a very dogmatic and simplistic view of what caused AIDS.
Today, I think even the greatest proponents of HIV no longer believe that it does
all that damage to the immune system by itself. There have to be other factors
involved. And because of the HIV hypothesis, there's been little or no research
done on what those other factors may be."
"I was very upset," Lange continues. "The cause of AIDS was discovered by
government fiat. I had been working with the Pasteur Institute for six months, but
then that announcement was made at the press conference. As far as I'm
concerned, from that point on AIDS research turned into seedy, criminal politics,
and it remained that way."
Dr. Kary Mullis, a biochemist and the inventor of PCR, shakes his head. "Why
they did it," he says, "I cannot figure out. Nobody in their right mind would jump
into this thing like they did. The secretary of health just announcing to the world
like that that this man Robert Gallo, wearing those dark sunglasses, had found the
cause of AIDS. It had nothing to do with any well-considered science. There were
some people who had AIDS and some of them had HIV - not even all of them. So
they had a correlation. So what?"
It was in1987 that molecular biologist Peter Duesberg launched his first blistering
attack on the HIV-AIDS theory in the journal Cancer Research. Duesberg a
world-renowned scientist and long-standing member of the National Academy of
Sciences, was in an ideal position to take a crack at AIDS. He had discovered
oncogenes (cancer-causing genes), and had helped map the genetic structure of
retroviruses. Even Gallo boasted that his then friend and colleague Duesberg
"knows more about retroviruses than any man alive." Duesberg was one of only 23
scientists in the country deemed worthy of prestious NIH "Outstanding Investigator
Grant" which specifies that the recipient "venture into new territory," "conduct
high-risk research," and "ask creative questions."
Well, Duesberg did. He asked how HIV, a latent, inactive retrovirus, could kill
billions of cells when it infected only a few. How could it cause a deadly disease
when it could barely be isolated in patients even in the last stages of disease? How
could there be AIDS patients with no trace of HIV? And why wasn't there an
animal model for HIV - in other words, when HIV was injected into test animals,
why didn't they get AIDS?
Duesberg read every single paper written on AIDS and HIV, and spent nine months
writing his paper for Cancer Research, in which he concluded that HIV, far from
being a deadly virus, is harmless. "I wouldn't mind being injected with that virus,"
he stated flatly. "It's harmless."
At first there was silence, a kind of stunned, embarrassed silence. Gallo, when
asked by a few journalists and the odd medical journal editor, to respond to
Duesberg's criticisms of his theory, simply blustered that his claims were too
ridiculous to waste precious time answering. The rest of the scientific community
followed suit and simply ignored Duesberg.
At the time, the notion that HIV was the undisputed cause of AIDS was so
entrenched that Duesberg seemed to come out of nowhere, like some kamikaze
pilot smashing into the side of a building. The first reaction to him was shock,
followed by anger, perhaps some pity. Here was a brilliant, respected scientist, just
a breath away from a Nobel for his discovery of oncogenes, who suddenly and
inexplicably went off his rocker. And yet however hard his detractors tried, they
couldn't quite dismiss the fact that Duesberg is one of the world's foremost
authorities on retroviruses. Duesberg was known as a "troublemaker"; in the '70's,
after discovering viral oncogenes, he turned around and said that another type,
cellular oncogenes, couldn't cause cancer. So this was not the first but the second
time he was raining on the parade - sawing off the branch both he and his
colleagues were sitting on.
It didn't take long before he was excommunicated: He was no longer invited to
speak at scientific conferences, or if he was, he was asked to promise not to bring
up HIV. For the first time in his 25-odd years of practising science, he could not get
papers published. Then came the death blow: In October 1990, Duesberg was
informed that his $350,000-a-year research grant would be terminated when it ran
out in 1992, Duesberg, a native German, had been funded by the U.S. government
for over 20 years , but with this, he would be effectively silenced. He appealed the
decision, pleading conflict of interest: The review committee that made the decision
to discontinue his funding included Dr. Flossie Wong Staal, Gallo's long-time
mistress and the mother of one of his children, and Dr. Dani Bolognesi, who holds
a long-term patent on HIV antibody tests. The appeal was rejected, although a few
government officials have rallied to Duesberg's defence, among them congressmen
Ron Dellums and William Dannemeyer.
For years, the AIDS research establishment has kept a lid on the controversy by
throwing the same old bone to those who questioned. It was a nonanswer, to say
the least: Every "thinking scientist," they assured us, is convinced that HIV is the
cause of AIDS.
This is hardly true. In the past year, a group of 40 scientists, including a number of
eminent retrovirologists, epidemiologists, and immunologists, have banded together
to form a coalition that calls itself the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the
HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. Founded by Harvard biologist Dr. Charles A. Thomas, Jr.,
who has been following the debate since 1987, when Duesberg's first paper was
published, the groups purpose is to ensure that the question of what causes AIDS is
opened to scientific debate and held to critical scrutiny. Asked what inspired him to
put the group together, Dr. Thomas said, "I feel that for scientists to remain silent
in the face of all this doubt is tantamount to criminal negligence."
By 1990, even Dr. Luc Montagnier, the French discoverer of HIV, had backed
away from the notion that HIV alone causes AIDS. Montagnier stunned his
colleagues at the International AIDS Conference in San Francisco in 1990, when he
announced that HIV could not cause AIDS without a cofactor. He proposed as a
cofactor a bacterial agent known as mycoplasma, which Dr. Shyh-Ching Lo of the
U.S. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology discovered causes AIDS-like disease and
death when injected into monkeys. Montagnier's brief presentation was met with
outbursts of anger from his American colleagues in the audience. He left the
conference early and flew back to Paris.
Last Year, John Maddox, the editor of one of the world's top science journals,
Nature, sent shockwaves through the scientific communities in both the United
States and Great Britain when he wrote an editorial essentially apologizing for not
having more credence to Duesberg's views. What prompted him, among other
things, was a study that showed that mice, when injected with their own
lymphocytes (immune system cells, of which T-cells are one class), may test
positive for HIV antibodies despite never having been exposed to HIV. Maddox
wrote, "Now there is some evidence to support [Duesberg's] long fight against the
establishment (among sadly he counts this journal)." He concluded his piece, which
speculated that AIDS could be an autoimmune disorder, by saying that although he
by no means feels that HIV is irrelevant to AIDS, the new research proves that
AIDS is infinitely more complex than the original theory proposed. 'Duesberg will
be saying, 'I told you so,'" he wrote. The editorial was met with shock and outrage,
and Maddox printed a partial retraction the next month, reassuring the scientific
community that he was not saying he agreed with Duesberg about HIV, but that, as
he said in a subsequent interview, there was more to AIDS than "baby-talk stories
we've all been fed for years."
Flash forward: A federal investigation on Gallo has been going on for almost three
years. Back in 1989, in the Chicago Tribune, investigative reporter John Crewdson
revealed in merciless detail how Gallo allegedly took as his own the virus sent to his
lab by Montagnier, thereby explaining how they both independently discovered
On March 1 of this year, the New York Times reported on an internal NIH
investigation which concluded that discrepancies in Gallo's 1984 paper printed in
the prestigious journal Science - one of four Gallo published around the same time
on how HIV causes AIDS - stemmed from "misrepresentation and falsifications."
Now, Gallo having already admitted that he may have mistakenly contaminated his
own samples with Montagnier's (the other possibility, still under investigation, is
that Gallo stole the virus outright), the French government is demanding full
recognition for the discovery of the virus, and suing the United States for
approximately $20 million the U.S. has received from royalties on HIV testing kits,
as well as the several hundred thousand dollars in royalties that Dr. Gallo has
Peter Duesberg shrugs. "To me that whole affair is just a story of who stole whose
fake diamonds," he says. "The point that everybody is missing is that all those
original papers, Gallo wrote on HIV have been found fraudulent. Well, then, that
throws into question the entire HIV hypothesis, doesn't it? The HIV hypothesis was
based on those papers."
The HIV hypothesis is essentially this: When a person is exposed to HIV, the virus
gobbles up T cells like a Pac-Man, gradually eating away at the immune system
until it finally collapses, leaving the victim vulnerable to a vast array of infections -
ultimately fatal - that the immune system would normally be able to combat.
Duesberg's main point, which few in the scientific community debate, is that HIV
infects and kills only an insignificant number of cells, about 1 in 10,000, and the
body replenishes cells much faster than this.
"It's like saying you're going to conquer China by shooting three soldiers a day,"
Duesberg says. "It would take forever."
Many AIDS researchers acknowledge this, but evasively point to "unknown
mechanisms" underlying HIV's cell-killing activity. Their logic depends on a strange
assumption: Since the cells are missing and HIV is present, HIV must be killing the
cells, they reason. They've constructed widely divergent speculations about how
this cell-killing action takes place. Recently, in the New York Times, three very
different were elaborated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute
of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and one of the highest-ranking
government scientists working on AIDS, said all three were plausible.
In the United States, of the 1 million Americans estimated to be positive for HIV
antibodies, only 3 percent, or 30,000, go on each year to develop symptoms of
AIDS. While 75 percent of all haemophiliacs have been exposed to HIV-infected
blood, only 1 percent annually have been diagnosed with AIDS, and many of those
cases may actually be the result of immune suppression brought on by regular
dosing of immunesuppressive blood-clotting products. In 1989, a study published in
the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology compared the immune
abnormalities of a group of HIV-positive haemophiliacs with those of an
HIV-negative group and found them to be identical in both groups. Another study,
published in 1985 in the American Journal of Haematology, offered similar results.
"The results of our study as well as the results of previous studies," the authors
reported, "allow us to hypothesize similarly that frequent and long-lasting exposure
to protein blood products may render haemophilic patients immunologically
unresponsive by assaulting their immune system every time they receive clotting
Although it has been said that transfusion recipients who were infused with
HIV-tainted blood have died from AIDS brought on by HIV, a study published in
the New England Journal of Medicine in 1989 compared those deaths with
transfusion recipients who had not been exposed to HIV and found that the death
rates were similar. While 41 percent of those who were known to have been
infected with HIV died within a year of transfusion, 50% of those who had not
been exposed to HIV also died within a year of transfusion. The authors of the
study concluded that the recipients who had gotten AIDS had also been through
more transfusions than those who hadn't gotten AIDS. They wrote, "Recipients
who have received more transfusions, may be exposed to other viral cofactors, or
may have more severe underlying medical conditions."
Tragically, no study has ever been done to determine what factors, aside from
HIV, AIDS patients have in common. It has been reported anecdotally, however, in
testimonies from doctors with large AIDS practices and from AIDS support-group
leaders, that those who come down with AIDS, like haemophiliacs and
multiple-transfusion recipients, have a wide range of immunosuppressive factors
aside from HIV.
Many people with AIDS tend to have a history of repeated STD's, and have
overused both antibiotic and recreational drugs. Dr. Sonnabend and others have
theorized that repeated exposures to different semens can severely compromise the
immune system. Infants, is argued, inherit the drug addiction of their mother, so if
she is debilitated from drug abuse the child will be born with a failing immune
system, regardless of HIV.
Because HIV is believed to cause death, we've wound up in a perpetual
chicken-or-the-egg state of confusion. If HIV is present and death or disease
occurs, HIV is held responsible. Rarely is the possibility considered that identical
scenarios can take place without HIV - that all diseases associated with AIDS can
occur on their own, particularly in already immune-compromised individuals.
Various studies have reported on dozens of cases of indisputable full blown AIDS
in which no trace of HIV could be found. How do the proponents of HIV explain
cases like these? Their answer is simple, if unscientific. The virus is hiding. Every
single discrepancy connecting the virus to AIDS is swept under the carpet with the
explanation that the virus is simply mysterious, that it causes destruction silently,
invisibly, inexplicably. Despite evidence that it's barely there. The medical research
establishment has spent ten years and nearly $2 billion studying, splicing,
sequencing, cultivating this virus, and yet it hasn't gained an inch on it. How could
this virus be so immensely complex and advanced, and cause symptoms as diverse
as those seen in AIDS?
While the majority are comfortable with the explanation that HIV is simply that
new and mysterious, other scientists insists the virus is downright ordinary.
Kary Mullis is one of them. Although Mullis's PCR technique is now used in
virtually every HIV study, he is, ironically, a member of the Group for the
Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. "The mystery of that damn
virus," he says, "has been generated by the $2 billion a year they spend on it. You
take any other virus, and spent $2 billion, and you can make up some great
mysteries about it, too."
Mullis's invention has gained him world-wide recognition and made him a
contender for a Nobel Prize. Using PCR, a kind of molecular amplifier, scientists
are now able to see viral particles in cells that they couldn't detect before. Like a
great searchlight turned on the seething dark world of organisms, PCR makes it
possible for viruses to hide. Ironically, when the techniques was first applied to
HIV research around 1989, researchers claimed to have put to rest Duesberg's
complaint that HIV was barely detachable in cells. Several articles touted the news
that with PCR, HIV was 100 times more detectable. But to this day, Mullis fails to
see the connection between his invention, HIV and AIDS.
"PCR made it easier to see that certain people are infected with [HIV]," Mullis
says, "And some of those people came down with symptoms of AIDS. But that
doesn't begin, even, to answer the question, 'Does HIV cause it?' Human beings
are full of retroviruses. We don't know if it's hundreds, or thousands, or hundred of
thousands. We've only recently started to look for them. But they've never killed
anybody before. People have always survived retroviruses."
This has always been one of Duesberg's main arguments - that retroviruses have
never caused human disease. "Retroviruses typically don't kill cells," says
Duesberg. "On the contrary. They often promote cell growth. Retroviruses have
never posed a treat to humans. My feeling is that virtually the whole field of
retrovirology is redundant. So it's no wonder they're so obsessed about HIV. It's all
they have to justify their work with!"
Harvey Bialy, editor of the science journal Bio/Technology, has been skeptical
from the start. "HIV is an ordinary retrovirus." he says. "There is nothing about this
virus that is unique. Everything that is discovered about HIV has an analogue in
other retroviruses that don't cause AIDS. HIV only contains a very small piece of
genetic information. There's no way it can do all these elaborate things they say it
"A powerful hypothesis has to explain and predict," Bialy continues growing
indignant. "I ask you, what kind of scientist continues to support a hypothesis that
fails to explain and fails to predict? We've been willing to turn immunology
up-side-down and inside out."
A few years back, if you remember, HIV-positive pregnant women were urged to
abort their children, 100 percent of whom would certainly be born with AIDS, it
was claimed, and would die soon after birth. In fact, of all infants born to
HIV-positive mothers, all are indeed born with HIV-antibodies, but within 15 to 18
months a full two-thirds seroconvert to HIV-negative. The explanation given for
this is that the infants aren't showing their own antibodies yet, but rather the
antibodies of the mother, which they have inherited. If a child born to an
HIV-positive mother can expel HIV from its system, isn't it tenable to say that HIV
antibody is a far cry from AIDS itself? But when asked if this phenomenon could
be applicable to adults, a physician specializing in children with AIDS at New York
Hospital said that adults have never been known to seroconvert.
Root-Bernstein, having scoured the literature, disagrees. He says he has found
three dozen cases, at least, of people who have gone from HIV-positive to
HIV-negative. In addition, there are cases of people who have received transfusions
of HIV-positive blood and yet have themselves never developed antibodies to HIV.
To compound the confusion, even the more accurate test for HIV antibodies, the
Western blot, produces a cross reaction in people with autoimmune diseases such
as rheumatoid arthritis and Lupus. In other words, people with antibodies to these
diseases can test positive for HIV even if they've never come into contact with the
virus. Malaria is another disease that sometimes crossreacts with HIV. Could this
possibly account for the staggering number of HIV-positive cases in certain regions
Perhaps the most important question for people faced with a positive HIV-antibody
test is that their chances are staying healthy versus getting sick. Early on, it was
stated that the latency period, which varies depending upon whom you ask, has
grown considerably, a phenomenon that Duesberg calls "moving the goal post" that
a person might live for 30 years with HIV and not get sick.
There isn't enough of a health detachment among the public, the media, and the
HIV theory with all its implications, to make room for a rational debate on this
issue. When AIDS was taken on by the media and by AIDS organizations, it was
endowed instantaneously with a set of political, social, and moral implications, and
an extraordinary righteousness set in, a fevor so sure of itself that it refused to
tolerate any questions.
Upon examination, some of the terms of "AIDS-speak" appear to deliberately
obscure the facts. Calling HIV "the AIDS virus" implies, for example, that there is
no doubt that HIV causes AIDS. "The AIDS epidemic" implies that AIDS is
spreading at an uncontrollable rate, though not all agree: Some statisticians assert
that AIDS in the United States and in Europe has actually peaked and is now on
the decline. The number of new AIDS cases grows slowly each year, a fact not
widely trumpeted by the media or any of the country's 16,000 AIDS organizations.
Would it be overly cynical to propose that we have on our hands an industry that is
devoted not so much to the fulfilment of its goal - which would lead to its
dissolution - as to its own self-perpetuation? It's well known that many scientists
who undertook AIDS research jumped straight from the rotting ship of the cancer
industry. Fuelled by billions and accountable to no one, the cancer industry did
exactly what the AIDS industry is doing: It stomped out any dissent from the
orthodox view, refused to fund research into alternative treatments. Says Duesberg,
"I could understand them saying I am so horrible and irresponsible if they were
showing any results with their theory, but so far they haven't saved a single life.
After ten years there is still no vaccine, and the only therapy is AZT, which is, in
my view, making people sicker."
"We're scientists," says Kary Mullis, "Scientists don't believe, they have evidence.
We don't believe like Christians believes, our souls are not on the line. I've never
seen anything like this.
"And yet," he continues, "I think most of them have done it innocently. They're not
evil people, they're just trying to do their job. My reading of most virologists is that
they are neurotic. They have been co-opted over a long period of time by a system
that is very large, very complex. The system that they have been gaining their
information from for a long time has been progressively more and more unreliable.
What they call facts is what is published in the journals by them, and that is
becoming more and more muddled and more neurotic.
"I have asked a lot of really intelligent people - I get around these days, and I talk
to the very best scientists. I've talked to people at the CDC, the NIH, you name it.
I generally say, 'Excuse me, but as an independent scientist I often have to write
papers on AIDS for the company I'm hired to work for, and the first sentence I
write is often, "HIV is the causative agent in AIDS." Now, I would like to be able
to reference that.'
" 'Reference?' they ask.
"And I say, 'Yes, you know, a reference. Would you mind writing down for me the
references that you think, if I read them, I would agree with that statement. I mean,
I don't want it to be my idea.'
"I have never gotten a straight answer to that question from any virologist. They
say 'Yes, yes, of course. As soon as I get back to my office I'll have that for you.'
And I call them back, and they don't have it. There is no such body of knowledge.
The thing has been contrived from newspaper reports, word of mouth, agreement
in the back rooms of the virology labs - whatever they do when all ten thousand of
them get together in Europe and have their big HIV meeting. It doesn't derive from
anything that could be called scientific tradition. The only goddamn person that
ever sent me anything back was a virologist from this company called Diagnostic
Products. And do you know what he sent me? He sent me the attack that Robin
Weiss made on Duesberg in Nature! All that article said was Peter Duesberg is a
fool. We don't need to look at the virus. We don't need to look at the facts, at the
spread of AIDS, nothing. I couldn't believe it." (Robin Weiss, incidentally holds the
English patent on HIV test kits.)
It seems hard to believe. Virtually every scientist working in the field of aids
believes that HIV is the cause, and yet nobody can cite a single reference from a
body of scientific data that leads them to conclude that that is true? Several
scientists over the years have remarked that although it hasn't been proven that
HIV is the cause, the correlation between HIV and AIDS is so strong that this is
sufficient proof. Such a correlation might indeed suggest the need for research into
the relationship, but what about ten years later, when the hypothesis has failed to
stand up to the most basic questions?
The HIV apologia goes like this: Just because we can't see it killing cells, doesn't
mean it's not killing cells. It is. But it's a lenti-virus, a slow virus. It may take years
for it to wreak its havoc, but it gets there. It gets there, they say, as they arbitrarily
increase the latency period from HIV from two to three years to anywhere from 15
to 30 years. Moving the goal post.
Duesberg retorts with the typical irreverence: "There are no slow retroviruses, only
slow retrovirologists." Duesberg has remained incredulous, wondering what has
gotten into his colleagues, improving like this with the most fundamental scientific
concepts as if their project were some abstract creation. As a scientist, you don't
mold your theory to fit your assumption; you assume nothing, and let the facts fall
where they may. Eventually, you may have a theory. And once you do, your duty
as a scientist is to throw it right into the lion's den of scientific scrutiny. Peer
review. If it's correct, it will prevail; if not, it deserves to disintegrate.
The phone never stops ringing in Peter Duesberg's lab these days. He shuffles
about in his white lab coat greeting a German film crew, stopping to help a graduate
student understand some material, fielding phone calls. His assistant, Jane Byrd,
looks exhausted. The phone rings and she stares at it. "Did I tell you Barbara
Walter's office is interested in this?" she asks with the faint smile. "Even they're
starting to catch on.
"What was once a drip is now becoming a deluge. People are fed up with fraud,
and they're determined to get to the bottom of this. It's like being in the middle of a
The phone rings again. *