TRUTH IS BUSTIN' OUT ALL OVER
HIV Symposium at AAAS Conference
By John Lauritsen
New York Native 18 July 1994
"Who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and
-- John Milton, 'Aeropagitica'
Critics and defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis met in open debate
for the first time on 21 June 1994, at a day-long symposium in San Francisco.
The symposium, "The Role of HIV in AIDS: Why There is Still a Controversy",
was sponsored by the Pacific Division of the American Association for the
Advancement of Science (AAAS).
The AIDS Establishment did not want this event to take place. Beginning
in mid-May, a campaign was whipped up in the pages of California newspapers
and the British popular science magazine, Nature, to have the program
canceled or at least altered beyond recognition. Up to the last moment
it was not known whether the symposium would happen at all, or exactly
what form it would take.
But it did take place, and was a triumph for the side questioning the
HIV-AIDS hypothesis and other AIDS orthodoxies. The AIDS-skeptics achieved
a critical mass, and spoke with confidence and authority. Those who attempted
to defend the official dogmas were apologetic and defensive; they failed
to rebut or even acknowledge the points made by the skeptics; and in short,
they put on a very poor show. It is now clearer than ever that the official
AIDS experts cannot compete in a free and open debate, which is undoubtedly
the reason for the intense censorship that has impeded AIDS discourse for
the past decade.
It would be an imposture and an affectation for me to pretend that I
am neutral in this controversy, as I have criticized the AIDS-virus etiology
in print for over ten years. I do not intend artificially to balance out
the debate that took place. I will, however, try to be fair and accurate
in my reporting. First, I'll describe the controversies and contentions
that occurred prior to the event.
The Struggle to Hold the Symposium
The symposium, "The Role of HIV in AIDS: Why There is Still a Controversy",
was organized by Charles Geshekter, Professor of History at California
State University, Chico, who had for some time been aware of the suppressed
AIDS controversies. Dissatisfied with previous AIDS sessions at both the
Pacific Division and the National AAAS-"consensual gabfests"
in which only one point of view was presented-he began in 1993 to put together
an interdisciplinary panel of distinguished scientists, whose ranks included
molecular biologist Peter Duesberg and other prominent critics of AIDS
orthodoxy. The Executive Committee of the Pacific Division AAAS approved
the symposium, including the list of speakers, at its January 1994 meeting.
An announcement of the symposium appeared in the 25 January 1994 issue
of the Pacific Division Newsletter.
In early April, Geshekter met with Alan Leviton, Executive Director
of the Division, to review the final program, including speakers, and work
out speaking order. Despite there being eleven speakers, ample time was
reserved for intra-panel discussion and questions from the audience. The
panel included Kary Mullis, the 1993 Nobel Laureate in chemistry, as well
as two members of the National Academy of Sciences (Peter Duesberg and
Harry Rubin) and a member of the American Society of Actuaries (Peter Plumley).
No problems up to this point. Everything seemed set.
Then, in mid-May, an intense flak campaign erupted. Two AIDS researchers,
Warren Winkelstein and William Ascher in Berkeley, put pressure on the
AAAS to cancel the program. Winkelstein was quoted by David Perlman of
the San Francisco Chronicle as saying: "The views to be expressed
on this program have potentially serious adverse public health consequences."
It is perhaps not coincidental that one scheduled talk on the symposium
was to be a critique of research conducted by Winkelstein and Ascher.
The 26 May 1994 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article
by Science Editor David Perlman, with the headline:
"AIDS REBELS TRY TO STEAL SHOW: But Scientists Stymie Plan By Mavericks
Who Deny HIV Link." The first paragraph read:
Blindsided by a small band of AIDS gadflies, America's largest scientific
organization moved yesterday to avoid sponsoring a one-sided spate of oratory
over the causes of the global AIDS epidemic.
This is the kind of disinformation we have come to expect from the HIV
establishment. It is preposterous to imply that the "AIDS rebels"
were attempting some kind of stealth campaign, when in fact organizer Charles
Geshekter had gone through all of the proper channels, and had publicized
the program well in advance. It is abusive to characterize the scheduled
panelists as "rebels" and their would-be censors as "scientists",
when in fact the scientific reputations of the former are far more distinguished
than those of the latter. And the panel was not really "one-sided",
as it included Harry Rubin and Peter Plumley, both of whom are agnostic
as to whether or not HIV plays at least some role in AIDS pathogenesis,
as well as Raphael Stricker, who does believe that HIV causes AIDS.
Control over the symposium was taken away from Geshekter, without his
consent or knowledge, by other AAAS officials. In the 26 May 1994 issue
of Nature, the Executive Director of the AAAS, Richard Nicholson,
was quoted as saying: "All options are open, including cancellation."
Geshekter first learned from a journalist, on June 3, that the symposium
remained part of the program. Following is Geshekter's account of what
Between May 18th and June 4th, without ever contacting
me to solicit my input or gain my support, Bob Bowman [Counselor, San Francisco
State University], Michele Aldrich [AAAS Liaison to the Pacific Division]
and Alan Leviton [Executive Director, Pacific Division] reconfigured the
symposium. Under a blanket of silence, they added seven speakers to the
program, changed the starting and concluding times, inserted a 90 minute
"panel discussion" in the morning and afternoon sessions, appointed
a separate moderator for them, and designated her to summarize the entire
Between May 18th and June 9th, I received no phone
calls, faxes, or letters from either local organizers of the Divisional
Meeting or from the Liaison Officer in Washington to tell me about these
changes. I only learned about some of them from articles in the San
Francisco Chronicle and from the reporter for the Sacramento Bee.
Not until Friday, June 10th did Dr. Leviton tell me exactly
how substantial the changes were, even though he admitted they had all
been finalized a week earlier. He then faxed me the program, a fait
accompli, eleven days before its scheduled date.
As a result of all these changes, I was inundated with last minute questions
and complaints from the original speakers. The unilateral and secretive
intrusions by Leviton and Bowman seriously undermined my efforts to run
a scientific symposium and their organizational infractions compromised
my effectiveness as Chairman. While responsibility for presiding as Symposium
Chairman remained mine, Dr. Leviton emphatically and unambiguously reminded
me on June 10th that final authority and ultimate power to interfere
in my session rested with him.
Eager to placate the media and acquiesce to outside critics, Bowman
and Leviton operated in a capricious, non-consultative, arbitrary, and
anti-democratic manner. Their authoritarian and deceptive practices violated
the principles of open scientific discourse which we assure our members
and the public are scrupulously upheld by the AAAS. [Statement to the Council
of the Pacific Division, American Association for the Advancement of Science,
from Charles L. Geshekter, Chairman, History and Philosophy of Science
Section, 22 June 1994]
The planned intrusion of the two 90-minute panels amounted to sabotage,
as 100% of these panelists were defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. The
symposium would have ended with a 90-minute panel attacking the ideas of
the "AIDS rebels", followed without discussion by a "summation"
from Ann Auleb of San Francisco State University, a woman known to be bitterly
opposed to AIDS-critics. Fortunately for free speech, it did not happen
The night before the symposium, a band of "AIDS rebels" had
dinner at a very fine Chinese seafood restaurant at the tip of the Emeryville
marina in Oakland, guests of Phillip Johnson, Professor of Law at Berkeley.
A powerful esprit de corps developed, and all agreed that the final
panel, as planned, would be intolerable. The inclusion of the pro-HIV speakers
elsewhere in the program had both advantages and drawbacks. On the one
hand, this would force the "AIDS experts" into debate, something
they had been running away from for years. On the other hand, the extra
speakers meant that speeches would have to be shortened, and there would
be much less time for discussion and audience participation. With support
from his comrades, many of us newly introduced to each other, Charles Geshekter
resolved to assume his right, as organizer of the symposium, to moderate
everything except the panel at the end of the morning session. He would
insist that the final panel include all of the speakers, not just
the pro-HIV people listed in the program, and that the panel would take
questions from the audience.
Geshekter did prevail the next day. He was in charge of the symposium,
from beginning to end. The final panel did include all of the speakers,
with devastating consequences for the defenders of AIDS orthodoxy.
The symposium included twelve main speakers, plus another half dozen
or so in the panels. For various reasons, including length, I'll not attempt
fully to cover all of the speakers.
Defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis were in a difficult spot. With
facts and logic arrayed against them, they had a limited number of options:
- say untrue things
- say irrelevant things
- make unfounded assertions
- engage in ad hominem attacks
- ignore points made by opposition
And by and large, this is what they did. I see no reason for me to report
extensively on comments made by these people, when they were merely reiterations
of the AIDS myths that we have already encountered thousands of times in
the mainstream media. What I will do is highlight comments that
were egregiously untrue, unsupported, or unresponsive to points made by
Following, in chronological order, is a description of the speakers
and events of the symposium:
Berkeley Law Professor Phillip Johnson set the tone for the entire day
with his talk, "The role of HIV in AIDS: Why there is still a controversy".
His magisterial overview, of the official AIDS paradigm and its defects,
solidly established that the HIV-skeptics would occupy the high ground,
intellectually and in terms of civility.
After relating that AIDS researchers themselves now have to admit they
are at an impasse, that their efforts so far have amounted to failure,
Johnson dissected the puzzle of how HIV could be responsible for the mass
destruction of T4 cells, even though it infects only a minuscule number
Official explanations of how an ordinary retrovirus can kill cells it
never infects have grown ever more complicated as the prospect of a cure
or vaccine has grown ever more distant. Even Dr. Robert Gallo, originally
a vigorous proponent of the direct infection model, now speculates about
indirect mechanisms in which HIV somehow sets off a course of programmed
cell destruction that may not even require the continuous presence of the
virus. In Dr. Gallo's own words at a 1993 conference, "The molecular
mimicry in which HIV imitates components of the immune system sets events
into motion that may be able to proceed in the absence of further whole
virus." Dr. Anthony Fauci's description to the New York Times
of how HIV does its destructive work attributed almost supernatural capacities
to the virus: "It [HIV] overexcites some immune signaling pathways,
while eluding the detection of others. And though the main target of the
virus seems to be the famed helper T-cells, or CD-4 cells, which it can
infiltrate and kill, the virus also ends up stimulating the response of
other immune cells so inappropriately that they eventually collapse from
overwork and confusion."
When a scientific research project encounters this degree of failure
and confusion, scientists ordinarily ask the obvious question: "Have
we somehow made a fundamental mistake in our assumptions?" HIV-science
is not ordinary science, however. Its basic premise was established at
a press conference, and never subjected to the kind of critical scrutiny
that ordinarily protects the scientific community from endorsing a catastrophic
error. The theory became fact in an atmosphere of near panic, in which
the demands for an easy answer and a miracle cure were irresistible. The
virus theory satisfied everyone's hopes and interests. Politicians accused
of doing nothing could point to a spectacular success; the virus hunters
who had failed to find a cure for cancer could justify and continue their
very expensive laboratories; and the groups threatened by AIDS were promised
a vaccine in the near future. Nobody had an incentive to be skeptical,
and nobody was skeptical. Once the research agenda was set in concrete,
those who subsequently tried to challenge the basic assumption were met
only with silence or ridicule, and their applications for research funding
received a cold reception.
Johnson criticized the question, "What causes AIDS", as being
overly general, and bearing with it the unwarranted assumption that all
AIDS diseases, in all countries and all risk groups, are one and the same
To have a more productive discussion, it is necessary to put aside the
most general questions and to focus on more specific issues on which a
degree of agreement may be reached. That is the method of science, and
it is also the method of law and diplomacy. I propose to illustrate this
method by focussing on two relatively specific questions:
(1) What is the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma? and (2) What is really known
about the role of HIV in causing disease in Africa?
Johnson's analysis of Kaposi's sarcoma was partly based on my own report,
which appeared in the Native a few weeks ago ("NIDA Meeting
Calls for Research into The Poppers-KS Connection", New York Native,
13 June 1994). His salient points were: 1) KS occurs not infrequently in
gay men who are negative on the HIV-antibody test, and 2) Robert Gallo
and other AIDS researchers now concede that HIV is not the cause of KS.
He then posed the question:
If KS is not caused by HIV, and if many other AIDS-defining conditions
occur both in the presence of HIV and in its absence, should we not reconsider
the definition of the syndrome, and hence the role of HIV in AIDS?
With regard to AIDS in Africa, Johnson described the lack of testing
in making AIDS diagnoses, the extreme unreliability of the tests even when
they are used, the shoddy epidemiological studies conducted there:
The claims that HIV is killing millions of people in Africa richly deserve
a critical re-examination. In a word, what we are hearing about "African
AIDS" is not science, but hype.
He concluded his talk:
For essentially political reasons, HIV science has been ruled by unexamined
assumptions. It is time at long last to have the scientific debate that
wasn't allowed to occur ten years ago. Let the politics be put aside, and
let the science begin.
Harvey Bialy, a molecular biologist and Research Editor of BioTechnology,
spoke on "HIV-AIDS: A hundred thousand papers and no proof".
He began by saying that hypotheses need to be clearly stated, and then
articulated the 1984 version of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis:
HIV, A NEW, MUTANT RETROVIRUS, CAUSES AIDS BY KILLING CD4+ LYMPHOCYTES.
The operative terms are new, mutant and kill, so: Is HIV new? Is it
mutant? Does it kill CD4 cells?
HIV cannot be new, in the U.S. at least, as it occurs in teenagers who
could only have acquired it perinatally (from their mothers).
HIV would have to be mutant, as common, garden variety retroviruses
are not pathogenic; however, there is no evidence that HIV is mutant. Bialy
showed a genetic map of HIV, and said:
"For all intents and purposes this could be the map of 50 other
retroviruses." HIV has no extra gene; there is nothing whatever unusual
Does HIV kill CD4 cells? "It certainly doesn't kill the T cell
lines that are used to produce kilograms of the virus for the AIDS industries."
And in fact, the leading AIDS researchers now admit that HIV does not directly
kill CD4 cells.
Therefore, the 1984 version of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is not tenable.
If HIV were the cause of AIDS, then a high viral load ought to coincide
with illness. Bialy showed a slide, which he had labeled: "WE WISH
IT WERE SO VIRUS LOAD DISEASE PROPORTIONALITY SLIDE." This slide consists
of a "y" axis, an "x" axis, and three lines which represent
levels of antibodies, virus, and CD4 cells. As the virus goes up and the
antibodies go down, the CD4 cells go down. This slide, frequently employed
by advocates of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, shows things as they ought to
be, if HIV were the cause of AIDS. Bialy stated that it is a fantasy graph,
backed up by no evidence of any kind.
In fact, experimental research found just the opposite: that at all
stages of AIDS, and at all levels of CD4 counts, the HIV viral load ranged
from the minuscule to the non-existent. "In other words, HIV behaves
like a typical opportunistic infective agent, not like a pathogen."
[Piatik et al. Science 259:1749-53 (1993)]
Since the 1984 version is clearly untenable, Bialy suggested a reformulation
of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, which he called: THE VIRUS-AIDS HYPOTHESIS
(AS EMPIRICALLY TESTED BETWEEN 1984-1994):
HIV, AN ESTABLISHED, CONVENTIONAL RETROVIRUS, CAUSES AIDS BY KILLING
CD4+ LYMPHOCYTES BY MECHANISMS PREVIOUSLY AND PRESENTLY UNKNOWN TO VIROLOGY.
Even so, the modified Virus-AIDS hypothesis is unable to explain such
- Why HIV, unlike any other pathogenic virus, only causes disease in
the presence of neutralizing antibodies.
- The long, and unpredictable incubation period between infection and
- How such a biochemically quiescent virus, that infects only a small
fraction of the cells it is said to kill, can be so virulent as to kill
its only natural host with efficiencies approaching 100%, and yet be so
difficult to transmit horizontally [through sex].
- Why such a deadly virus is unable to cause any disease whatsoever
in chimpanzees, even though they are fully susceptible to HIV infection.
- Why HIV, unlike any other pathogenic virus, only causes disease in
the presence of neutralizing antibodies.
- The long, and unpredictable incubation period between infection and
Bialy concluded his talk by asking:
Is undertaking questioning of this sort really grounds to be castigated
as a "flat-earther bogged down in molecular minutiae and miasmal theories
of disease", or as "irresponsible and delusional" or is
it rather those who insist on the unassailable, inviolable truth of their
hypothesis to whom these epithets apply?
In the discussion period Bialy was asked, what are the strongest arguments
raised in favor of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
Epidemiology and correlation, which may be sufficient to *dis*prove
something as being involved in the etiology of a disease, but absolutely
insufficient to *prove* it.
In response to another question he replied:
Once you remove HIV from the AIDS equation, what is the reason for considering
the tuberculosis of a drug addict, the Kaposi's sarcoma of a drug-abusing
homosexual, the diarrhea of an African, the internal bleeding of a hemophiliac,
and the kidney failure of a transfusion recipient-as being the same disease?
To someone who asked about the sexual transmissibility of HIV he replied:
"It takes 500-1000 heterosexual contacts to transmit HIV from a man
to a woman."
Celia Farber, whose AIDS column in SPIN has run for over six
years, spoke on "AIDS as a mirage of modern media: How the media reconstruct
reality in The Information Age." She began by saying that the two
sides in the present debate were not so much pro versus anti-HIV, as pro
She spoke of "totalitarian AIDS science", of a "self-righteous
campaign to stamp out debate", maintaining that people had become
"hypnotized by the extremely powerful, red ribbon-wearing Zeitgeist",
by "self-appointed 'AIDS professionals'". "This Zeitgeist
controls all thinking and discourse on AIDS."
Focussing on the medium of television, Farber recounted several instances
of behind-the-scenes censorship involving Peter Duesberg:
In 1988 Good Morning America scheduled Professor Peter Duesberg
for a program, flew him from Berkeley to New York, booked him into a hotel,
and on the night before the show called him to cancel because "something
urgent had come up". I turned on the television in the morning, and
there was Tony Fauci, talking about HIV, AZT and AIDS.
The scenario was repeated in 1989 when McNeill-Lehrer came to
Duesberg's lab to film, saying they intended to broadcast a 20-30 minute
piece. All that ever appeared was a spot, about 2 seconds long.
In 1992 a CNN crew came to the lab, filmed Duesberg, and again said
they would run a whole segment on all the scientists who were opposing
the HIV hypothesis. This was reduced down to a 20 second spot.
Finally, in 1992, Duesberg was scheduled to be on Larry King Live.
On the morning of the show Duesberg received a call from the producers,
who said, "Sorry, Dr. Duesberg, but something urgent came up with
Duesberg tuned in, and again saw Tony Fauci on the screen. "The
most reliable standby for me in television is Tony Fauci", said Duesberg.
Television, as part of the dumbing down of America, "does not lend
itself to complexity." Furthermore, television careerism is not compatible
with bucking the establishment:
The big journalists are the least likely to rock the boat, and in fact
I was educated on this by none other than Robert Gallo, who called me in
1988, after he'd read something I'd written. And he said that he just wanted
to have a heart-to-heart talk. He said, "You seem like a nice girl-and
you seem to have your head on straight-and I want to advise you that this
is no way to make a career for yourself." He said, "Don't you
want to be like Barbara Walters? How do you think Barbara Walters got to
be where she is? It certainly wasn't by attacking and criticizing and following
lunatics around." [laughter from audience]
Charles Thomas is a molecular biologist and former Harvard Professor,
head of the Helicon Foundation (a private research institute), and founder
of the San Diego-based Group for the Scientific Re-Evaluation of the HIV-AIDS
Hypothesis. He spoke on "The marketing of AIDS and other apocalyptic
He began with the premise that AIDS needs to be understood in the context
of what he called "scary science"-the offspring of mass psychology
and the funding demands of specialized government bureaucracies. Among
current Scientific Scares he listed the following:
- NUCLEAR POWER PLANTS CAUSE CANCER.
- PESTICIDES / POLLUTION CAUSES CANCER.
- GLOBAL WARMING WILL KILL EVERYONE (eventually).
- OZONE HOLE CAUSES CANCER / DESTROYS ENVIRONMENT.
- POLLUTION CAUSES ACID RAIN; KILLS TREES, LAKES.
- AIDS CAUSED BY NEW VIRUS; WILL KILL EVERYBODY.
- ASTEROIDS WILL IMPACT EARTH, EXTERMINATE US LIKE DINOSAURS.
While acknowledging that one or more of the scares might have some basis
in reality, Thomas indicated that they had certain common features. First
and foremost, they were mysterious -- indeed, in order to be successful,
they *must* be mysterious. In addition, successful scientific scares shared
- SCARES EVERYONE: Everyone is at risk (sound familiar?)
- FEW EXPERTS: Only few experts understand the subject.
- NO MULTIEXPERTS: No experts in more than one scare.
- GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: Experts are government employees
- POWERFUL BUREAUCRACIES promote and market these scares
- NATIONAL (government) RESPONSE is required. Private responsibility
- FUNDING CREATES CONSTITUENCY: Careers can be made on the basis of
the resulting flow of tax-dollars
All of these can be understood as requirements for getting funding.
If, for example, everyone were not at risk for AIDS or death from ozone
depletion, there would be no public support for the bureaucracies feeding
off these scares.
Similarly, the requirement that there be few and highly specialized
experts is essential to retain a monopoly on the scare, as well as to sustain
its air of mystery. Even knowledgeable scientists are forced to take the
word of experts- an enormous advantage for the scare mongers, as the experts
are paid by the government:
Virtually all of the basic scientists in the U.S. are government employees.
That is, they are paid directly by government or indirectly through easily
revokable contracts called "grants." These monies are usually
dispensed on the basis of "peer review" - that is on the basis
of the opinion of other scientists working the same field.
Research work can be stopped dead by non-renewal, and principal investigators
know this very well. How well do you think a grant proposal debunking the
"ozone hole" scare would fair before a committee whose members
run laboratories that are making a living out of "studying the ozone
hole." Do you suppose a proposal by Peter Duesberg, to test the drug-hypothesis
for some kinds of AIDS diseases, would survive before a committee composed
of research workers who are making a living from studying the molecular
biology of HIV? We know the answer to that: he was defunded.
Maintaining that Scientific Scares are only partly, and dubiously, scientific,
Thomas suggested an elegantly simple solution for the AIDS problem: cut
off the funding! He said:
In my opinion Peter Duesberg destroyed the HIV hypothesis with his 1987
paper-to say nothing of his subsequent papers. As Phil Johnson has said,
the HIV hypothesis was never properly established in the first place. Duesberg
has destroyed it many times over since- yet the HIV- causes-AIDS Mythology
is still with us, terrorizing millions.
These Scientific Scares are what might be named "political diseases"
and they are not susceptible to scientific refutation. However, they can
be cured by cutting off their supply of money.
Consider the following "thought experiment": Imagine the present
$6 billion that goes annually to AIDS research, education, treatment, etc.
being reduced sharply to ZERO. There would be howls, of course, but AIDS
would disappear in two weeks. In its place would be the component diseases
that were swept under the common rug and given the name AIDS. These separate
diseases would be treated as such, and the (former) AIDS patients and the
rest of America would be much better off.
Peter Duesberg, Professor of Molecular Biology at Berkeley, spoke on
"The drug-AIDS hypothesis". Since his ideas are laid out in detail
in the many monographs he's written refuting the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, particularly
in his 1992 paper (see Reading List at the end of this article), I'll give
just the highlights of his talk here.
He began with some remarks about the formation of belief systems, citing
the work of Konrad Lorenz on "imprinting". We tend to believe
what we are first exposed to-whether a mother, a language, a religion,
or a hypothesis. Thereafter, Love (or belief or loyalty) requires one to
stop questioning. However, scientists are supposed to behave differently,
for according to Albert Einstein, "The most important thing for a
scientist is not to stop questioning." He then proceeded to pose a
series of rhetorical questions.
I ask you now, would you have accepted this hypothesis ten years ago,
if you had known then that AIDS as a STD would not explode into the general,
sexually active population, as it was predicted to, by Margaret Heckler,
Robert Gallo, Anthony Fauci, the Surgeon General, and others? Would you
have believed it was a STD if not even prostitutes would get AIDS from
their clients, or clients from the prostitutes? ... Would you have believed
then that AIDS is a STD if you had known the statistics ten years later
-- 300,000 AIDS patients in America, and not one doctor, and not one health
care worker has ever contracted AIDS from his or her patient. Not even
one documented case in the literature. Yes, there are a few cases who became
HIV-antibody-positive, and a few of those have been treated with AZT and
have become sick. But these's not one documented case of a doctor picking
up AIDS from his or her patient-in 10 years, from 300,000 patients.
Would you have believed that AIDS was a sexually transmitted or transfusion
transmitted disease if you had known that not even one Kaposi's sarcoma
had been transmitted through a blood transfusion? KS was once the hallmark
disease of AIDS, as Harvey Bialy pointed out earlier today....
Would you have believed ten years ago that AIDS was an infectious disease
when HIV replicates within 24 hours, very much like all other viruses,
but would cause a disease only ten years later? All other viruses that
replicate in 24 hours cause a disease within a few days or weeks, or they
don't cause a disease. The incubation period of a virus to a disease is
a function of the time it takes to replicate. HIV replicates in 24 hours,
just like measles, mumps, polio, and flu viruses, and should cause a disease
in the same time period that these viruses do. But not HIV. It's said to
take ten years to make up its mind whether to cause a disease or not. And
often it doesn't....
As Harvey Bialy pointed out, would you have believed that AIDS causes
the loss of T-cells, when at the same time the virus was patented to be
mass-producible in T-cells, which are not dying from the virus? They're
still growing in the same culture.
Would you have believed that AIDS is an infectious disease, when it
only occurs after the virus has been neutralized by antibodies-the only
weapon against viruses? You can never get AIDS before immunity, only afterwards-that's
what the AIDS test predicts. In fact, immunity is so good that leading
AIDS researchers often fail to find the virus in AIDS patients.
And so, after the most expensive effort ever made against a microbe
in the history of microbiology-ten years of effort, tens of thousands of
scientists, 22 billion dollars from U.S. taxpayers, and we have come up
totally empty handed-no vaccine, no drugs, not even one patient has ever
been cured from AIDS. [I disagree with Duesberg on the last point; there
are people who have received an AIDS diagnosis and who have recovered their
Duesberg then said that the most critical question we should have asked
is: "Is AIDS really an infectious disease?" After reviewing epidemiological
and clinical evidence, he concluded:
"AIDS does not fit even one of the known criteria of an
Perhaps the most powerful argument against the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is
the last of biochemical activity on the part of HIV:
"The microbe must be abundant and very active when it is causing
a disease. If not, it's what's called an asymptomatic infection."
HIV, however, is never sufficiently active that it could cause illness.
In many AIDS cases it can't even be found. "In some AIDS cases there
isn't even one active microbe."
Duesberg dissected the most fundamental premise of the AIDS construct,
that all of the 29 (at last count) AIDS-indicator diseases are caused by
a condition of "immune deficiency" caused by HIV infection. In
Only about 61% of all U.S. and European AIDS cases have anything to
do with immune deficiency. All microbial diseases are consequences of some
form of immune deficiency-t-cell, b-cell, antibody, you name it. In America
in 1992, 61% of the AIDS diseases were immune deficiency diseases. But
39% were not; they were not caused by, and often were not even associated
with immune deficiency. Kaposi's sarcoma occurs in the absence of immune
deficiency, and also in the absence of HIV. Lymphoma is observed, at least
initially, in the absence of immune deficiency. Dementia occurs in the
absence of immune deficiency, and so does the wasting syndrome, which is
officially defined by the CDC as a weight loss akin to anorexia or cachexia,
which has nothing to do with a microbial infection. So, a full 39% of the
AIDS diseases have nothing to do with immune deficiency, and need an explanation
that cannot be based on a loss of t-cells, b-cells, or antibodies.
As an alternative to the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, Duesberg presented his
own DRUGS-AIDS HYPOTHESIS, which states:
"AIDS in the U.S. and Europe is caused by the long-term consumption
of recreational drugs and AZT." The remaining AIDS cases-hemophiliacs,
transfusion recipients, and other cases from non-risk groups-reflect the
normal incidence of these diseases, simply under a new name. As Phil Johnson
and Harvey Bialy pointed out, hemophiliacs are actually living longer now,
they have fewer diseases, than ever before, in the history of hemophilia.
African AIDS is a consequence of malnutrition, parasitic infections, and
He then went through epidemiological correlations between drug use and
the incidence of AIDS, the correspondence between the well-documented toxicities
of heroin and cocaine and the conditions associated with AIDS in intravenous
drug users, the AIDS-indicator diseases found in those on AZT therapy,
and the poppers-connection, about which he made an amusing digression:
The nitrite inhalants that were used by gays were regulated by the Food
and Drug Administration to one part in 100,000, because of their known
carcinogenic and mutagenic potential. So if you eat frankfurters, they
cannot have more than one part in a million. But if you inhale 15 milliliters
at a party, then you couldn't in fact be sold in the meat market the next
day, according to the Food and Drug Administration. [laughter] But if you
point that out, then you are a homophobe, a bigot, dangerous, and irresponsible.
[laughter] Because you have to say they should have checked their condoms
Duesberg reached the conclusion:
The Drugs-AIDS hypothesis is eminently testable. If it were correct,
AIDS, unlike most other diseases, would be entirely preventable. And education
could do a whole lot by just pointing out to people: maybe it's not just
putting on condoms and using clean needles that's going to help you, but
maybe you should watch what's going through those needles, and what you
are doing while you are wearing condoms, what drugs you are needing.
Jerold Lowenstein, of the University of California Medical Center in
San Francisco, was the first of those who had been added to the symposium
in order to achieve "balance". His talk was entitled, "The
medical and scientific evidence for HIV being the cause of AIDS".
He did not, in fact, present a reasoned argument, backed by evidence,
that HIV was the cause of AIDS. He failed even to acknowledge the points
made by the previous speakers. He gave no indication of ever having read
the literature critical of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, which by now is extensive.
Instead, Lowenstein trotted out the usual AIDS myths, that we all have
heard thousands of times. Any popular book on AIDS, the special issue of
Scientific American, almost any newspaper of magazine article on
AIDS will contain the facts and factoids presented by Lowenstein.
He sarcastically said that "what we're hearing today" was
like early theories of AIDS causation, involving nitrites and sperm. There
theories, he claimed, were rejected when "other groups of people with
AIDS began appearing (IVDUs, hemophiliacs, transfusion recipients, adults
from central Africa, infants whose mothers had AIDS)". This "new
pattern", asserted Lowenstein, "strongly suggested a viral agent,
so people began looking very hard for a viral agent, specifically a retrovirus."
Lowenstein's model above, is that "AIDS" is a single, coherent
disease entity with only a single cause, a model which Robert Gallo and
other establishment AIDS experts have already come to reject. Why the "new
pattern" should suggest a "viral agent, specifically a retrovirus",
as opposed to a bacterium, fungus, toxin, DNA virus, or something else,
is left to the imagination.
Lowenstein talked about Gallo and Montagnier, without a hint of the
strife between them, and after several very forgettable minutes, made the
following statement, which I wish to examine:
At the present time it appears that all AIDS patients throughout the
world are infected with HIV, and nearly all HIV-positive individuals will
eventually get AIDS-although there does seem to be a small subset who escape
that fate. [verbatim]
Yes, that, word for word, is exactly what he said. The statement is
outstandingly untrue, and it is difficult to believe that Lowenstein didn't
know better. (For thorough refutations see the Bio-Technology articles
of Eleopulos  and Duesberg  in the Reading List following this
article.) Even Gallo and Montagnier, who are each committed to the HIV-AIDS
hypothesis to the tune of $100,000 per year, now admit that most HIV-antibody-positive
individuals will not get sick.
And he showed a slide of an artist's rendition of HIV, with colored
knobs and so on, and he asserted that the knobs did something or other.
And he showed an electromicrogram of HIV. And he talked about how CD4 cells
decline. ("When it gets down to about 200, virtually 100% of all AIDS
patients develop AIDS ... they get opportunistic infections ... they get
very, very sick, they waste away, they get tumors.")
And he talked about there being "several different patterns of
AIDS throughout the world", which he described at length- totally
ignoring the arguments previously made by Phillip Johnson, Harvey Bialy,
and Peter Duesberg, that European/American AIDS and African AIDS are clearly
two different epidemics, with different epidemiologies and different diseases.
And he talked about SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) which causes
illness in monkeys in captivity (though not in the wild). He did not, however
talk about HIV in monkeys, which would have been more relevant, but would
have weakened his case. In fact, chimpanzees were injected with HIV over
ten years ago; they became infected, as evidenced by the formation of antibodies;
and nevertheless they remain perfectly healthy.
And he informed the audience that "HIV belongs to the lentivirus
family of viruses." ("Lentivirus" means "slow virus";
it is meaningless nomenclature devised to rationalize the alleged 10-year
latency period between initial HIV infection and the appearance of the
first AIDS symptoms. Peter Duesberg once remarked, "There are no slow
viruses-only slow virologists!")
And he asserted, "There's a very rapid rise these days in AIDS
cases acquired heterosexually, in the U.S."
Lowenstein's conclusion consisted of a series of assertions, none of
which was true:
"In conclusion: the reason why I and 99% of my colleagues are convinced
that HIV is the cause of AIDS is that all AIDS patients are infected with
HIV, virtually all HIV-positive individuals will get AIDS, elimination
of HIV from blood products has stopped this route of AIDS transmission
... the anti-HIV drug AZT greatly reduces mother-fetus transmission of
AIDS, the use of condoms has curbed the AIDS epidemic in homosexuals in
San Francisco, AIDS did not occur in countries like Thailand until HIV
was introduced, and finally, health care workers with no other risk factors
get AIDS from accidental needle-sticks-there are several dozen such cases."
In the discussion period following his talk, Lowenstein received his
comeuppance for making unfounded assertions.
Someone in the audience asked him how he would reconcile the differences
between his statistics and those presented by Duesberg, regarding the numbers
infected. Lowenstein replied:
"They come from all the leading scientific journals: Science,
Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, the epidemiology journal,
Scientific American -- all my data comes [sic] from standard sources,
CDC ... but according to some of our earlier speakers, all these organizations
are engaged in a huge conspiracy to delude us-so if that's so, then I'm
Peter Duesberg then interjected: "Who said they were in a conspiracy?
I haven't heard that. I was here since eight o'clock."
[Someone in audience]: "Those were your words."
[Duesberg]: "My words?"
[Someone in audience]: "No, those were his words. That's
what he said."
[Lowenstein]: "Well, that was the impression I got."
[Duesberg]: "Oh, it was an impression. I see."
Molecular biologist Harry Rubin then commented:
I was confused by some of Dr. Lowenstein's slides, because in some cases
the slides referred to the spread of HIV and in other cases to the incidence
of AIDS. But they seem to be conflated. He talked about HIV spreading as
though it were AIDS spreading. That's something that one has to be very
careful about. I think it's become somewhat of a habit to confuse the one
with the other.
The second point is that Dr. Lowenstein said that 99% of his colleagues
accepted the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. I don't know whether he's polled his
colleagues, and I don't know who his colleagues are. I suspect they are
people who are closely associated with the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. I haven't
polled my colleagues either, but in my discussions with them I'd say that
most of them are pretty confused. And they're also scientists-virologists
and molecular biologists. And they're very uncertain at this point. They're
certainly not willing to make a definitive conclusion. I'd like to know
what this figure comes from, that the predominance of, or the great majority
of, or almost 100% of scientists agree that HIV causes AIDS.
Finally, I'd like to ask a question about the heterosexual rise. Now,
in this past year "AIDS" has been re-defined again, as it was
in 1987, to include such conditions as cervical cancer and tuberculosis,
and as a result there's been a 50% increase in the number of AIDS cases.
I wonder to what extent the rapid rise in heterosexual AIDS is due to re-defining
AIDS in order to maintain the public scare that Dr. Thomas was talking
about, that AIDS is a threat to the heterosexual community. That's for
[Lowenstein]: "That was quite a question. [laughter] There's not
much I can say."
[Rubin]: "Well, why don't you say what you can say?"
[Lowenstein]: "Well, among my colleagues who see and treat AIDS,
I don't know of anyone who doubts the HIV-AIDS association."
[Duesberg]: "But aren't we talking about cause, not association?
That's very different."
Someone in the audience then asked for a clarification of obvious disagreement
between what Duesberg and Lowenstein said on health care workers. "Are
they really at risk for either HIV or AIDS?"
[Lowenstein]: "According to the literature, as I read it, and from
my own experience, a number of health care workers who had no other apparent
risk factors have acquired AIDS as a result of accidental needle-sticks....
AIDS, I'm talking about AIDS."
[Duesberg]: "AIDS, Dr. Lowenstein? Could you give me the reference
for that? [pause] If you know the literature? [pause] Oh, you don't know
the literature? Then you don't know those numbers. I think it's very impressionistic
here. Anyway, I did check the literature, and I couldn't find one
such reference, except for Fauci reporting on Nightline that city
health care workers got AIDS disease, but he also added that they were
treated with AZT, which is a sufficient cause for AIDS. ... That's the
only literature I could find on health care workers getting AIDS."
[Lowenstein]: "Two individuals in Holland got AIDS as a result
of accidentally being injected with blood from AIDS patients."
Harvey Bialy then put a series of questions to Lowenstein:
You made the statement that HIV replicates in and destroys t-cells.
This is the crux of the entire debate. What is your evidence?
Secondly, you showed a slide, which was basically the same slide that
I showed, and I went to such pains to show that the slide had no basis
in experimental reality. You seemed to ignore that completely, and went
on to show the slide as though it were true. So how do you reconcile the
data from Piatik et al. with that slide you showed about the course of
HIV replication and the loss of t-cells?
And finally, why are hemophiliacs not dying of AIDS? They were all infected
ten years ago or more-way long enough to have exceeded the latency period.
Half the hemophiliacs in the United States should be dead or dying of AIDS
now, and yet it's less than 12%. You need to explain that. Please!
[Lowenstein]: "I don't see why I need to explain that.
Hemophiliacs are dying of AIDS."
[Bialy}: "The HIV-AIDS hypothesis postulates a ten-year latent
period between infection and disease. That means that if you have 16,000
people with the infection, after a ten-year period, approximately half
of them should have the disease. But only 10-12% have the disease. This
is a discrepancy! How do you explain it?"
[Lowenstein]: "How do you explain the 10-12% who *do* die?"
[groans from audience]
[Bialy]: "What are they dying of? They're dying of the same diseases
that hemophiliacs always die of, but now they're called "AIDS"
because they've been diagnosed as having HIV-antibodies."
[Duesberg]: "Those hemophiliacs are not immortal." [laughter]
[Bialy]: "What is your evidence that HIV is destroying t-cells
by infection? I would love to see it. I've been waiting ten years for it."
[no response from Lowenstein]
The Morning Panel
At the end of the morning session came the panel, moderated by Ann Auleb
of San Francisco State University, which was supposed to comment on what
had been said so far. The panel did not include any critics of the HIV-AIDS
First was Jan Kuby, an immunologist at San Francisco State University.
Virtually her entire whole talk consisted of speculation, which was irrelevant
to evaluating the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. She talked about autoimmunity, t-cell
activation, antigens, apoptosis (programmed cell death), etc.
Kuby talked about highly inbred mice known as "SCID mice",
which are severely immune deficient. Researchers injected bits and pieces
of human cells and HIV into the SCID mice, with ill effects. She made an
attempt at humor: "None of the mice were using poppers, taking AZT,
or injecting drugs." No one laughed.
She speculated that AIDS dementia might be explained by HIV infection
of brain macrophages, by cell fusion, and/or by cytokine imbalance. She
digressed that a cytokine, IL1, may be implicated in Alzheimers.
She informed the audience, "98% of the t-cells are in lymphoid
tissues, but most data is [*sic*] based on blood", and she asserted:
The virus is infecting cells in the lymph nodes- massive amounts of
virus are being produced there ... even before we can see anything going
on in the blood at all.
The above statement is simply not true. The lymph nodes do collect viruses
and viral debris-just as the lint filter in a clothes dryer collects lint-but
if "massive amounts of virus" were being produced anywhere in
the body, there would also be massive amounts of virus in the blood.
I see no need to report more of the same. After the extremely lucid
presentations of the HIV-critics, it was several steps down to the muddled
techno-babble of Jan Kuby.
Next came Michael Ascher, of the California State Department of Health
Services. He is co-author, with Warren Winkelstein, of an article, "Does
drug use cause AIDS?" (Nature, 11 March 1993), which aspired
to refute Peter Duesberg's Drugs-AIDS hypothesis on the basis of a cohort
study. He made it clear up front that he does not believe in the direct-killing
HIV hypothesis, but rather in the "genetic mimicry" version (to
be presented later by Raphael Stricker).
Whereas the HIV-critics had been unflaggingly courteous, both in their
talks and during discussion periods, Ascher's style of debate was heavily
dependent on sarcasm. He repeatedly referred to Duesberg as "Peter",
although the two are not friends. He ridiculed the nitrites-KS connection,
apparently unaware that at least part of the AIDS establishment is now
moving in that direction. He expostulated that saying AZT causes AIDS diseases
is like saying insulin causes diabetes, apparently unaware of Duesberg's
extensive analysis of AZT's toxicities.
In a brief talk with Ascher afterwards, I found out that neither he
nor Winkelstein has ever had professional survey research experience, even
though survey research is what they attempted to do. (As I myself have
been in professional survey research since 1966, I'll have a few words
to say about the Ascher-Winkelstein study later.)
Next came Robert Schmidt, a physician, who presented a multifactorial
approach to diseases of the elderly. It was a thoughtful and interesting
talk, but quite irrelevant to the central topic of the symposium.
In the discussion period, a graduate student confronted Ascher with
serious methodological flaws in his study, in particular the fact that
the investigators failed to verify drug use. Ascher replied that it was
a random sample, and that ought to take care of the problem, as any biases
in replies on drug use would be randomly distributed. The sheer, overwhelming
fatuousness of this answer had members of the audience groaning and shaking
their heads in disbelief.
A physician in the audience asked Ascher if he would take AZT if he
had stuck himself with an HIV-infected needle. Ascher said nothing, made
a face, and shook his head "no". However, Lowenstein said that
he would take AZT.
The first speaker of the afternoon session was Peter Plumley, Consulting
Actuary, whose talk was entitled: "An actuarial analysis of the AIDS
epidemic in the United States." His central thesis was that official
AIDS statistics, and pronouncements of the Public Health Service, have
greatly distorted and exaggerated the epidemic, resulting in unrealistic
perceptions of the relative risk of various sexual acts. The excessive
fear of AIDS has adversely affected the lives of many people.
In his opening comments, Plumley said that "AIDS has replaced smoking
as the greatest single cause of statistics." His interest in the topic
of AIDS developed from seeing "so much bad interpretation of
While agnostic as to whether or not HIV causes AIDS, Plumley clearly
leaned to a multifactorial approach, and suggested emphasizing the message,
"Good Health Prevents AIDS". For the purposes of his talk, he
made the assumption that HIV is the cause, and then evaluated the
risks of becoming infected by various activities.
Most of his talk was geared to the "vast majority of people",
heterosexuals who are in good health and free of STDs, and not involved
in a regular relationship with a gay man or IV drug user. For them the
risk of HIV infection is so slight, even with multiple sexual partners,
that "using a condom is comparable to wearing a hard hat for a walk
down Main Street."
For gay men the risk of acquiring HIV infection or AIDS is higher, not
least because of the "immunosuppressive risk factors" affecting
some gay men. Eliminating these risk factors is as important as taking
precautions to avoid HIV.
Kary Mullis is the 1993 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. He is a superbly
gifted entertainer, with a wonderfully expressive voice, a perfect sense
of timing, charisma, and a sense of humor that is both zany and analytical.
The first part of his talk dealt with the enigma: Why is there no monograph
which marshals all of the arguments in favor of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis,
and which replies to the criticisms that have been raised by Peter Duesberg
Mullis was writing a report on the use of PCR for HIV, when he came
across the phrase, "HIV is the probably cause of AIDS".
In his own words:
I asked the guy sitting beside me, "What is the support for that,
what's the reference?" And he said, "You don't need a reference,
everybody knows that."
I assumed there must be such a reference, and that there might be a
controversy over who got credit for it, because I was under the impression
that Gallo and Montagnier might have been fighting over who had first shown
that HIV was the cause of AIDS.... I went back over their early papers,
and found that neither of them had shown that HIV was the probable cause
I was running into a lot of people who were doing AIDS research, and
every time somebody would give a talk, I'd go up to them afterwards and
ask politely: Who I should quote -- was there a paper or a review that
I should quote for that statement? It seemed like a perfectly reasonable
question to ask. Some people took offence. Most people said the same thing:
"But everybody knows, you don't have to prove it." Well, you
know, everybody knows the sequence [of a certain chemical], but they also
know where to find the references.
And I started getting uncomfortable with the fact that nobody seemed
to know. So I changed the question to, "When did you, personally,
become convinced that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS? (I mean, you're
working on it as though you are.) [laughter] What papers did you read?"
And they'd say, "I've got it in my office." And I'd say, "Would
you send me the titles, so I can look them up." ... [They never did.]
And some would say, "Read the CDC report." So I got that and
looked through it, and said to myself, "Now the CDC doesn't get credit-they
didn't do the experiments to demonstrate that HIV is the probable cause
And then finally, Luc Montagnier came to San Diego, and gave a talk,
and I thought, this guy will know. [laughter] After the meeting I asked
him, and he first mentioned the CDC report, and I said I had already looked
at it, that it wasn't what I was looking for-that I wanted a scientific
paper that would support the notion that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS,
not the consensus of a bunch of people who'd already begun looking at it.
He said, "Well, let's see ..." (and there was a little knot of
people around us at that point, thinking, the man must have an answer to
that question), and he said, "Why don't you quote the SIV work?"
And I said to myself, "Oh my god! There really isn't such a paper,
there can't be, or he wouldn't have to refer ... to a virus that might
kill a monkey ... to illustrate the probability that HIV is the cause of
Mullis described his hearing and then meeting Peter Duesberg, and his
entry into the ranks of HIV-skeptics. The remainder of his talk consisted
of a half-serious, half-facetious description of "another hypothesis,
that has no experimental support." His "interesting hypothetical
disease" is a variation of the "immune overload" hypothesis,
the idea being that infection with millions of *different* microbes, through
contact with thousands of people, who each had contact with thousands of
people, might lead to a breakdown of the immune system.
Harry Rubin, Professor of Molecular Biology at Berkeley, is regarded
as the Dean of Retrovirology, as four decades ago he created many of the
techniques for studying retroviruses and trained many of the people who
are now the world's leading retrovirologists. He spoke on "The rush
to simplification of complex problems in biomedical science: Cancer and
Describing himself as a "chronic fence-sitter", he said he
was agnostic as to whether or not HIV might play some role in AIDS, and
was willing to be convinced either way, however:
I came here expecting to hear some really convincing defence of the
HIV-AIDS hypothesis, and maybe that will occur later this afternoon. But
so far, I must say, I've been disappointed.
He spoke of the difficulty of having open, scientific discussion of
AIDS: "What's transpired in the development of this symposium is illustrative
of the difficulty of making a critical scientific analysis of the AIDS
problem. It's really more of a political than a scientific problem."
He then went on to lambaste the reporting of David Perlman, Science Editor
of the San Francisco Chronicle.
Rubin then described his pioneering work forty years ago on the Rous
This was the first virus identified and characterized as a retrovirus-the
one that, at least until AIDS, was the one most studied and worked on.
This kind of virus has been associated since 1910 with several types
of leukemia in chickens. Notice, I used the words, "associated with".
They were given the name, Avian Leukosis Virus, indicating they cause a
type of leukemia in chickens, along with many other symptoms, incidentally.
Now what I learned from my own work-I developed the way of assaying these
viruses in culture so they could be worked with, in a fairly expedient
manner-is that these leukemias could and would occur in the absence of
the retroviruses.... Every cell in the chicken is infected, and every cell
is constantly producing virus, but even then ... only 15% of those chickens,
who were congenitally infected, developed the leukosis. In spite of these
findings, these viruses are still called Leukemia or Leukosis viruses,
as they have been for 85 years. The assumption is made that they are the
sole, or at least the prime, cause of the disease in chickens.... One of
the things I want to point out is the tricky business of naming a virus.
Naming something HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Avian Leukosis Virus,
Avian Myelocytosis Virus-all of those names fix in the minds of those who
use them, or work with them, that *this* is the proof. It's like Noah naming
the animals, a way of controlling them.
Rubin then described meeting held by AmFAR in Washington, DC in 1988,
which I also attended. (My report, "Kangaroo Court Etiology: AmFAR
Holds a Forum to Discredit Duesberg, But Winds Up Confirming Shabbiness
of 'Proof' of HIV as Sole Cause of AIDS", appeared in the New York
Native of 9 May 1988.):
Now I've come to my point about the politicization of this issue. In
1988 the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) convened a meeting
in Washington, DC, which had the obvious purpose of silencing Peter Duesberg.
As I had discussed the matter with Peter on many occasions, he asked me
to join the meeting, even though he knew I was an agnostic about the role
of HIV-more like Erasmus than Martin Luther. I reluctantly agreed, feeling
I could play the role of an intermediary. How naive I was! I did some extensive
reading before the meeting, and a lot of questions occurred in my mind,
that I thought needed discussion. When I raised those questions at the
meeting, I got the response you might expect from a bunch of fundamentalists
confronted with someone who questioned the virgin birth. [laughter] For
example, Anthony Fauci interrupted me at one point, in a rage, saying how
could anyone doubt the compelling role of HIV, when there was this HIV-infected
baby, who had never been exposed to other viruses, bacteria or drugs, and
developed AIDS. Well, I had no answer. If I did, I couldn't get up, he
was so mad. Well, I later learned that the mother of that baby was an intravenous
drug user who had all sorts of health and nutritional problems. Anyhow,
the infant did not have a shortage of t-cells, which was supposed to be
the characteristic marker of HIV, but a shortage of b-cells. So there's
at least some question here. But that question wasn't allowed to be discussed.
Then I questioned the role of immune deficiency in producing a tumor
known as lymphoma. I had spent a fair amount of time working of a strain
of mice that were genetically unable to produce t-cells, that were severely
immune deficient-more immune deficient than the worst AIDS cases. But in
fact that strain of mouse, the so-called "nude mouse" or "a-thymic
mouse", had no higher incidence of any tumor than did a normal mouse,
and that includes lymphoma. I was then treated to an angry lecture about
the presence of killer cells in these mice. Well, killer cells they may
have, but these were totally ineffective in rejecting tumors. So the question
remains, how can we say that lymphomas develop from immune deficiency,
when the best and strongest model, the nude mouse, for immune deficiency,
produces no lymphomas. We didn't get a chance to discuss that either.
Subsequently after that meeting, at a little social gathering, I had
a discussion with a medical corps major (I won't mention any names) who
was the Army's leading AIDS specialist. He told me that he had seen AIDS
cases with Kaposi's sarcoma in recruits, a condition then commonly associated
with AIDS, at least in homosexuals. He told me that some of these cases
were AIDS. And I asked him if they differed clinically from the other six
cases [which were not AIDS]. He said, no, they didn't differ clinically
at all, but they had antibodies to HIV. So I realized then I was dealing
with a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there are HIV antibodies when you have
Kaposi's, then it's AIDS, and if no antibodies when it's Kaposi's, then
it's not AIDS, just Kaposi's. No wonder there's such a strong association
between the virus and AIDS, if the diagnosis is based on the presence of
the virus. He told me then that I didn't really understand medicine. [laughter]
He's telling the truth.
I'm kind of glad that I don't. [laughter and applause] He told me that
the role of the virus had been proved, to the extent that "AIDS"
was no longer a "Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome"-the "syndrome"
was the "s" part of "AIDS"- but "Human Immunodeficiency
Disease", Now, what's the difference? He told me, "You are taught
in medical school, that 'syndrome' means you don't know the cause of a
disease, and 'disease' means that you do know the cause. And since now
we're calling this a disease, therefore we know the cause, and it's HIV.
So quite asking questions. And let's have another drink." [laughter]
Rubin then went into a somewhat technical discussion of mutation, epigenetics,
and cancer, which led him to conclude:
Cancer can only be understood at the level of the complex dynamics of
cellular interaction with the aging process and other such considerations
as diet, smoking, lifestyle, etc.-what in fact Dr. Schmidt presented us
with this morning. The trouble with that is it doesn't make easy reading
for the public, or for science writers who won't take the trouble to dig
things out. That's not the kind of thing that the editor's going to print,
that cancer is complex. We've got a gene that's been isolated and reported
in Nature and Science this week-that really gets some excitement.
The same basic process is at work in AIDS. Ten years ago there was tremendous
pressure (I don't think most people remember it) for NIH, for epidemiologists
and virologists, to come up with a cause of AIDS that everyone would understand.
It was very important that everyone understand it. And sure enough, Robert
Gallo did so. The result was trumpeted in a big news conference put on
by Margaret Heckler, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Here
was this vast complex of 25 diseases, and more have been added since, and
it was all due to this one retrovirus. Well, someone who has spent every
day of his adult life working in the field and at the bench, and who's
had the experience of the questionably named Chicken Leukosis Virus, found
this a little hard to swallow in its unexpurgated form. I didn't deny that
it might have some role, but this was too simplistic. It still is too simplistic,
in my estimation. It may be part of the truth, but it's certainly not the
whole truth. At this moment it's the greatest bar we have to a deeper understanding
of a very serious problem.
If there ever was a case of multifactorial disease occurrence, in my
estimation, AIDS is the case. In closing, let me say a word about Peter
Duesberg, who has been pilloried from post to post in the press, as you
have seen. I made it clear that I do not go along with his total rejection
of a role for the virus. I will say, that if it were not for Peter Duesberg,
there would be no one raising questions at all, including me. [applause
for Duesberg] So while I continue to disagree with him, and find him a
pain sometimes [laughter], I respect what he's done, and I might say that
he's done it at enormous sacrifice to his reputation and to his career.
Raphael Stricker, MD, spoke on "Autoimmune processes that contribute
to the pathogenesis of AIDS." In his highly technical talk, he rejected
the explanation that HIV caused AIDS by direct viral infection. Instead,
he speculated that autoimmune processes may be responsible for much of
the pathogenesis in AIDS. Since there exist certain homologies between
HIV and human cells, a "genetic mimicry" may operate, in which
the body becomes confused, runs amuck, and starts destroying itself.
I do not regard this hypothesis as even slightly tenable, and consider
that Harvey Bialy refuted it more than adequately in the morning. HIV is
a perfectly ordinary, perfectly conventional retrovirus. If the immune
systems of our bodies were so easily confused, our species would have died
out a long, long time ago.
Bryan Ellison is a graduate student in molecular and cell biology in
Berkeley. His talk, "Drug use does cause AIDS: A reappraisal of the
San Francisco Men's Health Study", was based on a paper jointly written
by himself, Allen Downey (a statistician), and Peter Duesberg. It was a
severe critique of the article by Michael Ascher, Warren Winkelstein,
et al., ("Does drug use cause AIDS?", Nature, 11 March
1993), which purported to show that HIV and HIV alone was responsible for
the development of AIDS in a cohort of San Francisco men.
It had been claimed in the Ascher report that AIDS and t-cell depletion
occurred only in the men who were HIV-antibody-positive, and that drug
use had no effect whatever on either t-cell depletion over time or on the
development of AIDS.
Ellison said that he and his colleagues had obtained the raw data from
Ascher and Winkelstein, and found that Ascher et al. had seriously
misreported the data. By using a circular definition of AIDS, which required
HIV seropositivity in order for diseases to be recorded as AIDS, Ascher
et al. overlooked at least 45, and possibly as many as 200 AIDS-related
diseases among the HIV-antibody-negative men.
According to Ellison, Ascher et al. made it look as though some
of the HIV-antibody-positive men who developed AIDS had been nonusers of
drugs, which they did by defining drug use in a narrow and capricious way,
focussing only on four drugs (marijuana, nitrites, cocaine, and amphetamines),
and only on self-reported use during a two-year period. AZT use, reported
by 54% of the seropositive men in the cohort, was ignored by Ascher et
al. entirely. By these stratagems Ascher et al. included users
of marijuana, nitrites, cocaine, downers, hallucinogens, and AZT among
their "no drug use" group. It turned out that the only two men
in the study who never claimed drug use, also did not lose t-cells over
By ignoring huge gaps and striking selection biases in the database,
Ascher et al. reached the unsupportable conclusions that HIV-positive
and HIV-negative men used similar amounts of drugs and that levels of drug
use were not related to the risk of developing AIDS. In contrast, we found
that HIV-positive men used significantly more heavy drugs than did HIV-negatives,
and that drug use was more highly correlated with AIDS-related diseases
than was HIV.
A striking feature of the article by Ascher et al. had been a
line chart, which allegedly showed trends in t-cell levels over time, according
to both HIV-antibody status and drug use. In the HIV-positive group, t-cells
declined steadily, regardless of drug use. In the HIV-negative group, t-cells
remained steady, also regardless of drug use. Ellison charged that this
result had been obtained by "some unexplained 'adjustment'",
and that the inclusion of error bars "exposed much greater variability
in t-cell counts."
In conclusion Ellison said that drug use did indeed cause AIDS. He characterized
the misreporting of data by Ascher and Winkelstein a "serious breach
of scientific ethics", and called upon them to retract the paper.
A Digression on the Ascher-Winkelstein Report
I myself have also criticized the Ascher-Winkelstein report, but using
a very different approach (John Lauritsen, "Surveying Ascher and Schechter",
Rethinking AIDS, May 1993). It was clear to me from reading the
report in Nature that the methodology was dubious, the charts had
a too-good-to-be-true quality, and above all, the data did not make sense.
As a professional analyst, I will not comment on data until I am sure they
are valid. To do this thoroughly would require obtaining a clear and comprehensive
description of methodology, as well as copies of all questionnaires, recording
forms, tabulation specifications, and computer runs. In addition, at least
some of the interviews would have to be independently validated-meaning
that respondents would be contacted and interviewed to determine whether
previous interviews had been done competently and honestly.
I wrote to Ascher, asking for copies of blank questionnaires, etc.,
and received a reply from Winkelstein, in which he said that if I were
in San Francisco, and paid a search fee of $25 per hour, it might be possible
to obtain some of the materials I wanted. Considering that the study was
publicly funded, and therefore subject to the Freedom of Information Act,
his response was preposterous.
An unvalidated survey has little or no credibility, and since the Ascher-Winkelstein
study is not even open to validation, it deserves to be rejected on this
It has been my experience as an analyst, without exception, that when
data don't make sense it is because there is something wrong with them.
It doesn't make sense that a single, biochemically inactive microbe could
be the cause of the 29 (at last count) AIDS-indicator diseases. It doesn't
make sense that drugs don't do anything.
The Moderator of the symposium, Charles Geshekter, spoke on "rethinking
the AIDS epidemic in Africa." Official statistics, he maintained,
have been unreliable to the point of absurdity.
Africa is supposed to be saturated with HIV, its population ravaged
by the AIDS epidemic. And yet, since 1981 -- thirteen years-there have
been only 151,000 confirmed AIDS cases in all of Africa.
Most AIDS cases are diagnosed on clinical symptoms alone.
The HIV antibody tests, ELISA and Western Blot, are almost useless,
as they cross-react with antibodies to many diseases that are endemic to
Africa. Furthermore, the symptoms attributed to "AIDS" are indistinguishable
from those that have plagued Africa since the beginning of the 20th
Geshekter debunked the media myth that the African AIDS catastrophe
can only be averted through the intervention of Western science. After
describing some of the shoddy AIDS science that has been foisted on Africa,
he defined an "expert" as "a person who can tell by the
wrinkles on a bed whether the screwing was for love or for money."
Particularly dangerous, in Geshekter's opinion, is the pressure to use
the toxic, DNA chain terminator drug, AZT, on HIV-positive Africans.
Warren Winkelstein, Professor of Public Health at Berkeley, spoke on
"Inferences from epidemiological data." His brief talk mostly
presented points from the report he had co-authored with Michael Ascher
(Nature, 11 March 1993). He showed a slide, in which none of the
HIV-negative men developed AIDS, whereas those who were either HIV-positive
upon entry into the study, or became so later, did develop AIDS.
Winkelstein then addressed Bryan Ellison's claim, that at least 45 HIV-negative
men had developed AIDS-diseases. This was ridiculous, said Winkelstein,
because if these 45 HIV-negative men had really had AIDS, then 36 of them
ought to have died, according to the latest AIDS projections. However,
only [ONLY!] 7 of them had died. Presumably this meant that Ellison was
wrong, and they couldn't really have had AIDS-illnesses.
Let's examine Winkelstein's logic here. First of all, no matter how
sick the 45 HIV-negative men were, they would not officially have been
diagnosed as having "AIDS", since a positive result on the HIV-antibody
test is necessary for the diagnosis. In consequence, they would not have
received a prognosis of death; they would not have been programmed to die.
Above all, they would not have been prescribed AZT! If these data were
reliable, one could argue that an AIDS diagnosis is deadlier than AIDS
Winkelstein made no further attempt to refute the criticisms made by
Ellison, and the rest of his talk was not of general interest.
Warner Green, virologist at the University of California Medical Center,
San Francisco, was still another of those added for "balance".
His brief talk consisted mostly of unsupported assertions, which he asserted
"HIV infections from accidental needle sticks, in health care workers,
who had no concomitant drug use or other risk factors, have led to death."
[No such case has ever been reported.] "We now know that HIV can be
recovered from 100% of AIDS cases." [This statement is flatly untrue.]
HIV does kill t-cells. "I don't see what the problem is here."
[Not only all of the HIV-skeptics, but most proponents of the HIV-AIDS
hypothesis now accept that HIV does not kill t-cells.]
And so on. Nothing that Green said addressed the points made by the
critics of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.
The Final Panel
For the final panel, Charles Geshekter had all of the speakers come
on stage. He said that, since there were a dozen and a half of them and
many people from the audience wanted to speak, both questions and answers
would have to be brief. He displayed a cow bell, which he would ring if
someone ran on for too long.
Asked to define "epidemic", Warren Winkelstein began by saying,
"An epidemic is an unusual occurrence of disease." He went on
from there, and several minutes later Geshekter had to ring the bell on
Peter Plumley commented that the teen-aged AIDS cases have gone down
for the past two years.
Harvey Bialy pointed out that the perfect, 100% correlations that were
shown in Warren Winkelstein's slides, fell apart when the data were examined
Bryan Ellison followed up by saying that in the Ascher-Winkelstein study,
there were enormous gaps in the data, and that the questions had been poorly
set up. No one has ever done a rigorous survey of the surveys themselves.
Michael Ascher then attacked Bryan Ellison-something to the effect that
candidiasis of the mouth wasn't an AIDS-defining illness, whereas candidiasis
of the esophagus was.
Peter Duesberg then jumped into the fray, saying that the Ascher-Winkelstein
study, which allegedly refuted the drugs-AIDS hypothesis, was incredibly
irresponsible and dangerous-for it appeared to recommend the use
A student of epidemiology asked Winkelstein why he had not verified
drug use with widely accepted serological tests, to which Winkelstein replied
that "survey research technology is widely accepted"-an unresponsive
answer, to say the least.
A woman in the audience asked Ascher and Winkelstein how they determined
if someone were HIV-positive or -negative, citing the Eleopulos study (see
Reading List) which indicated that both antibody tests were unvalidated
and highly unreliable. Ascher replied that all of the tests were
Harvey Bialy, in response to a question from a man in the audience,
said there were 15 to 18 ways HIV could cause AIDS, but no proof.
All of the hypothesized indirect mechanisms were admissions of failure.
Michael Ascher ridiculed the direct-killing mechanism, saying it was
dead, that "Fauci would be the first to tell you." Warner Green
replied that he still held to direct mechanisms.
Asked why he did not consider HIV-AIDS to be a falsifiable hypothesis,
Kary Mullis cited two points: 1) the increase in the postulated latency
period, and 2) the switch from direct to indirect mechanisms.
Harvey Bialy indicated the absurdity of the claim that HIV causes AIDS
in 100% of those it infected, whereas the polio virus, for example, causes
polio in only 3-4%.
Warner Green responded, "This is a most unique retrovirus",
and said that HIV had extra genes.
At this point Kary Mullis exploded, "If you spend 22 billion dollars,
you can fucking find some extra genes!"
Peter Duesberg informed Green that all retroviruses have the same number
of nucleotides; all have 9 kilobases of genetic material.
Warren Winkelstein, who had seemed in a deep funk, ever since the bell
was rung on him, rebuked the panelists and the audience for a lack of seriousness.
"People are dying", he said Without missing a beat, Kary Mullis
turned to him and said, "We're not laughing at AIDS, we're laughing
After a few desultory comments, that was the end of the symposium.
If the HIV-skeptics were in high spirits at the end of the symposium,
it came from the awareness that they had carried the day. The other side
utterly failed to rebut any of their major points.
In contrast, the HIV-defenders wore tense, defensive, hang-dog expressions,
as though they were on trial for something. Although they could still parrot
the old, and a few new, AIDS myths, none of them were able to put together
a reasoned argument.
The principle of "balance" really ought to be applied to future
AIDS programs of the AAAS and all other groups. Never again should only
the HIV-AIDS point-of-view be represented.
The HIV-AIDS hypothesis is dead. Only in a genuine spirit of Free Enquiry
can we discover exactly what "AIDS" is and what its causes are.