INTERVIEW NEVILLE HODGKINSON
By Jody Wells & Huw Christie
Continuum Nov./Jan. 1994-95
The landscape of debate around the issues of 'HIV' and AIDS is so often obscured in mists of misinformation that critical thinking amongst those one way or another affected by the hypothesis is rarely possible. Since the implications of the diagnosis and the occurrence of disease remain mismatched, and after ten years of unseemly orthodox intervention and research at a cost approaching 25 billion US dollars, the obvious moral course has become close scrutiny of the assumptions and methodology employed in pursuit of a solution to AIDS. Even the prominent journal Nature ran a commentary this May entitled "AIDS: time to turn to basic science" - in which a perverse HIV-theorist named Bernard N. Fields of Harvard University ironically can be found misinforming readers that the DNAchain-terminating drug AZT is a product of "The rapid development of drugs (in) the first decade of AIDS", ignoring its genesis decades ago in 1963: at Nature even time collapses. But one national newspaper in Britain, and specifically one correspondent working within it, have in recent years found it a credible duty to consider and publish evidence and arguments brought by some of the leading scientists and thinkers who have not found validity in the orthodoxy about HIV and AIDS - newsmakers ranging from American Nobel Prizewinner, to African field medics. For Neville Hodgkinson, until recently Science Correspondent of the Sunday Times, building the coherent picture of the 'HIV'/AIDS story has been demanding and sometimes thankless work which his gentle humour seems to have survived.
Jody Wells: What's your professional background Neville?
Neville Hodgkinson: I've been specialising in medical and science writing tor about the last 17 years and before that I was a general reporter. I was Social Policy correspondent on the Times many years back. A variety of posts. I was Medical Correspondent on the Daily Mail for my sins for a while. I took a stretch out for about three years at one point. I wrote a book called "Will to be Well Real Alternative Medicine" which was about mind-body connections in health and illness. It went through a couple of editions.
JW: You were Science Correspondent for the Sunday Times, and come from a science base - what made you change your view of HIV and AIDS?
NH: During the second half of the eighties I wrote a lot of stories about HIV and AIDS as Medical Correspondent for the Sunday Times that were written from a purely conventional perspective, reporting what the mainstream were saying. I didn't know there was any question on the subject. In fact the Sunday Times was one of the papers that did the most probably to draw to the attention of the public that there was this deadly new virus in our midst. I remember doing one big article saying "At Risk" and we had this picture of a happy family sitting at the fireside, with various reasons why different people there could become at risk, and had the strange experience of hearing that the Department of Health had regarded this as being very helpful - usually they were wanting to wring my neck over one thing or another. And I went to the Washington AIDS Conference, and I think that was my conversion to being a real tubthumping HIV alarmist, because there everyone was speaking about what a terrific threat there was. Robert Redfield was showing his slides about what happened when you were infected with HIV, the haemophiliac directors were there saying yes, it's true, our HIV positive haemophiliacs, we see their immune systems in steady decline. When I went there I could still hardly believe it was as bad as things had been said. As I say, this was my sort of conversion point. One of the scientists there even took me into the White House to meet one of the President's Aids advisors.
JW: One of the President's Aids aides?
NH: (Laughter) We just got this general picture of alarm and despondency, and everyone quite enjoying it in a way, but there it was - it made good copy of course - the paper was very hungry for these stories because there was huge public interest in this new deadly peril. I reported along these lines for three or four years and then I left the Sunday Times for a couple of years to go as Medical Editor of the Sunday Express. Sunday Times reporting is very very intensive and hard work and I felt like seeing if a junior executive role like that would be more comfortable. I quite enjoyed it but got a bit frustrated as well and the guy who hired me was fired after a little while, so the was a change of editors. While I was there I did very little on AIDS. I got a bit out of touch with the day by day AIDS science. But towards the end of my time there I heard from Joan Shenton of Meditel whom I knew, about the fact that they'd produced a programme "AIDS: The Unheard Voices" where this seemingly well qualified professor, a professor of Molecular Biology in the States, Peter Duesberg, was arguing that HIV couldn't be doing the damage attributed to it. It was a big shock for me to hear something like that. I hadn't come across this critique. Maybe Jad Adams' book had flitted past, but, you know, the sort of zeitgeist was all for HIV and that sort of thing. Well, I respect Meditel a lot so I thought I'd better check this out and I called Peter Duesberg and spoke to him but it so happened that that week that the programme was coming out, an MRC (Medical Research Council) report landed on my desk that seemed to answer one of Duesberg's main criticisms that there was no good science demonstrating that HIV's role was causal as opposed to simply an association. There was a study in this MRC report that looked at a group of HIV positive haemophiliacs in Edinburgh who were thought to have become infected in about '83/'84, and it compared the outcome in them in terms of their immune status with a group also followed from the same time, exposed to the same batches of Factor VIII, but who didn't seroconvert, didn't become HIV positive, and the HIV positive ones were going downhill by CD4 counts, these kinds of measures, and the other ones weren't in the same, you know, dodgy looking status. And this seemed like a good sort of trial, clearly pointing to HIV actually being the causative agent. I put this to Peter Duesberg, and I didn't feel I got an answer that was satisfactory, so I did a little mention in a health column that I had, about Joan's programme, that said that the programme was coming up but that it didn't seem like a very good thesis because one of the objections was overcome by this Edinburgh study. Anyway, when I was back at the Sunday Times, this time as Science Correspondent, the fact that I was wearing a slightly different hat allowed to me step aside a bit from the role of the Medical Correspondent. It's funny you know, medical correspondents and journalists generally, especially in Britain, don't get a very good press! And if you actually find yourself in a story that's doing some good, you feel rather pleased about this. And with those stories about HIV and warning the public about the dangers, there was a feeling of associating for once with something that might do more than just entertain people or interest them, but might actually have some public health benefits to it. So you know, you can lose your objectivity a bit if you get overinvolved in that way, and I suspect that's one of the things that's happened with the rest of the medical and scientific corps. But anyway, that's an aside. When I went back to the Sunday Times, for one thing having been away from the field for a couple of years I was a bit surprised that the promised explosion into the general population, there was no hint of it still. And I went to see Joan Shenton about another programme and she said, "You know Neville, you were wrong to dismiss Duesberg's ideas on the basis of that MRC study. They weren't comparing like with like." And she gave me the reference that demonstrated that that was true. I looked up the papers and found that she was absolutely right. And that was like turning point, so really it was thanks to Joan that I started taking more seriously this critique of the HIV idea. Having found that I'd been misled by the MRC report I felt, well, if they can be so misleading to the public as that, perhaps I'd better look more closely at what this chap's saying. And so I started studying Duesberg's papers and I studied the responses that had come and I concluded that they weren't scientific responses, they were just abuse. I was astonished. We gradually pulled together a big two page article that set out the fact that there was this case being mounted, that there was a group for the reappraisal of the HIV=AIDS hypothesis that had come into being, and that the Alternative AIDS Conference was going to give some of these ideas an airing, the one that took place in Amsterdam in the summer of '92. We ran a front page story about that with this big spread inside, and once again the response was hysterical.
JW: You got masses of abuse didn't you. Not scientific argument.
NH: No. No. Just, "Everybody knows HIV is the cause of AIDS. These are old arguments." Things like that. "Why trouble your readers with unproven theories when there's a big public health emergency under way?" But nothing that actually answered the really detailed points that Duesberg and others were putting forward. That initial report also included an interview with (Dr Luc) Montagnier ('co-discoverer' of 'HIV') where we reported for the first time that he was saying there were AIDS cases without HIV and also that he was now quite sure that you could have HIV and not get AIDS and confirming what he'd said, which I hadn't learned at the time, two or three years previously, that HIV was NOT capable of killing the cells of the immune system on its own. That it needed some co-factors - that was his theory - because he'd found that when you added antibiotics to the culture, it lost its ability to kill the cells, and antibiotics are not going to kill HIV, so he had his theory that these mycobacteria, perhaps in some unexplained way with the help of HIV were killing these immune cells. So right at that point there was a very strong case for reappraisal, but instead of thanking us for putting this before the newspaper-reading public, we just got this very very abusive response, and I think that was really the starting point of a keen interest in the subject.
JW: They obviously weren't able to argue scientifically.
NH: That was exactly the feeling. There was no rebuttal on any of the points in that article. No argument against it. Simply an expostulation that you shouldn't worry the public in this way.
JW: I notice when I give talks around the country, there are certain people in the audience who have this thing about they don't trust the Sunday Times, and what the Sunday Times publishes. An attitude of shoot the messenger. I always say the Sunday Times has probably done the gay community a great service. I feel it's done me great service by opening my eyes.
NH: It came home to me just in my last few weeks at the Sunday Times when we'd been doing the reports about the renewed interest in amyl nitrites as a contributing factor in AIDS. Some people from Glasgow rang through to say would I go and address them at a meeting on this issue, and I said "Sure, I'd be happy to do that" and in fact the dates didn't work out. But after we chatted for a while the guy I was talking to said, "You sound quite normal! And sane!" And I said, "Why shouldn't I?" And he said, "Well, you've been demonised up here." I don't think that leaders in the gay community, people who've actually taken up the fight, have wanted to read the detail of what we were publishing. It's like it was too threatening to the cause they'd taken up, their raison d'etre in a way. That's one of the ways I've explained to myself why we should have been taking this trouble over a long period now, about two years, to try to put forward information of VITAL importance to the gay community, and to HIV positive people in general, and received no support from the mainstream public figures either in the haemophiliac community actually or in the gay community. This was very puzzling to me for a long time. I think probably the most important paper that I came across was the Biotechnology one ("Is a Positive Western Blot Proof of HIV Infection?". Eleopulos et al, Biotechnology July 1993) in which the Australian researchers pointed out that after a review of all the literature surrounding the HIV test, they concluded it had never been validated. I mean that's astonishing for a diagnostic test with such enormous implications behind it. Here is a peer review paper published in Biotechnology, a sister journal to Nature, and I faxed copies of that paper around to several leading figures in the AIDS industry before we published. I wanted reactions because it was so mind-boggling, and again I got abuse for the Eleopulos paper, abuse for the newspaper for publishing anything about it, but no response to the arguments within it.
JW: What amused me about that was the Sunday Times had simply reported the fact that the paper had been published, and yet the Pink Paper, the gay paper's, leading article the following week was, "Sunday Times Wrong to Question HIV Test". Like it was all your responsibility. What were these people thinking? NH: People have got this mindset that we've got a public health emergency and it's got to be all hands to the pump, and there mustn't be any questioning of what's going on. Like in a war. Like Maggie taking on the Argies in the Falklands. You're a traitor if you question what is done. It's that kind of atmosphere that has prevailed, and which has destroyed the science. That's why, I think, we're ten years into this now, probably the biggest medical and scientific blunder of the century, maybe for centuries, and now the scientific community just doesn't know what to do about the situation I think. But they're twenty four billion dollars into HIV which, after two years of studying the science, I'm absolutely convinced couldn't be doing the damage that it's said to do. And it probably doesn't even exist. Quite a strong possibility that it's an artifact, a misinterpretation of biochemical events in a compromised immune system.
JW: I think it's going to be appaling for science generally when the public become aware of how easy it is to be misled by science.
NH: Maybe a healthier relationship between the public and scientists will follow. There is a feeling of great gratitude to science for coming up with jumbo jets and TV sets, and all the various discoveries that have followed on from the scientific revolution.
JW: You don't need treatment for those do you!
NH: Medical science is more of a problem, but people are grateful for anaesthetics and hip replacements and so on, but they also have this feeling of distrust that somehow the scientific community are a bit out of touch with reality, a bit out of touch with common sense. And I think that that is entirely possible. I suspect that there may be within the scientists' method of working a potential flaw which really ought to be taken account of in future. Scientists are trained to look outwards all the time. The whole of their focus is on the external world, and partly as a result of that, I think, and because of the neglect of their own selves, their own needs, emotional, mental or whatever, they don't realise the extent to which their view of what's happening outside is influenced by those inner factors. So a discipline that sets out to be as objective as possible can end up making them more subjective, less able to see the objective reality, than the ordinary man in the street, who's a bit more in touch with his own feelings, and the fact that ego or greed or common feelings that we may all be subject to can influence the way we see things.
JW: And the way scientists are employed is all wrong isn't it, because it all requires commercial funding? So there's that influence from commercial funding all the time there.
NH: The influence is strong. It doesn't have to be a fatal flaw if the scientist recognises that the way he sees things is likely to be influenced by his own needs. The need to pay the mortgage or whatever. Those things are present. But at the moment there's a kind of myth that is present within the scientific community still that, "We're scientists! Obviously if we say that HIV is the cause of AIDS then we must be right. There can't be any questioning of that." It's like holy gospel. We saw that with Nature' s response to what the Sunday Times did. How could a newspaper be so uppity as to question what the scientific mainstream were saying. But we never questioned it! It wasn't the Sunday Times had the authority to come up with this critique of HIV. We were only reporting what the likes of California's Scientist of the Year, Peter Duesberg, what HIV's discoverer Luc Montagnier, were saying, what people like Kary Mullis, the Nobel Prizewinner for Chemistry last year, what the numerous members - some 500 now - of the Reappraisal Group were saying. We've just been reporting this. Admittedly, the thing that upset Nature most of all was when we really contributed something further, when Andrew Neil (until recently, Sunday Times editor) sent me off to Africa, and we rumbled the scam that is happening over there. The World Health Organisation is telling us that millions are in the pipeline to death because of HIV positivity, but on the basis of single tests with an unvalidated test.
JW: You published the news that Professor Max Essex has done a U-turn.
NH: That was one of our most important stories I think, and no response whatsoever from the scientific community. He was showing that in a community of patients suffering from leprosy, about 70% of whom tested HIV positive, their HIV positivity had nothing to do with a virus. It was caused by proteins put into their bloodstream by their leprosy. And 30% of the contacts of the leprosy patients tested HIV positive, but again as a result of their immune system's response to contact with the agent responsible for leprosy. Nothing to do with some deadly new virus that had come out of Africa. When one takes into account studies like that and the Eleopulos study showing that the HIV test is useless other than as some broad indication of an activated immune system, then the whole structure of terror, and business, surrounding HIV and AIDS in Africa has its basis knocked right away. I went armed with that Biotechnology paper to Africa, and I showed it to the virologists, and they were shocked, and they said, "Well, it's true. We must admit that when we change our HIV testing programmes," - and they have to do that sometimes because international aid comes with a lot of strings attached, and if for example Britain says: No, we're not going to give Tanzania any more money for the time being, then they stop using Britain's HIV tests and they start using them from another country that does agree to give them some money, so regularly they have to change the test kits that they use - " we find radically different results with them." The whole situation's absolute nonsense! But it's tragic nonsense too because in Africa millions were terrorised literally. People were dying, because of these HIV diagnoses. Hospitals were chucking them out, refusing to treat them. Families were throwing their babies on the street because they were HIV positive. It's been responsible for a terrible amount of suffering.
Huw Christie: In whose interests do you think it lies to hype World AIDS Day this December?
NH: We've never wanted to belittle the reality of AIDS. Yes, in Africa it doesn't exist as a plague in the way that it's been made out. Maybe there ARE some AIDS cases that would be closely related to what had been seen in San Francisco and New York in the early 80's. I didn't come across any like it. I came across people with TB, with malaria, with chronic parasitic infections, who were called AIDS cases because they'd tested HIV positive.
JW: It's the same in the gay community. Hepatitis B, Epstein-Barr (Glandular Fever), Herpes..
NH: The HIV stuff is an artificial creation. Definitely. And all the fear associated with testing HIV positive. But there was in the early eighties, late seventies, there was a new syndrome. They called it GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) at the time. I'm not seeking to belittle the reality of that.
JW: It's much more multifactorial than simply HIV.
NH: Absolutely. But there are people dying still.
JW: But the only people dying are the ones that are put on medication. I don't think anyone here knows anybody who died of AIDS who wasn't put on the medication.
NH: We didn't have AZT in the early eighties, and you didn't even have prophylactic Septrin and things like that in the early eighties.
JW: But people were still treated very badly.
NH: Yes, I'm sure that they were not treated appropriately. But there was a new syndrome appeared, and I wouldn't want to write it away altogether.
JW: I'm not writing it away either. The syndrome was recognised in IV drug users 30 years previously.
NH: Again, I agree with you. I think that the redefinition of their diseases as AIDS is an HIV-associated artifact. It's associated with the fact that this HIV test came on the scene. Some of them were found to test HIV positive for reasons that could be hepatitis, could be people's blood proteins from needle sharing, it could just be malnutrition - many possible causes nothing to do with some new mystery virus. That's a socially constructed disease, the renaming of a condition that was unquestionably present in the drug abusing community previously. There are two things that I feel are important to look at in relation to that new syndrome that affected the gay community. There have been a number of explanations that don't require a deadly virus but two things that I think are really worth looking at. One is the poppers (amyl nitrites) story and the use of recreational drugs that grew explosively post-Vietnam and in conjunction with Gay Lib. And second, I remember how Michael Callen (the late U.S. AIDS critic) described how each sex partner that you notched up was like a statement of your identity as a gay man.
HC: The "right to hedonism".
NH: Yes, associated with the right to a sexuality of your own inclination. On the question of poppers, it does seem to me that the evidence that Professor Dennis Park down in Surrey drew attention to, of how amyl nitrites are mutagenic and therefore an entirely logical possibility is that they are the cause of Kaposi's Sarcoma, is very strong. And that's now being re-examined in the States as you know. Secondly, they act absolutely contrary to the glutathione defences, the substance that is so protective of lung cells against infection, against all the toxins that hit your lungs. Amyl nitrites knock out this substance that is a vital part of disposing of the free radicals that are known to be particularly damaging to the body. Professor Park thinks there is a very good logic that the explosion of the use of amyl nitrite inhalants - and almost 100% of the early AIDS cases were poppers users - he thinks it's very logical to think that they were responsible for the two main AIDS defining conditions, KS and PCP (Pneumocystis Carinii). Maybe later, AZT and all the rest of it. And there might be something to the Kary Mullis argument that in the bathhouse scene, where every infection going was pooled into a small number of people, that maybe you could in close contact with a person who has got that cocktail of infections inside them, maybe for one transmission, it's possible to transmit a lethal cocktail of infections to another person. That's entirely speculative, but I wouldn't rule that out as a possible element in all of this. Promiscuity, multiple partners, became associate with homosexuality. Wrongly. I don't know how many gay men went into that scene of thousands of partners. I suspect a very small percent, one or two percent. But in the general public's mind, and even among the leaders of the gay community, the association was there. And I think that this is one of the things that needs to be removed. AIDS is not a gay disease. Aids is a disease associated with certain behaviours that became prevalent in a small minority of gay men. But what is clear after all these years is that it doesn't go beyond that as a new virus that none of us had immunity to would have done. The HIV theory is dead as far as the science is concerned.
J.W. So how do you think the scientific community are going to extricate themselves from this disaster?
NH: I get the feeling that at the moment they're kind of withdrawing and licking their wounds, that enough has been put out before them by organisations like Continuum, by the Meditel programmes, by the Sunday Times, by the increasing number of articles appearing in the States now in various obscure journals but also in Celia Farber's work over the years - I think enough of it is getting across now, and with the failure of all the predictions based on the HIV theory, the failure of AZT, the failure to have an impact on deaths from AIDS, that the scientific community is really retreating and wondering what to do next. I hope that voices of integrity will begin to emerge. One of John Lauritsen's reports quoted (Dr Robert) Gallo ('co-discoverer' of 'HIV') as saying we can't even find HIV in T-cells! So he's now in the same position as Montagnier.
JW: He's handed the discovery back to Montagnier hasn't he? NH: Quite probably. That would be in keeping.
HC: Newsweek reported that.
NH: Really! I didn't know that. That's interesting.
JW: You've now left the Sunday Times. For what reasons?
NH: For one thing, I used to be really nervous about getting criticised by authoratitive figures like the British Medical Association, the three main political parties, by the Medical Research Council, the Chief Medical Officer, but now I'm immune! You know! We had it all thrown at us! But even so it took a bit of a toll and within the office, the Sunday Times is a very hard thrusting place - next week's paper's what counts. You've got to be there with the story, week after week. When Andrew Neil was editor he saw the importance of this story, and he gave me a sort of ring-fencing on the subject as the months went on. He was very interested. He saw that there was never a single reasoned response to any of the reports that we did. Just abuse, plenty of it, but never a reasoned response, and because of that he got more and more behind the story until it reached the point where he was saying, "Look, you can write your, own script on this, in the sense of if you want to go to Thailand, investigate what's happening there, you've got me behind you, if you want to go to the States, it's OK. Also he'd agreed in my last few weeks there I could be relieved of the wider responsibilities I had as Science Correspondent for covering the whole of the science field. But one of the editors that I worked to there who had responsibility for the news coverage in general had been a bit fed up that I'd been spending so much time on AIDS, and he'd been pressing me to be covering more things, popular science stories, and I'd not been meeting his needs adequately. That was one of the sources of pressure actually - that while I was fighting off all comers, an enormous amount of correspondence, letters off to this that and the other place because of the row, and an enormous need not to put a foot wrong, so that we had a tremendous amount of studying to do to cope with each of the controversies as they arose with all that, I was feeling under some pressure, and then suddenly Andrew Neil was taken off by Rupert Murdoch (owner of the Sunday Times and News International media corporation) to Fox Television (USA) to launch a new investigative TV programme.
JW: It was nothing to do with the AIDS thing?
NH: No nothing to do with that. The stated reason is that he wanted him as a provenly successful editor capable of bringing up some really important issues to do the same for this new investigative show in the States. And that's why he's over there and that's what he's doing. But I got the message as soon as he'd gone that that sort of ring-fencing that I'd had previously allowing me to pursue the AIDS issue more or less wholeheartedly wouldn't be there any longer, and I'd be required to cover the broader science field, and there wasn't the same interest in the subject. So I put my notice in the next day, because I'd been thinking about doing a book on this for some time and it was a good opportunity to get on with that. Also a good opportunity to personally step back from the fray for a little while and just wonder, you know, where I was at.
JW: So you're now living in a retreat in Oxford and working on the book?
NH: It's called a retreat centre and it's a place run by an organisation called the Brahma Kumaris, which is a spiritual training organisation. Most of the teachers are women, and they teach meditation, how to take charge of your thoughts, and spiritual study so that you can develop habits of introspection that can allow you to know yourself at a deeper level than we normally live through. I've been doing this practice for about the past thirteen years, when I first came across the spiritual university. I've found that this is a wonderful place to live and work, for the time being at least. I had a really gorgeous couple of months in July and August where I was mapping out a condensed version of the book to send to an agent who'd expressed interest and it almost seemed to write itself. I know that the subject's very much in my head, but I really enjoyed doing it. Usually I find writing extremely hard work, but ten thousand words came out really quite easily! I think I'm going to enjoy doing the whole book. The agent is very enthusiastic. Fourth Estate have said that they'd love to do it. They were actually going to publish a book that Peter Duesberg had done with Brian Ellsion, one of his post-grad students, but that's fallen foul of some legal problems, so I don't think that's going to happen. So they're quite pleased to have another book. What I'm trying to do in the book is not just rehearse the scientific arguments which I think have been quite adequately put before the public now, or even the row with Nature which was quite interesting, but that's something that will quite soon just slip into history, but what really interests me is trying to look at the whole story, asking how could such a major blunder have come about. How could the world's scientists and doctors, almost to a man and a woman, have subscribed to this theory in such a wholehearted way when it had no science at its root.
JW: Do you not feel that the pharmaceutical industry had a great influence on this? The money pumped into it by people like Wellcome for instance who after all fund every AIDS organisation on the planet practically.
NH: Yes. Certainly commercial interests play a part, but they're like parasites that latch onto a weakness. If there isn't a considerable body of people willing to subscribe to a myth they're not going to be able to sell their products that are based on that myth. They behave I suppose as commercial organisations will, they hide from their minds the evidence that would go against their products and hope that because enough people are saying that there's value in the approach that they've taken, that they'll point to these scientists and sell their products on the basis of that. Although Wellcome have had a very special role in all of this because of the massive money they've made out of AZT, which allowed them to do this enormously widespread funding of AIDS organisations
JW: Pyramid selling really
NH: Sort of! But none of that would have been possible if all of these various organisations hadn't been caught hook line and sinker by the same, what I now believe to be, illusory idea, that a new lethal virus was responsible for AIDS and was sweeping through the population generally. Of course that wider idea also brought in the megabucks for research and 24 billion U.S. dollars now is it have gone into HIV predicated research in the States.
JW: With not a conclusion reached.
NH: Just the conclusions that we've no hope of a vaccine in the foreseeable future; and we've no antiviral drug that does more good than harm.
JW: I would think a vaccine WOULD be pretty impossible actually.
NH: Well, the mainstream do admit that this is a very unusual sort of virus, in fact they call it a quasi-species.
JW: This is because they keep falling into their own holes. It's like saying this is the virus that's mutating so quickly that we can't keep up with it. If it's mutating that quickly how do they know it's mutating that quickly?
NH: And also, how is it that the HIV test is supposed to be so reliable? If it's antibodies to something that mutates every afternoon? The haemophiliac story I think is a terribly interesting one too. Such clear evidence of the HIV positive haemophiliacs returning to normal healthy immune system status in some instances, and as a group stabilising, when their Factor Vlll was cleaned up of all those blood proteins that used to be injected into them on a regular basis. That's a very striking study. But you know one thing that hasn't come up, which I learned something about just before I went off to New York recently, is the question of why the gay community, or at least its leaders, should have persisted for so long with this, as I see it now, illusory idea, and why it should have been so dismissive of a newspaper that was in good heart really doing a lot of good work and incurring a lot of criticism to try to shed light on a complex scientific issue. Why were we ignored or else abused? I met a gay man who worked on the AIDS ward at San Francisco General Hospital in the late 80's, and he gave me a clue. I asked this question of him. Because I could see that perhaps politicians take their lead from scientists, the scientists take their lead from a very small group of scientists, and for that very small group, once a big thing like this has got rolling, it's difficult for them to get back from it, but, why the gay community so hand in hand with all of these other interests? This chap said that he felt that it lay in a lack of self-concept that was common among gay men, and he felt that this arose in many instances from the homophobic attitudes, the repressive attitudes of the past, that prevented a person from just being what they were, as they were, with their sexual or gender predispositions. And this had led to that situation that when AIDS first appeared there was a terrific pressure within the gay community not to have the promiscuous lifestyle linked to AIDS. If it was going to be linked to AIDS it would knock away the basis of a lot of what Gay Lib had been about, Gay Pride and so forth. And there was a great fear also of right wing religious nuts and this sort of thing. They didn't want GRID to be a runner right from the start. So when Gallo came along with HIV there was this terrific immediate constituency that wanted this to be a virus that was going to put EVERYBODY at risk.
JW: Which somewhat goes to explain why this syndrome was recognised in gay men in a way because if you were particularly looking for it in that group in order to explain it away, you'd tend to find it in the group you were looking for it in.
NH: Yes you would. The HIV, the deadly new virus.
JW: The marginalisation of the people with diagnosis starts in the doctor's surgery. If you're a heterosexual man and I'm a gay man and we share the same doctor - in this day and age most doctors know the sexuality of their patients - and if you and I went to the doctor's on the same morning with oral thrush, our treatment would be entirely different. You'd be given some fluconozole and be sent home and told to rest and I'd be persuaded to go down to the clinic and have a test.
NH: Again, a lot of socially constructed AIDS.
JW: Likewise, IV drug users and haemophiliacs are marginalised by their doctorst idea that they're more at risk than anyone else.
NH: Another point that this chap raised that I also found very interesting was that once the theory had come forward and the gay organisations got behind it and the money started rolling in. gay men also benefited from the HIV theory in becoming cross-carriers: "We might die, but at least through our fundraising efforts, through our warnings about safe sex, about the need for everyone to be careful, at least we're going to save the rest of you". And it's only a matter of degree. All of us suffer from these kinds of needs as well, like I mentioned earlier - the medical correspondents loved the idea that they were doing some journalism that actually might help humanity instead of just being the usual stuff that you wrap your chips in on Monday or whatever. It's not a unique factor in the gay community, but according to this guy, a particularly strong one because of that lack of self concept that he sees as being widespread especially among certain gay men who were most vociferous about Gay Pride and that whole thing. He said that when he was a chaplain on those wards at San Francisco General guys who he thought were completely, from their public statements, accommodated to their sexuality, to their gayness, there they were and there was he a gay man and a chaplain, a religious sort of chap, and in that context the mask of gay pride would fall and they would say to him things like, "Pastor, is it really OK to be gay'? Is God angry with me? Is my disease really due to my sin?" This kind of stuff was still inside them.
JW: And HIV has almost in many respects replaced God, hasn't it?
NH: (Laughter) You've jumped a couple of leaps for me on that one! But certainly the sort of need to take on that cross-carrier role and also to avoid having extra guilt hung on themselves by that promiscuity link, both of those factors he was saying were why these gay leaders have been so persistent in holding on to the HIV theory long after it's discredited scientifically.
JW: And this has a lot to do with how the gay press sees it. The gay press is trying to legitimise itself in the eyes of the heterosexual population. So rather than create waves and induce controversy they play directly into the hands of the masses really.
NH: The tragedy is that I think there are good motives, these are good human beings, but as a result of this mistake, an awful lot of people are suffering still. In time I hope that the scientific profession, the medical profession and the journalistic profession will all re-examine their ways of working to try to discover what it was about their ways of working that allowed them to persist with this illusion for so long. I was immensely grateful to Andrew Neil for allowing me to get engaged with such an extremely interesting and important area of science writing. It's probably the most challenging episode on my career, which goes back about thirty years. And although AIDS is a tragedy, and my own misreporting of it in those first four years as I now see I'm not proud of, nevertheless I'm really grateful for having had the chance to try and turn things around having come to the conclusion that the existing paradigm is absolutely flawed. Also, I'm very very pleased about what Continuum, and I think Positively Healthy, are doing over here. After all they're the two organisations that are concerned as health activists and both of them might be thought to have a better chance of having a proper look at these issues, and they're saying that there's a very major problem, that the HIV story doesn't add up. And I find that very encouraging. I think you're ahead of the States in that. I don't think there's comparable work over there.
JW: I think if it's going to change anywhere in the world it's going to change here in Britain. I think Britain will lead the world in challenging the HIV=AIDS theory.
NH: Certainly all around the world the Sunday Times' position, especially after Nature started attacking us so vigorously, became known to scientists. I think there's an awful lot of scientists actually who know that the case for HIV doesn't add up, but they just don't want to invest the energy in taking on the establishment viewpoint. I'm speaking tonight to a group studying the History and Philosophy of Science at UCL. I've already given one talk to that group, where I was simply setting forward the same things that Continuum and Meditel have been doing, and Duesberg, putting forward what the Sunday Times had been doing, and these guys found it an astonishing example of a failed paradigm. It's just a question of time while the mainstream works out how to back off this wounded horse. *