RESULTS FALL SHORT FOR HIV THEORY
By Peter H. Duesberg
Insight 14 Feb. 1994
After more than a decade, the war on AIDS has been a dismal failure. At the 1993
International AIDS Conference in Berlin, even the most dogged researchers were
beginning to admit their frustration and the mood of the conference was generally
As the number of AIDS victims continues to rise, so do the bewildering questions.
Why do so many people infected with the virus remain healthy? Why do
homosexuals manifest radically different diseases than the hemophiliacs to whom
they donated infected blood? Why can we not, as the most technologically
sophisticated biomedical establishment in history, produce a vaccine, as was
previously accomplished for polio, measles and other viruses? Where is a safe,
effective treatment for AIDS?
Such questions are asked not only by the so-called HIV-AIDS dissidents, such as
myself, but also by an increasing number of mainstream AIDS researchers and
concerned scientist, including this year's Nobel laureate in chemistry, Kary Mullis.
The government currently is spending $6 billion annually for AIDS research and
treatment, according to the U.S. Public Health Service. Yet despite spending more
than $22 billion since 1982, and despite a staggering 75,000 scientific papers
written during the last decade, a cure for AIDS remains as elusive as ever. It now
appears likely that AIDS researchers have made a terrible mistake in blaming HIV,
the so-called AIDS virus, for causing AIDS.
This fatal assumption mostly was the result of a rush to judgment in 1984 when
virologist Robert Gallo from the National Institutes of Health, along with the
Department of Health and Human Services, announced at an international press
conference that acquired immune deficiency syndrome was caused by a retrovirus,
now known as human immunodeficiency virus.
The announcement was made in the New York Times before even one American
study on HIV had appeared in scientific literature. It was welcomed by the Reagan
administration as a quick answer to gay pressures for a solution to the growing
AIDS epidemic. Gallo and his collaborators cited antibodies against the virus in
"about 85 percent of patients with AIDS" as the evidence for their hypothesis. Yet
that was their only evidence.
In the scientific papers that followed, HIV was said to cause AIDS by depleting the
white blood cells known as T cells. The hypothesis proposed that HIV would cause
30 previously known diseases, including a number of diseases that are not
consequences of immunodeficiency, such as cancer, weight loss and dementia.
It now appears. that the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is the only link that holds together
the 30 heterogenous AIDS diseases. AIDS is defined as a syndrome that occurs
only in the presence of HIV. For example, if tuberculosis occurs in the presence of
antibodies to HIV, it is AIDS. In the absence of those antibodies, it is tuberculosis.
Given this definition, the link between HIV and AIDS is unfalsifiable.
However, to date, the HIV-AIDS hypothesis remains just that - an unproven
hypothesis. It is supported only by circumstantial evidence, primarily by the claim
that all AIDS patients carry antibodies against HIV. But this correlation is biased by
the practice of excluding from AIDS statistics those patients with AIDS-defining
diseases in whom no trace of HIV can be found. The disease of such a patient will
be diagnosed either by its old name, for example, pneumonia or Kaposi's sarcoma,
or will be called idiopathic CD4 lymphocytopenia. This explains why some
researchers see the "perfect" correlations between HIV and AIDS.
To date the virus-AIDS hypothesis has failed to yield any public health benefits. No
vaccine has been developed and AIDS continues to spread despite efforts to Stop
the spread of HIV. However, the acid test of a hypothesis is not to produce useful
results, but to make accurate predictions.
The HIV-AIDS hypothesis makes the following testable predictions, none of which
has been proved.
AIDS in America would "explode" from the original risk groups via sexual
transmission into the general population. Like all other sexually transmitted
diseases, AIDS would tend to strike an equal share of both genders.
In America, AIDS has remained in the original risk groups - male homosexuals,
male and female intravenous drug users and recipients of transfusions. Since 1981,
90 percent of all American AIDS patients have been males.
The spread of AIDS would follow the dissemination of HIV
Although AIDS increased in America from a few hundred to about 50,000 cases
annually in the last 10 years, HIV did not spread at all. Ever since HIV became
detectable in 1985, an unchanging 1 million Americans have been HIV-positive. To
account for this discrepancy, defenders of the hypothesis claim the virus has a
latency period of 10 years or more.
Health care workers would contract AIDS from their patients, scientists from
propagating virus and prostitutes from their clients, particularly in the absence
of an anti-HIV vaccine or drug.
Not a single confirmed case exists in scientific literature Of a health care worker
who contracted AIDS from one of the more than 250,000 American AIDS patients.
None of the tons of thousands of HIV researchers has developed AIDS from
propagating HIV. And prostitutes have not picked up AIDS from their clients -
despite the absence of antiviral vaccines or effective drugs.
Chimpanzees inoculated with HIV would develop AIDS, and the 15,000 American
hemophiliacs who were infected iatrogenically before 1984 would die from AIDS.
Not one of the 150 chimpanzees inoculated with HIV since 1983 has developed
AIDS. Contrary to the prediction, the median life of American hemophiliacs has
doubled during the last 10 to 15 years after 75 percent (15,000) already had been
infected by transfusions.
Natural or vaccine-induced anti-HIV immunity would cure AIDS or protect
against future AIDS.
Natural antiviral immunity that is observed in many AIDS patients does not protect
It would be demonstrated that HIV causes AIDS by killing the white blood cells
known as T cells.
The hallmark of all retroviruses is that they do not kill cells that they infect. HIV is
the only retrovirus that is asserted to kill its host cell. Several researchers, including
HIV discoverer Luc Montagnier, have found that HIV does not kill its host cell in
All AIDS diseases are the consequence of HIV-mediated T cell deficiency.
About 61 percent of all American AIDS diseases - opportunistic infections such as
Pneumocystis carinii, candida, tuberculosis etc. - are related to breakdown of the
immune system. But 39 percent, including kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma, 10
percent weight loss and dementia, are neither caused by nor consistently associated
with immunodeficiency. Two studies of homosexuals with Kaposi's sarcoma report
that the immune systems of 20 and 19 of the subjects were normal when their
disease was first diagnosed.
AIDS would be restricted by controlling the spread of HIV via "safe sex" and
through programs adopting the use of "clean needles" for the injection of street
AIDS continues to increase despite the safe sex and clean needle programs.
These points, among many others, give me reason to believe that HIV is in fact a
harmless virus. AIDS may be a noninfectious condition "acquired" by recreational
drugs and other noncontagious risk factors.
Even proponents of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, such as Jaap Goudsmit of the
University of Amsterdam, have been forced to admit that "AIDS does not have the
characteristics of an ordinary infectious disease." Indeed, AIDS does not meet even
one of the common criteria of known infectious diseases.
First, all infectious diseases are equally distributed between the genders and never
remain tightly segregated in special risk groups. This is especially true of the
venereal diseases, including herpes, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. This also is
true of hepatitis the blood-borne virus long considered the model for predicting the
spread of HIV. Despite loud publicity to the contrary by vested interests, AIDS has
not been spreading to females as predicted nor to the heterosexual population at
Second, all infectious diseases caused by viruses, the virus infects every individual
with the disease and the virus is abundant and very active in target tissues during
the course of the illness. However, at least 4,621 AIDS cases have been
documented since 1984 in which there is no HIV. About one-third of these, 1,691,
were recorded in the U.S.; 475 were recorded in Europe and 2,555 in Africa. Since
Africa uses only the clinical, rather than the HIV-based AIDS definition, most of
these cases were observed there.
Several scientific teams have also documented that, even in those patients who are
HIV-infected, the virus is usually totally dormant once immune deficiency is
acquired and AIDS appears. Using standard laboratory techniques now available
for decades, the active, infectious form of the virus cannot be isolated from the
blood or other tissues of most HIV-positive AIDS patients. Even the dormant form
of HIV, resting quietly inside infected cells, can be found in only one out of every
1,000 T cells in the patient.
Nor is there a correlation between AIDS and the number of HIV-infected cells.
There are, for example, healthy infected individuals with up to 43 times the rate of
HIV-infected cells in AIDS patients.
Third, infectious diseases typically follow within days or weeks after infection by
viruses, before the immune system has had time to make antibodies against the
invader. This is because all viruses, begin replicating in the body within hours after
infection and multiply into armies of viruses within days or weeks unless stopped
by an antiviral immunity. As a rule, viruses strike quickly or not at all. Although it
has become fashionable among many scientists to believe in special "slow viruses,"
or lentiviruses, which are said to take months or years to multiply, such viruses
have never actually been found.
In those HIV-positive people who eventually develop AIDS, the syndrome appears
only after unpredictable "latent periods" averaging about 10 Years. When HIV first
infects a person, it can reach moderately high concentrations in the blood - yet
AIDS never shows up at that time and T cell levels remain normal. Within days or
weeks, the immune system makes antibodies against HIV, and the virus quickly
disappears, from the blood. Years later, if AIDS shows up at all, the virus rarely
comes back to life and multiplies again.
In other words, AIDS never strikes a patient until years after the active virus has
been permanently eliminated from the body. This strongly suggests that AIDS is
caused by something else.
As an alternative to the HIV explanation, I suggest that AIDS in America and
Europe is caused by the long-term use of recreational drugs and by the toxic effects
of anti-HIV treatments and that African AIDS is an unrelated epidemic caused by
malnutrition, parasitic infections and poor sanitation.
Indeed, AIDS in America and Europe fits all classical criteria of a drug-induced
disease syndrome. Part of the evidence for this hypothesis is that about 30 percent
of all American and European AIDS patients are intravenous drug users. This
group includes nearly all heterosexuals with AIDS. It also includes 80 percent of
America and European babies with AIDS who were drug users before birth
because their mothers injected drugs during pregnancy.
Since 1982, virtually 10 percent of homosexual males with AIDS or at risk for
AIDS have been long-term users of oral, aphrodisiac drugs, particularly nitrite
inhalants that confer euphoria and facilitate anal intercourse. Epidemiological
studies from San Francisco and Vancouver, British Columbia, have just confirmed,
in 1993, that 100 percent of several hundred male homosexuals with AIDS had
used multiple recreational drugs. The immunotoxicity of recreational drugs has been
documented in the literature since 1909.
In addition, some had also used the drug azido-thymidine, or AZT, as an antiviral
agent. AZT was originally developed 30 years ago to kill human cells in
chemotherapy. About 200,000 HIV-positive healthy people and AIDS patients are
currently treated four times daily with AZT and other drugs that attack the DNA
chains within the cell. But these drugs kill all growing cells, particularly those of the
highly proliferative immune system. Thus AZT could, by itself, trigger AIDS.
Indeed, Sigma, an American chemical company, accords AZT the highest warning
against toxicity, a skull with crossbones.
In the United States, recreational drug use has increased during the last decade at
about the same rate as AIDS. For example, cocaine consumption-increased
200-fold from 1980 to 1990, based on the fact that the amount of cocaine seized
by authorities increased from 500 kilograms in 1980 to 100,000 kilograms in 1990.
During the same period, cocaine-related hospital emergencies increased 24-fold
from 3,296 cases in 1981 to 80,35.5 cases in 1990. Note the increase in AIDS and
the rise in cocaine and cocaine-related hospital emergencies run parallel since 1981,
whereas HIV has failed to spread since at least 1984.
This would also explain why 90 percent of American AIDS patients are males,
since, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, males consume about 75
percent of all illicit injected drugs. In addition, homosexual males are virtually the
only consistent users of aphrodisiac drugs such as alkyl nitrites.
Furthermore, we could then explain why AIDS occurs, on average, 10 years after
initiation of risk behavior. The great variations in "latent periods" from HIV to
AIDS may in fact be the time periods required by individuals to accumulate
sufficient drug toxicity to generate AIDS diseases. It takes years of recreational
drug consumption to cause disease, just as it frequently takes 20 years of smoking
to get lung cancer or emphysema.
In view of the multiple failures of the HIV hypothesis, it is high time to look at
alternative hypothesis of causation. But since 1984, virtually every dollar of funding
from the federal government for AIDS research has been devoted to work
premised on the causal role of HIV and awarded only to grant recipients who do
not question that causal role. Such a disproportionate research focus on a single
avenue of investigation could conceivably be justified if it had resulted in
meaningful advance. Yet, sadly, this massive, narrowly targeted expenditure of
public money has not resulted in saving or prolonging a single life. *