INTERVIEW KARY MULLIS
Rethinking AIDS March/April 1994
Editor's Note: Kary Mullis, Ph.D., an early member of our Group and the
recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize (Chemistry) for his invention of the PCR test,
is an outspoken opponent of the HIV-causes-AIDS theory and is strongly
against the use of AZT as therapy. The PCR test is used in all areas of
molecular biology and was invented by Mullis while working in private industry
RETHINKING: We'd like to hear why you don't believe the HIV-causes-AIDS
MULLIS: I think it's simple logic. It doesn't require that anyone have any
specialized knowledge of the field. The fact is that if there were evidence that HIV
causes AIDS-if anyone who was in fact a specialist in that area could write a
review of the literature, in which a number of scientific studies were cited that
either singly or as a group could support the hypothesis that HIV is the probable
cause of AIDS-somebody would have written it. There's no paper, nor is there a
review mentioning a number of papers that all taken together would support that
statement. That's a review that's been requested long ago, in print, by Duesberg, of
the leading lights in the field. If fact, it was in-I don't remember the exact issue, but
it was mentioned in Science that Duesberg brought this up at a meeting, and these
guys, I believe it was Howard Temmin and Smoky Blattner and David Baltimore,
to name a few, said there will be such a paper. Do you remember?
RETHINKING: I recall that. I'm trying to find it, too.
MULLIS: Everyone in the field knows that there's at least some dissension over
whether there's evidence that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS. Is there
somewhere in the literature that there is scientific evidence presented that HIV is
the probable cause of AIDS, and if there is, where is it? Who should be attributed
with the scientific evidence supporting the statement, "HIV is the probable cause of
RETHINKING: What about retroviruses in general? Is there any reason to think
that they're harmful?
MULLIS: There's no reason to think either that they're harmful or that they're
harmless, until somebody shows some reason. People have general ideas about
things that don't have much scientific standing, as far as I can tell. There's a lot of
arm waving about things that people really don't have any experimental evidence
RETHINKING: How do they get away with their so-called arguments?
MULLIS: Because they're working in a vacuum of, like, real scientists. There's
very few of what I regard as real scientists who've paid any interest at all to this
field. The people who were recruited by the so-called war on AIDS were scientists
who generally had nothing else better to do. There weren't a lot of qualified people
who were suddenly attracted to the field. There were simply a lot of people who
had nothing else to get grants for, and they could get grants real easily for this one;
they were by and large people who didn't know very much about the disease, and
didn't care, but they did know how to deal with HIV. Because HIV was a fairly
straightforward kind of thing for molecular biology to approach at the time, and
microbiology was getting real easy, because you just buy a bunch of kits from
suppliers of scientific stuff, you know, get a couple of technicians, and have them
start doing assays that are just cookbook kinds of things.
RETHINKING: And they get funded excessively for it.
MULLIS: Well, they got the same kind of funds that anybody else would get, but it
was easy to get them because there was plenty of money available. You can see
how some young guy could get started. You could order a stripped-down version
of HIV that was not contagious, they assumed-that was lacking some important
part of the virus. And then you could have cell culture people working for you, and
some molecular biology people, and you just start looking at that organism for
anything it has, and then publish papers on it, and become an expert on, say, the
TAT gene, or the REV gene, or something like that.
RETHINKING: What about the epidemiological crowd? They're the ones who
seem to support the case the best...
MULLIS: They don't support it at all. All epidemiology can do for you, at best, is
to show a correlation, and they never did show that very effectively.
RETHINKING: How did AZT get into the formula? It seems really deadly.
MULLIS: Well, as long as somebody thought that HIV caused the disease, then
they would assume that something that would kill HIV would probably cure the
RETHINKING: But why such a powerful cancer therapy, or-what do you want to
MULLIS: It's a cell poison thing. So why?
RETHINKING: Yeah, I don't get it.
MULLIS: I think there was some indication, in some biochemical studies that it
would inhibit reverse transcriptase better than it would inhibit normal DNA
RETHINKING: Yet the ultimate effect is that AZT damages people-it kills them. Is
MULLIS: Yeah. The evidence in animals is that it would. There haven't been any
studies where you just give AZT to a healthy person to see what happens, unless
you're talking about an HIV-positive health person. Then they figure, well, the
thing that killed them eventually was AIDS.
RETHINKING: One of our readers wrote in and said he stopped taking his AZT
and got better.
MULLIS: Yeah, I think that would generally be the case. For somebody who is
just HIV-positive, taking AZT would be the only thing really hurting them.
RETHINKING: What do doctors do? They're caught in the middle. They don't
have any literature to defend themselves if they don't prescribe AZT.
MULLIS: Well, they damn well do, if they want to go look at it.
RETHINKING: Have you experienced any censorship or stifling since you started
speaking freely against HIV and AZT?
MULLIS: No, I think in fact it's just the opposite. It's mostly media people; I don't
care about the academic people. I just finished a week and a half working with
ABC. We've been on a Nightline show with Ted Koppel that should air this week
or next week.
RETHINKING: Do you think there's a change in the media willingness to look at
the other side of this, because of the Sunday Times Versus Maddox?
MULLIS: I don't know...actually, when Jay LaMonica first approached me, he
wasn't approaching me about HIV. He was approaching me about doing a special
just about me. And I told him I thought this was a very important issue that he
would find fascinating if he learned something about it, and he did. I also suggested
that he look at global warming, as another one of these farces that they've made
money from. And the ozone hole; that's another thing just like HIV, where there
was no evidence for it, and yet there was a whole lot of money being spent on it,
and there was fairly catastrophic action being taken internationally about it-without
RETHINKING: There are so many of these around. When I got into this I thought
this was an isolated incident.
MULLIS: It's a general phenomenon in science, and it has to do with the fact that
scientists are middle-class people trying to make a living, and that most of their
funding comes from agencies where the results are really not so important as the
tentative form of the work. Nobody has to cure AIDS to get paid.
RETHINKING: I'd like to get your views on another topic-the CDC [Centers for
Disease Control]. Ellison seems to suggest that CDC has a larger agenda than
MULLIS: Well, CDC from the very outset was fairly interested in seeing an
infectious epidemic spread across the United States, because it gave them power.
They were kind of fading into the background there. They had people, for instance,
watching the spread of the Sabin polio virus through Africa. That's the kind of thing
they were studying, and it wasn't of any interest, anything that was going to get
them on TV....They were in danger of losing funding, back in '82 and '83, and they
were really looking around, hoping something horrible was going to break out.
RETHINKING: Back to a more basic question: does AIDS exist-or what is it?
MULLIS: I think there were a number of diseases that were popping up amongst
the inner-city homosexuals, I'd call them basically, and that are still actually there.
There is such a thing as Pneumocystis pneumonia, and there didn't seem to be any
need for those people get it. I mean, they were getting it for reasons nobody knew.
There were also people getting Kaposi's sarcoma, and those two did not have to be
related by a common cause, although they could have been. I think it's probably
very unlikely that they are. If somebody would come up with evidence showing
that they were connected, I'd be glad to look at it. But in light of the lack of
evidence, I don't think there's any reason to think they do, and therefore there's no
reason to say that AIDS is some kind of disease.
AIDS was a name given to the observation that a lot of inner-city homosexuals
were in fact practicing a fairly gregarious lifestyle-I think that's a better word than
promiscuous, because there was no indication that sexual activity had anything to
do with it.The thing I believe they were doing that was different wasn't that they
were having any particular kind of sexual activity, but that they were associating
nightly with a lot of people who themselves were associating nightly with a lot of
people, who themselves were associating with a lot of people. That's why, I
believe, the homosexuals ended up gathering pretty much all the viruses that the
world had to offer.
See, if you were trying to think of an effective way to expose yourself to every
possible virus that could live on a human being, the way they went about it would
probably have been the way to do it. You couldn't think of a more effective way
than associating-because you don't know how all the viruses spread. We don't even
know the route by which HIV spreads from individual to individual. The only place
we've seen that in any way, and studied it, is the spread from mother to child.
That's a 30 to 50 percent probability, we know. But as for horizontal spread of that
virus from like adult human to adult human, we don't really know how that works.
We don't know that for HIV; we don't know that for other retroviruses. We
assume that there's a countless number of retroviruses out there capable of
parasitizing humans. We don't know how they spread from human to human. If
you don't know that, and you want to get exposed to all of them, the way you do it
is just try to be as close as possible to the largest number of people, and you'd want
those people to be doing the same thing, with people who are doing the same thing.
And that defines the homosexual community in the middle of the seventies in
places like San Francisco and L.A. and New York and Amsterdam and wherever.
RETHINKING: Do you have a strong disagreement with Peter over the drug
hypothesis that he advances?
MULLIS: I just don't see any evidence for that, either. See, he's just picking on
one more different aspect. Fauci thinks it's anal intercourse. Peter thinks it's use of
drugs. I don't think we have any reason to pick one or the other kind of
characteristic of that group of people to whom AIDS seems to come. All we can do
is say, "What is it that's different about them, in terms of their behaviors?" There's
a lot of things that are different. There are a lot of different diseases they're getting,
RETHINKING: What about IV drug users? They also seem to be classified as
MULLIS: Well, IV drug users are also associating themselves in a very intimate
way with a whole lot of people who are associating themselves in a very intimate
way with a whole lot of people. So that's one characteristic that both of those
groups have in common, and the one that I prefer to look at in terms of what might
be causing that constellation of diseases that are called AIDS.
RETHINKING: But as far as you're concerned, an individual living in a relatively
typical American behavior pattern would be incapable of getting AIDS, or
MULLIS: I would think very, very unlikely, yes. But I don't think that because I
think I know what causes it. I have my own theory, but I'm just saying the people
who have gotten it have not come out of that group. The people who have gotten it
have remained those people who were inner-city homosexuals, and now also IV
drug users. But if you call AIDS all of the diseases that are AIDS-type diseases,
then you can't say those things. You can't even compare the drug users and the
homosexuals, because there's no Kaposi's sarcoma coming out of the IV drug use