HIV; REALITY OR ARTEFACT?
By Stefan Lanka
Continuum April/May 1995
An error can never become true however many times you repeat
The truth can never be wrong, even if no one ever hears about it.
For the past 10 years or so it has been the accepted wisdom that the
human immuno-deficiency virus, HIV, causes AIDS. It supposedly occurs in
many body fluids, and its transmission especially in semen and blood to
a new host, triggers a slow but inexorable progression to AIDS and ultimately
death. To infect another cell, HIV must at some stage in its life cycle
exist as a separate and identifiable entity.
What has been ignored and kept from public awareness is, that there
has never been a workable HIV test and that the definition of 'positive'
has always changed according to the views of different organisations dealing
with it, changed also according to the kind of tests used and changed from
laboratory to laboratory performing the tests:
".. Its techniques have not been standardised, and the magnitude
and consequences of interlaboratory variations have not been measured.
Its results require interpretation, and the criteria for this interpretation
vary not only from laboratory to laboratory but also from month to month
The dispute over who discovered HIV (2), was a distraction from the
question of whether the virus actually exists at all. The public was impressed
that if a President and a Prime Minister (3) had to meet to resolve attribution,
then the thing they were negotiating about must be real.
In 1993 a research group from Perth, Australia succeeded in publishing
a paper on the HIV test.(4) Since then anybody could have read for him
or herself that no AIDS test could ever work, because HIV has never been
isolated nor even shown to exist. Since AIDS research and the media have
largely ignored any critique of HIV=AIDS, especially the essential question
of whether HIV really does exist, it is time to call again for a reappraisal
of the whole HIV/AIDS hypothesis. In going back to the origins of HIV virology
and telling the HIV story, a view will be presented which will make clear
that HIV itself, the very object of this Manhattan Project of modern medicine,
AIDS research, does not exist.(5)
A little virology
Viruses are essentially just packages of genetic information enclosed
in a coat which consists of proteins. They can reproduce themselves only
by infecting a suitable host cell and appropriating the chemical machinery
they find there. The proteins making up the viruses are characteristic
for each species of virus. Apart from enveloping and transporting the genetic
information intact, the composition of proteins for a given virus results
in a specific shape for the virus particle.
This much is generally known. Less well-known is the existence of other
particles which look like viruses but aren't, and are nonchalantly referred
to as "virus-like" particles. Such particles are far from rare,
found, for example, always in placentas, and very frequently in the artificial
environment of laboratory cell cultures. They have served to muddy the
waters considerably as far as AIDS research is concerned, because particles
just like these have been called HIV. To date, none of these has been characterised
and shown to exist as an entity which one may justifiably call a virus.
One root of the belief in the AIDS virus
In classical theory DNA encodes the genetic material of heredity, which
is then transcribed into messenger RNA which in turn specifies the assembly
of amino-acids to construct the proteins of all living beings. In 1970
an enzyme (biological catalyst) was discovered in extracts of certain cells
which was capable of converting a molecule of RNA into DNA. This was a
revolutionary discovery, because it overturned a fundamental tenet of molecular
genetics, namely, that the flow of information was strictly one-way and
never reversed. It had hitherto always been thought that DNA was transcribed
(converted) into messenger RNA and that the reverse process from RNA to
DNA was impossible. The enzyme responsible became known as reverse transcriptase
(6) and a lot of new myths arose.
An error of the past: cancer caused by viruses.
It was believed that the new enzyme was a marker for a virus, because
the cells in which it was detected, and which were used to study cancer
(7), were thought to have become cancerous through being infected by a
virus. New to the idea of cancer viruses (8) was that nucleic acid, when
in the form of RNA could be converted into DNA by the enzyme, thus providing
a mechanism for viral nucleic acid to be inserted anywhere in the chromosome
of the cells.(9) These "new" viruses became known as retroviruses.(10)
The insertion of certain retroviral genes was thought to trigger cancer.
The idea that these postulated viruses caused cancer quickly became
"hot news" the world over, but did not survive investigation
(11) and other explanations were sought.(12) The theory did not predict
or explain the dramatic increase in cancer cases, cancer could not be shown
to be transmissible, nor could it suggest any remedy in the form of a vaccine.(13)
Interestingly, the spread of cancer viruses was blamed on homosexuals,
prostitutes and black people, just as AIDS came to be 13 years later.(14)
Whenever and wherever reverse transcriptase activity was detected it
was rashly assumed that retroviruses were at work. This turned out to be
a grave error, because it was later found that the enzyme occurred in all
living matter, proving that reverse transcriptase activity had nothing
to do with retroviruses per se.(15)
Further research showed that at least 10% of mammalian DNA was composed
of repetitive sequences which were referred to as "nonsense genes",
parts of which, nonetheless, were described as "retroviral genes".
They exist in their hundreds if not thousands. Some of them can even replicate
independently and jump within and between chromosomes, and for this reason
became known as retrotransposons.
In the laboratory they can be made to migrate, and when this happens
reverse transcriptase is invariably detected, which underlines the fact
that reverse transcriptase activity has nothing to do with retroviruses
LAV, HTLV-III, HIV and all that
Because all this was already well known in 1983 it is incomprehensible
that Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, a member of Montagnier's group, as well
as Gallo's group itself in 1984, claimed to have discovered a new virus,
when all they did was to demonstrate reverse transcriptase activity, and
to publish photographs of cellular particles without proof that they were
viruses. They could neither isolate them nor show that they were responsible
for creating the observed reverse transcriptase activity nor the tissue
abnormalities from which they were obtained.(17) They concluded: "the
role of the virus in the aetiology of AIDS remains to be determined".(18)
What makes a virus new?
The isolation and purification of a real virus is a straightforward
matter, because unlike cells, viruses of one species are always of the
same size and shape, and can be readily separated from other cell components
by standard techniques. A control experiment is to try an isolation with
putative non-infected material in exactly the same way as the supposedly
infected material. Nothing should be isolated in this case.
To identify a virus definitively, a first and simple step is to photograph
isolated particles of it in an electron microscope, and they must look
like the viral particles observed in cells, body fluids or cell cultures
to distinguish them from other cellular particles which look like viruses,
but are not. Proteins making up the viral coat must then be separated from
each other and photographed. This produces a pattern which is characteristic
of the species of virus. A similar separation and identification procedure
must be gone through for the DNA or RNA of the virus. Only after the viral
proteins and nucleic acid components have been properly identified, is
it legitimate to speak of a new virus.
No evidence for the existence of HIV
Such evidence has up till now never been produced for HIV. No photograph
of an isolated HIV particle has ever been published nor of any of its proteins
or nucleic acids. No control experiments as mentioned above have been published
to date. What has been shown are photographs of virus-like particles in
cell cultures, but none of isolated viruses, let alone of a structure within
the human body having the shape ascribed to HIV. What the whole world has
seen are models representing HIV with dish aerials, said to be receptors
with which the virus attaches itself to cells.
The existence of HIV is inferred from an antibody test, but how this
is supposed to work, when the virus has never been shown to exist and obtained
free of contaminants, remains a mystery.
The AIDS Test
Let us recall that the AIDS test is supposed to detect antibodies produced
by the immune system in response to infection by the virus. This is routinely
done by layering proteins ostensibly from the virus in the wells of a plastic
rack and adding blood serum to be tested to each. If antibodies are present,
they bind to the proteins, and when this happens sophisticated staining
procedures can make this visible. But, because no proteins which are viral
and free from contaminants, have ever been obtained, one cannot be sure
what the antibodies are that bind to the proteins.
This is the crux of the problem facing all HIV (AIDS) tests. The inability
to isolate a viral entity, and to characterise its constituent proteins
unambiguously means that the evidence for the existence of HIV using antibodies
is just arguing in a circle. Antibodies that are detected, are due to other
Why no HIV test is ever able to work
It is consequently quite illogical to claim that a positive test results
from prior contact with the virus.(19) Because various ill-characterised
proteins are involved, every test kit manufacturer applies his own arbitrary
criteria, and no two kits ever give the same result. It makes no difference
that learned committees set standards to decide which tests should be regarded
as "positive" and which not, because this merely skirts round
the problem, namely, to what are antibodies actually being detected in
the AIDS test? It is of no help that nowadays "second" and "third"
generation tests exist using synthetic proteins which give greater consistency
and comparability, because only by an unscientific stretch of the imagination
are they viral proteins!
Neither fudging the true identity of the proteins, nor advocating two
kinds of test - reassuringly but mistakenly described as "search"
and "confirmatory" tests - resolves this difficulty.
The ELISA test is used to screen for antibodies, which is "confirmed"
by the more specific Western Blot. The dilemma cannot be stated more poignantly
than by quoting from the leaflet accompanying one such test kit:
"The test for the existence of antibodies against AIDS-associated
virus is not diagnostic for AIDS and AIDS-like diseases. Negative test
results do not exclude the possibility of contact or infection with the
AIDS-associated virus. Positive test results do not prove that someone
has an AIDS or pre-AIDS disease status nor that he will acquire it".(20)
The direct proof of HIV
Some HIV researchers have tried to circumvent the problem by pointing
to something called "direct" evidence for the virus. All that
this meant, though, was arbitrarily selecting a protein of a certain size
which happened to coincide with that shown in HIV models. The delusion
of such "evidence" was illustrated when the protein later turned
out to be of human origin! (21)
How the genetic information of HIV was manufactured through ...
Despite this deplorable state of affairs the majority of AIDS researchers
still cling to the authenticity of HIV, because a genetic sequence for
it has been published. Moreover, genetic procedures now exist, which, unlike
antibody tests, attempt to identify the presence of HIV more or less immediately,
instead of only weeks later when antibodies are formed. The fact that the
genetic tests (PCR)(22) do not give the same results as the antibody tests
is simply ignored.
Since no virus has been isolated, it follows that no nucleic acid has
been isolated from it either. Complicated procedures are even so described
in the literature, at the end of which something is produced which is called
the nucleic acid of HIV.(23)
...a test tube
HIV and its DNA can allegedly be made by the "bucketful" (24),
but under very surprising conditions which, inter alia, entail the use
of extracts from plants and other oxidising chemicals, which could not
possibly exist in vivo. Immortalised cell lines devised (and later patented)
by the Montagnier and Gallo groups are co-cultured with extracts from human
cells or the cells themselves. At the end of it all HIV itself is not actually
obtained - only reverse transcriptase activity is shown to occur - which
is taken to imply that the DNA that is found, must have been viral in origin.
The real explanation of what happens is as follows. In the mixture of
cell cultures and stressed human cells, RNA and reverse transcriptase come
to be produced in large amounts, because the cells have been specially
selected and treated to do this. The RNA is transcribed into DNA by reverse
transcriptase, and long pieces of DNA are produced which are said to be
viral DNA. In fact they are composed of unrelated pieces of expressed cellular
RNA, transcribed into DNA and linked together by a process of "template
switching" (a well-characterised property of reverse transcriptase).(25)
This misleads ordinary researchers into believing that they have actually
produced viral DNA.
It is said that this linear DNA is the free or the non-integrated form
of HIV, which furthermore is said to be a unique feature of HIV, because
a lot of detectable free linear DNA has not been suggested in any other
models of retroviruses.
...and a selecting process
The resulting pieces of DNA too, are necessarily both shorter and longer
than the "correct" length of HIV. Pieces corresponding to the
"correct" length of HIV must be selected for size, because otherwise
the purported DNA preparation would be a mixture of various lengths, which
would violate a cardinal rule of virology that all nucleic acid of a particular
virus be identical in size.
...and a detecting process
Having artificially prepared DNA pieces of uniform length, they are
still not ready for presentation, because they consist of a mixture of
all kinds of RNA fragments transcribed into DNA and thus cannot be shown
to represent unique viral DNA. Accordingly, the mixture is subjected to
a kind of lock-and-key detection process called hybridisation, whereby
pieces of DNA are detected which complement more or less a probe of that
which it is desired to be shown to have been prepared.
...and choosing a desired probe
Since no DNA from HIV existed to hybridise with the prepared DNA, Gallo
and Montagnier simply used stretches of DNA from what they said was specific
to HTLV-I, a retrovirus Gallo had earlier claimed to have discovered, and
which they deemed suitable for this purpose. The DNA detected in this way
was replicated and certain stretches of it cloned and declared to be the
DNA of HTLV-III (later to be called HIV).
To summarise, the purpose of the exercise is to grow HIV, but it actually
produces a mixture of different lengths of DNA, contrary to theory which
says they should all be identical, and no virus at all. It is then claimed
that the "correct" DNA has been prepared by finding certain strands
in this heterogeneous mix by hybridising them with an HTLV-I DNA probe
whose sequence is known and defined to be similar to HIV. However, non-hybridising
strands of DNA should not be there at all, and the fact that they are,
proves that a complete rag-bag of DNA has been prepared, without any indication
of what it is made up of.
It follows that "HIV" DNA must just be a laboratory artefact
constructed to a preconceived idea of what retroviral DNA should be, and
this assessment does not even raise the question why no virus can be obtained,
whatever the experimental conditions.
Gallo and Montagnier's cloned HIV DNA
One cannot help asking why no-one had not long ago spotted the flaw
in the techniques employed by the Gallo and Montagnier groups. After defining
some segments of DNA to be "HIV"-specific, every researcher in
the field worked exclusively with short, cloned sequences (never the whole
strand) on the reasonable assumption that the original characterisation
had been correctly performed. From the isolation and identification procedure
described above, it follows that the resultant sequences vary widely from
one preparation to the next, which sequence analysts misinterpreted as
the legendary capacity of HIV to mutate. A computer simulated phylogenetic
tree was constructed, which established precisely what its designer sought
(I) Perhaps one reason for this calamitous state of affairs is that
HTLV-III was presented to the world as the cause of AIDS at a historic
press conference on April 23, 1984 (a patent for an antibody test was applied
for on the same day!), instead of making the evidence for it available
beforehand, as correct science demands. The undue haste may be explained
by the fact that both the National Cancer Institute and the Centers for
Disease Control (CDC) had actually one day earlier in a lengthy front page
article in The New York Times on April 22 come out in favour of the French
claim for priority.(27)
(II) Even so, one must admire Gallo's audacity, because using the same
technique he claimed in 1975 to have discovered the first human retrovirus
(HL23), but which turned out to be nothing more than pieces of DNA from
three different sources of contamination.(28) Nowadays, even an undergraduate
would know that if you added DNA to a cell culture, part of the DNA would
be incorporated into the cells without any virus being involved.
What does the AIDS test actually test for?
Since "HIV" has been shown to be a laboratory artefact it
must be assumed that, when not just cross-reacting with other known antibodies,
the "AIDS" test detects antibodies against proteins produced
in the procedure itself. They must be of human origin because the cells
used originated from leukaemic patients. Test positivity, logically, results
from immunological contact with them. However, since positivity actually
correlates with otherwise unrelated factors such as rheumatism and sun
bathing, no specificity can be ascribed to the test.(29) Whether antibody
positivity really correlates with disease as is commonly supposed, remains
to be determined by a critical re-evaluation of the data. Condoms, therefore,
serve only to protect against venereal diseases and as contraceptives,
and worse lull the user into a false sense of security by ignoring real
dangers he may be exposing himself to.
Re-direction of AIDS research
AIDS research is therefore back at square one and not at Basic Science
as suggested elsewhere.(30) The main players have since 1993 begun to slink
off, arguing that the virus having mutated so much is now no longer detectable.
AIDS has therefore to be explained "in the absence of further whole
virus".(31) Apart from the shortcomings of the antibody test, other
misconceptions such as T-cell counting exist, which mean that the whole
concept of AIDS needs to be completely revised.(32) It must be shown that
there is any point in renaming a collection of known diseases as AIDS,
just because someone is positive in the antibody or genetic (PCR) tests.
Leaving HIV out of the picture explains why the epidemiological projections,
which years ago had forecast a world-wide epidemic, have been a complete
failure. Africa in 1986 was held up as a dire warning of what would befall
the Western world. There, AIDS was diagnosed by a combination of clinical
conditions (33) such as chronic fevers, diarrhoeas, coughs and weight loss,
all symptoms of the diseases of poverty, without testing for HIV antibodies.(34)
It should hardly come as a surprise that an entirely different definition
produced a different outcome.
Finally, the effect of a positive test result on mental and physical
health needs to be considered and investigated.(35)
Whatever happens, the use of AZT and other "anti-virals" which
are supposed to target HIV replication, but actually kill cells indiscriminately
(and ultimately the whole body), must be stopped immediately. It is especially
distressing to note that AZT and its analogues preferentially attack those
cells which divide most rapidly, namely, cells in the intestines causing
diarrhoea and malabsorption of food, and in bone marrow, ironically, the
primary production site for cells of the immune system.(36)
The people who need enlightenment
The most important and delicate task is to convince HIV positives that
their test result is not a death sentence, to be generally supportive of
them, to assuage their anxiety, and to help them understand that with appropriate
treatment of any specific disease, they have a good chance to retain or
regain their health. The large number of long-term positives, whose condition
cannot be explained by conventional AIDS theory, as well as the phenomenon
of sero-reversion (return to negative test status), provide eloquent testimony
to this. HIV/AIDS researchers and health officials are herewith called
upon to debate the whole subject of HIV/AIDS openly and humanely, and to
recognise the mistake that immune deficiency was acquired by an infectious
To be able to live a fuller life we have first to regain and then retain
autonomy over our bodies and health from self-appointed experts, who have
dispossessed us of it.(37)
If we refuse to learn from what has happened in AIDS research and related
medical policies, then worse is on the way, some of it is, indeed, here
already.(38) The genetics agenda begun in the 1860's (39) and a primitive
genetic determinism have become established through the availability of
genetic sequences and the ability to manipulate them easily, which are,
in fact, pure fantasy.(40) Furthermore, all models of genetics and associated
technologies, e.g. genome therapy, are based on a one-dimensional, static
model of genetics which is a crass oversimplification, not defensible even
when Mendel first proposed it.(41) *
Health as a Virtue (Ivan Illich):
Health designates a process of adaptation. It is not the
result of instinct, but of an autonomous yet culturally shaped reaction
to socially created reality. It designates the ability to adapt to changing
environments, to growing up and to ageing, to healing when damaged, to
suffering, and to the peaceful expectation of death. Health embraces the
future as well, and therefore includes anguish and the inner resources
to live with it.
Health designates a process by which each person is responsible,
but only in part responsible to others. To be responsible may mean two
things. A man is responsible for what he has done, and responsible to another
person or group. Only when he feels subjectively responsible or answerable
to another person will the consequences of his failure be not criticism,
censure, or punishment but regret, remorse, and true repentance. The consequent
states of grief and distress are marks of recovery and healing, and are
phenomenologically something entirely different from guilt feelings. Health
is a task, and as such is not comparable to the physiological balance of
beasts. Success in this personal task is in large part the result of the
self-awareness, self-discipline, and inner resources by which each person
regulates his own daily rhythm and actions, his diet, and his sexual activity.
Knowledge encompassing desirable activities, competent performance, the
commitment to enhance health in others - these are all learned from the
example of peers or elders. These personal activities are shaped and conditioned
by the culture in which the individual grows up: patterns of work and leisure,
of celebration and sleep, of production and preparation of food and drink,
of family relations and politics. Long-tested health patterns that fit
a geographic area and a certain technical situation depend to a large extent
on long-lasting political autonomy. They depend on the spread of responsibility
for health habits and for the socio-biological environment. That is, they
depend on the dynamic stability of a culture. The level of public health
corresponds to the degree to which the means andresponsibility for coping
with illness are distributed among the total population. This ability to
cope can be enhanced but never replaced by medical intervention or by the
hygienic characterisitcs of the environment. That society which can reduce
professional intervention to the minimum will provide the best conditions
for health. The greater the potential for autonomous adaptation to self,
to others, and to the environment, the less management of adaptation will
be needed or tolerated.
A world of optimal and widespread health is obviously
a world of minimal and only occasional medical intervention. Healthy people
are those who live in healthy homes on a healthy diet in an environment
equally fit for birth, growth, work, healing, and dying; they are sustained
by a culture that enhances the conscious acceptance of limits to population,
of ageing, of incomplete recovery and ever-imminent death. Healthy people
need minimal bureaucratic interference to mate, give birth, share the human
condition, and die. Man's consciously lived fragility, individuality, and
relatedness make the experience of pain, of sickness, and of death an integral
part of his life. The ability to cope with this trio autonomously is fundamental
to his health. As he becomes dependent on the management of his intimacy,
he renounces his autonomy and his health must decline. The true miracle
of modern medicine is diabolical. It consists in making not only individuals
but whole populations survive on inhumanly low levels of personal health.
Medical nemesis is the negative feedback of a social organization that
set out to improve and equalize the opportunity for each man to cope in
autonomy and ended by destroying it.
This article is dedicated to Ivan Illich and Thomas McKeown:
had their writings been taken more seriously the world would have been
spared the AIDS panic as well as other perversions. I would also like to
thank Volker Gildemeister (Meditel, London) for translation and constructive
criticism, and of course, my family, Hans-Walter Wiegand and other friends
too numerous to list, for all their support.
1 Klemens B. Meyer and Stephen G. Pauker. 1987. Screening
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2 John Crewdson. The Great AIDS Quest. Special report.
Nov. 19. 1989. Chicago Tribune.
3 Frankel, Mark; Mary Hager, Theodore Stanger. July 25
1994. The End of a Scientific Feud. Newsweek.
4 Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Valendar F. Turner, John
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Bio/Technology 11: 696-707.
5 A similar article was published in a German monthly:
Stefan Lanka. 1994. Fehldiagnose AIDS? Wechselwirkung, Aachen, December,
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9 Weiss R. et al. 1982. RNA Tumor Viruses. Cold Spring
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10 Bishop J.M. 1978. Retroviruses. Ann. Rev. Biochem.
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14 see ref 11
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17 Robert C. Gallo et al. 1984. Frequent detection and
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18 Francoise Barre-Sinoussi et al. (including. L. Montagnier).
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19 see ref 4
20 Bio-Rad, 1989.
21 see ref 4
22 Just how little confidence is placed in the validity
of such tests is revealed by the caveats in the leaflet accompanying one
of them: "The Amplicor HIV-1 PCR test has been tested using whole
blood specimens only. Performance with other specimens has not been evaluated
and may result in false negative or false positive results... Detection
of HIV-1 may be dependent on the amount of proviral DNA in the specimen.
This may be affected by specimen collection methods and patient factors
such as age, disease status and risk factors etc. As in any diagnostic
test, results from Amplicor HIV-1 test should be interpreted with consideration
of clinical and laboratory findings." It will become clear later why
whole blood rather than serum is used for this test, all the more so as
the purpose of the test is to detect transmissible virus particles which
should not have anything to do with the presence or absence of blood cells.
This all the more significant, since a major form of HIV transmission is
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