Next week medical scientists from all over the world gather in San Francisco for the Sixth International AIDS conference. It's just over two years since Dispatches first argued that the conventional wisdom on AIDS was misguided and that the virus HIV was not the cause of the disease at all. The programme won Britain's top award for television journalism. Tonight, Dispatches returns to the AIDS trail and goes even further, arguing that AIDS as we know it may well not even be infectious. But a word of caution, tonight's programme does not argue that all thoughts of safe sex can now be discounted. Indeed, for high risk groups, safe sex may well be the Government's only accurate piece of advice. But until we accept that all the orthodox AIDS thinking could be wrong, we shall continue to be victims of THE AIDS CATCH.

It was here at Berkeley campus, University of California, that the genetic structure of a newly identified group of viruses was first discovered by Professor Peter Duesberg and his colleagues. They came to be called retroviruses and can live harmlessly in their host cell. When the retrovirus HIV was announced as the cause of AIDS, Peter Duesberg's 25 years of experience in the field convinced him that HIV couldn't destroy the immune system in the way that was being claimed. In other words HIV could not cause AIDS.

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "I don't think we have found the cause of AIDS. If we had found it' we would have stopped AIDS, we would be treating people with AIDS successfully curing them and we would have predicted or we could make more accurate predictions how AIDS is spreading or behaving or who is going to be infected by it. None of this has been accomplished, that's the hallmark of a poorly grounded hypothesis, the virus AIDS hypothesis."

Six years have passed since the first claims were made about HIV and the HIV issue remains even more in doubt. In fact everything we currently accept about AIDS can be turned on its head. An increasing number of leading scientists are now questioning HIV as the cause of AIDS.

DR. WALTER GILBERT; "One of the difficulties with describing the virus to be the cause of AIDS is that one has not demonstrated clearly, that the virus will cause AIDS in an experimental animal and that gap in our findings at the moment produces a question."

DR. HARRY RUBIN: "I don't think the cause of AIDS has been found. I think in a disease as complex as AIDS that there are likely to be multiple causes. In fact, even to call it a single disease when there are so many multiple manifestations seems to me to be an oversimplification."

DR. GORDON STEWART: "I think assuming that HIV is the sole cause, the exclusive cause, it's the wrong model."

This programme traces evidence that contradicts HIV as the cause of AIDS. We question whether AIDS is an infectious disease at all, and tell the stories of long term survivors of HIV and AIDS who are in perfect health like Tom, HIV positive for 8 years; and Anna also HIV positive 8 years. Sam who has Kaposi sarcoma, an AIDS disease but no trace of HIV.

We talk to Michael Callen, HIV positive 8 years with AIDS symptoms in the past but fit and well now. And Ron Webeck who had HIV and an AIDS linked brain disease but there's no trace of either now.

First of all we must distinguish between AIDS and HIV. AIDS is a syndrome we shall argue is not infectious and HIV, a retrovirus which is infectious, though extremely difficult to transmit, has nothing to do with AIDS and is simply an indication of high risk behaviour.

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "HIV does very little in a human host. It infects it with great difficulty, this is because it's very hard to pick up from somebody, and once it infects, it spreads mildly, or poorly into a few T cells, and B cells, lymphocites and occasionally then during that original spread before the immune system responds to it, may cause a glandular fever. That has been reported in a few studies, very rare apparently. And from then on it's neutralized by the immune system within a couple of weeks or months after the infection and it does nothing anymore for the rest of your life."

Of the millions of T cells that form part of our immune system, HIV is only capable of infecting one in 500 T cells where it lies dormant. And HIV actively infects at most one in 10,000 T cells. Every two days the body regenerates T cells at a rate of 5% ­ 500 times faster than HIV can actively infect them. So HIV can't be seen to do any harm in the body and can live happily in its host cell.

If HIV is so ineffectual, why then is it the accepted view that it's the cause of AIDS? We put this to Harvard molecular biologist Professor Walter Gilbert.

DR. WALTER GILBERT: "The general public accepts what the media tells them and the media has blown up the virus as the cause of AIDS and the scientific community, parts of it ­ have blown up the virus as the cause of AIDS, because it is more convenient to have a neat explanation than to be in that situation which we often are in science at which the problem, the questions still face us and our knowledge proceeds gradually to overcome those difficulties."

JAD ADAMS: "I think people want to believe in HIV. People have profound feelings about HIV and what I ­ I call them HIV fundamentalists."

Author of AIDS ­ THE HIV MYTH one of the first books to challenge HIV as the cause of AIDS, Jad Adams has long been suspicious of the HIV hypothesis and in particular of the way the virus was brought to public attention.

JAD ADAMS: "HIV was announced to be the cause of AIDS at a press conference in America, in April of 1984.

Health Secretary Margaret Heckler made the announcement to a packed news conference.

MARGARET HECKLER: "The probable cause of AIDS has been found."

She then introduced the scientist who led the team, Dr. Robert Gallo.

JAD ADAMS: "It was rather interesting that that press conference was held before publication in the scientific papers in scientific press which is almost always the precursor of a discussion about whether you've genuinely got the cause, whether you've genuinely got a discovery."

In Paris at the Pasteur Institute where HIV was first identified even Professor Luc Montagnier who pioneered early HIV work has moved away from the notion that HIV on its own can cause AIDS. Had he always believed it was sufficient to cause the disease?

DR. LUC MONTAGNIER: "At first yes, we thought we had the best ­ the best candidate, this virus ­ for this virus to be the cause of AIDS. But after a while, even from the beginning actually, we ­ we thought maybe, for the activation of that virus in cells, we had to - we need - some co­factors. So I would agree that HIV by itself, or some strains of HIV are not sufficient to induce AIDS."

If the role of HIV is now being questioned by leading scientists, how does that affect the way we look at AIDS? What in fact IS AIDS?

In 1987 the Centre for Disease Control in Atlanta USA, revised and broadened its definition of AIDS, listing 25 diseases. So many different diseases points away from one single viral cause argues Peter Duesberg.

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "AIDS is a collection or syndrome of 25 old diseases, conventional diseases. Not one of them is new. They've all been known for centuries, or at least for decades. With the provision that you have to find antibody to HIV or you ­ or virus or some other traces of that virus, when they are found then those who believe in the virus as the cause of AIDS, say, those 25 diseases, any one of them or combination of them, are caused by the virus. For example, if you have tuberculosis and you find HIV, they say HIV has done it. Eighty years ago, a hundred years ago Robert Koch used to say tuberculosis bacillus has done it."

AIDS doesn't seem to behave like an infectious disease because it remains within the high risk groups. In the USA, 92% and in the UK 95% of those who get AIDS are men who are either intravenous drug users active homosexuals or both. No infectious agent could be that selective. So is AIDS infectious at all? Before discussing this we should take a careful look at what we've most often been told about HIV and AIDS and clear up some existing misconceptions.

Most of us have heard that if you got HIV you would certainly get AIDS and would certainly die; it was simply a matter of when.

DEPT. OF HEALTH AD: "It is a deadly disease and there is no known cure. The virus can be passed during sexual intercourse with an infected person. Anyone can get it, man or woman.."

And the latency period between infection and full blown AIDS has been stretched from one year to five years to ten years and now some suggest even longer depending on risk behaviour. The goalposts are constantly being moved and more and more contradictions to the viral AIDS hypothesis are emerging. For example only a small proportion of HIV positive people ever develop full blown AIDS. In the USA in any one year only 1.5% of the estimated HIV positives get AIDS. This means that 98.5% don't get AIDS.

TOM: "I believe I have been HIV positive since at least 1982 because I was with my lover at that time who died of AIDS in 1984. I have no symptoms whatsoever."

TOM: "I routinely exercise and go to work every day and do everything anyone else would do. What very often you hear on the media is enough to scare the life out of you. Of course they say if you're just positive you have AIDS that ­ that one's hard to get over, the discrimination and hysteria.

Anna discovered she was HIV positive three years ago but she is sure she has had HIV since the early 80s in San Francisco where she took drugs from the age of 14 to 21.

ANNA: "I was for a while an intravenous drug ­ drug user, although it's now six ­ over six years since I injected any drugs at all. When I was first diagnosed I thought I'm going to die, this is it, and I'd been listening to everything that was being said on the television that ­ that we were reading in the papers, and the message was, and still is very much, HIV equals AIDS equals death. Since I've known I was positive, since my diagnosis, I've had no health problems at all, really."


Kaposi sarcoma or KS has always been one of the key diseases associated with AIDS, producing purple lesions on the skin and internally. Sam has KS but is amongst a growing number of men who have Kaposi's sarcoma but no trace of HIV.

At New York University Medical Centre, Sam's doctor, Dr Alvyn Friedman­Kien was one of the first physicians to associate Kaposi's sarcome with AIDS.

DR. ALVYN FRIEDMAN­KIEN: "In the beginning of the epidemic one of the first things that we noticed was this unusual tumour occuring in gay men. Since that time of course we have seen an enormous number of Kaposis sarcomas cases in patients who are HIV infected individuals. And more recently discovered that there were several patients who are gay men with Kaposis sarcoma who are not HIV infected."

Sam had wanted to be tested for HIV because he felt he was leading a high risk lifestyle, including taking poppers, a dangerous substance called amyl nitrite that is inhaled.

SAM: "I have a background of having had a lot of promiscuous sex with both men and women over a period of many years. And with all of the people coming down with AIDS I thought that I was in a risk group and that I had every reason to think that I might have AIDS. I was ­ I thought it was even probable that I did, so I was very interested in having an HIV test and I wouldn't really have been surprised if it was positive. Fortunately it was negative."

Dr Friedman Kien is convinced that his HIV negative patients do not have AIDS but a benign form of Kaposi's sarcoma caused by an organism other than HIV.

Dr. Robert Root­Bernstein has been making a special study of KS and believes that Kaposi's sarcoma of itself without HIV can produce an irreversible AIDS type condition.

DR. ROBERT ROOT­BERNSTEIN: "The existence of Kaposis sarcoma patients who are HIV negative suggest to me that there are causes of AIDS other than HIV. In fact, I've just completed a study of Kaposis sarcoma that goes back to the very first paper ever published on the subject by Mort Kaposi in 1872, and it shows that in fact there are hundreds of Kaposis sarcoma patients matching the CDC definition of AIDS for over a century. These patients are not elderly men, these are teenage boys, they are young men in their 20s and 30s, they are often described as being previously healthy."

The USA's Centre for Disease Control's definition of AIDS states that men under sixty with Kaposi's sarcoma who have not been tested for HIV or whose tests are inconclusive have AIDS. Would Dr Friedman Kien's patients with Kaposi's sarcoma and no HIV be defined as having AIDS?

DR. ALVYN FRIEDMAN­KIEN: "At this particular time the CDC, the Centre for Disease Control, and other scientists and ­ and epidemeologists around the country are reconsidering the definition of AIDS to perhaps change the definition not to include Kaposis sarcoma as a definitive diagnosis."

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "They once more would have to redefine AIDS. They have to move the goal posts again, which they ­ they have a lot of practice in that. They have done that almost every year, they have revised and altered the definition of AIDS. They have ­ every year they have extended the latent period, they have added diseases until '87, now they start subtracting them again."

As the AIDS edifice begins to crumble more anomalies emerge. UK Government predictions said there would be 17,000 AIDS deaths by 1992. This has now been slashed to 5,000 ­ that's by more that two thirds. And the number of predicted AIDS cases has been halved.


Stage performer Michael Callen has had HIV and AIDS symptoms since 1983.

MICHAEL CALLEN: "I'm sure that I became infected like most other gay men who have AIDS. I was very, very active in the, in the sexual revolution of the late '70s and early 80s."

REPORTER: "How was the state of your health in general now?"

MICHAEL CALLEN: "It's a paradox of AIDS. I'm healthier now than I've ever been, I mean, I have Kaposis sarcoma, I have bacterial pneumonia at least once a year, I've had herpes zoster, I have some immune complex problem and for a while they thought I had lymphoma, but since I practice safe sex rigorously now, I no longer get the flus and the colds and the drips and the rashes that were part of being a gay man in the 70s and being sexually active. And you just didn't really notice them.

REPORTER: "Do you think HIV is the cause of AIDS?"

MICHAEL CALLEN: "No I have never believed that HIV or any other single event, single agent could account for a disease of this complexity and diversity."

Ron Webeck has another extraordinary story to tell. In 1985 he was a waiter in Cape Cod when he began to lose vision, couldn't add up properly and started falling over. He was diagnosed as having HIV and an AIDS related viral brain disease called PML. He became gravely ill.

RON WEBECK: "Well, I felt that I was going to die and I actually asked the doctors to send me home because I wanted to die at home. Well several weeks had passed and then I realized that it would be worse if I died without trying. So, and also the fact that I had to try for other people who loved me. So I started fighting back."

Ron has made an excellent recovery and both viruses have completely disappeared.

RON WEBECK: "In February of 1989 and June of 1989 I was tested at the National Institute of Health at which time they found no trace of the AIDS vi ­ or HIV virus - in my spinal fluid or my blood, along with no trace of the JC virus that causes the brain disease, both viruses were gone."

The threat of the heterosexual spread of AIDS has succeeded in frightening the general public. In some young people's mind's sex now equals death. The heterosexual threat is also used to squeeze more funding for the lucrative HIV based research projects that are under way. Professor Gordon Stewart one of the few voices in the UK that has questioned the HIV hypothesis, has made a special study of AIDS predictions.

DR. GORDON STEWART: "Well the main prediction was that there would be a tremendous spread by heterosexual transmission and that has not occured. Not in America, not here, as far as I know not anywhere, Africa is something else. And then the follow on from that was that there would be because of that a global pandemic and that has not happened either."

HIV is not behaving like a newly introduced sexually transmitted virus which be expected to spread like wild fire.

In a recent US Armed Forces Survey of over a million 17­19 year old men and women HIV was found very rarely indeed a steady 0.03 % over 5 years.

DR. ROBERT ROOT­BERNSTEIN: "I seriously doubt that AIDS will become a epidemic in the heterosexual population. If I'm right that you have to have other co­factors before HIV becomes lethal or in fact perhaps HIV isn't even necessary, essentially a person who has no risk factors isn't going to get AIDS."

At the San Francisco AIDS Foundation a campaign has been launched to raise $400 million dollars to help fight the spread of AIDS over the next 3 years. But even the Foundation's press officer admits the actual figures for heterosexual spread are not there.

RENE DURAZZO: "Here in San Francisco we have yet to see a massive spread of the virus into the heterosexual population. We're still looking at individuals who are injection drug users, individuals who are partners of injection drug users, namely women as still being the individuals who are primarily getting infected in terms of the heterosexual population."

At San Francisco General Hospital epidemiologist Dr Andrew Moss admits that there are few hard facts on heterosexual AIDS.

DR. ANDREW MOSS: "We don't know how fast it's spreading heterosexually and we won't know how fast it's spreading and what's likely to happen without some more knowledge about those areas."

How do you feel about the general predictions concerning the spread of AIDS?

DR. ANDREW MOSS: "I think most official predictions about the spread of AIDS have been consistently wrong in this country, and in Britain and in the world, and I think that there's two reasons for that. One is a lot of very bad science was done, and the other is that political pressures to have high numbers. All administrative numbers are political. And that usually inflates from the opposite direction, and I think it's been hard for people to back away from their high numbers."

Inflated predictions involving the transmission of HIV and AIDS through women have had to be revised Prostitutes were quickly focused on but a UK survey involving 250 prostitute women over 5 years at St. Mary's Hospital in London showed only three to be HIV positive. Two were intravenous drug users and one the partner of an i/v drug user. The three are said to be in good health.

AIDS figures are not reliable and AIDS itself is not behaving in the way it is supposed to, in fact it isn't behaving like an infectious disease at all.

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "I believe that AIDS is not, or cannot even be an infectious disease. See, an infectious disease believe it or not has a certain criteria to it. How it happens, when it happens, for example, if you get infected by a bug or by a virus within weeks or months after a contact or after that infection you will have symptoms of a disease. In HIV and AIDS however, we are told you get sick ten years later, ten years after infection. That is not how viruses or bacteria even work. They work fast or never, they are very simple mechanisms like a little clock that can do only one thing, go around the dial once and that takes 24 to 48 hours with a virus. There's no way that virus could possibly slow down or wait a week or wait ten years That is totally absurd."

"The second reason why I think AIDS cannot be an infectious disease is there is no precedent, there is no chance that a microbe, particularly a virus that small could be that picky and selective as the cause of AIDS must be. AIDS is restricted, ever since we know it, to only two major risk groups, not the general population. Namely, the intravenous drug users and a small percentage of male homosexuals"

JOHN LAURITSEN: "In my opinion AIDS is not consistent with an infectious disease and the reason why is that the risk group proportions have hardly changed at all in the last 8 years. In other words, the proportion of AIDS cases accounted for by gay men or by intravenous drug users is virtually identical now to what it was 8 years ago. This is a total contradiction with the notion of an infectious venereal disease, the prevailing viewpoint. Infectious diseases always spread and yet AIDS has not spread. It's remained rigidly compartmentalised."

For many scientists it's difficult to move away from the idea that AIDS is infectious. Recognising now that HIV can't do the whole job alone yet not wanting to let HIV go altogether Professor Luc Montagnier is looking for other infectious agents that might act as co­factors with HIV. He's recently proposed mycoplasmas which are small bacteria.

DR. LUC MONTAGNIER: "Perhaps, in order to have the disease we need more than one agent with a second infection by mycoplasma or some kind of specific interaction between the virus and mycoplasma in order to have this burst of destruction of cells which we see ­ we see in its patients. So there are many possibilities, still, I think we are still in a very - at the very - beginning of understanding AIDS."

At the US Armed Forces Institute of Pathology, Dr Shyh­Ching Lo has also been working on a separate mycoplasma as a possible cause or co­factor in AIDS.

How does Peter Duesberg view these co­factor theories?

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "I think there's no chance for co­factor, an infectious co­factor period. Be it a mycoplasma or another virus or bacterium. A mycoplasma, you would expect to be effective weeks or months after infection like all other bacterial infections and a mycoplasma would spread heterosexually and homosexually alike, it would spread randomly in the population and AIDS doesn't."

Physician and microbiologist Dr Joseph Sonnabend treats many AIDS patients in New York He has long made his doubts about HIV known and believes AIDS stems from multiple factors involving risk behaviour that includes infectious components.

DR. JOE SONNABEND: "I would believe that the infectious components are a variety of common or well known infections including virus infections such as cytomegalovirus infection, sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis and a variety of other common infections which are known to have immune suppressive components. In the cities in which AIDS did occur there certainly were quite extensive changes. And these were changes of a quantative nature rather than a qualitative nature and this simply means that the opportunities for promiscuous or anonymous sex increased enormously. As a result the prevalence of different pathogens, different pathogenic organisms increased to that even single exposures would be associated with the acquisition of some infection."

But Peter Duesberg maintains the infectious element is a secondary phase.

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "AIDS is primarily not an infectious disease, as it's thought of, it's primarily a result of, I suspect of intoxication. Acquired immune deficiency as the word actually says, in AIDS you acquire it by consuming drugs, malnutrition that is linked to it often or typically linked to it. Once that has happened, once you are immune deficient, then you are open to many infections that are secondary or opportunistic as we say. That is not, therefore an infectious disease, it is the result of that."

What specific factors can bring about the irreversible breakdown of the immune system and are versatile enough to cause other conditions included in the AIDS syndrome? Conditions that have nothing whatsoever to do with immune suppression, like lymphoma, a tumour which can be malignant, encephalitis, a brain inflammation and Kaposi's sarcoma which is now thought not even to be linked with HIV?

In the seventies when the gay liberation movement took off, young men flocked to New York and San Francisco where they met up in bath houses and discos. Writer and chronicler of the gay movement, John Lauritsen takes up the story.

JOHN LAURITSEN: "They went to discotheques or leather clubs and other places where they would take drugs and not just a few drugs, not innocuous drugs, but they might take six different drugs in the course of an evening. And we don't know really the con ­ the consequences of these drugs, but they would include poppers which are nitrite inhalants, MDA which is a designer drug, even Ecstasy and Special K which are other designer drugs, they would include ethyl chloride a deadly substance which is inhaled, it would include also cocaine and heroin and marijuana and alcohol, and if people took a half a dozen of these things in the course of an evening, who knows what the interaction effects are, who knows what the long term effects of any one of them is separately."

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "My hypothesis is that AIDS is caused by non infectious agents. And the non infectious agent that I consider most likely as causes of AIDS are, in part, the psychoactive drugs which are imported and consumed in ever larger quantities ever since the Viet Nam War in this country and probably also Europe."

DR. GORDON STEWART: "I've always thought and indeed since 1983, I've been saying that drugs play a major part in the development of AIDS. Now they do so in various ways because there are various kinds of drugs involved and they don't all apply to the same risk groups. There are above all I think the nitrites, which we know are very toxic indeed to the cellular components of the immune system. I don't think there's any argument about that and they can cause various other kinds of cellular damage too. I would think this factor is so important that could, it could in itself produce a state of affairs which is not unlike AIDS as we now know it."

Apart from the obvious dangers of intravenous drug use, amyl and butyl nitrites, inhaled while dancing and during sex, used to come in one dose phials called "poppers" but were soon available over the counter in screw top bottles allowing unlimited inhaled doses.

DR. ROOT BERNSTEIN: "Amyl and butyl nitrites in the kinds of doses that they are used, particularly by gay men, have been shown in various studies to be immunosuppressive."

REPORTER: "Do poppers combine with any other drugs that might be being taken?"

DR. ROOT BERNSTEIN: "Yes. Poppers combine with antibiotics such as penicillin and tetracycline both in the test tube and in living human beings and animals to create carcinogens. These may be the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma."

So if intravenous drugs, poppers and over medication with antibiotics play such an important role in AIDS, why have they received so little attention? Why has HIV caught all the attention?

JOHN LAURITSEN: "The profit motivator is very, very powerful here. There are hundreds and hundreds of billions of dollars at stake in the HIV hypothesis, or for that matter, in the case of poppers. At one time the gross profits from poppers were fifty million dolars a year. So therefore most people can, at least a lot of human beings can be bought off."

Meanwhile the powerful HIV juggernaut thunders on making more and more claims. Claims for example that HIV causes AIDS in needlestick accidents. There is not one single confirmed case of AIDS from a needlestick injury anywhere in the world.

There are also claims that HIV causes AIDS and death in the babies of HIV positive mothers ­ the majority of whom are intravenous drug users; through blood transfusions ­ which are themselves immune suppressant and in people with haemophilia ­ a condition also associated with immune suppression.

Heterosexually spread HIV is also blamed for the AIDS type Slims disease in Africa. But the manifestations of AIDS in Africa, high fevers, malaria, dysentry and bacterial infections are very different from AIDS as it's described in the West and are consistent with pathogenic assault and malnutrition that are already endemic in some Third World countries. Vested interests in HIV technology have prevented any proper controlled trials to discover whether HIV really is causing all these diseases.

So there is no proof that any of these severely ill patients, grouped together under the HIV/AIDS banner, are dying of HIV infection rather than one of the 25 'old' diseases described as the AIDS syndrome. In the only small trial we could find in haemophiliacs those who were HIV positive and those who were negative had exactly the same incidence of disease. Yet prejudice, discrimination and fear continue to escalate around HIV. Children and adults with haemophilia presumed to have been infected with HIV, through injection of blood products are particularly vulnerable to this type of discrimination.

University lecturer, Dick James has haemophilia. He's been HIV positive for 8 years.

DICK JAMES: "I have a full time job, I have friends, I do most kinds of things most people do. I've a very busy life as a matter of fact."

REPORTER: "Do you think HIV positive people are discriminated against?"

DICK JAMES: "Oh, quite certainly, discrimination in terms of , I'll be charitable, benign neglect, by government or governments relative in action concerning the epidemic. And certainly more obvious things like the ­ the increasingly famous immigration laws in the United States that prevent people from coming to our country. There are of course less restrictive laws on the books of many countries and so there are some countries that I'd find it difficult to travel to also."

This is just one example of the gross discrimination shown towards HIV positive people. If HIV has nothing to do with AIDS and AIDS is not infectious we are living through one of the biggest scientific errors in history. One of Peter Duesberg's greatest concerns is the fact that HIV positive people with and without symptoms are being prescribed the highly toxic drug AZT which can cause bone marrow depletion and symptoms identical to AIDS itself.

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "The mechanism of ­ action of AZT is embarrasingly clear and simple. It is a terminator of DNA synthesis. DNA is the basis for all life on this planet. It's the central molecule in every living cell."

Author of a recent book describing the dangers of AZT, John Lauritsen has made a careful study of the AZT drug trials. His findings were originally published in a series of articles in the New York Native.

JOHN LAURITSEN: "Well, I have examined all of the major studies which are us to claim benefits for AZT. Without exception I would say these studies prove nothing. They have been in one respect or another incompetent and/or dishonest, but I would maintain that there is no scientifically credible evidence whatsoever that AZT has benefits for anybody under any circumstance."

REPORTER: "What do you think of the current trials looking into the long term effects of AZT?"

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "Well, I think they will just show again that AZT is toxic. If you give less it will take longer to kill somebody with it or kill its susceptible cells with it and if you take more it goes faster."

So far no one has lived longer than three years on AZT and it's very difficult to know whether a patient is dying of AIDS or the toxic effects of the drug.

With so many lives at stake and not a single one saved through the HIV hypothesis, there's been astonishingly little debate about alternative causes of AIDS. Big money invested in HIV technology has had its influence. Have financial interests helped stifle the debate about AIDS?

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "Unfortunately, yes. Their financial interests are very obvious. Most of my colleagues I'm arguing with or debating with, or trying to debate with, most of them don't want to dignify me with an answer, are millionaires ­ stockholders in companies, consultants, award winners. They win awards at the same rate as Boris Becker and Ivan Lendl. Every 2 or 3 months they get an award for the virus causing AIDS so they are orders of magnitude ahead of those who don't believe in the virus hypothesis and live on regular university salaries."

It might be difficult for scientists but why have medical journalists been so slow to contest the received views about HIV and AIDS?

JAD ADAMS: "Medical journalists in particular seem to think that the public are best served by giving them unadulterated information which comes direct from the government. It's something that, that no other journalist does; journalists working on economics or on transport want to give both sides of the story and if the government says something then the first thing they're going to do is ask a question about it."

DR. HARRY RUBIN: "I think it's important to ­ to question accepted wisdom and especially in a public health case like this. I think it's dangerous for the public not to question the conventional wisdom. It is dangerous for some of the people who speak out most loudly and most authoratatively."

DR. ROBERT ROOT­BERNSTEIN: "If HIV is not the cause of AIDS, the long term implications could be disastrous. We may end up developing vaccines which will prevent HIV infections but not prevent AIDS."

And if AIDS is not infectious ­ what then?

DR. PETER DUESBERG: "The implications would be very serious, very, very serious in fact. Millions of lives that could have been saved won't be saved if we work on an ungrounded or poorly grounded hypothesis. AIDS prevention, which is now entirely based on preventing contacts with infected people would take a totally different direction."

DR. WALTER GILBERT: "The community as a whole doesn't listen patiently to critics who adopt alternative viewpoints. Although the great lesson of history is that knowledge develops through the conflict of viewpoints. If you have simply a consensus you ­ it generally stltifies, it fails to see the problems of that consensus and it depends on the existence of critics to break up that iceberg and permit knowledge to develop. This is in fact one of the under pinnings of democratic theory. It's one of the basic reasons that we believe in notions of free speech and it's one of the great forces in terms of intellectual development."

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