Media must admit culpability in entrenching HIV causes AIDS hypothesis

18 April 2001

Media coverage of the interim report of the Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel has been superficial and shows a complete deviation from balanced journalistic scrutiny expected in democracies.

The time has come for the media to accept its culpability in entrenching HIV/AIDS dogma which has unleashed unrold misery and suffering on millions of people in Africa and other parts of the world. The fact is that HIV/AIDS science is riddled with contradictions.

The media promotes anybody who questions the established thinking about AIDS as denying a holocaust. One area of consensus in the panel was the impossibility of getting accurate statistics on the number of people dying in Africa from whatever cause, let alone a virus which has yet to be isolated.

This contradiction is reflected in the US-based Population Reference Bureau's 2000 World Population Data Sheet released in August 2000.

It estimated that HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa was 7.1%, while at the same time reporting that it had the fastest-growing population of any major region in the world and Africa as a whole gained 250 million people!

The interim report deserves to be treated with the greatest care, attention and analysis possible. Instead, the media has dismissed it with derogatory comments from HIV/AIDS supporters and its own editorials. What we have seen is a number of common, but poorly substantiated conclusions.

The media has said the report reflects a government stance that HIV causes AIDS. This was stated by, among others. Professor Hoosen Coovadia on SAfm on April 4. There was no such statement anywhere in the report, nor was it made by the Health Minister on the day it was released. Also, Coovadia is not a government spokesperson.

The message from the Minister of Health was clear and unambiguous: "Pending the outcome of further research, the debates of the panel have not provided grounds for the government to depart from its current approach to HIV/AIDS problem", she said.

This is the crux of the government's statement clearly representing what was agreed at the end of the last panel meeting on July 4 2000. The inference for anybody intelligent enough is that research still has to be carried out to falsify or confirm the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS.

In other words, one could say the proponents of this hypothesis have not proved their case. It is that elementary. The reason the media has failed to report this simplicity is that it is blinded by its own advocacy position from which it refuses to deviate. It has painted itself into a hole from which it is incapable of escaping.

The media consistently promotes HIV/AIDS commentators as sane, highly professional and having the only valid viewpoint. The so-called dissidents are "crass", "discredited", promote "insanity" and are said to be "dangerous, even criminally so" for advising government to halt all HIV testing.

Where is the evidence that anyone has died as a result of not having an HIV test? On the contrary, there are many reports of people testing HIV positive and being stoned, committing suicide, shooting their families and themselves and being thrown out to survive in sugarcane fields, among millions of people stigmatised as a result of testing positive for HIV.

It is monstrous that the media has trivialised the section of the interim report dealing with HIV testing. Once again, the report is unambiguous - no evidence has been offered to prove that HIV tests can measure HIV infection. It is not insane and dangerous to advise government to halt all HIV testing. It is erring on the side of caution and in the best interest of patients to do so, pending the outcome of further research.

Then there is the repeated statement by the media that the panel proceedings wasted R2,3-m, which could have been better spent on condoms. Well, consider the US which, according to the Congressional Research Services Report of November 6 2000, had spent $93,2-bn on HIV/AIDS, with not one person yet being cured.

This has been the major enforcer throughout the world of the HIV-causes-AIDS hypothesis, which the interim report has been unable to verify.

At a stroke. $93,2-bn plus R2,3-m could eliminate all squatter camps in South Africa. Without this funding HIV/AIDS would die overnight - that is the justification for dissidents advocating redirecting funding at poverty alleviation, clean water and sanitation infrastructure instead of bolstering HIV/AIDS organisations which promote toxic and highly questionable drugs.

The media insists on quoting only HIV/AIDS proponents.

Reports have highlighted quality control tests of the Medical Research Council and the US Centres for Disease Control in which about 2500 blood samples were shunted between SA and US laboratories at a cost of $75 000.

The reports always quote Dr William Makgoba as saying this proves the "accuracy" of HIV tests because only 2 of 2447 samples differed. It was simply quality assessment to see if cooks with the same recipe in different continents can bake the same cake.

The media owes it to its audiences to produce the overwhelming evidence to which it continually refers, especially the evidence that anti-retrovirals confer better quality of life on HIV-positive patients, than on those who are HIV-positive and not taking anti-retrovirals. The media must also demonstrate that, apart from quality of life, longevity is also improved.

At the February 2001 eighth Congress on Retroviruses in Chicago, anti-retroviral treatment was admitted as being so poorly understood that it led to a complete U-tum from the "hit hard, hit early" approach to "delay for as long as possible until symptoms develop".

The dissidents are being blamed for stalling progress in HIV/AIDS research, but it is the orthodox refusal to move from their position that is the real cause of slow progress. In light of the interim report and the upcoming experiments, the media must stop supporting this unproven hypothesis and start reporting accurately and objectively on this tragic episode in mankind's history.

Professor Sam Mhlongo, Dr Val Turner, Dr Eleni Papadopulos, Dr Roberta Giraldo, Dr Manu Kothari, Klaus Koehnlein, Professor Gordon Stewart, Dr Harvey Bialy. Dr Dave Rasnick, Professor Peter Duesberg, Professor Charles Geshekter, Dr Christian Fiala, Dr Andrew Herxheimer, and Professor Etienne De Harven are members of President Mbeki's advisory panel.