EVIDENCE OVERWHELMING HIV CAUSES AIDS
By Patricia Reaney
Reuters 1 July 2000
London -- Overwhelming evidence shows that the HIV virus is
the cause of AIDS, more than 5,000 leading scientists, doctors and medical
experts said on Saturday.
In a document published in the scientific journal Nature, Nobel prize
winners, renowned AIDS experts and researchers signed the so-called Durban
The move was an effort to stem controversy in South Africa over whether the
human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the cause of the disease that has
infected 33 million people worldwide.
"The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clear-cut, exhaustive
and unambiguous, meeting the highest standards of science,'' the scientists
"The data fulfil exactly the same criteria as for other viral diseases, such
as polio, measles and smallpox.''
The scientists said denying that the HIV virus is the cause of AIDS will cost
countless lives by hampering blood screening efforts, curtailing the use of
condoms to control its spread and limiting the use of drugs to cut
Scientists from the U.S. National Academy of Science, the U.S. Institute of
Medicine, Germany's Max Planck institutes, the Pasteur Institute in Paris,
the Royal Society of London and the National Institute of Virology in South
Africa signed the document.
Consternation Among Scientists
The document, released just a week before the start of the 13th International
AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa, was designed to resolve controversy
over the source of the disease that has infected one in three adults in
Botswana and 24.5 million people in sub-Saharan Africa.
South African President Thabo Mbeki has been criticised for his position on
the disease, his refusal to give pregnant women the antiviral drug AZT and
his doubts about the effectiveness of anti-AIDS drugs.
He has also courted controversy by including researchers like American
scientist Peter Duesberg -- who contends that AIDS is not caused by the HIV
virus -- on a presidential panel investigating the disease.
Mbeki has defended the views of Duesberg, who believes AIDS is caused by a
breakdown of the immune system triggered by recreational drugs and anti-AIDS
drugs and is spread by poor living conditions.
The 5,000 scientists supported their position by saying that most people with
the HIV virus, if not treated, show signs of AIDS within five to 10 years.
HIV can be identified in the blood by detecting antibodies, gene sequences or
Laboratory tests show the HIV virus infects blood cells called CD4
lymphocytes, which become depleted when full-blown AIDS develops.
As further evidence, the scientists said anti-AIDS drugs that block HIV
replication have reduced AIDS mortality by more than 80 percent.
To tackle the AIDS pandemic, which the scientists say shows no sign of
ending, everyone must first recognise and accept that HIV is the enemy.
"It is unfortunate that a few vocal people continue to deny the evidence.
This position will cost countless lives,'' the scientists said.
"Research, not myths, will lead to the development of more effective and
cheaper treatments, and, it is hoped, a vaccine. But for now, emphasis must
be placed on preventing sexual transmission.''
Some scientists have threatened to boycott the six-day conference in Durban
that begins on July 9 because of South Africa's controversial view on the
cause of AIDS.