Reprinted from Mothering Magazine September/October 1998, Updated
Does HIV Cause AIDS?
By Celia Farber
“The notion that HIV may not be the real cause of AIDS leaves
some people dumbfounded, and others furious. Nearly all diseases
have gone through long causation debates and many once thought to
be caused by microbes or viruses were later found to have environmental,
nutritional, or other toxicological causes.”
The so-called "HIV Debate" was sparked in 1987 with the
publication of a lengthy paper by Dr. Peter Duesberg, one of the
world's leading retrovirologists, in the journal Cancer Research,
in which he meticulously argued that HIV could not possibly be the
cause of any immunological disorders. Duesberg argued that, first
of all, retroviruses as a special class of viruses do not, by definition,
kill cells. They are latent, they do not "do" anything,
and therefore could not possibly cause the massive cell destruction
seen in AIDS.
Duesberg argued further that HIV fails the set of rules laid down
by the German bacteriologist Robert Koch, who established the cause
for several infectious diseases at the end of the 19th century.
These rules were fairly straightforward. In order to maintain that
a particular micro-organism causes a particular disease, the organism
must meet the following three criteria: 1) It must be present in
every single case of the disease; 2) it must be isolated and grown
in the laboratory; and 3) the purified germ must cause the same
disease when transferred to another host (an animal model, for instance).
Clearly, HIV fails the first of these postulates; there are more
than 4,000 documented cases of HIV-free AIDS, or at least severe
immune-system suppression that seems exactly like AIDS. The second
postulate is fulfilled only partially -- HIV can only be cultured
through a laborious process of reactivating a latent form of the
virus in the lab. And the third postulate is completely unfulfilled.
Beginning in 1983, blood from AIDS patients was injected into a
number of chimpanzees, which did soon demonstrate HIV antibodies
-- but to this day not a single one of them has developed any sickness.
Almost 150 additional lab chimps were inoculated in 1984, but there,
too, not a single one developed any symptoms of AIDS. Instead, the
chimps are dying of old age. Monkeys and other animals do develop
diseases caused by human viruses, such as polio, flu, and hepatitis
to name a few.
Several years after his paper was first published, Duesberg, when
pressed by his colleagues to come up with an alternative explanation
for the proliferation of global AIDS cases, proposed that AIDS is
a toxicological syndrome, caused by a wide variety of environmental
stressors, most notably the use of recreational and pharmaceutical
drugs, including the very drugs used to treat AIDS.
Although he has been harshly derided and denounced for his views
-- his once-generous funding has been cut off -- Duesberg is far
from alone in his views. In 1991, a former Harvard biologist, Charles
Thomas, formed the well-regarded Group for the Scientific Reappraisal
of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. Some 600 notable signatories lent their
names, including three Nobel laureates and more than 200 PhDs.
At present, the debate is at a standstill. The HIV hypothesis reigns,
and most AIDS scientists are obliged to view Duesberg and the other
HIV dissenters as deluded. But as more people live with an HIV-
positive status without getting sick, many observers inside the
medical community and without are beginning to think maybe Duesberg
isn't the one who is deluded after all.
Update: A 20 year retrospective on AIDS science published
in the July 2003 issue of the medical journal Nature Medicine acknowledges
that the “AIDS Debate” remains unresolved. According
to the article, doctors and scientists still have no official explanation
as to how HIV causes AIDS. Instead, medical experts rely on “two
working hypotheses” in attempting to advance AIDS prevention,
treatment and research.