Reprinted from Mothering Magazine September/October 1998, Updated April 2004
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.



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