Reprinted from: Mothering magazine, Sept/Oct 2001, Edited and updated
for Alive & Well May 2004
Molecular Miscarriage: Is the HIV Theory a Tragic Mistake?
By Neville Hodgkinson
“Although HIV is the most intensely investigated microbe
in history, scientists do not know how or why it causes AIDS. The
virus is thought to destroy cells crucial in coordinating the body's
responses to unwanted invaders, but that theory hasn't stood up…”
From the beginning, AIDS has been a tough issue for the medical
establishment. It brings together so many sensitivities. When first
identified among gay men in San Francisco and New York in the early
1980s, it was labeled a "gay plague" and suffered political
neglect. This soon backfired, however. Gay leaders, fearful that
their hard-won gains in public acceptance of homosexuality were
under threat, became angry and vociferous. Pressure on politicians
to come up with an answer was intense.
In April 1984, US government scientists, led by Robert Gallo, offered
the proposition that a new, lethal, sexually transmitted virus,
probably imported from Africa, was the sole cause. A blood test
said to detect the virus was marketed, and screening surveys gave
rise to the idea that HIV was starting to spread rapidly via sexual
intercourse, blood transfusions, mother-to-baby transmission, and
needles shared by drug addicts. AZT soon followed, also essentially
marketed by government scientists, although with a drug company,
Burroughs Wellcome (now Glaxo Wellcome), reaping the rewards. The
world was assured that a vaccine would not be far behind.
Between 1984 and 1987 three propositions became established as a
firm belief system, essentially unchanged to this day. These hold
1. HIV is a lethal viral infection that leads inexorably to the
collapse of the immune system seen in AIDS.
2. The virus's presence can be reliably detected with the HIV test.
3. AZT and similar drugs can save lives by quelling the virus, blocking
its growth and transmission.
It therefore followed that testing pregnant women and their babies
for HIV, and administering AZT when necessary, would play a vital
part in the fight against AIDS by preventing the virus from being
passed from mother to child or from becoming established in the
child who has tested positive.
But what if these propositions are wholly or even partly mistaken?
In that case, what's being done to HIV-positive mothers and babies
might bring more loss than gain. If there were any doubts about
the validity of the conventional theory, such coercion would be
surely unethical. In fact, there are serious questions surrounding
all these propositions. We will examine each of them in turn.
* * *
How Does HIV Cause AIDS?
Although HIV is the most intensely investigated microbe in history
(to date, US taxpayers have spent $93 billion on federal government
research, treatment, and other programs), scientists do not know
how or why it causes AIDS. There is widespread acceptance of the
lethal virus theory, but no agreement on how HIV does the damage
attributed to it. At one time it was thought AIDS resulted from
the virus running over the immune system like a truck, destroying
a particular class of cell (known for short as T4 cells) crucial
in coordinating the body's responses to unwanted invaders. That
theory hasn't stood up. Today, according to a review published in
the science journal Nature, "much remains left to the imagination"
as to how HIV causes immune deficiency.(1)
This gap in the story was identified as far back as 1987 by Peter
Duesberg, a distinguished molecular biologist at the University
of California at Berkeley, who demonstrated that there was so little
active virus in patients, even those with full-blown AIDS, that
it could not be causing AIDS by destroying T4 cells directly. At
first Duesberg's arguments were ignored. When he persisted in challenging
the HIV theory, he was derided by most of his fellow scientists
and refused renewal of a $350,000 "outstanding investigator"
award from the National Institutes of Health.(2) Internationally,
however, his ideas have attracted a considerable following. Over
the past ten years, hundreds of scientists and other AIDS analysts
have been pressing for a reappraisal of the HIV theory.(3)
Traditionally, in determining whether a virus is the specific cause
of an illness, scientists are required to first purify it from a
patient with the disease so that they know what it looks like under
the electron microscope and precisely what they are working with.
They then grow the virus in the laboratory; show that it is present
in all cases of the disease, that there is lots of it, and that
it is active in the body in a way that accounts for the disease;
and demonstrate that it reproduces the original disease when introduced
into a susceptible animal. In the case of HIV, none of these requirements
has been met in a straightforward way.
There are even doubts over whether HIV exists as a genuine viral
entity. The problem is that unlike most disease-causing microbes,
HIV cannot be purified from fresh patient tissues -- there just
isn't enough of if there.(4) It only appears after laborious laboratory
procedures, in which millions of the patient's immune cells are
mixed with cells taken from a patient with leukemia (cancer cells
useful to researchers because they don't easily die) or from fetal
cord, and subjected to chemical stimulants. Weeks later, a particle
containing active genetic material is released by one of the cells
and starts stimulating other cells into doing the same. This material
can be passed from one cell to another, and its genetic makeup can
be determined. But that doesn't mean it is an infectious, disease-inducing
virus. It might simply be an endogenous (coming from within) product
of the heavily-stimulated immune cells.
Inside the cells that comprise our bodies are lengths of DNA, a
complex chemical that makes up our genes. As well as determining
inherited characteristics such as eye color, genes can become active
in helping the body respond to changing circumstances. They can
multiply themselves within the cell (a phenomenon known as "jumping
genes" or, more technically, transposons), and they can also
form particles, budding out of the cell in a protein envelope to
carry stretches of genetic information elsewhere.
Some of these particles make use of an enzyme called reverse transcriptase
to transcribe their genetic information back into other cells. Molecular
biologists have named such particles human endogenous retroviruses
(HERVs), though the term virus is misleading; some may be no more
than harmless cell products, while others may even have a useful
role.(5) Cells of the immune system, which defend us against invaders
like germs, pollutants and other hazards, are particularly active
genetically. The particles they produce may boost or coordinate
protective immune responses. They may also be responsible for passing
on an acquired capacity for such responses from mother to child
during pregnancy, according to immunologist Ted Steele, formerly
of the University of Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia.(6)
This is where some scientists think confusion may have arisen when
researchers decided they had found a new virus in AIDS patients
and those at risk of AIDS. HERVs have been demonstrated to come
out of the genome under the very circumstances in which "HIV/AIDS"
is commonly diagnosed -- conditions of stress including infection,
malnutrition, and pregnancy.(7) In most cases, "people produce
antibodies against their HERVs, and not surprisingly, they test
positive for HIV," says Rudolf Werner, professor of molecular
biology at the University of Miami Medical School.(8) "All
retroviruses are similar, and our genome is full of dormant retroviruses
-- over 2 percent of the genome is retroviral. Thus I have come
to suspect that retroviruses are found in sick people but are not
the cause of sickness. Their release into the bloodstream is a consequence
of the sickness. People who are under stress often test positive
for HIV even though they have never been 'infected.'" Ted Steele
confirms that "when cells that make antibodies are put under
stress, they certainly make large quantities of endogenous retroviruses."
At first, even HIV's "discoverers" had their doubts about
what they were working with. When a group that was led by France's
Luc Montagnier described the procedures and observations that made
them believe they might have cultured an AIDS virus, Robert Gallo
did not believe them.(10) Nor did Nature, which turned their paper
down. Nor did the British virus expert Robin Weiss, who in a 1986
patent application referred to Montagnier's HIV strain as a "so-called
AIDS virus isolate."
It turned out that the first blood tests for "HIV" marketed
by both Gallo and Weiss were based on the "so-called isolate"
from France, sent to Gallo's laboratory by Montagnier for further
investigation. A big fight followed over who had found the virus
first. Eventually the French and US governments agreed on a deal
that split the credit -- and the profits. Gallo's use of cancer
cells to get "HIV" to multiply allowed him to obtain enough
of it to work with, and he forgot about his criticisms. Essentially,
however, the objections stood, as they do to this day.
Gallo, Montagnier, and Weiss, the three most famous AIDS virus investigators
in the world, were all in the same boat, working with a single "so-called
isolate," which none of them had purified but which was characterized
as the cause of AIDS.(11) Nor in all the studies since has the strip
of genetic material now ascribed by convention to HIV been shown
to have the properties of a unique, infectious entity. Every time
molecular biologists look for it, it changes its appearance, even
within the same individual: in any one patient there are more than
100 million genetically distinct variants, according to one estimate.(12)
The variations led one researcher to conclude, "The data imply
that there is no such thing as an [AIDS virus] isolate."(13)
These observations are consistent with the idea that we are looking
at a phenomenon of activated genes, rather than a virus. Furthermore,
none of 150 chimpanzees inoculated with "HIV" has developed
AIDS. It's believed that the virus crossed into humans from chimpanzees
and sooty mangabeys, but these animals do not get AIDS naturally,
despite carrying "essentially the same virus."(14)
AIDS researchers have shown in laboratory work that the particles
they chose to call HIV have an affinity for T4 cells, and that they
can replicate within these cells. It is also clear that T4 cells
are crucial in coordinating the immune system's response to microbes
and other pathogens, and that the number of T4 cells circulating
in the blood goes down in patients with AIDS. However, this reduction
does not mean that T4 cells are being killed off by HIV, as originally
thought. Rather, it reflects a response to activation of the immune
system. The T4 cells move out of the blood and concentrate in lymph
nodes, which filter out microbes and other foreign particles.(15)
Perhaps "HIV" particles do influence this process, but
that does not mean they are harmful; they may be participating in
a natural immune response.
Whatever the cause, the extremely low T4 cell counts commonly thought
to result from HIV infection are actually very common in people
who are HIV-negative. Conditions that result in these changes include
infections, burns, injections of foreign protein, malnutrition,
overexercising, pregnancy, psychological stress, and social isolation.(16)
T4 cells also die in people with AIDS, often through a process of
self-destruction. This had led some researchers to propose that
AIDS may be primarily an autoimmune condition in which the immune
system becomes confused and directs a response against some of its
In essence, what all this means is that we do not know the meaning
of the phenomenon labeled HIV.
* * *
Is the HIV Test Reliable?
A common argument in support of the theory that HIV is the cause
of AIDS is that there is a close connection between testing positive
and risk of illness. Such a link does exist, but there are explanations
for it that do not require the presence of a deadly new virus.
The link may be meaningless if the antibodies detected by the HIV
test are nonspecific, that is, if they can be a result of other
disease processes and do not necessarily indicate the presence of
HIV. Evidence that this is indeed the case was first comprehensively
set out in an article in the journal Bio/Technology. A team of scientists
based in Perth, Western Australia, examined each of the proteins
used to make the HIV tests and showed that there are potential non-HIV
sources for all of them, including normal cell constituents released
when immune cells become overstimulated and disordered.(17)
Heavy burdens on the immune system, regardless of HIV, are present
in all the main risk groups for AIDS, which may explain the close
correlation with testing positive. The Gay Liberation years of the
1970s brought unprecedented opportunities for men to have sex with
one another, and all the early gay victims of AIDS were leading
the fast-track sex-and-drugs lifestyle. Exposure to sperm and seminal
fluid from many different partners, as well as repeated bouts of
sexually transmitted diseases, chronic use of antibiotics, and the
debilitating effects of heavy exposure to recreational drugs may
have combined to put such men at risk.(18)
Drug addicts, another group at risk of AIDS, suffer immune deficiencies
because of directly damaging effects of opiates on T cells, for
which they have an enormous affinity, as well as because of malnutrition
and infections caused by sharing needles. This group's risk of developing
AIDS is much higher when addicts continue to inject drugs than when
People with the blood-clotting disorder hemophilia, also at risk,
were known to suffer immune disorders, include T4 cell decline,
resulting directly from their treatment. During the 1970s and 1980s,
such treatment involved repeated intravenous infusion of concentrates
made from the blood of thousands of people. It was estimated that
a typical patient receiving 40 to 60 treatments a year could be
exposed to blood from up to two million donors.(20) The greater
the amount of clotting factor they received, and the longer they
received it, the greater their risk of immune deficiency. In the
late 1980s, when HIV-positive hemophiliacs were switched to an extremely
pure version of the clotting factor (made using genetic engineering
techniques), their T4 cell counts ceased to decline and in some
instances did a U-turn.(21) Blood transfusion recipients, too, were
a very high-risk group and did not need HIV to become sick. In one
US study, about half the recipients of noninfected blood transfusions
died within one year of the transfusion.(22)
The biggest confusion of all has arisen in Africa. When the "AIDS
test" was first marketed in the mid-1980s, Western scientists
looking for the origin of HIV went to several central African countries
with their diagnostic kits and found high percentages of people
testing positive -- 40 to 50 percent in some areas. This created
a climate of doom about HIV/AIDS in which those suffering from traditional
diseases of poverty and malnutrition including tuberculosis, pneumonia,
chronic intestinal infections, and malaria were liable to be diagnosed
as AIDS patients, by virtue of their HIV antibody status. Yet there
is now strong evidence that the nonspecific nature of the HIV test
is causing millions to test false positive. Sufferers of leprosy
and tuberculosis as well as carriers of the germs responsible for
those diseases are particularly at risk of this false positive reaction.(23)
Convinced that a terrible epidemic was unfolding, the World Health
Organization added to the confusion by allowing doctors to diagnose
AIDS in Africa even without the use of the HIV test, simply on the
basis of a combination of symptoms such as fever, persistent cough,
diarrhea, or weight loss. "Dressed up as HIV/AIDS, a variety
of old sicknesses have been reclassified," writes Charles Geshekter,
a professor of African history at California State University, Chico.
After a recent trip to Africa -- his 15th -- Geshekter concluded
that it was impossible to distinguish these common symptoms from
those of malaria, tuberculosis, or the indigenous diseases of impoverished
lands. Furthermore, "it is well understood that many endemic
infections will trigger the same antibodies that cause positive
reactions on the HIV antibody tests. ...The problem is that dysentery
and malaria do not inspire headlines or fatten public health budgets.
Infectious 'plagues' do."(24)
HIV tests do not look directly for an AIDS virus but for antibodies
that are thought to be related to the purported virus. This could
still be a valid approach for establishing HIV infection, if it
were possible to prove the presence of the virus in people who test
positive and to show that it is not present in people who test negative.
But because it has not been possible to purify the virus directly
from patients, this "gold standard" for validating a diagnostic
test has never been applied. Instead, the test kits are calibrated
to ensure that many AIDS patients, and people at risk for AIDS,
test positive, whereas most healthy people test negative.(25) This
is an extraordinary rough-and-ready approach, and not surprisingly,
elevated levels of "HIV" antibodies have been clearly
shown to relate to many non-AIDS conditions. About 70 different
reasons for getting a positive reaction unrelated to HIV infection
have been documented in the scientific literature.(26) The conditions
include autoimmune illness, responses to flu shots, and as mentioned
above, even pregnancy itself.
The Perth scientists, headed by medical physicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos
and physician Val Turner, conclude that whatever the condition,
AIDS or otherwise, a positive test doesn't indicate HIV infection
but is a nonspecific marker for a variety of conditions. "Consequently
the general belief that almost all individuals, healthy or otherwise,
who are HIV antibody-positive are infected with a lethal retrovirus,
has not been scientifically substantiated."(27)
Today the tests remain beset with problems, despite claims to the
contrary by HIV protagonists.(28) As one example of the confusion
this creates, even among scientists at the forefront of AIDS orthodoxy,
in the US it is the practice not to call someone HIV-positive based
only on tests using a method known as Elisa; confirmation with a
different technique, Western blot, is required. But in the UK, diagnosis
relies primarily on various types of Elisa, with Western blot being
regarded by the experts as too unreliable to be used other than
as a research tool.
The authorities have known about the nonspecificity of the HIV test
from the beginning yet, like Pontius Pilate, washed their hands
of the problem. As far back as 1986, a Food and Drug Administration
official told a World Health Organization meeting that the primary
use of the test was for screening blood donations, and that "it
is inappropriate to use this test as a screen for AIDS or as a screen
for members of groups at increased risk for AIDS in the general
population." He added, however, that enforcing this intention
"would be analogous to enforcing the Volstead Act which prohibited
alcoholic beverage sales in the United States in the 1920s -- simply
not practical."(29) I wonder what the millions whose lives
have been marred by an "HIV" diagnosis will say when they
learn, as surely they must, of the shaky science that lies behind
The manufacturers know of the continuing shortcomings, and they
cover themselves legally by stating that their kit should not be
used, on its own, to diagnose HIV infection. But as Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos
says, "We have to question all types of the antibody test.
...If the test is no good, you can repeat it a thousand times and
it still won't be any good. When the principle of the test, the
basis of it, has not been established, it doesn't matter how many
times you repeat it, you still won't prove anything."(30)
The same applies to so-called viral loads, in which genetic segments
attributed to HIV are amplified millions of times in order to reach
detectable levels. Just as with HIV antibodies, these genetic segments
have not been shown to be specific to HIV; they, too, may indicate
a more generalized activation of the immune system. The root of
the problem is the same as with the antibodies: the research community's
inability to purify and unequivocally demonstrate the existence
of HIV in AIDS patients.
John Papadimitriou, professor of pathology at the University of
Western Australia and an internationally renowned expert on electron
microscopy, also questions whether the phenomena labeled HIV by
AIDS scientists truly represent an infectious virus. "They
have not proven that they have actually detected a unique, exogenous
retrovirus," he told me. "The critical data to support
that idea have not been presented. You have to be absolutely certain
that what you have detected is unique and exogenous, and a single
molecular species. They haven't got conclusively to that first step.
Just to see particles in the tissues, and fail to look for evidence
that it is an infective virus, is wrong. Are these particles that
cause disease? The proper controls have never been done." Of
AIDS in Africa, he added, "Why condemn a continent to death
because of HIV when you have other explanations for why people are
Val Turner, of Perth, goes even farther. "HIV is a metaphor
for a lot of quasi-related phenomena," he told me. "No
one has ever proved its existence as a virus. We don't believe it
exists." Etienne de Harven, a former professor of pathology
at the University of Toronto who pioneered a method of purifying
viruses during 25 years' work at the Sloan-Kettering Institute in
New York, agrees with the Perth group on this devastating omission.
"Of course, I am very familiar with the many reports and electron
microscope pictures of 'HIV particles,'" he says. "Indeed,they
show particles which could very well be taken as retroviruses on
the basis of their ultrastructure alone. But all these particles
have been found in complex cell cultures, never in one single AIDS
patient!"(31) Recent attempts to make good this omission, with
electron microscope studies that should have been done years ago,
produced "disastrous" results, de Harven says, suggesting
"billions of research dollars gone up in smoke."(32)
Does Antiviral Treatment Save Lives?
Medicine often works in a pragmatic way, with treatments evolved
by trial and error, and not always with a clear understanding of
how those that work do so. Even if critics of the HIV/AIDS theory
who believe the virus to be harmless or non-existent and the AIDS
test invalid are right, researchers might still have chanced upon
treatments that do help. Is there evidence of such serendipity?
Just as the HIV theory entered common currency more for social and
political reasons than through scientific evidence, those working
in the AIDS field have desperately wanted to believe that the drug
treatments are working. The evidence is thin, however. When AZT
was first marketed, it rapidly established itself as the "gold
standard" of anti-HIV treatment, and hundreds of studies (mostly
funded by its manufacturers) claimed to show benefit. But the biggest
and longest trial, a collaborative effort involving British and
French government researchers, showed a 25 percent increase in deaths
among those treated early with the drug compared with those in whom
treatment was delayed.(33)
Sadly, researchers failed to learn from this experience and in 1996
brought in a policy of initiating treatment of "HIV disease"
as early as possible, this time with cocktails of several antiviral
drugs, including a group of "miracle drugs" called protease
inhibitors. There were high-profile stories of individual patients
with AIDS rising from their sickbeds like Lazarus, and proud boasts
that HIV was on the run at last. But as with AZT, this was more
wishful thinking than sound science. AIDS patients suffer from a
lot of viral and other infections, and the drug cocktails gave short-term
relief to some, but until recently it was left to the "dissident"
information network to report, usually within a few weeks or months,
the deaths of many of the patients. For years, chemist David Rasnick,
an expert on protease inhibitors, has warned that they are dangerous
and unlikely to bring benefit. "To date," he says, "there
is still no clinical trial that has proved that the protease inhibitors
-- either taken alone or in combination with other antiviral drugs
-- reduce the mortality or improve the quality of life of AIDS patients."(34)
This year, US government scientists issued guidelines acknowledging
"unanticipated toxicities" with the long-term use of antiviral
drugs and signaling a reversal of the "hit early, hit hard"
policy of attacking the virus in HIV-positive people.(35) Drug companies
have also been ordered to stop advertising their antiviral drugs
with images that imply they cure AIDS (such as photographs of "robust
individuals engaged in strenuous physical activity") or reduce
its transmission. These actions came a year after a powerful article
by AIDS journalist Celia Farber that began, "In 1996 a scientist
claimed he'd found a way to defeat AIDS. In the wave of euphoria
that followed, a batch of new drugs flooded the market. Four years
later, those drugs are wreaking unimaginable horror on the patients
who dared to hope. What went wrong?"(36)
As for "AZT babies," there is no scientific evidence that
the antiviral drugs prolong or improve the quality of their lives.
The benefit is entirely a supposition, based on the finding that
the drugs cause fewer children to be born testing positive. Since
we do not know the meaning of HIV antibodies, we do not know what
this finding means in terms of the babies' health. David Rasnick,
who has worked in the US pharmaceutical industry for more than 20
years, told an inquiry into AIDS science in South Africa in July
2000 that he had "scoured the literature" for evidence
of tangible benefit, with zero results.(37) In fact, several studies
have shown harm. A major Italian study found that children born
to mothers treated with AZT in pregnancy were more likely to get
severely sick and die by the age of three than those whose mothers
were left untreated.(38)
The world has not wanted to listen to those who question the HIV
hypothesis. The tens of billions of HIV research dollars support
more than 100,000 doctors and scientists "who have built their
careers and reputations by simply accepting the HIV dogma and the
axioms of AIDS," Rasnick told the Naples International Conference
on Science and Democracy [see Note 34]. "Many informed critics
think that the billions of dollars at stake is the biggest roadblock
to ending the AIDS insanity. That money is certainly a formidable
weapon in the service of the HIV/AIDS establishment. However, I
think it's simple human embarrassment that is the biggest obstacle
to bringing this insanity to an end. It is the fear of being so
obviously and hopelessly wrong about AIDS that keeps lips sealed,
the money flowing, and the AIDS rhetoric spiraling to stratospheric
heights of absurdity."
Where does this leave those who find themselves caught up in the
nightmare that follows an HIV diagnosis? Perhaps the simplest but
most important lesson is that science is unquestionably in a muddle,
so individuals have every right to challenge and question orthodox
AIDS beliefs, especially when these have a direct bearing on their
The belief in HIV as a sexually transmitted virus that would in
time put heterosexuals at risk as much as gay men was never correct.(39)
AIDS has stayed confined to groups of people who have non-HIV risks
in their lives, including recreational drugs, severe poverty, multiple
infections, and the relatively easy access into the bloodstream
of foreign body fluids received through anal sex. In the minority
of cases where none of those risks is apparent, prescription drugs
and the intensely damaging effect of an HIV diagnosis may have been
In 1992, when AIDS cases were, in fact, dropping in the US and Europe,
experts agreed on an arbitrary widening of the range of disorders
eligible for registration as AIDS, including, for the first time,
HIV-positive people with no illness but with T4 cell counts below
200, as well as women with cervical cancer. In the US, this produced
an artificial doubling in the number of AIDS cases reported, but
-- despite further expansions in classification -- registrations
have been declining ever since. About 650,000 cases of AIDS were
registered in the US from 1982 to mid-1998, and 75 percent of those
were in high-risk groups. Of 1,789 babies registered cumulatively
as AIDS cases over the same period, 1,774 (99 percent) were birthed
to mothers in high-risk groups.(40) An analysis of data from the
AIDS epicenters of New York City and California by Gordon Stewart,
emeritus professor of public health, University of Glasgow, Scotland,
a former WHO adviser of AIDS, shows that "perinatal and neonatal
AIDS are minimal except where mothers and infants are exposed to
risks in ethnic, drug-using and bisexual situations. After 20 years
of intensive surveillance in a country where AIDS is as prevalent
as in some third world countries, this in itself excludes any appreciable
spread of AIDS by heterosexual transmission of HIV in the huge majority
of the general population."(41)
The HIV story has done enormous harm, but there are positive sides
to it as well. The condom and clean needle campaigns will not have
been in vain. Furthermore, HIV brought the world together in a way
that has been beneficial for gay men, now far more accepted and
valued in society than even 20 years ago, and perhaps increasingly
for poor countries, where the links between poverty and disease
are finally receiving renewed attention.
There is clearly a transmissible component in AIDS, as seen in the
risks attached to anal intercourse and needle sharing. Indeed, if
there is anything to African AIDS more than the surge of infectious
diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria that accompany impoverished
living conditions and the collapse of health systems, it may turn
out to have been transmitted through the reuse of needles in mass
vaccination campaigns exported by Western health agencies. While
the contagious virus theory remains unproven and unlikely, animal
studies suggest that transmissible AIDS-like diseases can be induced
-- without any exogenous infection -- when the immune system is
thrown into confusion through certain vaccination procedures.(42)
These may hold a lesson for us in relation to vaccine policy in
general, as well as provide a clue to what's really going on in
AIDS. To molecular biologist Rudolf Werner, these studies emphasize
"that we still know very little about autoimmunity and how
it works. Introduction of foreign protein into someone else's system
quite clearly upsets that person's immune system. We need to learn
much more about immunological tolerance and autoimmunity."(43)
We also need to learn more about the link between the immune system
and the mind. At the University of Miami, researchers have reported
that intensive grief therapy significantly reduces "HIV viral
load," as well as maintaining T4 cell levels, in gay men who
have lost a partner or close friend to AIDS.(44) Such studies drive
home the importance of de-hexing AIDS by re-examining the unproven
"deadly virus" hypothesis and discontinuing use of the
discredited HIV tests.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to doing so is that HIV has a symbolic
power in our lives. On the one hand, it is an icon of fear, representing
a breakdown in the integrity of an individual's being that must
bring dependency, disease, and death in its wake. On the other hand,
along with the red ribbon, HIV/AIDS has become a symbol of unity,
compassion, and hope, a banner behind which doctors and scientists,
the priests of our time, can mobilize their beneficent energies
into defeating this perceived threat to humankind, with the support
of all decent people. To get in the way of that effort has been
interpreted as a sign that you are lacking either common decency
or common sense.
A generation of mothers and babies now risk becoming casualties
of these good intentions. Perhaps their suffering will help us realize
that it is time to drop our preconceptions about AIDS, admit the
mistakes that have been made, and make a fresh start in trying to
understand the disease.
Recently I spent an evening with my new grandson. Otto had been
born the day before, after a long and difficult labor, and was bawling
in protest at having just been bathed when I arrived to see him.
Minutes later he was placed in my arms, where he stayed contentedly
for the next three hours. Although he was asleep for most of that
time, I felt as if something like a current was passing through
me that would help soothe and nourish him. Admiring the beauty of
his jawline, the fineness of his limbs, the miracle of nature that
a baby represents, I felt nourished, too. Love for a baby seems
such sweet, pure, uncomplicated truth. Somehow, it is redeeming.
The impulse to help new life get off to the best possible start
is present in all of us. It has taken a tragic twist, however, for
the HIV-positive mothers whose struggles are described by Susan
Gerhard in this issue of Mothering. Health officials, in the sincere
belief that they are furthering the fight against AIDS, are coercing
pregnant mothers into being tested for HIV. If a mother tests positive,
she is required to take AZT (a drug so dangerous that experimental
handlers are urged to wear protective clothing) and is told not
to breastfeed. The newborn baby also must be tested and is treated
with AZT or a similar antiviral drug if this is thought necessary,
regardless of the parents' wishes. Failure to comply can result
in the child being taken away by the authorities.
These are draconian measures. To be told that you have tested positive
for a virus equated by most people with the collapse of the immune
system and, ultimately, death is a terrible assault on one's mental
and emotional stability. We know from mind-body studies that such
stress in itself damages immunity. The impact goes beyond mother
and baby; if the bond of love created at the time of a new arrival
is destroyed by trauma, it can take years to overcome the resulting
suffering and social dysfunction. (Not all women are as resilient
as those Gerhard describes.) Add to the stress of the diagnosis
the loss of breastfeeding, the administration of a poisonous drug
with cancer-causing potential, and the sometimes violent enforcement
of medical will, and it becomes clear the Hippocratic principle
of "first do no harm" is being breached many times over.
Medical practice often involves balancing benefits against risks;
in the case of these mothers, the question is not one of risk but
of immediate, unquestionable harm.
To justify such actions, the benefits would need to be huge and
clear-cut, and such indeed is the view of health authorities who
think they are reducing the spread of a lethal virus. In this article,
I set out some rarely reported facts and perspectives that challenge
that view and suggest that the mothers who have clashed with those
authorities deserve to be treated with much more compassion, humility,
Neville Hodgkinson reported on HIV and AIDS as medical journalist
for The Sunday Times (London) from 1985 to 1989. beginning in 1991,
as the newspaper's science correspondent, he wrote a series of highly
controversial reports based on the arguments of scientists seeking
a reappraisal of the HIV theory. He is the author of "AIDS:
The Failure of Contemporary Science -- How a Virus That Never Was
Deceived the World" (London: Fourth Estate, 1996).
1. See "The Dynamics of CD4+ T-cell Depletion in HIV Disease"
by Joseph McCune in Nature (April 19, 2001): "We still do not
know how, in vivo, the virus destroys CD4+ T cells [T4 cells] or
whether, in quantitative terms, cell loss is due to direct destruction
by virus or to other indirect means. This ignorance, arising in
large part because it is difficult to study the immune system in
living human beings, hinders the discovery and development of effective
vaccines and therapies. Several hypotheses have been proposed to
explain the loss of CD4+ T cells, some of which seem to be diametrically
2. Duesberg's Cancer Research article, "Retroviruses as Carcinogens
and Pathogens: Expectation and Reality" was published in March
1987. An insight into the political nature of the response it triggered
is given in a leaked US government memorandum, dated April 28, 1987.
Headed "Media Alert," it was sent from the office of the
Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), with copies to the
Secretary, Undersecretary, and Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs,
the Chief of Staff, the Surgeon General, and the White House. The
memo noted, "The article apparently went through the normal
pre-publication process and should have been flagged at NIH."
It went on: "This obviously has the potential to raise a lot
of controversy (if this isn't the virus, how do we know the blood
supply is safe? How do we know anything about transmission? How
could you all be so stupid and why should we ever believe you again?)
and we need to be prepared to respond. I have already asked NIH
public affairs to start digging into this."
3. See www.rethinkingaids.com and www.virusmyth.com/aids.
4. Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Valendar Turner, John Papadimitriou,
and David Causer, "The Isolation of HIV: Has It Really Been
Achieved?" Supplement to Continuum 4, no. 3 (September/October
1996). See also www.virusmyth.com/aids/perthgroup/index.html.
5. On page 374 of my book "AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary
Science" (London: Fourth Estate, 1996), I suggest use of the
term "enveloped transposon" instead of endogenous retrovirus,
to avoid the "deadly virus" connotation. See also work
by virologist Stefan Lanka (www.virusmyth.net/aids/index/slanka.htm),
such as "HIV: Reality or Artifact?," first published in
Continuum (April/May 1995).
6. E. J. Steele, Somatic Selection and Adaptive Evolution: On the
Inheritance of Acquired Characters (University of Chicago Press,
1981), 42-57; Harry Rothenfluh and Ted Steele, "Lamarck, Darwin
and the Immune System," Today's Life Science (August 1993):
16, 19, 20, 22.
7. Lower et al., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
93, no. 11 (1996): 5177-5184.
8. Personal communication.
9. Personal communication.
10. Gallo wrote to The Lancet in early 1984, "No one has been
able to work with their particles. ...Because of the lack of permanent
production and characterisation it is hard to say they are really
'isolated' in the sense that virologists use this term." He
also dismissed as "ridiculous" the French team's claim
that they had identified a virus specific to AIDS on the grounds
that their particles reacted with antibodies in blood samples from
AIDS patients. "That's bad virology," he said. "Patient
sera, especially in AIDS patients, has antibodies to a lot of different
things." And he raised doubts over photographs taken through
an electron microscope by the French, purporting to show virus particles.
See also J. Crewdson, "The Great AIDS Quest," Chicago
Tribune, (November 19, 1989): 5.
11. Montagnier himself admitted in a 1997 interview with French
TV journalist Djamel Tahi that "we did not purify" the
virus and added that he did not believe Gallo had done so either.
12. S. Wain-Hobson, "Virological Mayhem," Nature (January
12, 1995): 102.
13. J. L. Marx, Science 241 (1988): 1039-1040. Howard Temin, who
shared the 1975 Nobel Prize for Medicine for his discovery of an
enzyme characteristic of retroviruses, makes a similar point in
a chapter contributed to Emerging Viruses (Stephen Morse, ed., Oxford
University Press, 1993), 221: "The data indicate that in any
one AIDS patient, at any one time, there are many different virus
genomes." Also see Neville Hodgkinson, "AIDS: The Failure
of Contemporary Science" (London: Fourth Estate, 1996), 371.
14. R. Kurth and S. Norley, "Why Don't the Natural Hosts of
SIV Develop Simian AIDS?," Journal of National Institutes of
Health Research 8 (1996): 33-37. Quoted by Robin Weiss in "Gulliver's
Travels in HIVland," Nature 410 (April 19, 2001): 964.
15. Joseph McCune, "The Dynamics of CD4+ T-cell Depletion in
HIV Disease," Nature 410 (April 19, 2001): 974-979.
16. See news-gap.com/mb/sda/irwinlowcd4.html for a well-documented
paper on this topic by Matt Irwin, a recently graduated medical
17. E.P. Eleopulos et al., "Is a Positive Western Blot Proof
of HIV Infection?," Bio/Technology 11 (June 1993): 696-707.
18. J. A. Sonnabend and Serge Saadoun, "The Acquired Immunodeficiency
Syndrome: A Discussion of Etiologic Hypotheses," AIDS Research
1, no. 2 (1984): 107-120. This article pointed out that semen and
sperm were well documented as a cause of immune system abnormalities
in anal intercourse, when the proteins involved permeate the colon's
thin lining and enter the bloodstream. (In vaginal sex, the vagina's
thick walls restrict the invasion of semen to its intended target,
the womb.) There are antigens expressed on cells in the ejaculate
that are shared by cells of the immune system, raising the possibility
that repeated exposure could set up a reaction in the body against
one's own immune cells. Anal sex has been around a long time, of
course, but the Gay Liberation years brought exceptional exposures.
A Centers for Disease Control study of the first 100 gay men with
AIDS found that their median number of lifetime sexual partners
was 1,160; a subsequent group boasted 10,000 or more partners. See
also Robert Root-Bernstein, "Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost
of Premature Consensus" (New York: The Free Press, 1993), 115-120.
19. One of the best examples of this phenomenon was a study by Maurizio
Luca Moretti of the Florida-based Inter-American Medical and Health
Association, who collaborated with colleagues in Italy on a study
of 508 former intravenous drug abusers. [Robert Root-Bernstein,
"Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of Premature Consensus"
(New York: The Free Press, 1993), 359-360.] The men, all HIV-positive,
were voluntarily confined to a rehabilitation center where their
lives were under the daily management of staff. Most were found
to be severely malnourished on arrival, 397 of them chronically
so. Their nutritional status was returned to normal, their drug
use ended, and their sex lives were curtailed (the center is a monastery,
where patients sleep in small groups under supervision). Among 139
individuals who had been using heroin daily for an average of more
than five years, all were still free of AIDS symptoms after an average
of more than four years since they had first tested positive. This
is a phenomenal success rate compared with the US, where 32 percent
of HIV-positive addicts develop AIDS within two years and more than
50 percent within four years. For more information, see Neville
Hodgkinson, "AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science"
(London: Fourth Estate, 1996), 205.
20. Blood 73 (1989), 2067-2073
21. S. Seremetis et al., "Three-year Randomised Study of High-Purity
or Intermediate-Purity Factor VIII Concentrates in Symptom-Free
HIV-Seropositive Haemophiliacs: Effects on Immune Status,"
The Lancet 342 (September 18, 1993): 700-703; De Biasi et al., "The
Impact of a Very High Purity Factor VIII Concentrate on the Immune
System of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Hemophiliacs,"
Blood 78, no. 8 (1992): 1919-1922. These findings prompted Gordon
Stewart to tell The Sunday Times in London, "If this work is
confirmed, it means the patients may not get AIDS at all. It also
gives us an immense clue to the mechanics of AIDS. We now know that
if the haemophiliacs are infused with impure concentrates, they
get changes that resemble AIDS; and if they get the high-purity
product, they don't get those changes. So the probability is that
the haemophiliacs' response is to the foreign protein in their treatment,
and not to HIV. The allegation that haemophiliac patients get AIDS
because of being infected by HIV has to be questioned." "Factor
8 Hope in HIV Battle," The Sunday Times (February 21, 1993).
22. Hardy et al., "Incidence Rate of Acquired Immunodeficiency
Syndrome in Selected Populations," Journal of the American
Medical Association 253 (1985): 215-220; J. W. Ward et al., "The
Natural History of Transfusion-Associated Infection with Human Immunodeficiency
Virus," New England Journal of Medicine 321 (1989): 947-952,
quoted in Peter Duesberg, "Inventing the AIDS Virus" (Washington,
DC: Regnery Publishing, 1996), 285.
23. A study from Zaire (Kashala et al., "Infection with Human
Immunodeficiency Virus Type I [HIV-1] and Human T-cell Lymphotropic
Viruses among Leprosy Patients and Contacts: Correlation between
HIV-1 Cross-Reactivity and Antibodies to Lipoarabinomannan,"
Journal of Infectious Diseases 169 (1994): 296-304), in which 67
percent of leprosy patients and 23 percent of their contacts tested
HIV-positive, found that only two of the patients and none of the
contacts could be confirmed as positive using more detailed and
expensive procedures. Even the two cases were questionable.
24. "The Plague That Isn't," Canadian Globe and Mail,
(March 14, 2000).
25. The calibration is done by diluting the blood enormously, to
a ratio of 1:400. Roberto Giraldo, a New York physician and author
of the book "AIDS and Stressors," reported an experiment
in which he tested undiluted serum samples with the most commonly
used HIV diagnostic kit (Continuum 5, no. 5 : 8-10). All the
samples tested negative when diluted; tested straight, they all
became positive. The antibodies that have been misinterpreted as
representing HIV are probably present in all of us, but they reach
much higher levels when our immune system is activated.
26. Christine Johnson, "Factors Known to Cause False-Positive
HIV Antibody Test Results," Zenger's (September 1996).
27. Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos et al., "HIV Antibody Testing:
Autoreactivity and Other Associated Problems" (unpublished).
28. For a wide-ranging review of this evidence, see chapter nine
of my book "AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science"
(London: Fourth Estate, 1996).
29. Thomas F. Zuck, "AIDS: The Safety of Blood and Blood Products
(Wiley Medical Publication on behalf of the World Health Organization,
1987), Ch. 21.
30. Personal communication.
31. Correspondence, September 2000.
32. Letter in Continuum 5, no. 2.
33. Concorde, "MRC/ANRS Randomised Double-blind Controlled
Trial of Immediate and Deferred Zidovudine in Symptom-free HIV Infection,"
The Lancet 343: 871-881.
34. "Time to Separate State and Science," speech before
the International Conference on Science and Democracy, Naples, Italy,
April 20-21, 2001.
35. "Guidelines for the Use of Anti-Retroviral Agents in HIV-Infected
Adults and Adolescents," February 2001, at www.hivatis.org/guidelines/adult/Feb05_01/text/index.html.
36. Celia Farber, "Science Fiction," GEAR magazine (March
37. Presidential AIDS Advisory Panel Report, March 2001, at www.polity.org.za/govdocs/reports/aids/aidspanel.htm.
38. "Rapid Disease Progression in HIV-1 Perinatally Infected
Children Born to Mothers Receiving Zidovudine Monotherapy During
Pregnancy," AIDS 13 (1999): 927-933.
39. Stuart Brody, "Lack of Evidence for Transmission of HIV
Through Vaginal Intercourse," Archives of Sexual Behaviour
25, no. 4 (1995): 383-393.
40. G. Stewart, "Epidemiological and Statistical Aspects of
AIDS," a review for the Royal Society, UK, January 2000 (unpublished).
42. Victor Ter-Grigorov et al., "A New Transmissible AIDS-Like
Disease in Mice Induced by Allo-immune Stimuli," Nature Medicine
3, no. 1 (January 1997): 37-41.
43. Personal communication, June 1998.
44. Christine Morris, "Counseling Weakens HIV's Attack, Study
Finds," Miami Herald,