Reprinted from the Whole Body at www.gay.com 2002, updated March
Questioning HIV & AIDS:
An Interview with Christine Maggiore
By Darren John Main
“Like everyone, I believed HIV caused AIDS because
authorities and the media said so. It never occurred to me to examine
an issue supported by such obvious mass consensus. But once I applied
some critical thought, I found disturbing holes in the HIV hypothesis…”
Because the Whole Body is a venue for the community to explore alternative
and complementary approaches to healing, I often get letters from
people who want to know more about the ideas promoted by AIDS dissidents
(often called denialists or rethinkers). To address these important
and controversial questions, I have interviewed Christine Maggiore.
Christine is an HIV positive diagnosed mother, author of the book,
"What If Everything You Thought You Knew about AIDS Was Wrong,"
and founder of Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives.
Darren: How did you come to the conclusion that HIV doesn’t
Christine: Like just about everyone, I believed HIV was the cause
of AIDS because authorities and the media said so. It never occurred
to me to examine an issue supported by such obvious mass consensus.
After testing positive in 1992, I became deeply involved in AIDS
work as a public speaker and awareness educator for several local
organizations. I felt it was my job was to give answers, not ask
In 1993, I experienced a series of HIV tests that switched from
positive to indeterminate to negative to positive and suddenly realized
I was accepting AIDS information on faith. Once I began to scrutinize
AIDS news and information and apply some critical thought, I found
disturbing holes in the HIV hypothesis, troubling manipulations
and omissions of AIDS data, and that many of our beliefs are based
on poorly constructed studies that violate basic rules of science.
This striking lack of sensible, logical, properly gathered evidence
demonstrating the basic tenets of the HIV hypothesis—that
HIV is capable of causing immune dysfunction, that the tests are
able to detect HIV infection or unique or specific markers for HIV,
that the treatment drugs are safe and effective—is at the
core of my concerns about the HIV = AIDS paradigm.
Darren: Many people believe that the rapid and immediate
decline of AIDS related deaths over the past few years is due to
new drugs which are used in combination with older drugs commonly
called "cocktails." You dispute this in your book. If
this decline in deaths is not due to drug intervention, what is
According to reports from the US Centers for Disease Control, AIDS
deaths began to decline in 1995, one year before the cocktails were
approved for use. And while 1996 is considered the banner year for
declines, a CDC study states that in 1996, less than 20% of HIV
positives held prescriptions for the new drugs. Of those holding
prescriptions, it is not known what percent were actually taking
the cocktails or complying with the strict treatment regimens.
The increase in survival rates attributed to the new drugs is also
questionable given that since 1993, more than 50% of AIDS diagnoses
in this country are given to HIV positives who are clinically healthy
and symptom-free, but who at one time during any given year, have
a T cell count of 200 or less. Previous to 1993, the majority of
AIDS-diagnosed persons had one or more life-threatening illnesses.
When you consider that for eight years, more than half of all people
added to the AIDS category have been healthy and symptom-free, why
wouldn’t we see improvements in AIDS survival rates? A team
of mainstream AIDS researchers asking this same question tested
the effect of the 1993 "non-illness" AIDS criteria on
survival rates and found that by simply applying that criteria to
patient groups from years 1987 to 1991, AIDS survival rates in those
years more than doubled.
References: US Centers for Disease Control "HIV/AIDS Surveillance
Report" Year End 2000; Alan Mozes, Reuters Health, Tuesday
February 20, 2001 "Prescriptions for HIV Differ Among Risk
Groups" (cites data from U S Centers for Disease Control report
authored by A. McNaughten et al. presented at the 8th Conference
on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections); Lee et al. The Journal
of the American Medical Association, March 14, 2001; Vella, et al.
The Journal of the American Medical Association, 1994 271:1197-9.
Darren: According to your book, you first tested HIV positive
in 1992 and you are not taking any antiviral drugs. Do you know
your current viral load and CD4 (T-cell) counts?
Christine: I decided to take a "lab holiday" back in 1994
while I examined the scientific evidence supporting the concept
that T cell counts are accurate indicators of immune function and
better able to determine our state of health than our state of health.
Like many HIV positives, I had noticed that fluctuations in my own
counts had no effect on how I was feeling physically, but that they
provoked profound relief or total despair depending on which way
the numbers went. I wanted to understand if this torturous practice
of living or dying by lab tests had a sound basis in fact.
I expected to find studies that demonstrated a strong correlation
between T cell counts and wellness or illness, that tracked counts
in men and women of various ages and circumstances over long periods
of time, that established a normal range for various populations
based on widespread testing, and that compared counts in HIV positive
and HIV negative matched cohorts. Instead, I discovered these types
of studies do not exist and that our assumptions about T cell counts
are largely unfounded. Given the results of my research, I chose
to stop testing, trust my perception of my health, and frequent
doctors that use more reliable, comprehensive, and humane diagnostics.
When the viral load theory was introduced in 1996, some labs were
offering a special price of $10 a test. Curious if my load would
confirm or contradict my actual state of health—and inspired
by the bargain price—I had two tests about six weeks apart.
The first result of 359,000 placed me near death although I was
fine, and the second test inexplicably dropped to 980. I’ve
never taken any AIDS drugs.
My most recent tests were performed in September at the request
of the ABC news show 20/20. Since some AIDS activists try to discredit
my work by claiming I am HIV negative, ABC asked me to take antibody
and viral load tests on camera. According to those results, I am
HIV positive with a "low" viral load of 11,000.
For anyone who may question using the numbers to determine their
future, I invite you to join me in a simple experiment: the next
time you test,get two sets of samples drawn and have them each sent
to separate labs. I have yet to see matching results or results
with reasonable ranges of difference, and would appreciate knowing
what you find. One person I know had a T cell count of 600 at one
lab and 1,500 at the other, and viral loads of 45,000 and 17,000
Darren: AZT was the drug of choice for many years with regard
to HIV. It is still prescribed today in some cocktails. Are you
suggesting that AZT is what has been killing people?
Christine: What I suggest is that people make well informed decisions
about taking the AIDS drugs, but here’s what some experts
say about AZT:
"A total of 172 participants died, 169 while taking AZT, 3
while on placebo...The results of Concorde do not encourage the
early use of AZT in symptom-free HIV-infected adults. They also
call into question the uncritical use of CD4 cell counts as a surrogate
endpoint for assessment of benefit from long-term antiretroviral
From the standpoint of personal observation, my colleagues and friends
who spent significant time on AZT are all dead. I served on the
founding board of Women at Risk from 1992 until 1994, and during
my tenure there, every woman in the organization on AZT-based protocols
References: Concorde Coordinating Committee, Concorde: MRC/ANRS
randomized double-blind controlled trial of Immediate [Imm] and
deferred [Def] zidovudine in symptom-free HIV infection, Lancet,
Vol 343, April 9, 1994: "Only 38% of the Healthy long-term
(>10 years) HIV-positives had ever used AZT or other nucleoside
analogues, compared with 94% of the progressors." Buchbinder,
S et al. Long-term HIV-1 infection without immunologic progression.
AIDS. 1994; 8: 1123.
Darren: Many people can remember the beginning of AIDS over
25 years ago, and know people who got sick and died long before
AZT was prescribed. In your book you claim that illegal drug use
and unhealthy lifestyle choices were the cause of their failing
immune systems, but there were many cases of people who were living
very healthy lifestyles who are now dead. How do you explain this?
Christine: I don’t claim to know what takes the lives of individuals
I’ve never met. Without information on the unique life, health,
and medical histories of the specific people you mention, it’s
impossible for anyone to give a definitive explanation for their
tragic deaths. With all respect to those who have lost a loved one
such as you describe, the assumption there are "many cases
of people living very healthy lifestyles" that died of AIDS
is not supported by available epidemiological and scientific data.
And as a number of mainstream journalists point out, the idea of
outstandingly healthy, risk-free AIDS victims originated with activists,
fundraisers and publicly funded health agencies interested in de-stigmatizing
AIDS and promoting the notion that everyone is at risk. It is not
an idea based on sound science.
On a more personal level, I would appreciate hearing from AIDS patients
or surviving loved ones of people who lived a very healthy, risk-free
life prior to their AIDS diagnosis. I encourage contact from anyone
who’s willing to learn together about these situations and
who feels comfortable sharing private medical records and personal
health history information. The organization I run, Alive &
Well AIDS Alternatives is working on a study of such cases with
Dr. Mohammed Ali-Al Bayati, a pathologist and toxicologist that
performs what’s called a differential diagnosis—basically,
a rigorous and extensive review of a patient’s medical and
health history that lets biomedical information, epidemiological
profiles and other relevant data implicate the causative factors
of disease, as opposed to departing with preconceptions about these
factors. In each case so far, Dr. Al-Bayati has identified non-HIV
causes for AIDS-defining illness that not only offer more plausible
explanations for disease, but that also illuminate practical, non-toxic
treatment protocols that alleviate the symptoms and the causes of
illness. More information about his work and our study can be found
at Alive & Well’s web site under "Search for Solutions."
Darren: Many people have severe side effects from the drug
cocktails but choose to live with them because they see a dramatic
decline in their viral load. You dispute that they are effective
in helping people to stay healthy. Please explain.
Christine: The taking of drug cocktails may in fact coincide with
decreased levels of viral load, but from what I’ve seen through
my work, and in the opinion of many mainstream AIDS researchers,
low viral loads do not necessarily correlate with good health, high
T cells, or increased survival rates. I hear from a number of people
who have low viral loads but low T cell counts, those who test undetectable
but are sick, and those with high loads who are perfectly well.
The recent Newsweek report on ACT UP founder Larry Kramer mentions
this intriguing contradiction: his viral load has always been very
low—although he takes only non-protease inhibitor AIDS drug
combinations—yet according to his doctor’s statements
to Newsweek, Mr. Kramer is dying. If low viral loads correlate with
or are indicative of good health, he should be well.
Given the dubious meaning of the test—the manufacturer’s
own literature states that it is not able to confirm the presence
of HIV—and the capricious nature of the numbers, I think there
are many reasons to question the goal of achieving a low viral load,
especially at any cost to one’s health.
Another important point to consider: recent studies show the PI
cocktails are not HIV specific, that is, they inhibit the proteases
of other microbes such as those responsible for PCP and yeast infections.
The indiscriminate nature of the drugs may be what causes the "Lazarus
effect" in which a very ill person recovers in the short term
after taking the PI cocktails—a phenomenon that has never
occurred in the controlled circumstances of a drug study—but
may also be what’s causing serious side effects like liver
failure, diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, bone death and physical
References: Levy, Jay MD "Is There Truth in Numbers?"
Journal of the American Medical Association July 1996: 161-162;
Roderer, Mario "Getting to the HAART of T-cell Dynamics"
Nature Medicine February 1998 Vol 4 No 2; Cassone, et al. "In
Vitro and In Vivo Anticanidal Activity of HIV Protease Inhibitors"
Journal of Infectious Diseases August 1999; Chiara Atzori, et al.
"In Vitro Activity of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Protease
Inhibitors Against Pneumocystis Carinii" The Journal of Infectious
Diseases, May 2000 181:1629-1634; Roche Diagnostic Systems "Amplicor
PCR Diagnostics HIV-1 Monitor Test" 13-06-83088-001
Darren: Several years back, the cover of Time magazine presented
to the world a photograph of the HIV virus under a microscope. As
the saying goes, "Seeing is believing." Doesn’t
this poke a very large hole in your theory that the HIV virus doesn’t
Christine: From what I understand, HIV has never been directly isolated
and that the term isolation is currently used in various new and
controversial ways. In AIDS research, isolation refers to several
different methodologies, none of which involve direct isolation
of a purified virus.
With a direct isolate of HIV, we could—after almost 20 years—finally
identify the specific proteins and genetic material of HIV and use
these in developing accurate HIV tests. Currently, HIV tests use
proteins or DNA and RNA that are not unique or specific to HIV.
Because of this, according to the test kit literature, the tests’
accuracy and specificity are based on estimates and assumptions.
If there is a purified HIV isolate, why aren’t we using this
to create accurate and reliable HIV tests? I think we deserve better
than estimates and assumptions when it comes to life and death diagnoses.
Darren: In the back of your book you have personal testimonies
from over thirty people from around the world who have all tested
HIV positive and have stopped taking or have never taken the antiviral
drugs. All of them claim to be healthy in spite of the predictions
of their doctors. How many of these people are still alive and free
of the illnesses associated with HIV and AIDS today?
Two people whose testimonials appear in the book died this year:
Kris Chmiel and my very dear friend Kim Frietas; however neither
death affirms the HIV hypothesis.
Kris died of hepatitis B while awaiting a liver transplant—a
virtual impossibility for someone diagnosed HIV positive. Kim succumbed
to pressure from friends and family and began AIDS treatments while
clinically well. After less than two months on the drugs, he died
of pneumonia. In the eight years we knew each other, Kim never had
any respiratory troubles or lung infections. It troubles me to think
that he and Kris might still be with us if Alive & Well had
the funding to provide healthcare. Presently, we offer referrals
to holistic medical professionals that make primary use of non-toxic
therapies, that treat based on specific individual need and diagnosis,
and that regard patients as people rather than HIV positives. We
also offer peer support for those taking alternative paths to health,
and we’re working in conjunction with other groups to set
up a no cost/low cost holistic health clinic in West Hollywood.