I find the idea of questioning AIDS disturbing.
What exactly is the point? Are you suggesting AIDS doesn't exist?
I was living in San Francisco when this whole thing began and
I saw many of my friends die. I find your position insulting.
Do you think you know more than scientists? In my opinion you
contribute nothing of value and are actually putting lives at
I'm sorry for your losses, but anger and shutting
off dialogue may not be the best way to deal with pain. A mind
is a terrible thing to close! Perhaps I can pry yours open with
a little information, and maybe even inspire you to think differently
The point of questioning is to make discoveries
and solve problems. Questioning is a fundamental tool used throughout
history to arrive at understanding and is an essential ingredient
of progress in any honest endeavor.
Science is all about questioning. Researchers
can't find answers without first asking questions. And their ability
to question should not be restricted by politics, religion, social
trends, peer pressure, popular beliefs, or profit margins.
Unfortunately, exploration into the cases of
immune deficiency that began appearing among gay men in major
urban areas quickly became restricted by influences that had nothing
to do with honest science. Potential non-contagious causes of
immune dysfunction were dismissed without proper investigation
in favor of the notion of a viral cause. The dismissing was done
primarily by virologists and infectious disease specialists who,
for reasons that had more to do with career niche than correct
investigative protocol, preferred to attribute what would later
be called AIDS to an infectious, viral agent. Most of these guys
had spent 20 years of their careers and billions of our tax dollars
trying to find a viral, sexually transmitted cause for human cancers.
One particularly single-minded scientist from
among their ranks, Dr. Robert Gallo, had been devoting his time
to scouring the world for evidence of HTLV, a retrovirus he had
isolated from leukemia cells growing in his lab at the National
Institutes of Health. He believed that HTLV would somehow cause
leukemia if he could only manage to locate it outside his lab.
Gallo finally found a group of people on the
Japanese island of Kyushu who tested positive for HTLV. But he
found HTLV in people with and without leukemia, that it coexisted
peacefully in cells, that there was so little virus that it was
practically impossible to isolate, and that only 1% of Kyushuians
(?!) infected with HTLV ever developed leukemia. Gallo, however,
remained undaunted by obvious inconsistencies that would have
sent any ordinary scientist packing. A creative problem solver,
he redefined leukemia, tested people for antibodies rather than
the virus itself, and endowed HTLV with a latency period of 55
years. And while most scientists snickered at Gallo's great discovery,
medical textbooks dutifully reported (and continue to document)
HTLV as a cause of leukemia, and the Red Cross actually tests
for it in all blood donations.
Fresh from this supposedly successful fight against
"sexually contagious Japanese island leukemia," Gallo,
along with his fellow cancer virologists, set their sights on
finding a sexually transmitted AIDS virus.
They began by ignoring the fact that AIDS occurred
among a particular subset of gay men, those with a history of
repeated infections with everything from amoebas and parasites
to hepatitis, syphilis, gonorrhea, and more; those who used immune
suppressing antibiotics habitually for years, those who ingested
lots of amyl nitrite, methamphetamines
and other chemicals known to cause immune collapse; those
who didn't spend much time eating or sleeping---in other words
people decidedly not "otherwise healthy." Rather than
thoroughly exploring the effects of this lifestyle on the immune
system, they persisted with the search for a virus.
(Before anyone gets upset about the word "lifestyle,"
its use is common in epidemiology, has nothing to do with right-wing
Christians and is about as mean-spirited as noting that the lifestyle
of asbestos workers is a cause of cancer.)
Anyway, Gallo decided to jump into the front
seat of the AIDS virus bandwagon in 1984 by hijacking the bandwagon.
He purloined retroviral particles isolated by French cancer virologist
Luc Montagnier and named them HTLV-III after his famous luekemia
virus. He then circumvented the scrutiny of the scientific community
by calling a press conference to announce his "discovery."
Ethical scientific protocol requires a researcher to publish claims
in a peer-reviewed journal before presenting tentative findings
to a largely uninformed and frighteningly uncritical media.
Instead, on April 23, Gallo stood next to that
lady with the real bad hair, Health and Human Services Secretary
Margaret Heckler, as she officially declared HTLV-III "the
probable cause of AIDS." Though Gallo had not yet published
his alleged proof for his hypothesis, by April 24 the New York
Times was calling Gallo's HTLV-III "the AIDS virus,"
and all research into other probable causes of AIDS came to an
abrupt halt. Later that same day, Gallo filed a patent for what
is now known as "the AIDS test."
When documentation of Gallo's AIDS virus hypothesis
finally appeared in a scientific journal, his paper proved only
that his claims were not supported by factual evidence. HTLV-III
virus had not been found in all of Gallo's AIDS patients, while
indirect evidence of the virus in the form of antibodies (normally
a sign of immunity to a viral infection) was found in less than
Fast forward through Montagnier squealing on
Gallo for swiping his virus and the patent profits, an international
incident that inspired a congressional investigation of Gallo's
original claims, the adoption of the MTV-friendly name "HIV,"
billions of research dollars invested in the single-sexual cause
hypothesis of HIV, the birth of 93,000 AIDS organizations, red
ribbons on every celebrity chest, to the development of an unparalleled
social-political-medical movement that will not tolerate critical
Besides its sordid history, there are many reasons
to question 15 years of strict adherence to Gallos' HIV hypothesis:
As of this date, there is still no scientific evidence to show
how HIV can cause AIDS. The July 2003 issue of Nature Medicine
says as much in a 20 year retrospective on AIDS science: Scientists
are still working with educated guesses as how HIV might cause
There are still no cases of AIDS in the medical
literature where HIV is proved to be the only risk factor. Unvalidated
antibody tests (unconfirmed by virus isolation) are still used
to diagnose infection, even though viral antibodies (in the absence
of virus) are evidence of immunity. The tests are still non-specific
and non-standardized, and none has been approved by the US Food
and Drug Administration for the specific purpose of diagnosing
actual infection with HIV.
HIV in the US hasn't increased. Government officials
still use an estimate for the number of Americans that are allegedly
positive that's been dragged out every year since 1996--and which
was downgraded from previously overestimated estimates.
Drug cocktails and chemotherapies
like AZT that supposedly eradicate HIV have failed to generate
documented evidence (in the form of long-term, controlled studies
published in the medical literature) for claims that they improve
clinical health or prolong life expectancy. And since 1986, no
AIDS drug has ever been tested in a true placebo control trial,
that is, its efficacy tested by comparing results in two groups
of HIV positives, one taking the drug and one taking an inert
substance known as a placebo.
There are also many reasons to question our emphasis---emotional,
social and fiscal---on AIDS, among them the fact that AIDS has
never reached the predicted epidemic proportions. More Americans
die each year from smoking cigarettes than have ever died of AIDS.
Three times as many die of heart disease annually than have ever
died of AIDS. Two times as many people worldwide die each year
of poverty-induced diarrhea than have ever died of AIDS. What
color ribbon should we wear for that?
As long as AIDS remains an unsolved problem full
of inconsistencies and anomalies, unexplained by HIV and unresolved
by expensive pharmaceuticals that cause the very symptoms they
are supposed to alleviate (plus a few extras like pancreatitis,
liver failure, kidney failure, dangerously high cholesterol, diabetes,
bone death, and buffalo humps), we must keep asking questions,
even uncomfortable ones. There's no other way to learn and progress.
Are you still awake?!