Reprinted from Awareness Magazine, Winter 2003
Good Numbers vs Good Health
Questioning AIDS with Christine
“The doctor says ‘my numbers’ indicate
I’m sick and need to be on drug treatment. He says I will
die unless I start soon, but my health is fine. How can my T cells
show one thing and my health show another?”
Why Do My Numbers Say I’m Sick When I’m Not?
I tested positive two years ago. Before and since testing positive,
my health has been fine. I feel normal and I have no particular
complaints or problems. Despite this, my doctor says "my numbers"
indicate that I am sick and that I need to be on drug treatment.
He says I will die unless I start soon and is really putting on
While everyone around me has the flu, I'm fine. How can my T cell
numbers show one thing and my health show another?
Confused in OC
Lots of people write to me with questions about T cell counts. Doctors
use the counts to declare that people are sick when they are clinically
well and even though T cell measures have not been shown to provide
reliable information about wellness, illness or the state of the
If you check the medical literature you’ll find that there
are no properly designed and conducted studies establishing idea
that T cell counts are accurate indicators or predictors of health.
You'll also find that AIDS scientists have yet to compare T cell
counts in HIV positive and HIV negative matched cohorts. Matched
cohorts would be HIV positive and HIV negative diagnosed people
that are matched for "AIDS risks" such as hemophilia,
IV drug use, a history of multiple STDs and other infections, etc.
There are also no studies that follow T cell counts in the general
population over time or in a variety of life circumstances such
as during periods of stress, as we grow older, among menopausal
or menstruating women, etc.
One study on Olympic athletes in the early 1980s (cited in a report
to the UN Human Rights commission presented by Project AIDS International)
showed their T cell counts averaged between 400 and 600. Ironically,
until the mid 90s, a T cell count of 500 or less in an HIV positive
was considered indicative of immune collapse and a need for aggressive
therapy with AIDS drugs. According to that guideline on T cell counts,
exceptionally healthy young athletes would be regarded as facing
imminent illness and death.
A recent statement by noted AIDS specialist Dr Brian Gazzard also
raises questions about the significance of these numbers. Several
years ago, Dr Gazzard who is HIV negative, ran his own blood for
a T cell count and came up with a whopping 350, just above the demarcation
line for an AIDS diagnosis. At the time, Gazzard was in good health
and continues to enjoy normal health today.
Contrary to popular assumptions, a number of well-respected mainstream
AIDS doctors and researchers question the use of surrogate markers
like T cells and viral load to measure or predict health. AIDS researcher
Dr. Mario Roederer of Stanford University School of Medicine remarks
that "the blood is an imperfect reflection of the immune system...the
facts that HIV uses CD4 cells as its primary receptor and that CD
T cell numbers decline during AIDS are only an unfortunate coincidence
that have led us astray from understanding the immunopathogenisis
of [AIDS]... "
Roderer also notes that researchers Pakker, et al have produced
"powerful evidence that the increase in cell numbers observed
shortly after initiation with HAART (Highly Active Anti-Retrovial
Therapy) are caused by T cell redistribution and not T cell proliferation."
What this means is that the AIDS cocktails aren't causing the production
of new T cells, rather they redistribute ones already present by
bringing T cells out of lymphoid tissues and into the peripheral
blood where they can be counted. The common belief that HAART increases
T cells is like believing you have new living room furniture because
furniture normally found in your bedroom is moved to your living
room. (Quotes are from "Getting to the HAART of T Cell Dynamics"
Nature Medicine Volume 4 No 2 February 1998)
Jay Levy, MD a respected mainstream AIDS doctor from the University
of California at San Francisco has much to say about T cell and
viral load measurements in his article "Is There Truth In Numbers?”:
-"Peripheral blood lymphocyte numbers [T cell numbers] represent
only a small percentage (3%) of the total T cells in the body..."
- "Changes in CD4+ cell levels do not appear to reflect consistently
the clinical outcome of antiviral therapy."
-"Redistribution of these cells from lymphoid sources, not
necessarily de novo synthesis [new production], appears to be the
mechanism for the increase in number."
- "...CD4+ cell levels during therapy have not correlated with
(Quotes are from the Journal of the American Medical Association
July 10 1996 pp 161-162)
You can also find official AIDS publications from the US government
acknowledging a remarkable lack of evidence for assumptions about
T cells. Here are a couple revealing quotes from "The Relationship
Between HIV and AIDS," a mysteriously authorless document from
the National Institutes of Health that purports to prove that HIV
- "HIV infects and kills CD4+T lymphocytes in vitro, although
scientists have developed immortal T cell lines in order to propagate
HIV in the laboratory." Translation: Scientists can only show
HIV infecting and killing T cells in lab dishes, not in human beings,
and ironically, scientists grow the lab culture known as HIV in
T cells that are never adversely affected by the presence of this
HIV ("immortal T cell lines" are T cells that never die).
- "Several mechanisms of CD4+ T cell killing have been observed
in lentivirus systems in vitro and may explain the progressive loss
of these cells in HIV-infected individuals." Translation: AIDS
researchers have seen viruses similar to HIV kill T cells in lab
dishes and somehow their observations "may explain" T
cell loss in HIV positives.
- "Other auto-immune phenomena may also contribute to CD4+
T cell death since HIV envelope proteins share some degree of homology
with certain major histocompatibility complex type II molecules."
Translation: Other things can cause T cell loss, and by the way,
the very proteins that are supposed to be unique to HIV--hence their
use in tests claimed to identify the specific presence of HIV—are
not unique components of HIV.
I hope this helps you.
Will My Viral Load Numbers Rise?
I have just stopped HAART because of lipodystrophy (hollow cheeks,
lumps on my back, high cholesterol, etc) and other side effects
like constant diarrhea. Since stopping, my viral load numbers are
up. I'm scared. My doctor says my T cells will decrease, my viral
load will continue to rise and I'll get sick with pnuemonia. What
do you say?
I can understand why you stopped HAART with side effects like that
and I can also understand your concern about getting ill. I think
the best way to evaluate your situation is to examine what viral
load is measuring and what the drugs can and cannot do.
Viral load is not able to detect or quantify HIV. The test picks
up scraps of genetic material, not whole infectious virus, and is
not even approved for use to detect the presence of HIV. The test
kit literature says the test "is not intended to be used as
a screening test for HIV or to confirm the presence of HIV infection."
Four years ago, I had a load of 359,000 was fine. Ironically, when
I had a low load of 980, I got sick with pneumonia. (I recovered
quickly using natural therapies while my HIV negative younger brother
who had pneumonia at the same time took longer to get better—Lesson:
I recently reviewed the medical records of someone we helped in
a legal case. His viral load went from undetectable to 750,000 and
then dropped to around 150,00 without drug therapy. I say "around"
because his blood was sent to two different labs on the same day
(using the same drawing of blood) and the two tests came back with
a difference of almost 200,000 between them. His load then went
way up again and then down to a little over 2,500. During all the
ups and downs, there was no correlation between viral load and T
cell counts, which were done at the same time. When the load went
high, sometimes T cells did, too. When T cells dropped, his viral
load went both down and up. During the whole monitoring period—almost
two years of up and down tests that did not correlate with each
other—this person was in perfectly normal health. Every entry
on his medical record during the time notes all was normal and that
he had no yeast, swollen glands, infections, diarrhea or other disorders
one might see in someone who is immune suppressed.
The newest studies show that what HAART drugs can do is inadvertently
inhibit the proteases of certain pnuemonias, and some fungal and
bacterial infections. This unintended effect may help someone who
is very ill, but does not mean HAART works against HIV, nor that
it’s the best choice for someone experiencing illness, or
that it makes a good treatment for people who test positive and
If you consider that HAART is supposed to act specifically against
HIV but that it is so non-specific it inhibits the proteases of
other microbes as well as the human digestive proteases, and that
it can cause metabolic disorders, fat displacement, digestive troubles,
pancreatitis, kidney stones, liver failure, heart attacks and strokes,
I don’t know if HAART is the best way to prevent illness.
I think your decision about HAART should be based on a risk/benefit
ratio and all the facts about lab numbers. If I can help further
please let me know.