Tuesday, February 13, 2007

HIV on Trial

An interesting and historic court case is currently underway in Adelaide, Australia – one that is seeing the HIV/AIDS establishment defend its foundational paradigm: that Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the HIV retrovirus.

Yesterday (Monday, January 12, in Australia), Robert Gallo, the American scientist who purportedly established the link between HIV and AIDS in 1984, appeared for the prosecution in the application for appeal by Andre Chad Parenzee, a 36-year-old HIV-positive man convicted of exposing three women to the virus.

Defense witnesses in the case include medical physicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and physician Val Turner. Both belong to a HIV dissident study organization called the Perth Group, and both testified that the science behind HIV is fundamentally flawed, that the virus has never been isolated, that HIV tests are indirect and unreliable, and that HIV is not sexually transmitted or the cause of AIDS.

According to Papadopulos-Eleopulos, who gave testimony in the trial last October, HIV has never been isolated, and was only identified in 1983 by a process called “reverse transcription,” which is said to create retroviruses. She noted that the reverse transcription observed by Dr Montagnier in 1983, the so-called “discovery of HIV,” was not specific to HIV.

According to The Australian newspaper, “Ms Papadopulos-Eleopulos claimed AIDS was caused by [among other things] prolonged exposure to semen, which oxidised cells, degrading them, and led to numerous other serious illnesses - the AIDS-related illnesses - which end in death. . . . she [also] cited numerous scientific papers that concluded that vaginal sex did not transmit HIV.” (1)

During his testimony yesterday countering the claims of both Papadoplos-Eleopulos and Turner, Gallo said that the pair was using the case as “a ploy” to advance their theories – theories which he described as “beyond stupid,” “sad,” “deeply nonsensical,” and “extremely wrong.” (2)

I’m not so sure.

Now, before you dismiss me as an “AIDS denialist,” please hear me out.

Neither I nor, from what I’ve read, the scientists of the Perth Group (or for that matter any of the other HIV-dissenting individuals and groups I’ve come across) are saying that conditions and diseases don’t exist that undermine and destroy the body’s immune system. Yet many have grave doubts and serious questions about the orthodox HIV/AIDS establishment view that such a range of conditions and diseases can be the result of a single retrovirus.

Indeed, most of the so-called “dissidents” would concur with Dr. Gordon Stewart, Emeritus Professor of Public Health at the University of Glasglow, who in 1992 proposed that “AIDS . . . is multi-factorial, brought on by several simultaneous strains on the immune system – drugs, pharmaceutical and recreational, sexually transmitted diseases, multiple viral infections.” (3)

Stewart is far from the only scientist to question the link between HIV and AIDS. Others include Robert Root-Bernstein, Joseph Sonnabend, Michael Lange, Peter Duesberg, Kary Mullis, Etienne de Harven, Rodney Richards, Mark Craddock, David Rasnick, and Rebecca Culshaw.

Yet it seems that anyone who raises doubts, questions, or alternatives to the HIV=AIDS paradigm is immediately dismissed and even ridiculed. Worse, they can be compared to “Holocaust deniers” by the HIV/AIDS establishment. This is a truly offensive and ridiculous charge. For a start, none of the so-called “dissident” scientists questioning HIV are, as I’ve noted, denying AIDS. What they’re simply doing is questioning the role (if any) HIV plays in AIDS.

Mathematician Mark Craddock has this to say about the HIV/AIDS establishment and its automatic and swift condemnation of any dissenting scientific view: “Science is about making observations and trying to fit them into a theoretical framework. Having the theoretical framework allows us to make predictions about phenomena that we can test. HIV ‘scientists’ long ago set off on a different path . . . People who ask simple, straightforward questions are labeled as loonies who are dangerous to public health.” (4)

In this post I’d like to address three specific aspects of this highly controversial issue: HIV testing, the work of Dr. Gallo, and AIDS in Africa. I’ll do so by asking five of those “simple, straightforward questions” that, as Craddock notes, gets many labeled as “loonies” by the HIV/AIDS establishment.

Yet I invite you to judge for yourself the “looniness” of my questions, and of the answers I’ve gained to them from some of those involved in the so-called “HIV-dissident” movement.

Question 1: Are those who question the role of HIV in AIDS dangerous to public health?

In 2000 David Rasnick, one of the most outspoken critics of the HIV/AIDS establishment, was asked this very question. Here’s what he had to say in response: “People call us dangerous, and I agree with them completely . . . I and the other dissidents . . . we are very dangerous people. The question is: dangerous to whom?”

He goes on to declare that, “We’re certainly not dangerous to HIV-positive people. We’re not dangerous to hemophiliacs. We’re not dangerous to Africans. But we are lethally dangerous to the HIV establishment; to the people who are on that $8 billion taxpayer gravy train [which] every year goes to AIDS [in the US]; the $1.8 billion that goes to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases only for HIV research. We’re very dangerous to those folks [and to the] careers and reputations of those 100,000 scientists and physicians who stake their careers and reputations on this bogus contagious HIV hypothesis.”

“But we haven’t killed anybody,” he insists. “As a matter of fact, as a consequence of our work, there are certainly thousands of people who are alive today that would not be alive had they been left alone with the insanity of the HIV hypothesis to drag them down in that spiral of taking the drugs that eventually cause the AIDS diseases.” (5)

Rebecca Culshaw, Ph.D. confirms, in part, Rasnick
s contention when she notes that the leading cause of death in HIV-positives in the last few years has been liver failure, not an AIDS-defining disease in any way, but rather an acknowledged side effect of protease inhibitors, which asymptomatic individuals take in massive daily doses, for years.” (6)

Culshaw is also critical of the professional standards and qualities of HIV research. “To put it plainly,” she writes, “HIV science has sold out to the epidemic of low standards that is infecting all of academic scientific research. . . . Over the years, I have had plenty of opportunity to see exactly how research expectations affect the quality of the work we produce. It is clear to me that the pressure to obtain big government grants and to publish as many papers as possible is not necessarily helping the advancement of science. . . . This lowering of scientific standards and critical thinking has been apparent in many aspects of research for some time. . . . It is this decline . . . that I point to when I am asked how so many scientists and doctors could be so wrong. Given the current research atmosphere, it was almost inevitable that a very significant scientific mistake was going to be made.” (7)

Question 2: How reliable are HIV tests?

My interest in the complex and controversial issue of the role of HIV in AIDS stems from the fact that in order to complete my recent green card application process in Australia, I had to undergo a medical examination in Sydney – an examination that involved an HIV test, or more accurately, a test for HIV antibodies.

I had no reason to believe I would test HIV-positive (which, as it turned out, I didn’t), yet I was nevertheless concerned as I was well aware of the many questions surrounding the reliability of HIV testing.

For a start, I knew that no HIV antibody test has ever been verified against the gold standard of HIV isolation. I was also aware that none of the various tests are specific or unique for HIV antibodies. A number of factors can and do cause what is known as a “false-positive” test result – including a recent flu vaccination, naturally-occurring antibodies within the body, and pre-existing conditions such as hepatitis and malaria. Indeed, there are over fifty scientific studies that have identified at least 70 conditions that can cause a “false-positive” HIV result.

Second, because tests for the HIV antibodies are not standardized, people are often “diagnosed” as being either HIV-positive or HIV-negative on the perceived “risk” associated with factors such as sexual orientation and/or skin color. In short, factors such as these are often used to “interpret” HIV test results.

Dr. Rebecca Culshaw, Ph.D., who for years studied mathematical modeling of HIV immunology before concluding that there exists solid scientific evidence to challenge the HIV=AIDS paradigm, notes the following about HIV antibody testing in her article “Why I Quit HIV”:

“The two types of tests routinely used are the ELISA and the Western Blot (WB). The current testing protocol is to ‘verify’ a positive ELISA with the ‘more specific’ WB (which has actually been banned from diagnostic use in the UK because it is so unreliable). But few people know that the criteria for a positive WB vary from country to country and even from lab to lab. Put bluntly, a person’s HIV status could well change depending on the testing venue. It is also possible to test ‘WB indeterminate’, which translates to any one of ‘uninfected’, ‘possibly infected’, or even, absurdly, ‘partly infected’ under the current interpretation. This conundrum is confounded by the fact that the proteins comprising the different reactive ‘bands’ on the WB test are all claimed to be specific to HIV, raising the question of how a truly uninfected individual could possess antibodies to even one ‘HIV-specific’ protein.” (8)

Rodney Richards, Ph.D. was a designer of HIV tests and a founding scientist at Am-Gen Labs. He’s gone on record as saying that, “The idea that there is a laboratory test that can determine whether or not a person is infected with the HIV virus is simply an illusion. The FDA has never approved a test kit that claims to be used for the purpose of diagnosing HIV infection.” (9)

Richards contends that, at best, the HIV antibody tests measure a condition called hypergammaglobulinemia which, as Rebecca Culshaw points out, simply means “having too many antibodies to too many things.” (10)

All of which leads Culshaw to state: “I . . . sincerely believe that these HIV tests do immeasurably more harm than good, due to their astounding lack of specificity and standardization. I can buy the idea that anonymous screening of the blood supply for some nonspecific marker of ill health (which, due to cross reactivity with many known pathogens, a positive HIV antibody test often seems to be) is useful. I cannot buy the idea that any individual needs to have a diagnostic HIV test. A negative test may not be accurate (whatever that means), but a positive one can create utter havoc and destruction in a person’s life – all for a virus that most likely does absolutely nothing. I do not feel it is going too far to say that these tests ought to be banned for diagnostic purposes.”

“The real victims in this mess,” continues Culshaw, “are those whose lives are turned upside-down by the stigma of an HIV diagnosis. These people, most of whom are perfectly healthy, are encouraged to avoid intimacy and are further branded with the implication that they were somehow dreadfully foolish and careless. Worse, they are encouraged to take massive daily doses of some of the most toxic drugs ever manufactured. HIV, for many years, has fulfilled the role of a microscopic terrorist. People have lost their jobs, been denied entry into the Armed Forces, been refused residency in and even entry into some countries, even been charged with assault or murder for having consensual sex; babies have been taken from their mothers and had toxic medications forced down their throats. There is no precedent for this type of behavior, as it is all in the name of a completely unproven, fundamentally flawed hypothesis, on the basis of highly suspect, indirect tests for supposed infection with an allegedly deadly virus – a virus that has never been observed to do much of anything.” (11)

Culshaw and others are also highly critical of the fact that few people, including many medical practitioners, are aware of the warning sentences in HIV antibody test kits – sentences that affirm Richards’ criticism of HIV tests and which announce, for instance, that:

“ELISA testing cannot be used to diagnose AIDS” (Abbott Laboratories test kit, 1997).

“Do not use this test as the sole basis for HIV infection” (Epitope Western Blot kit, 1997).

“The amplicor HIV-1 monitor test is not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV, nor a diagnostic test to confirm the presence of HIV infection” (Roche viral load kit, 1996).

Culshaw has also documented the “subtle but significant shift in the language used in HIV test kits since the beginning of the AIDS era.” For example, she notes that from 1984 until the very recent past, “test kit inserts contained the unambiguous statement ‘AIDS is caused by HIV.’ In 2002, [such statements were] toned down . . . to say: ‘AIDS, AIDS-related complex and pre-AIDS are thought to be caused by HIV.’ (Italics mine) But just this year, in a remarkable – and potentially significant – shift in thinking, the trend seems to be toward making an even less committal statement. For example, Abbott Diagnostic’s ELISA test insert contains the following sentence: ‘Epidemiologic data suggest that the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by at least two types of human immunodeficiency viruses, collectively known as HIV.’ Vironostika appears to be even less willing to support a true causal role, as their 2006 test kit insert says: ‘Published data indicate a strong correlation between the acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) and a retrovirus referred to as Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).’ ” (12)

“What this is telling us”, says Culshaw, “is that twenty-two years later, we’ve still got nothing. As the recent Rodriguez et. al paper indicates, virus levels (as dubiously measured by viral load tests) have almost zero influence on CD4+ cell decline, and these are the cells that have so long been believed to be dying at HIV’s behest. As Zvi Grossman stated in a recent paper, ‘The pathogenic and physiologic processes leading to AIDS remain a conundrum.’ In other words, we still have no clue what HIV actually does. Where are the T-cells going? No one knows. What is viral load, anyway? No one knows.”

“After twenty-two years,” concludes Culshaw, “we’re back to correlation – back to epidemiology. Yet we’re still stuck in the same pattern of promoting these tests that may measure something – but no one really understands what it is. Worse yet, we’re using the results of these tests to literally ruin people’s lives. Something is very, very wrong.” (13)

Interestingly, when questioned about the accuracy of HIV testing as part of the current court case in Adelaide, Robert Gallo, speaking via satellite from Baltimore, lost patience with defence lawyer Kevin Borick, declaring, “You are driving me nuts with this. . . . No one knows more about HIV testing than me. I don’t expect a thankyou but I don’t expect to be provoked to that degree.” (14)

Question 3: Who is Dr. Robert Gallo and how reliable is his contribution to the HIV=AIDS debate?

Yes, what about Gallo and his contribution to the seemingly unquestionable HIV=AIDS paradigm?

In her recently published book, Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, Rebecca Culshaw, PhD., observes that, “In order to truly understand how the HIV/AIDS connection became nearly universally accepted without question, one must revisit the early days of AIDS and the discovery of AIDS.” (15)

She notes that the first scientific papers claiming a definite causal role for HIV were published on May 5, 1984, in the “esteemed” journal Science by Robert Gallo and Mikulas Popovic.* Of the pair’s four papers describing the detection of HIV in a proportion of AIDS patients, Culshaw has the following to say:

“It is amazing that in the paper purporting to have frequently detected HIV in AIDS patients, actual HIV could be detected in only twenty-six out of seventy-two AIDS patients. . . . Gallo claimed that the reason for such a low frequency of detection (in spite of the title using the word frequent) was probably due to ‘sample contamination.’ It was later determined that his samples were indeed contaminated with mold, but one wonders how it is possible to come to such fundamental scientific conclusions using contaminated evidence! Regardless, it seems strange that finding HIV in fewer than half of AIDS . . . patients would ever qualify a virus for a pathogenic role, and indeed in the scientific papers Gallo’s team avoided using any absolute terms to indicate causation. However, he did use such words in the press conference that as held before the publication of these papers. By the time the supporting papers were published, the lay press had all but declared HIV to be “the AIDS virus,” and debate in the scientific arena was effectively stopped.” (16)

This is clearly both alarming and frustrating to Culshaw and others. “HIV researchers . . . know that the history of HIV/AIDS is littered with documented cases of fraud, incompetence, and poor-quality research,” she writes. “Yet they find it almost impossible to imagine that this could be happening at the present moment. They know their predictions have never panned out, yet they keep inventing mysterious mechanisms for HIV pathogenesis. They know many therapies of the past are now acknowledged to be mistakes (AZT monotherapy, ‘hit hard, hit early’), yet they never imagine that their current therapies (the ever-growing list of combination therapies) might one day be acknowledged as mistakes themselves. It’s time for them to wake up.” (17)

Question 4: What about the AIDS pandemic in Africa?

According to David Rasnick, there is no AIDS pandemic in Africa. He believes that AIDS in the US and Europe is largely “the clinical manifestation of the drug epidemic in both places.” In Africa, “it’s a completely different situation.” (18)

In fact, it’s so different that in 1985 the World Health Organization (WHO) came up with a different definition of AIDS in Africa, “because it didn’t look anything like AIDS in the US and Europe,” (19) says Rasnick. Thus the Bangui definition was born, named after an African town.

Commenting in 2000 on a recently completed visit to South Africa, Rasnick told the San Francisco Herald, “I don’t think there is any such thing as AIDS going on in South Africa. It’s just the same old things that Africans have been suffering and dying from for generations due to poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, bad water, that sort of thing. We’re calling it AIDS now, instead of by the old-fashioned names that were more honest.” (20)

Discussing further the Bangui definition of AIDS, Rasnick observes that this particular definition “doesn’t even require HIV” to be part of it. Thus a blood test is generally not required. Anyway, such a test is “totally unstable in Africa,” insists Rasnick, “because of false-positives with hepatitis B, malaria, tuberculosis” – all of which are endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. (21)

So how are people in Africa diagnosed with AIDS? “They use clinical symptoms,” says Rasnick. “There are four basic clinical symptoms in the Bangui definition; there’s 10% weight loss, there’s persistent fever and cough, and diarrhea. That’s it.

“Think about it. I was in the Peace Corps in Papua New Guinea and I had all of those. That makes me a long term survivor based on that definition of AIDS. Think of it, in a place like Africa, where you have random poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, bad water, and parasitic diseases – guess what the symptoms are. And tuberculosis, too. Tuberculosis is worldwide. Where you have poverty you have tuberculosis . . . It’s a disease of poverty, brought on by malnutrition. The world’s leading cause of immune depression is malnutrition, which is typically due to poverty. . . . In 1993 they actually added TB to the 1985 Bangui definition of AIDS. Isn’t that interesting? Regular TB which has been endemic there for how long, is now called AIDS in Africa.” (22)

For David Rasnick and others, AIDS in many ways functions, in the words of Rebecca Culshaw, “not [as] a disease so much as a socio-political construct that few people understand and even fewer question.” (23)

Rasnick is adamant that this “socio-political” dimension of AIDS is “American-made – a red, white, and blue epidemic.” (24)

“Europeans,” he states, “didn’t have the investment in it, psychologically, intellectually, financially, culturally, politically. They didn’t have the stake in it that the United States did. . . . We spend over a $100 billion in American taxpayer money on AIDS, Inc. to keep it going. That’s a gravy train they don’t like to see go away. So what do they do? They move it east. What did Texaco do when the oil dried up in Texas? They moved east to Saudi Arabia and places like that. Well, we go to Africa and tap into that potential goldmine for AIDS tests, AIDS drugs, and so forth. Then you crack India . . .” (25)

Question 5: Where to from here?

It seems clear to me that the so-called HIV-dissidents have raised many valid and important questions with regards to the connection between HIV and AIDS. To my knowledge, none of these questions have been adequately answered by the HIV/AIDS establishment.

Accordingly, I appreciate Rebecca Culshaw’s perspective on the need for genuine dialogue: “If the AIDS establishment is so convinced of the validity of what they say,” she writes, they should have no fear of a public, adjudicated debate between the major orthodox and dissenting scientists. . . . Yet all the major AIDS researchers have averted such a public debate, either by claiming that the ‘overwhelming scientific consensus’ makes such a debate superfluous, or by saying that they are ‘too busy saving lives’.” (26)

“In place of public debate,” says Culshaw, “clearly politically-motivated documents such as the Durban Declaration remain the establishment’s standard response to dissenting voices. Even a cursory reading of this pathetic document reveals it to be a statement of faith, designed to divert attention from dissenters at the very moment when they were threatening to expose the orthodoxy in South Africa in 2000.

“Billions of dollars have been spent on HIV, and this has not led to a greater understanding of the virus, but rather to a series of unproven or incorrect speculations which have been widely trumpeted in both the scientific and lay press. Such a track record is indicative of institutional problems in modern biomedicine.” (27)

It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the “trial of HIV” currently taking place in Adelaide will have on the call for both scientific and wider public debate on this issue. All I can say for sure is that such a debate is clearly needed.

* On December 31, 1993, Philip J. Hilts reported in the New York Times that, “the Federal Office of Research Integrity [O.R.I] today found that Dr. Robert C. Gallo, the American co-discoverer of the cause of AIDS, had committed scientific misconduct. The investigators said he had ‘falsely reported’ a critical fact in the scientific paper of 1984 in which he described isolating the virus that causes AIDS. The new report said Dr. Gallo had intentionally misled colleagues to gain credit for himself and diminish credit due his French competitors. The report also said that his false statement had ‘impeded potential AIDS research progress’ by diverting scientists from potentially fruitful work with the French researchers. . . . On the standards of Dr. Gallo’s laboratory record-keeping, the report said, ‘Especially in light of the groundbreaking nature of this research and its profound public health implications, O.R.I. believes that the careless and unacceptable keeping of research records reflects irresponsible laboratory management that has permanently impaired the ability to trace the important steps taken.’”

1. Roberts, J., “Accused Denies Existence of HIV,” The Australian, October 26, 2006.
2. Roberts, J., “HIV Skeptics Beyond Stupid, Says Top Scientist," The Australian, February 13, 2007, p.7.
3. Spin, June 1992.
4. Craddock, M., “HIV: Science by Press Conference” in AIDS; Virus or Drug-Induced, Duesberg, P.H. (Ed.) (Dordrecht, Neterlands: Kluwer Academic Publishing, 1996), pp. 127-130.
5. Mahoney, G., “Out of Africa: An Interview with David Rasnick,” San Francisco Herald, October 2000.
6. Culshaw, R., “Why I Quit HIV,” LewRockwell.com.
7. Culshaw, R., Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, (Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2006), pp. 14-15.
8. Culshaw, R., “Why I Quit HIV,” LewRockwell.com.
9. Richards, R., in Lee Evans Speaks Out Against the HIV Test.
10-12. Culshaw, R., Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, (Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2006), p 13.
13. Culshaw, R., “Why I Quit HIV,” LewRockwell.com.
14. Roberts, J., "HIV Skeptics Beyond Stupid, Says Top Scientist," The Australian, February 13, 2007, p.7.
15-16. Culshaw, R., Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, (Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2006), p 19.
17. Ibid., pp. 21-22.
18-22. Mahoney, G., “Out of Africa: An Interview with David Rasnick,” San Francisco Herald, October 2000.
23. Culshaw, R., Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, (Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2006), p 7
24-25. Mahoney, G., “Out of Africa II” at www.sfherald.com.
26. Culshaw, R., Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, (Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 2006), p 17.
27. Ibid., p.18.

Recommended Off-site Links:
The Perth Group
New AIDS Review
“Twenty Unanswerable Questions for AIDS Inc.” by Darin Brown
“Why I Quit HIV” by Rebecca Culshaw
“Why I Quit HIV: The Aftermath” by Rebecca Culshaw
Rebecca Culshaw on What HIV Isn’t
“Why HIV/AIDS Doesn’t Add Up”: An Interview with Rebecca Culshaw
Rebecca Culshaw on AIDS and Her Native Africa
“Out of Africa”: An Interview with David Rasnick
“Out of Africa II”
Writings of David Rasnick
“A Brief History of AIDS” by Andrew Maniotis
Alive and Well

Recommended Blogsite:
You Bet Your Life

And for the current** orthodox position, see the following websites:
A series of articles in Science magazine that seeks to debunk various dissident claims
Focus on the HIV-AIDS Connection

** I say
current because as Rebecca Culshaw notes in Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, the [scientific] papers on the molecular biology of HIV seem to have a very short shelf life - they go out of date very quickly . . . [T]his is a common occurrence in HIV research. Science, of course, is meant to be self-correcting, but it seems to be endemic in HIV research that, rather than continually building on an accumulating body of secure knowledge with only occasional missteps, the bulk of the structure gets knocked down every three to four years, replaced by yet another hypothesis, standard of care, or definition of what, exactly, AIDS really is. This structure eventually gets knocked down in the same fashion. Even more disturbing is the fact that HIV researchers continually claim that certain papers results are out of date, yet have absolutely no hesitation in citing the entire body of scientific research on HIV as massive overwhelming evidence in favor of HIV. They cant have it both ways, yet this is exactly what they try to do. (pp. 11-12)

Image: tissue-cell-culture.com.

1 comment:

Rob said...

An interesting (and somewhat) related article can be found here.