From the Archives

The Hidden Agenda behind HIV

(Rethinking AIDS, Jan./Feb. 1994)

Despite all assurances to the contrary, the AIDS establishment continues to fund only research on HIV. Peter Duesberg inadvertently proved this blackout on all alternative research when he recently submitted a grant proposal to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. The Institute’s clinical director of AIDS research had personally invited the proposal, which outlined a plan to test the long-term effects of nitrite inhalants, or “poppers,” on the immune systems of mice. The answer came back in December: The anonymous referees had not only turned it down, but had refused even to review the proposal.

Why does such a political correctness continue to dominate the War on AIDS? After all, public health officials cannot yet demonstrate they have saved any lives from the syndrome, while its death toll rises steadily. The scientific predictions have also failed miserably. In contrast to the predicted spread of AIDS in the United States, the epidemic has remained strictly confined to risk groups; nine of every ten AIDS cases have been male, and ninety percent of all AIDS victims have been linked to heavy drug use, whether intravenously or as “fast track” homosexuals. Indeed, epidemiologists have yet to establish that any epidemic at all has struck among blood transfusion recipients. Even individual AIDS diseases prefer specific risk groups, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma among homosexuals and the near-absence of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia among Africans, whose lungs all contain the microbe. And some thirty-nine percent of AIDS diseases in America have nothing at all to do with immune deficiency — witness Kaposi’s sarcoma, various lymphomas, wasting disease, and dementia, for example. In short, AIDS is not an infectious disease.

The obsession with an “AIDS virus” has little to do with science or medicine. Writing in Nature in 1991 (June 21), British HIV researcher Robin Weiss and American CDC official Harold Jaffe hinted at the real purpose in an attack on Peter Duesberg: “But if he and his supporters belittle ‘safe sex,’ would have us abandon HIV screening of blood donations, and curtail research into anti-HIV drugs and vaccines, then their message is perilous.” To whom? If AIDS is not infectious, such recommendations would simply save the taxpayer money and anxiety.

But perhaps this is the point. A 1989 report by the National Research Council more explicitly revealed the hidden agenda. Originally sponsored by the Rockefeller and Russel Sage Foundations and then funded by the Public Health Service, AIDS: Sexual Behavior and Intravenous Drug Use laid out a plan for social engineering on a massive scale — using AIDS as the excuse. “The devastating effect of an epidemic on a community can evoke strong political and social responses,” the committee duly noted. “An epidemic necessitates the rapid mobilization of the community to counter the spread of illness and death” (p. 373). The power of such a method to force changes in cultural values is based on careful manipulation of fear. “Ideally, health promotion messages should heighten an individual’s perceptions of threat and his or her capacity to respond to that threat, thus modulating the level of fear.… What is not yet known is how to introduce fear in the right way in a particular message intended for a particular audience. Acquiring that knowledge will require planned variations of AIDS education programs that are carefully executed and then carefully evaluated,” stated the committee coolly (pp. 267-8).

The report then identified one of the major targets of change — Judaeo-Christian moral values. “Historically, there has been a strong social reluctance in the United States to speak or write about sexuality in explicit terms. Despite recent indications of greatly increased tolerance for sexual explicitness in the media and literature, that reluctance remains strong in much of the population; it is particularly strong in instances that involve the education of children and adolescents” (p. 379). The fear of a supposedly infectious AIDS epidemic, however, could be used to fix such problems. As the report declared, “The committee believes that, during an epidemic, politeness is a social virtue that must take second place to the protection of life” (p. 379).

Other public health officials have been even more forthright. As an officer of the Centers for Disease Control, Donald Francis had in 1984 drafted the CDC’s proposed AIDS strategy. In his 1992 retirement speech at the agency’s Atlanta, Georgia headquarters, Francis voiced the ambitions held by many of his fellow officers in describing “the opportunity that the HIV epidemic provides for public health” (JAMA, 9-16-92). He stated in no uncertain terms the radical nature of the plan:

The cloistered caution of the past needs to be discarded. The climate and culture must be open ones where old ideas are challenged. Those who desire the status quo should seek employment elsewhere. The American HIV prevention program should be the place where the best and the brightest come, where the action is, where history is being made. This is the epidemic of the century, and every qualified person should want to have a piece of the action.

The “action” described by Francis was a set of programs that would, as he fully recognized, need strong political protection from angry taxpayers and voters. For example, he bitterly attacked public opposition to condom distribution programs, and called for powerful legal measures to bypass parental discretion. “The ongoing controversies involving abstincence and condoms typify the morass into which schools can fall,” Francis complained. “If, in the opinion of those far more expert than I, schools cannot be expected to provide such programs, then health departments should take over, using as a justification their mandate to protect the public’s health.”

Francis also included proposals for dealing with the AIDS risk of intravenous drug use — including a call for “prescription of addicting drugs” with Federal government sponsorship. Even libertarians who advocate legalizing drugs would balk at such notions, which would ultimately create a massive bureaucracy encouraging drug use. “Following a more enlightened model for drug treatment, including prescribing heroin, would have dramatic effects on HIV and could eliminate many of the dangerous illegal activites surrounding drugs,” he insisted, knowing that only fear of the AIDS epidemic might make such proposals tolerable to the public. Ignoring the toxic, and possibly AIDS-inducing, effects of drugs, Francis emphasized that “In addition to treatment, safe injection [!] must be stressed both for those in treatment programs and those out of treatment. The provision of sterile injection equipment for drug users should be the standard of public health practice in the United States.”

Most chillingly of all, Francis saw the possibilities in harnessing other epidemics to advance similar agendas. As he put it, “if we establish new mechanisms to handle the HIV epidemic, [these] can serve as models for other diseases.”

The common denominator of these and similar plans is that they originate with the Federal government’s Public Health Service, and especially from its frontline public health agency, the Centers for Disease Control. Public perceptions often paint the CDC as a minor office that gathers and publishes dull statistics on disease. The truth is shockingly different. A sophisticated $2 billion-per-year operation, the CDC employs a staff of thousands who see themselves as having an activist mandate. They view epidemics as opportunities for control and for imposing lifestyle changes on the population.

The CDC has traditionally specialized in contagious disease. Its initials, in fact, originally stood for the Communicable Disease Center, from its formation in 1946 until its name changed in 1970. And therein lies its bias, for it tends to interpret almost any epidemic as being infectious. Certainly the CDC has plenty of raw material with which to work; each year brings at least one thousand outbreaks, or “clusters,” of disease that strike in the United States — one every eight hours. These can range from flus and pneumonias to closely-occurring cancers, but most outbreaks involve no more than a handful of people each; since the polio epidemic, none have posed serious threats to the general public. However, by falsely labelling any arbitrarily chosen outbreak as infectious and blaming it on a virus or other microbe, the CDC can quickly generate public fear and political mobilization behind almost any agenda.

The CDC has actually engineered a number of false alarms or misdirected campaigns over the past four decades, neutralizing scientific dissent and calmer voices when necessary. AIDS, though not the first example, has now become the most successful epidemic by far. Two powerful weapons in the agency’s arsenal, both unknown to the public at large, have made this possible: a semi-secret wing of the CDC known as the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), and a quiet “partnership” program with private organizations.

The Epidemic Intelligence Service

Among epidemiologists, it is often half-jokingly referred to as the “medical CIA.” Founded in 1951 by public health professor Alexander Langmuir, the EIS was first designed to act as an elite biological-warfare countermeasures unit of the CDC. Langmuir was hired because he also served as one of the select advisors to the Defense Department’s chemical and biological warfare program.

The first EIS class of 21 recent medical or biological graduates underwent several weeks of intense training at the CDC’s Atlanta headquarters, before being dispatched on their two-year assignments on loan to various state or local health departments around the country. They acted as the eyes and ears of the CDC, carefully monitoring for any possible outbreak of war-induced disease. While on their tours of duty, each EIS officer could be sent elsewhere in the country on a 24 hour-a-day basis. In case of war, the EIS would operate under any emergency powers granted the CDC — potentially including quarantines, mass immunizations, or other drastic measures.

In an article written for the American Journal of Public Health (March, 1952), Langmuir made clear that membership in the EIS did not end with the two year assignment, but was permanent. He wrote that, “As a result of their experience, many of these officers may well remain in full-time epidemiology or other public health pursuits at federal, state, or local levels. Some, no doubt, will return to civilian, academic, or clinical practice, but in the event of war they could be returned to active duty with the Public Health Service and assigned to strategic areas to fulfil the functions for which they were trained.”

Every year since 1951 has seen a new crop of EIS recruits, some classes over one hundred members in size. The nearly 2,000 alumni have gone on to high positions in society, though rarely advertising their affiliation. Indeed, the CDC has now made the EIS more secretive than ever, having suppressed the public availability of the membership directory since last year. Members can be found in the Surgeon General’s office and elsewhere in the Federal government, as well as in the World Health Organization, state and local health departments, universities, pharmaceutical companies, tax-exempt foundations, hospitals, and even as staff writers, editors, or news anchormen for major newspapers, scientific journals, and television news departments. In these positions, EIS alumni act not only as the CDC’s surveillance arm and emergency reserve, but also as seemingly “independent” advocates for CDC policies.

In time, the fear of artificial disease epidemics faded. But Langmuir and other top CDC officials had always held bigger plans for the EIS. Langmuir, for example, an apostle of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, involved the EIS in the population control movement by the 1960s. The CDC has gained most, however, from EIS activities in natural disease epidemics, to which its “disease detectives” have turned their attention.

The flu, being truly an infectious disease, often proved itself most valuable to the CDC. Although the winter following the end of World War I was the last time a flu epidemic caused widespread death, the CDC has pushed annual flu vaccinations up to the present day. At times, the agency has even rung the alarm over an impending flu crisis, hoping to use memories of the 1918 epidemic to gain emergency powers and impose mass vaccinations. By using such tactics in 1957 over the Asian flu, the CDC managed to wrangle extra money out of Congress to expand the EIS and crash-produce a vaccine. But the flu season was already winding down by the time the vaccine was ready, and the flu itself turned out to have been as mild as in any other year.

By 1976, CDC director David Sencer wanted to try again, though on a grander scale. After one soldier in Pennsylvania died of a flu-related pneumonia in January, Sencer predicted that a pig-borne human virus, nicknamed the “swine flu,” would soon devastate the United States. Panicked with visions of impending doom, Congress moved to authorize the CDC’s immunization plan for every man, woman, and child in the country. Unexpectedly, the legislation suddenly stalled when the insurance companies underwriting the vaccine discovered that it had seriously toxic side effects.

Sencer had to do something fast. He immediately set up a “War Room” in Auditorium A at the CDC headquarters, and put the EIS network on full alert to search for any disease outbreak that might resemble the flu. Within weeks, the War Room received word of a pneumonia cluster among men just returning home from the Philadelphia convention of the American Legion. Several Philadelphia-based EIS officers and alumni had detected the outbreak, and acted as a fifth column that not only helped arranged an invitation for the CDC to come in, but also took their orders from the arriving team of CDC and EIS officers. Even the New York Times staff writer sent to cover the story, Lawrence Altman, was himself an EIS alumnus.

The CDC team allowed media rumors to circulate that this Legionnaires’ disease was the beginning of the swine flu. Within days, Congress decided to pass the vaccine bill. Only later did the CDC admit that the legionnaires had not been infected by the flu virus, too late to stop the immunization program. Some 50 million Americans received the vaccine, leading to more than a thousand cases of nerve damage and paralysis, dozens of deaths, and lawsuits awarding almost $100 million in damages. In the ultimate irony, no swine flu epidemic ever materialized; the only destruction left behind by the phantom swine flu resulted from the CDC’s vaccine.

The agency later blamed Legionnaires’ disease on a common soil bacterium, one that clearly fails Koch’s postulates for causing the disease and is therefore actually harmless. The legionnaires’ deaths are not so hard to understand, since the pneumonias struck elderly men, many of whom had undergone kidney transplant operations, and who had become particularly drunk during the Bicentennial celebration — the classic risks for pneumonia. Thus “Legionnaires’ disease” is not an infectious condition, but merely a new name for old pneumonias.

Using its EIS network, the CDC has applied similar tactics to other outbreaks of disease. During the 1960s, for example, the EIS helped fuel the National Institute of Health’s growing Virus-Cancer Program by tracking down every small cluster of leukemia cases, trying to create the impression that some virus was responsible for the cancer. Robert Gallo became one of many scientists so impressed with the CDC investigations that he devoted the rest of his career to finding a human leukemia virus.

More recently, the CDC managed to have a team of EIS officers invited into New Mexico to investigate a cluster of pneumonia cases among Navajo Indians. By June of 1993, the CDC began insisting that the brief and relatively small outbreak was caused by a rat fecal virus, the Hantavirus. But as a letter in the January 1 issue of the Lancet pointed out, most of the affected Navajos actually tested negative for the virus. And unlike a contagious disease, this pneumonia never spread beyond the first few dozen victims. Again, the CDC’s “disease detectives” used a high-profile investigation to create media publicity and frighten the general population, rather than troubling themselves with the scientific method and its more boring answers.

Of all the epidemics mismanaged by the CDC, AIDS proved the most spectacular in achieving political success. By 1981, the EIS had so thoroughly penetrated the medical and public health institutions in the United States that it could now detect even the smallest and most loosely-connected “clusters” of diseases, no matter how far apart the victims were in time and space. The original AIDS cases were all found in homosexual men in the “fast track” lifestyle — those having hundreds or thousands of sexual contacts and using enormous amounts of hard drugs to make such promiscuous activity possible. For the CDC, the trick was to make the illness seem contagious; a simple drug-induced epidemic among homosexuals would hardly have frightened the public, nor have allowed the CDC to accomplish its radical public health agenda.

The epidemic officially began in 1980 after Michael Gottlieb, a new immunologist at the UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, decided to test the brand new T cell-counting technology. He put out an informal request to fellow physicians to refer cases of immune deficiency to him. Over the next several months, colleagues sent him four such cases, all male homosexuals with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. Sensing that the CDC might take an interest, Gottlieb called active EIS officer Wayne Shandera in the Los Angeles health department. Shandera had heard an isolated report of a fifth homosexual with the same problem, and compiled a report for the CDC.

Ordinarily, each of the five cases would have been seen by separate doctors, leaving nothing to suggest the word “epidemic” to anyone. But having a pre-positioned EIS agent like Shandera certainly helped the CDC gather such cases together as a potential cluster. Shandera’s report fell on the desk of James Curran, an official in the CDC’s venereal diseases division; the 1987 book And the Band Played On records that Curran wrote “Hot stuff. Hot stuff.” on the report (p. 67). He had the agency publish it immediately.

By the time the report appeared on June 5, 1981, Curran was already organizing a special Kaposi’s Sarcoma and Opportunistic Infections (KSOI) task force to lead an investigation of the five-victim epidemic. EIS members Harold Jaffe and Mary Guinan, also from the venereal diseases division, helped run the task force. The first order of business was to find as many similar patients as possible, thereby causing the epidemic to “grow.” Next was to explain the syndrome; to the CDC, this meant trying to find an infectious agent. This would be no simple task, since essentially all of the first fifty cases admitted to heavy use of poppers, a drug preferred by homosexuals as a means of facilitating anal intercourse. Even if this toxic drug presented itself as the obvious explanation, the CDC investigators had no intention of letting the evidence interfere. Accordinng to historian Elizabeth Etheridge, “While many of the patients were routine users of amyl nitrites or ‘poppers,’ no one in the KSOI task force believed the disease was a toxicological problem” (Sentinel for Health, 1992, p. 326).

So the EIS was activated to prove AIDS infectious. EIS officer David Auerbach and others confirmed that these extremely promiscuous homosexuals were often linked to one another through long chains of sexual encounters. To prove that AIDS was “spreading” to other people, other officers scoured hospitals to find heroin addicts with opportunistic infections, and blamed their needle-sharing rather than the heroin use, itself a classic risk factor for pneumonias and other illnesses. Bruce Evatt and Dale Lawrence, both members of the EIS, discovered one hemophiliac in Colorado with an opportunistic pneumonia as a side effect of internal bleeding, but rediagnosed the patient as an AIDS case. Even Haitians in Florida and Haiti were interviewed by EIS officer Harry Haverkos, who renamed their endemic tuberculosis as AIDS.

Not understanding the loaded nature of such investigations, the outside world completely bought the CDC line. Soon the race was on for scientific researchers to find the guilty virus. But this search, too, had been rigged. Donald Francis, an EIS member himself since 1971, decided just eleven days after the original Shandera report that the syndrome should be blamed on a retrovirus — with a latent period, no less. Using his various contacts in the retrovirus field, Francis spent the next two years pushing Robert Gallo to isolate a new retrovirus. Eventually Gallo did take an interest, and claimed credit for finding HIV.

With his April 23, 1984, press conference, Gallo completed the crusade begun by the CDC and its EIS. As the cameras rolled and the cameras flashed, Gallo and Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler launched the nation into a War on AIDS. Few people knew the true story behind that announcement, or of the political agenda that Don Francis and others were preparing to foist on the American people.

The Partnership Program

The CDC’s second major weapon for mobilizing public support lay in its assistance programs for private organizations. By funding or otherwise supporting groups not affiliated with the CDC, the agency could create apparently spontaneous mass movements. Spokesmen claiming to represent various communities could all simultaneously advocate policies identical to those of the CDC, while allowing the agency to remain quietly in the background and avoid direct criticism.

In 1984, the CDC began forming “partnerships,” based on “cooperative agreements,” with large numbers of “community-based organizations,” for the purpose of AIDS “education” [read: indoctrination]. At first the funding was channeled through the United States Conference of Mayors, which dispersed the money to a growing network of AIDS activist groups. By 1985, the CDC was giving over $1 million to state governments, influencing their response to AIDS.

After 1986, the money began flowing freely, and the CDC’s corresponding influence expanded quickly. The American Red Cross alone received over $19 million from 1988 to 1991, cementing CDC control among medical institutions. Millions more were targeted to such groups as the American Medical Association, the National Association of People with AIDS (which operates as a coordinating center for much of the AIDS activist and gay rights movements), Americans for a Sound AIDS Policy (which generates CDC-approved materials for evangelical Christians), the National Education Association (the major teachers’ union), the National PTA, the National Association of Broadcasters (which represents most television and radio stations and their networks), the National Conference of State Legislatures, and dozens of others. Even such groups as the National Urban League, the National Council of La Raza, and the Center for Population Options receive CDC grants and other technical aid. Many specifically AIDS-related groups actually depend on CDC money for their very existence.

Naturally, the CDC has established mechanisms for ensuring that its money and other aid are used for the intended purposes. Organizations wishing to receive grants must not only file applications, but are pre-screened by having to send representatives to CDC workshops on how to apply. These meetings allow the CDC to meet and judge applicants directly. Furthermore, any organization receiving aid winds up having CDC supervision of its AIDS-related “educational” activities.

It is little wonder there is so much political pressure, from all sides, to defend both the virus-AIDS hypothesis and the CDC’s public health agenda.

As with so many non-contagious diseases in the past, the CDC has persuaded the public that AIDS is infectious. Thus the taxpayer is manipulated with fear to acquiesce to the radical measures being pushed by the agency. Where “safe sex” programs, sterile needle exchanges, Federal subsidies of drug addiction, and other CDC proposals would normally be thrown out — along with the officials who proposed them — many Americans suspend judgment.

Most people do not yet realize that the entire campaign has been orchestrated mostly by a single agency of the Federal government, rather than being a spontaneous decision by independent experts and activists. As intended, the CDC has been able to mobilize the scientists, the medical institutions, political bodies, the news media, and a bewildering array of AIDS organizations behind its hidden agenda. All such groups will lose their credibility once the public discovers the real source of the campaign, and honest skepticism will spread faster than AIDS itself.

Signs of imminent change are appearing. The CDC’s public health measures — condoms, sterile needles, contact tracing, and the like — have failed to prevent the steady growth of AIDS. As this bad advice is recognized for what it is, more voices are joining the chorus of dissent against the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. The CDC may soon have to hold HIV research meetings all by itself.

That is, if Congress doesn’t abolish the CDC first.