From the Archives

The Fabricated Epidemic

(The New American, Jan. 15, 1990)

“This epidemic has just started…”

This grim statement was made by Dr. Johnathan Mann of the World Health Organization (WHO) in 1987 and quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Only a few months earlier, Surgeon General C. Everett Koop had announced to a terrified nation that a minimum of 100 million humans would be dead by the end of this century. Worse still, this disaster had cruelly chosen the form of a progressive, absolutely fatal disease that killed only with extreme suffering — a disease that had come to be known as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

What could cause such disaster?

A bewildered public was told that a highly unusual virus had somehow broken into the human population. But, unlike in the past, scientists seemed paralyzed in trying to find a solution. Vaccination wouldn’t work. The most potent drugs might, at best, only delay the symptoms. The condition wouldn’t show up until eight to ten years after infection with the virus, but was inevitable. It would only appear after the victim had developed antibodies. Everyone was at risk.

Of course, there was only one solution. As Dr. Mann of WHO put it, “Global AIDS control will require billions of dollars over the next five years.” Who could argue?


As of about the middle of 1987, this was the official status of the worst natural epidemic to strike mankind in the twentieth century.

But then something happened that wasn’t supposed to. A twenty-two page article appeared in the March issue of the scientific journal Cancer Research. The author was the highly respected Dr. Peter Duesberg, a professor and research scientist in molecular biology at the University of California. As co-discoverer of the first viral cancer gene, expert on viruses, and member of the National Academy of Sciences, he was a voice that could not be easily ignored. In that article, after using several pages to question the role of viruses in cancer, Duesberg turned to AIDS.

And he dropped a bombshell.

AIDS, he defiantly declared, couldn’t possibly be caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Which meant that everyone was on a wild goose chase.

The reaction from scientific and medical circles was equally incredible. Not one professional even responded to this landmark article. When questioned by occasional curious reporters, scientists either refused to respond or launched personal attacks on Dr. Duesberg.

Since that article, a growing list of scientists has come to agree at least partly with Duesberg: Dr. Harry Rubin, also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and a colleague at the University of California; Professor Gordon Stewart, a British epidemiologist; Dr. Walter Gilbert, virologist and Nobel laureate at Harvard University; Dr. Albert Sabin, inventor of the polio vaccine; Dr. Robert S. Root-Bernstein of Michigan State University; Dr. Harvey Bialy, editor of the journal Bio/Technology; Beverly Griffin, a London virologist; Dr. Alfred S. Evans, a Yale University epidemiologist. The list continues to grow.

At the same time, an increasing number of practicing physicians treating AIDS patients has also come to challenge the idea that any virus is responsible, much less HlV. The list includes such names as Stephen Caiazza and Joseph Sonnabend of New York, and Alan Cantwell of Los Angeles.

Yet, the established view has not budged one single inch. Virtually no challenge is offered against the arguments of these dissident scientists and doctors. In fact, almost no one outside of scientific circles has even heard that this “debate” exists.

The Epidemiological Case

Most people are surprised to learn that AIDS is not a new disease, but rather a syndrome composed entirely old ones. Since September of 1987, the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have updated the official definition of this syndrome. It contains a list of such diseases as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, Kaposi’s Sarcoma (cancer of blood vessels), herpes, tuberculosis, salmonellosis, several cancers, and any “other bacterial infection.” Presumably these diseases are tied together by a common cause of immune system malfunction.

But this definition explicitly states: “Regardless of the presence of other causes of immunodeficiency, in the presence of… HIV infection, any disease listed above or below indicates a diagnosis of AIDS.” No matter what else may have happened to the patient to suppress the immune system, when antibodies to HIV are present, the virus is presumed to be the sole cause of the condition. HIV itself does not have to be present; antibodies against the virus are enough. So, of course, by definition, people exposed at any time to the virus are likely to get AIDS. In other words, an arbitrary correlation has been created.

Further, no controlled study has ever been done to compare people exposed to HIV with those unexposed, to see if those with the virus are more likely to get those old diseases. This type of controlled study is usually one of the first tests done to see if the correct cause of a disease has been found.

The HIV virus itself can only be found active in a tiny fraction of all AIDS patients; in most, it is either inactive or even unable to be reactivated. Among the total number probably infected, only a tiny fraction each year actually develop something diagnosed as AIDS.

The picture gets stranger. Even though all AIDS patients have essentially the same virus, afflicted individuals tend to get different conditions depending on which risk group they belong to. Kaposi’s sarcoma develops almost exclusively in homosexuals with AIDS. Heroin addicts are far more likely to develop pneumonia. Infants with HIV contract pediatric diseases. Heterosexuals outside of risk groups tend not to develop AIDS at all.

Case from Molecular Biology

“HIV was claimed to kill billions of T-cells, which retroviruses don’t do,” shrugs Peter Duesberg when asked what first made him suspicious of the HIV hypothesis.

T-cells form a crucial part of the immune system. In AIDS patients whose immune failure is verified, the universal hallmark is a severe depletion of those T-cells. Yet HIV is particularly unsuited to kill so many cells, since it belongs to a class of viruses known as retroviruses. These viruses are particularly distinguished by the fact that they reproduce without killing cells.

Upon investigation, Duesberg discovered that, even in a full-blown AIDS case, no more than one in ten thousand T-cells is actively infected with HIV. But, he protests, the human body regenerates far more T-cells than that every day. So, even if every infected cell died, the body would never notice. In all other diseases, huge amounts of the causal microbe can be isolated when the patient displays symptoms. In AIDS, the almost nonexistent HIV can only be detected with ultra sensitive equipment that came into use in the early 1980s, and which is often used to detect inactive virus.

HIV itself contains no genetic information unusual for retroviruses, nor can it “save” any of its genes for use ten years after infection, which is the “latent period” for AIDS. So it should not suddenly be able to spring back to life years later and cause conditions that it did not cause when it first infected.

What Is AIDS?

What does cause AIDS? Duesberg offers what he calls the “risk hypothesis.” According to him, the AIDS story actually began with major lifestyle changes around 1970. Homosexuals came out of the closets and went into the bathhouses, while drug abuse in general began increasing.

The dramatic increase in sexual activity by homosexuals led to repeated bouts of such diseases as hepatitis and syphilis. These alone can eventually weaken the immune system, but the problem was compounded when homosexuals began regularly taking antibiotics to prevent bacterial infections. Some antibiotics, such as tetracycline, are partly immunosuppressive.

As if this were not enough, recreational drugs became popular in these public baths; stimulants such as cocaine and depressants such as marijuana came to be used on a daily basis among homosexuals in major cities. These drugs all have the ability to weaken the immune system over time. Most important, nitrite inhalants came into use as aphrodisiacs; because of their unique function, these drugs were used almost exclusively by active homosexuals. Some studies have lent support to the idea that these inhalants may directly cause Kaposi’s sarcoma.

Various recreational drugs whose use has increased over the last twenty years, including heroin, are immunosuppressive. Therefore, heroin may be more responsible for AIDS conditions than dirty needles are. This, compounded with the malnutrition often experienced by drug addicts, can explain much.

There is no documented evidence to indicate that hemophiliacs get more diseases after exposure to HIV. But they certainly experience more conditions than the average healthy person. One significant reason may be the use of Factor VIII, a clotting factor used today by hemophiliacs; it, too, can suppress the immune system.

Another interesting alternative hypothesis for AIDS has been advanced by, among others, Dr. Stephen Caiazza, a New York physician who treats AIDS cases. As with other medical doctors, he noticed that some of the symptoms of AIDS conditions were remarkably similar to those of syphilis. When he began treating his patients with penicillin in 1987, virtually all recovered. While Caiazza believes much of AIDS may actually be syphilis, Duesberg is convinced that this only explains a certain percentage of the cases, particularly some of those involving “AIDS dementia.”

Given the contrived definition of AIDS, misdiagnosis and confusion with immune suppression undoubtedly comprise a great proportion of AIDS cases. When an otherwise treatable condition is diagnosed as AIDS, it is assumed to be terminal and goes untreated.

These explanations do help in understanding the paradoxes of HIV in AIDS: the dissimilar distributions of conditions among those with HIV or AIDS, the inactivity of HIV even in full-AIDS patients, and why therapies aimed against the virus don’t do anything to alleviate the conditions. They also place HIV among the long list of harmless microbes that humans and animals perpetually harbor.

Why HIV?

That such a monumental error could be made in the first place is both tragic and unbelievable. That this deadly error continues to dominate the scientific and medical establishment seems positively bizarre, until one understands the story behind the myth.

President Nixon in 1971 signed legislation that inaugurated a war on cancer. This program was supposed to cure cancer by throwing large sums of money into scientific research — taxpayers’ money. The largest science project established under its auspices was the virus-cancer program, an attempt to study cancer genes by studying retroviruses. The previous year Peter Duesberg had isolated the first such gene from a retrovirus, so the field looked promising.

But, by the 1980s, cancer was no better understood than before and viruses turned out to be irrelevant in human cancers. The only product of this virus program was a large, well financed, and powerful establishment of biological scientists who made their careers studying retroviruses. Several had even won Nobel prizes.

So it should come as no surprise that, once AIDS cases were first defined in 1981, a few perceptive scientists began suggesting that AIDS was transmissible and that the agent of this “new” disease must be a new microbe — for example, a retrovirus.

“Retrovirologists had to push for clinical relevance,” explains Duesberg. “They were reaching out for relevance, and therefore looked for retroviruses in humans which caused disease.” He adds: “Retrovirology is the best-funded program in biology.”

The American retrovirologist who pursued the unlikely possibility of an AIDS virus with the most enthusiasm was Robert C. Gallo, a researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda. The NIH is not only a major agency of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), but is also the primary federal agency for funding basic biological and medical research. Once a latent virus had been stimulated to life in cells isolated from an AIDS patient, Gallo decided the cause had been found.

A press conference called by Gallo and Margaret Heckler, then secretary of HHS, first announced the “cause” of AIDS to the world on April 23, 1984. But no scientific paper establishing reasons for believing HIV to be the culprit had yet been published. A government press conference, not scientific debate, decided the cause of AIDS. Heckler also announced that henceforth government money would finance the study of the HIV virus, with all other lines of investigation being dropped immediately. Most other retrovirologists quickly fell into line and eagerly began working on the new program.

Probably the most powerful member of this virus-studying establishment to quickly support the AIDS-virus hypothesis was David Baltimore. With his position at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Nobel prize for his work in retroviruses, Baltimore had developed a tremendous base of power. His call for the use of federal funds to draw scientists away from other pursuits into studying HIV helped to build his own influence, and of course to suppress dissent through what can only be called bribery with tax dollars.

More recently Baltimore has been plagued by charges of falsifying experimental data; his position in science, however, may have been rescued by his appointment as president of the scientifically prestigious John D. Rockefeller University. Controversy among Baltimore’s peers failed to stop the appointment, largely because the position was offered by the chairman of the university’s board of trustees, David Rockefeller.

The government’s funding policy is not the only factor silencing debate. In blatant violation of all scientific precedent, a growing number of research discoveries is now presented to the media before publication of the data for review by peers. Sometimes the data is not published at all. This makes claims about the virus difficult to evaluate, and misleads the public about AIDS. The premature press conference of Heckler and Gallo has opened the door to ever greater degrees of irresponsibility in science.

A No-Win War

Therapies now being developed to treat AIDS are designed to target viruses, and will therefore prove ineffective. Worse yet, they are in fact dangerous.

The drugs proposed for treatment are essentially all chemical analogs of DNA, the genetic material. This means that they kill cells by disrupting DNA replication. Zidovudine, or AZT, is the only one currently approved by the FDA. This particular drug was actually developed in the 1960s for the purpose of killing cancerous T-cells; it was shelved because of its toxicity. When used in humans, it kills the same T-cells depleted in AIDS.

While this effect is officially justified with the assertion that HIV will kill those cells anyway, AZT has the capability to cause a condition of AIDS. The federal government has recently decided to begin testing AZT on pregnant mothers and on children exposed to HIV, as a preventative measure against future development of AIDS. Needless to say, many will develop sickness solely because of the therapy.

Could there be hidden reasons for fighting such a disastrous war on AIDS? A hint appeared in the February 5, 1988 issue of Science. An article by two economists, “The Economic Impact of AIDS in the United States,” offers this observation: “The AIDS epidemic will also highlight the financial problems of Americans who face large medical bills without adequate insurance.” The result may be “calls for a broader system of government health insurance.”

This last July Professor Michael Adler, of the University College and Middlesex School of Medicine in London, went even further by announcing that only with government action to fight unemployment and poverty would spread of the “AIDS virus” be stopped.

Another suggestion was offered in the Spring 1988 issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the globalist Council on Foreign Relations. In a landmark article entitled “The Case for Practical Internationalism,” Professor Richard Gardner of Columbia University called for dramatic expansion of the powers of the UN World Health Organization to battle AIDS internationally. Dr. Noble, of WHO, agrees. “We are a global village… and must face this problem together.”

The war on AIDS itself is a new and growing spending program. In fiscal year 1989, $1.3 billion was spent through the Public Health Service, and a projected $1.6 billion will be given out this year. Of that amount, $785 million will be used to buy conformity from science through funding of biological and medical research on the HIV virus. Another $367 million of this will fund a program known as “Information and Education/Preventative Services,” which covers federal efforts to “educate” Americans about the nature of AIDS. This particular program also funds private AIDS foundations and activist groups, which in turn sponsor protests and other activities to call for more funding of the war on AIDS. In effect, the government is purchasing publicity for expanding this war.

Where Now?

Clearly, public exposure of the HIV hoax must be generated as quickly as possible. The war on AIDS, which uses tax dollars to generate its own expansion, threatens to bring about vast increases in socialism and losses of sovereignty while actually promoting the deaths of those who take AZT. All of this is in reaction to a harmless virus; the risk exists only for those few who choose to practice risk behavior.

The only conceivable solution is an immediate de-funding of the war on AIDS at all levels. To accomplish this, however, it may be necessary to launch a Congressional investigation in which dissident scientists and medical doctors are finally provided a public forum, thereby bringing the debate about HIV into the open where it belongs.