How easy it is to make people believe in a lie, and how hard it is to undo it.” (Mark Twain).
The lie, that a virus called HIV causes AIDS, is now about 33 years old. It is beginning to fray at the edges though not enough to reverse the immense harm it has done. The lie was evident from the start but many forces made sure the public didn’t hear about it.
I first became interested in AIDS in 2006 when I joined Grans to Grans. Its purpose was to raise money to support African grandmothers who were rearing their grandchildren, allegedly orphaned because of AIDS. I wanted to know more about AIDS and its spread in Africa so I began to research. When I found out about the fraudulent carryings on I resigned and explained to Grans to Grans that I could not support the organization it raised money for, the Stephen Lewis Foundation, because its stated mission in 2006, was to supply toxic anti-retroviral drugs to Africa.
First, let me make it clear what ‘AIDS’ means and then we will look at how the lie began and how it developed.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome means that the immune system of the sufferer has collapsed and when this happens, the person is open to a variety of opportunistic diseases that flourish in an unprotected host.
AIDS is not a disease. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) lists 29 “AIDS-defining diseases.” When someone is classified as having AIDS, the first question should be, “Which disease is he suffering from?”
Immune collapse is not new, neither are AIDS-defining diseases. As starvation is the single largest cause of immune collapse, the world saw thousands of cases when the Nazi concentration camps were relieved at the end of the Second World War. Furthermore, one of the prominent “AIDS-defining diseases,” pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), affected thousands of severely malnourished European children during and after the war.
Health conditions in Africa, labelled as AIDS by the West, are not the same as those in the West. According to the World Health Organization, a diagnosis of AIDS in Africa is given to a person who is thin, coughing and has diarrhoea – conditions seen for decades as the result of malnutrition, tuberculosis and parasites.
The point I am making here is that AIDS is not a single disease and that AIDS-defining diseases vary from country to country. Where did the acronym AIDS come from and why?
Four US federal organizations play a role in the story of AIDS: the FDA; the NIH; the CDC and its offspring, the EIS.
The mission statement of the 100 year-old Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is “The FDA is responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation.”
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an organization that concentrates on biomedical research but does perform some public health work, such as seizing control of water and food supplies if suspected as the cause of disease. (In the 1930s the National Cancer Institute became a division of the NIH which accounts for the word ‘Institute’ being plural.) It is the NIH who awards the major health research grants in the US, grants that allow medical researchers to exist.
The Centers for Disease Control and Protection (CDC) serves as the national focus for developing and applying disease prevention and control, environmental health, and health promotion and health education activities designed to improve the health of the people of the United States. It arose out of a public health unit whose main mission was to control anticipated outbreaks of malaria during World War II. On its formation it absorbed the public health functions of the NIH leaving the NIH to concentrate on research alone.
In 1951 Alexander Langmuir formed the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS), first designed as a biological warfare counter-measures unit but later as a monitor for outbreaks of disease. Peter Duesberg describes this formation:
“By the start of the Korean War, Langmuir had talked public health officials and Congress into giving the CDC contingent powers to deal with potential emergencies. He shut down the malaria project, freeing millions of dollars to create a special new division of the CDC. In July of 1951 he assembled the first class of the EIS, composed of twenty-three young medical or public health graduates. After six weeks of intensive epidemiological training, these EIS officers were assigned for two years to hospitals or state and local health departments around the country. Upon completing their field experiences, EIS alumni were free to pursue any career they desired, on the assumption that their loyalties would remain with the CDC and that they would permanently act as its eyes and ears. According to British epidemiologist Gordon Stewart, a former CDC consultant, the EIS was nicknamed the “medical CIA.”
EIS graduates obtained prominent positions:
in the media; e.g. Lawrence Altman of the New York Times,
in the World Health Organization (WHO); e.g. Jonathan Mann and Michael Merson, directors of WHO’s Global Program on AIDS
in medicine; e.g. Bruce Dan, senior editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).”
The mandate of these guardians of Americans’ health was to report on outbreaks of disease, but as the epidemics of infectious disease had waned at the beginning of the twentieth century, they were forced to justify their existence by focusing on even the most insignificant outbreaks of illness. When five soldiers got influenza in January 1976, the EIS had its chance. It sounded the alarm and warned the nation they were in for a frightening epidemic of ‘swine flu.’ With the spectre of the 1918 flu epidemic in mind, President Ford and Congress allocated large funds to develop a vaccine. This development stalled when the insurance company underwriting the vaccine discovered that it had serious side-effects, such as neurological damage.
“Unless Congress could be convinced the danger was real, the lucrative vaccine program would be terminated, severely depleting the coffers of the CDC. A battle plan was needed and fast.” CDC director David Sencer, set up a command centre in CDC headquarters in Atlanta called the ‘war room’. Manned by doctors and every imaginable form of secretarial help, the CDC and EIS “worked round the clock, week after week, following up every rumour of flu outbreaks. And then, on the horizon, a sighting!”
A convention of the American Legion was held in Philadelphia as part of the 1976 bicentennial celebration. Shortly after the 4,000 ex-servicemen returned home, many showed up in hospitals with severe pneumonia. A few days later the “epidemic” ended leaving 182 casualties including 29 deaths. These were elderly ex-service men. The affected people were heavy smokers, had prior heart and lung conditions and several had had kidney transplants. They got gloriously drunk and in their already frail state of health that was a recipe for pneumonia.
The EIS sprang into action. The CDC announced that this was the start of their predicted swine flu epidemic and the story was covered by none other than Lawrence Altman in the New York Times. Regardless of the side-effects, Congress approved the CDC’s request for a mass swine flu vaccine program.
Over 50 million Americans were vaccinated, producing at least 1000 cases of severe nerve damage, dozens of deaths and $100 million worth of liability claims. All for naught; except for the five soldiers, no flu epidemic struck the country.Naturally, Congress had little sympathy for the CDC which was left, in 1981, with an urgent need for some dire threat to the nation’s health.
Michael Gottlieb, a researcher in immunology came to its rescue. Interested in immune suppression, he assigned a student to help him search hospitals for patients with immune deficiency. In November, 1980 Gottlieb found his first patient: a young man with a yeast infection in his throat and a rare form of pneumonia, pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP).
“Over the following weeks, Gottlieb’s search yielded three more cases of immune deficiencies. All displayed the same candidiasis (yeast infection) and pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) found in the first subject. Gottlieb then called Wayne Shandera, a newly trained EIS officer, who found him another case of immune suppression, making five. All five patients were active homosexuals engaged in the new Gay Lib social scene. Shandera contacted the CDC. This was the news it was waiting for.”
The CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of June 5, 1981 carried Gottlieb’s report written, as Duesberg says, “to imply that these five unexplained cases spelled a major new disease. Despite the fact that the five victims had no contacts with each other, the report wasted no time suggesting that this might be a ‘disease acquired through sexual contact’”. The common risk factor among the five men, and one that is still ignored, was that each reported he used recreational drugs, particularly nitrite inhalants, referred to as “poppers.”
New cases of immune suppression emerged in the United States, some suffering from Kaposi’s sarcoma (a blood vessel tumour). The CDC then elicited the help of two powerful politicians, Henry Waxman of Los Angeles and Philip Burton of San Francisco to help publicise the dangers of the growing epidemic. “The first in a series of emotionally charged media articles appeared as the result of the political lobbying of these men, whose later efforts succeeded in diverting millions of additional dollars into the coffers of the Centers for Disease Control.”
The CDC was saved.
Because the first signs of immune collapse were found in homosexual men, it was first known as Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID). Protests from the Gay Rights movement caused it to be changed to AIDS. For an understanding of the social scene in which AIDS developed, let us look at the gay community in the 1970s.
Homosexual men have a long history of being scorned and persecuted in Christian societies where they were, and still are by the Christian Right, seen as sinful, sick, child-molesters and doomed to die. In the Nazi era, Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and those labelled as mentally retarded were thought to be a danger to the German people and were, therefore, eligible for extinction.
American psychiatrists considered homosexuality a mental illness until the 1970s and only took it off their diagnostic manual after forceful protests by the fledgling Gay Rights movement. As late as the 1990s, the World Health Organization (WHO) still classified homosexuality as an illness.
For decades same-sex acts were illegal. “In the District of Columbia alone, there were 1000 arrests each year in the early 1950s. In every state, local newspapers published names of those charged together with their place of work, resulting in many workers getting fired. The postal service opened the mail of gay men and lesbians and passed on their names. Colleges maintained lists of suspected gay students.” Simple affectionate acts in public, such as two women kissing each other on greeting, could lead to arrest.
Naturally, many gay men did not openly acknowledge their same-sex desires and the term “in the closet” came into being. Social activities between gay men mainly took place in bars often run by organized crime that stood to benefit from these covert gay meeting places. Ian Young writes, “The Big Apple in the 1970s, any Friday night: the Anvil full of gay men, sweatily packed together, dancing, buying drinks, snorting poppers, having fun, a large percentage of them ‘ripped to the tits’, for there were a great many drugs at the Anvil. In the cellar the flickering light of the projector (for this was B.V. – Before Video) illuminated dark puddles on the stone floor, and there were back rooms and cubby-holes for sex with improper strangers. The windows were sealed, the party timeless, human voices barely audible over the disco throb.”
Gay bars were frequently raided by the police. Then on June 27, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn in Greenwich Village, the customers responded to a police raid by a show of mass anger that was to last several days. Lionel Wright says, “People in the crowd started shouting “Gay Power!” And as word spread through Greenwich Village and across the city, hundreds of gay men and lesbians, black, white, Hispanic, and predominantly working class, converged on the Christopher Street area around the Stonewall Inn to join the fray.” The police brought in their crack riot-control squad who “found themselves face-to-face with their worst nightmare: a chorus line of mocking queens, their arms clasped around each other, kicking their heels in the air Rockettes-style and singing at the tops of their sardonic voices.”
The Stonewall riots are considered to be the birth of the Gay Liberation Movement. Men came out of the closet in large numbers and the difficult task of becoming a distinct social group began. “No people can cohese without social guidelines, and gays, aware of it or not, sought them desperately. When they came, they took the form of commercial messages, controlled for the most part by extensive criminal networks, promoting porn stars as role models, bathhouses as the chief recreation, and drugs to put the gay consumers in the right frame of mind … the Mafia became a kind of anonymous corporate sponsor of the gay lifestyle.”
Unlike the Woman’s Movement that encouraged women to honour their bodies, to respect themselves and to seek love rather than sex, Gay Lib’s slogan became “promiscuity knits together the social fabric of the gay male community”, a slogan provided by Canada’s magazine The Body Politic. A CDC study of the first 100 men in the US to go down with AIDS revealed that the median number of partners over each lifetime was 1,160.
Across the US and Canada, Gay Liberation spawned a $100 million industry of bathhouses and sex clubs. These bathhouses were breeding grounds for disease. “A Denver study found that an average bathhouse patron having his typical 2.2 sexual contacts a night risked a 33% chance of walking out of the tubs with syphilis or gonorrhea, because about one in eight of those wandering the hallways had asymptomatic cases of these diseases.” As a consequence, gay men used antibiotics for prolonged periods. Because antibiotics kill off good bugs as well as bad bugs they decimate the intestinal flora. The gut plays a huge role in the maintenance of a healthy immune system and overuse of antibiotics alone can be responsible for immune suppression.
A new sexual act among gay men in the 1970s was ‘fisting’ – the manual manipulation of the inside of a partner’s rectum and lower intestine. Not all, or even a majority of gay men engaged in fisting but those who did were over-represented among AIDS cases. Fisters used a lubricant known to inhibit the production of prostaglandin E1, a substance which helps regulate T-cell production. A low T-cell count was considered to be diagnostic of AIDS.
A survey of 102 fisters, published in 1981, indicated that 99% of those polled ‘always’ or ‘almost always’ used drugs as part of fisting scenes. Types of drugs used included poppers, speed, marijuana, alcohol, cocaine and LSD.
In addition to recreational drugs, antibiotics and lack of sleep, perhaps the prime suspect as the cause of immune collapse in these young men was the inhalation of amyl nitrite, known as ‘poppers’. I remember giving amyl nitrite to patients with angina when I was a nurse in the 1950s. The solution came in little glass ampoules that looked like tiny wine bottles. We had to cover the neck of the ampoule with a piece of gauze before snapping it off. The resultant ‘pop’ gave amyl nitrite its colloquial name. Our medical use of it ended with the introduction of nitro-glycerine so that Burroughs Welcome, its pharmaceutical manufacturer, found another market in the gay ghettos where it became a staple of the new gay lifestyle.
Amyl nitrite dilates the blood vessels and thus enhances sexual arousal and prolongs orgasm. However, the chemical events that occur after inhalation enable PCP to develop. Poppers became a mass phenomenon among gay men. They were legal as long as they were advertised as room odorizers and marketed to gay men only. At $3 a vial they were affordable and they were assumed to be harmless.
To give you some idea of the pervasiveness of the inhalant, the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported that sales in just one US state added up to $50 million in 1976. At $3 per vial that equals more than 16 million bottles.
By 1981, an unusual assortment of disorders had arisen in the gay community: syphilis, hepatitis, cytomegalovirus, amoebiasis (increased by 7,000% since 1974), herpes and intestinal infections usually seen in the tropics. However, as Ian Young says, “In the midst of a political fight for basic rights and recognition against strong odds, concerns about health, ethics and spirituality seemed like secondary issues that could wait.”
The scene is now set. Four major federal agencies involved in disease control were at the ready: the CDC, which had made a fool of itself over Swine flu; its baby, the EIS that provided people in key positions; the NHS that controlled research dollars; and the FDA that approved drugs. Then we have an outbreak of diseases, all labelled AIDS, hitting newly liberated gay men. Amyl nitrite as the cause of AIDS was the most common hypothesis but it was politically incorrect to blame the gay lifestyle so another cause was needed.
We live in an era when we explain disease as being the result of an invasion by pathogens. At the beginning of the twentieth century the pathogens were bacteria but the microbe-hunters were out of luck when infectious bacterial diseases waned as the result of better nutrition, clean water and sewage treatment. Now it is viruses that preoccupy scientists.
A virus hypothesis for AIDS was welcomed by everyone: the gay community because it exonerated its lifestyle; the Mafia because it could continue to control the gay scene; Big Pharma who could continue to make a lot of money from the sale of poppers; the CDC which could justify its existence by finding and monitoring an “epidemic”; and doctors who were able to maintain their busy practices treating gay diseases.
On December 23, 1971, President Nixon declared the “War on Cancer”. This much publicised and well-financed program inspired a number of scientists to search for – you’ve guessed it – a cancer-causing virus. Many hundreds of millions of dollars, mostly from taxes, have been poured into this war and the results are astonishing: cancer death rates have increased exponentially alongside the costs of the research.
The war on cancer funded many microbe-hunting labs including that of Dr. Robert Gallo, the man who introduced HIV to the world. In 1975, Gallo claimed he had discovered a retrovirus in human leukaemia cells. (Essentially a retrovirus is composed of RNA, not DNA, like a virus.) Gallo called his retrovirus HL-23 and published a paper on it in Science of January 1975. His peers were unable to replicate his finding and asked, “Where is the leukaemia virus, Dr. Gallo? And how do you preserve the cells?” Before Gallo could produce the evidence to support his discovery, the refrigerator housing the leukaemia virus became “accidentally” unplugged.
“Alas, Gallo’s exciting HL-23 results could not be repeated, either by his lab or by others, and the phrase human tumor virus was replaced with human rumor virus. A cure for cancer was not imminent after all.”
As viruses cannot live outside cells they are harder to cultivate than bacteria, which flourish happily in Petri dishes given the right medium. Viruses, on the other hand, will only grow inside host cells. Furthermore, if it’s a harmful virus, it will destroy the host. So finding a way to grow a line of living cells that will provide a suitable home for the virus you want is central to viral research.
In 1976, Gallo announced he had discovered a new virus but an animal germ had contaminated his cell line. A couple of years later, two of Gallo’s lab workers found a retrovirus in a patient with lymphoma, a kind of T-cell cancer. HTLV-1 was the first retrovirus isolated from a human. However, it is well to remember that, although retroviruses are found in cancer patients, they are also found in healthy controls.
By this time it was clear that the cancer war – based largely on the retroviral-cancer hypothesis – was failing “and it had become irresistibly plain to everyone that cancer had nothing to do with germs, and the whole thing had been a monumental waste of money.”
Two rare diseases, Karposi’s Sarcoma and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia were appearing in urban, fast-track gay men. Gallo claimed HTLV-1 was the possible cause. This was an absurd suggestion because the cancer allegedly caused by HTLV-1 had too many T-cells, the opposite of AIDS, which had too few. Gallo’s claim was not well-received; in fact, Kary Mullis, a Nobel laureate, described it as “a joke”.
Joke or not, the idea was born that AIDS was caused by a virus.
Let’s pause for a moment here to talk about the criteria for isolating a virus.
To isolate a virus, a sample of fluid from an infected patient or a culture of infected tissue is added to a graduated density gel. This gel is then spun in a centrifuge. “The contents of the sample settle into separate piles, or bands, at different depths according to their characteristic densities. These bands are called density-purified samples.”
Because all micro-organisms have characteristic densities, the density-purified sample should contain only the hunted virus and nothing else. Looking like a virus is not enough to confirm that it is one; it must also behave like a virus. A legitimate virus will a) infect cells grown in a suitable culture and b) multiply to numbers greater than where it came from. There are other tests too and in the end, when a scientist declares that these objects are indeed viruses, she is able to describe the size, shape, appearance and the number of its proteins and genetic molecules. Furthermore, these descriptions are accompanied by a clear picture taken with an electron microscope.
There are particles that might look like viruses but aren’t. A particle is a bit of matter that may or may not be identifiable. Cells in the body are continually breaking down and the resultant bits are disposed of in the bloodstream or the lymphatic system and are finally evacuated in urine or other bodily excretions. Stefan Lanka, a German virologist, writes that “particles have served to muddy the waters considerably as far as AIDS research is concerned, because particles have been called HIV. To date, none of these HIV imitators has been characterised and shown to exist as an entity which one may justifiably call a virus.”
Gallo persisted in his search for a virus that could be blamed for AIDS. On November 22, 1983, he announced that his lab had isolated certain particles, which might also be the AIDS virus. Unfortunately, no one could reproduce his virus. Almost immediately he announced the discovery of yet another virus, which he named HTLVIII, later renamed HIV. A subsequent inquiry to establish the existence of this HTLVIII determined that, yet again, Gallo had failed to isolate any virus. Roche Laboratories found no trace of HTLVIII in the ten samples submitted to them. Like many others, Lanka claims that HIV has never been isolated.
How the world found out about the HIV hypothesis
It was the way in which the virus “discovery” was announced that made me smell a scam. Scientists first read about the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS in a Time article by reporter, Claudia Wallis, which began: “It was high noon in Bethesda, Md., home of the National Institutes of Health. The scene: a small French restaurant with hanging baskets and beamed ceiling. On one side of a table sat Dr. Robert Gallo, 47, a brash NIH scientist who started life as the son of a small town welder …”
This is not how you would expect a scientific finding to be announced to the scientific community. The normal procedure is that a scientist writes up her study and: a) specifies the research question, b) describes the research method chosen to address the question, c) explains the exact steps taken, d) specifies how the data were analysed, e) analyses the results, and e) explains the conclusions drawn on the basis of the results. Finally a discussion section at the end of the report talks about potential flaws in the study and alternative explanations for the results. The study is published in peer-reviewed journals, such as the New England Journal of Medicine, so that other scientists in the field can critique it and repeat the study to confirm that they get the same results. To allow for this replication the report must include a step-by-step guide to exactly what was done. Such repeated studies, giving the same results, is how science proceeds and how scientific conclusions are reached.
These normally accepted steps were not taken by Gallo and his claim that he had discovered the cause of AIDS. The hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS was announced at a press conference held on April 23, 1984. That same day, Gallo filed for a patent on a test for the virus, the HIV test.
US Health Secretary, Margaret Heckler, practically hidden behind a cluster of microphones, declared, “First the probable cause of AIDS has been found; a variant of a known human cancer virus called HTLV III.”
The media promptly dropped the word “probable.” Indeed, a sociologist, Steven Epstein, analysed AIDS reports printed in magazines between 1984 and 1986 and found that the percentage that described the hypothesis (‘a virus causes AIDS’) as fact, jumped from 3% to 62%.
The Time article describes how Dr. James Curran from the CDC had provided Gallo with 205 blood samples drawn from some AIDS patients, some hepatitis patients and some healthy individuals. Gallo’s task was to identify which samples came from the AIDS patients.
At the press conference, Curran called out the sample number and Gallo responded with “positive” or “negative.” He correctly identified nearly all of them.
As Gary Null says, “It seemed, at least to the journalists present that Dr. Gallo had proven his point. He had proven something else, too. Serious science, affecting millions of people’s health was no longer a thing of the laboratory but of the grandstand. When Dr. Curran presents his samples so that Dr. Gallo can pass judgement, we have the kind of testing we expect from a mind reader, like the Great Wazoo, who tells a naïve, dumbfounded matron what color hankie she has in her purse.”
The announcement to the press preceded the publication of Gallo’s work in a scientific journal, Science, by at least two weeks. This is a key point. Legitimate scientists simply do not announce their findings to the press, especially before they have published their study for the scrutiny of their peers.
Five major investigations of fraud into Gallo’s HIV research were launched between 1990 and 1995, some overlapping. The main purpose of these inquiries was to ascertain whether Gallo had stolen the virus from the French. (Another interesting story but too long for this article.) They did not consider whether a virus caused AIDS or even if a virus called HIV even existed.
Suzanne Hadley, the person in charge of the investigations, wrote a damning report of a lead paper out of Gallo’s lab. She described it as “fraught with false and erroneous statements.” But before the report went to the review panel, the new Bush-appointed head of the NIH, Bernadine Healy, removed Hadley and the indictment of Gallo was erased. Could it be because the NIH had invested millions of dollars in HIV “infection” and its prevention? Or perhaps because Gallo was their star that they had displayed to the world on April 23, 1984 when they declared a virus to be the probable cause of AIDS?
Talk of the NIH cover-up reached the ears of Representative John Dingell. He pushed for criminal investigation into Gallo’s AIDS research but he was met by the “waffling Bush Administration”. In the end the Democrats lost control over the House of Representatives and the Republicans stopped the investigation into Gallo. The secret service found evidence of fraud in Gallo’s scientific records but this too was allowed to pass.
Millions of people have been affected by this scientific fraud. People assume that a positive HIV test equals AIDS and therefore an early death. Some commit suicide. Others take deadly drugs. Some people languish in jail for “infecting” their sexual partners. And the African continent has been terrorized by the West into believing that the endemic conditions they have suffered from for decades are caused by a virus called HIV. As a result they are encouraged to treat malnutrition with toxic anti-retroviral drugs instead of food, rampant tuberculosis with the wrong drug and treat parasites with condoms instead of clean water.
AIDS has generated a multi-billion dollar industry. With $40,000 million spent on AIDS in the US over 14 years, (1984 – 1998), AIDS is the biggest industry next to the defence department.
To date, (2017) HIV has never been isolated nor has there been a single study that shows that this mythical virus causes AIDS.
As Kary Mullis, Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry 1993, says in his preface to Duesberg’s Inventing the AIDS Virus, “We have not been able to discover any good reasons why most of the people on earth believe that AIDS is a disease caused by a virus called HIV. There is simply no scientific evidence demonstrating that this is true.”
“How easy it is to make people believe in a lie, and how hard it is to undo it.” In this case Mark Twain was right. It was easy. Now the difficult question is how to repair the damage?