Q:I learned through your articles that I, along with possibly many thousand other health workers across the country, had been vaccinated in the late Eighties with the serum hepatitis B vaccine.
I underwent the course of these vaccinations after being strongly advised to by the local health authority, because of the nature of my work.
I made further enquiries with my GP about whether the serum had been screened for HIV. She confirmed that it hadn't been.
What problems would I manifest if I had HIV? A W, West Ewell.....
A:We're so sorry to hear that you, like so many, wre given this drug without adequate information about its content. However, it's important to put your risk into perspective. There have been no reported cases of HIV infection from the hepatitis B vaccine. Furthermore, we don't have conclusive proof that AIDS results from HIV or indeed, from any communicable virus. Four teams of researchers recently published studies in the New England Journal of Medicine (20 February 1993) of patients with AIDS like illness who did not have HIV or any other virus. Although they did not meet many of the criteria for HIV infection risk factors, two thirds of the patients in the largest study showed AIDS defining illnesses in most cases, opportunistic infections.
In an accompanying editorial, Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health admitted that "idiopathic CD4 T lymphocytophenia [which means unexplained immune cell depletion] does not appear to be caused by anything transmissable." Although he meant to calm the hysteria sweeping the US about whether a new virus had appeared that could also cause AIDS, we interpret these results to mean that AIDS may not be caused by any viral agent, including HIV, and that perhaps HIV is a harmless passenger in the body of many patients with AIDS or even, as French AIDS discoverer Luc Montagnier now believes, a co-factor. In other words, getting infected with HIV alone doesn't inexorably lead to AIDS.
Remember, too, the recent results from a large study showing that early use of the anti AIDS drug AZT doesn't help those who are HIV positive. As John Shields from Mersey Body Positive says, most of the HIV positive members of his group have been positive for 12 years and yet haven't come down with AIDS, particularly those who change unhealthy habits.
It's important not to contract "Fraids" that is, to become one of the worried well, which can have an adverse effect on your immune system. At the same time, the best form of protection, according to Body Positive, is to adopt an especially healthy lifestyle: plenty of sleep, a minimum amount of stress, a good supplement programme, an excellent wholefood, unadulterated diet of great variety, a happy, hopeful attitude and a concentration on others (which your work lends itself to). If you were suffering from immune deficiency, some early signs to look out for would be weight loss, loss of appetite, oral thrush, persistent fevers or flu and a general feeling of unwellness.