A special report that draws together mounting evidence that indicates HIV is not linked to AIDS.
Virtually all of the scientific community has taken a germ theory view of AIDS and accepted the theory that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is capable of causing a syndrome of ever advancing immune suppression from which you will eventually die.
However, a few lone heretics, such as leading University of California professor of molecular biology Peter Duesberg and Australian biophysicist Eleni Papadopulos Eleopulos have offered exhaustively referenced argument that HIV infection does not lead to AIDS and that the test is so inaccurate that it shouldn't be used. They have been vilified for their troubles, and Duesberg, named an outstanding Investigator by the American Cancer Institute, has had government funding withdrawn.
If they are only half right, the implications are indeed chilling. By rallying around the HIV theory, we may be erroneously lumping together under the umbrella term "AIDS" some 25 disparate, previously identified diseases acquired by a number of non contagious means (see box, p 2). This, coupled with the evidence about the inaccuracy of the tests, means that we could be misdiagnosing as HIV positive many thousands of basically healthy people and subjecting them to highly toxic, potentially lethal drugs, the side effects of which are now indistinguishable from what we consider AIDS related illness.
In a 76 page paper, which Duesberg published in Britain (Pharmacology and Therapeutics; 1992; 55: 201-77), he systematically takes apart the theory that AIDS is caused by an infectious virus and that HIV is capable of the wholesale destruction claimed. Co-discoverer of HIV Robert Gallo and others have based their theory of the HIV AIDS link on purely circumstantial evidence: that HIV seems to be present in all patients who have AIDS. Nevertheless, as long ago as 1989, Luc Montagnier, the French co-discoverer of HIV, admitted: "HIV is not capable of causing the destruction to the immune system which is seen in people with AIDS."
Duesberg quotes the Institute of Medicine's statistics which show that no more than about 50 per cent of American AIDS patients have antibodies against HIV. Furthermore, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has confirmed the existence of cases reported of "T-lymphocyte depletion in persons without evident HIV infection" (JAMA, 9 September 1992).
Every direct measurement of AIDS is incompatible with all the classical criteria for infectious disease, says Duesberg. First of all, very few cells are actually infected with HIV the average is only one in 1500 to 8000 white blood cells in AIDS patients. In fact, many healthy HIV carriers have 40 times more HIV infected white blood cells than in AIDS patients. "Since on average only 0.1 per cent (1 out of 500 to 3000) of T-cells are ever infected by HIV in AIDS patients, but at least three per cent of all T-cells are regenerated. . . during the two days it takes a retrovirus to infect a cell. . . HIV could never kill enough T-cells to cause immunodeficiency," writes Duesberg. "Thus, even if HIV killed every infected T-cell. . . it could deplete T-cells only at 1/30 of their normal rate of regeneration. . . . " The odds of this desultory rate of annihilation being able to topple your immune system, he says, "would be the same as those of a bicycle rider trying to catch up with a jet airplane."
Furthermore, since 1985, when HIV was first detected, the number of Americans infected has remained at a constant one million which tends to indicate a virus that has been long established in the population. And never in the history of man has infectious disease discriminated against most members of the population, as this one supposedly has, preferring only homosexual men, drug users, hemophiliacs, and Africans. Nor do we know of another virus that takes 10 years to incubate into disease.
Eleni Eleopulos notes that about a quarter of the population of southern Japan has antibodies against the HIV virus, compared with one per cent of the population of the US. Nevertheless, at the time of writing only 14 cases of AIDS had been reported in Japan a figure that has not significantly increased (Medical Hypotheses, 1988; 25: 151-62).
One study, performed at St Mary's Hospital in London in the mid Eighties, demonstrated that even HIV negative homosexual men had significantly reduced T-and B-cell activity, compared with heterosexual controls. In fact, their immune systems were just as suppressed as those of symptomless HIV positive homosexual men (Clin Exp Immunol, 1989; 75: 7-11). This finding would seem to support the argument that elements in the modern homosexual lifestyle, independent of HIV infection, are responsible for immune suppression (see box, p 3).
Studies have found that less than one third of patients with Kaposi's sarcoma, one of the main illnesses associated with AIDS among homosexuals, are HIV positive; researchers at the CDC now accept that KS, one of the original and most specific of AIDS defining illnesses, is not caused directly or indirectly by HIV (The Lancet, 1990, 1: 123-8).
Furthermore, for low risk groups such as the wives of hemophiliacs, inadequate proof exists of infection. Since 1985, only 94 wives of the 15,000 HIV positive hemophiliacs have supposedly developed AIDS defining diseases. However, given the small number, and the fact that most of these women have died of age related opportunistic infections such as pneumonia, Duesberg argues that an association between them and HIV infection has not been established. In another study, of 41 wives of immunodeficient hemophiliacs, all the T-cell ratios of the women were normal (JAMA, 1984:251: 1450-54).
The proof of HIV as the causation of AIDS entirely hinges on the idea that detection of an antibody response to the virus is proof of its actual presence. In other words, the assumption is that if your body has made antibodies specific to HIV, it must mean that a protein of the virus, and, hence, the virus itself is present. This is so because the so called AIDS tests cannot test for the presence of HIV, just the presence of antibodies to it the usual sign that the body has fought off infection.
The HIV tests are themselves known to be highly erratic and unreliable. The enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test is most frequently used to test your HIV status, and the Western Blot is used as a confirmation. What happens with ELISA is that a sample of the patient's blood is added to a mixture of proteins. It is assumed that if HIV antibodies are present in the blood, they will react to the HIV proteins in the test. With the Western Blot, these HIV proteins are isolated in bands; when mixed with a blood sample, each protein band will show up if it has bound to an antibody.
The CDC considers a single ELISA test without any other confirmation proof positive that you have HIV infection hence, eventually AIDS.
The ELISA test is notoriously unreliable; in Russia, in 1990, out of 20,000 positive ELISA tests, only 112 were confirmed using the Western Blot, notes Eleopulos.
Furthermore, neither test is HIV specific; both react to many other proteins caused by other diseases. For example the protein p24, generally accepted to be proof of the existence of HIV, is found in all retroviruses that live in the body and do no harm. Dr Gallo has stated repeatedly that p24 is not unique to HIV (Bio Tech June 1993). Hepatitis B and C, malaria, papillomavirus warts, glandular fever, tuberculosis, syphilis and leprosy are just a few of the conditions that are capable of producing biological false positives in ELISA tests (Nature, 1985; 317: 395-403 and Lancet, 1989; 11: 1023-25).
In one study, antibodies to p24 were detected in one out of 150 healthy individuals, 13 per cent of randomly selected otherwise healthy patients with generalized papilloma virus warts, 24 per cent of patients with cutaneous T-cell lymphoma and 41 per cent of patients with multiple sclerosis (New England Journal of Medicine, 1988; 318: 448-9).
In a 1991 study it was noted: "In half of the cases in which the subject had a positive p24 test, the subject later had a negative test without taking any medications that would be expected to affect p24 antigen levels." The researchers concluded that the "test is clinically erratic and should be interpreted cautiously." (Abstracts VII International Conference on AIDS. Florence, Italy, 1991; Vol 1: 326.)
The French government has recently withdrawn nine of the 30 HIV tests.
Western Blot, which is supposed to be the more accurate of the two, is no more specific than ELISA. Dr Max Essex of Harvard University's School of Public Health, a highly respected AIDS expert, found that the Western Blot gave a positive result to some 85 per cent of African patients found to be HIV negative. Eventually, they discovered that proteins from the leprosy germ which infects millions of Africans can show up as a false positive on both ELISA and Western Blot (as reported in Sunday Times 22 May 1994).
In one study of Venezuelan malaria patients, the rate of false positives with Western Blot was 25-41 per cent. This led the researchers to conclude that "HIV is not causing AIDS, even in the presence of the severe immunoregulatory disturbances characteristic of acute malaria" (New England Journal of Medicine, 1986; 314: 647).
Eleni Eleopulos and her cohorts argue that there has been no standard established to interpret what the individual strips on the Western Blot test actually mean. In the US, the Transfusion Safety Study Group submitted some 100 patient samples weekly for testing to three highly respected laboratories over three periods of several months. The TSS found extreme variations in band patterns of the same samples even at the same labs.
The lack of specificity of HIV testing should be disturbing to all clinicians working with people deemed to be HIV positive. Individuals belonging to the main AIDS "risk" groups gay men, drug users and hemophiliacs are exposed to many foreign substances such as semen, drugs, blood transfusions and blood components, hepatitis, Epstein Barr virus and many other factors or diseases known to cause false positives. Other populations exposed to a greater than normal amount of disease such as Africans and drug users also make many more antibodies than the rest of us and therefore are likely to throw up false positives. For instance, Eleopulos claims there is a strong association between blood transfusions and a positive HIV test.
In one study (The Lancet, 1986; I: 1090-92) the amount of HIV antibody detected in ELISA tests was greatest immediately after blood transfusion and decreased between transfusions.
In another instance, (AIDS, 1988; 2: 405-6), a volunteer was given six injections of donated HIV negative blood at four day intervals. After the first injection his HIV test was negative, but the signal of a positive antibody response increased with each transfusion.
Once a patient is shown to be HIV positive, doctors persuade them of the importance of regularly testing their blood for abnormalities, particularly for a significant drop in the number of T-helper cells (CD4s), considered an indicator of the presence of major diseases associated with AIDS.
CD4 counts are practically meaningless as a measure of disease progression and can show a rise or a fall at any given point in the day. In many clinics throughout the world "significant" decline in CD4s is used as marker for future prophylactic drug treatment. Two hundred T-cells per millilitre of blood is considered the point at which the patient will be told that without drugs like AZT, ddI or Septrin, their chances of acquiring one of the diseases associated with AIDS, such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), are fairly high.
Many studies have shown that the average T-cell count for a non HIV tested person can vary from as low as 200 up to 2,000. There are many instances of people with fewer than 50 T-cells who remain perfectly healthy. In a recent BBC "File on Four" documentary, Professor Ian Weller who coordinated the British arm of the Concorde AZT trial testing the drug on healthy HIV positive volunteers, commented: The thing we have to remember about CD4 (T-cell) counts is they are very variable. They can vary in an individual over the time of day . . . lower in the morning and higher in the evening. They can be affected by things that you do such as walking to the clinic, as opposed to riding a bike. . . . the amount of sunshine can affect them. Smoking as well."
Another variable which can seriously affect the outcome of CD4 testing is the sheer innaccuracy of laboratory process. For that same programme a volunteer elected to have blood taken for T-cell counting.
Two samples taken from the same vein at the same time with the same needle were sent to two different laboratories. The resulting CD4 counts varied by 33 per cent!
Once an otherwise healthy patient has tested HIV positive, has a low CD4 count and is exhibiting stress related problems, virtually all doctors working in the field reach for the prescription pad and offer prophylaxis.
The idea is to give the patient a drug on the assumption that this just in case medication will stop the disease before it starts. In the case of the main anti HIV drug AZT, this assumption was demolished with the recent publication in The Lancet of the Concorde Trial results, which showed that AZT was of no benefit to HIV positive individuals who remained asymptomatic (The Lancet, 9 April 1994).
Besides there being no rationale for their use, a patient with no symptoms given these drugs begins to exhibit all the problems associated with the side effects of the drugs side effects that bear an uncanny resemblance to the list of symptoms doctors describe in HIV infection or full blown AIDS.
A recent study concluded that prophylaxis with the antibiotic Septrin against PCP is far more likely to cause the patient to develop oral candidiasis, wasting symdrome, cytomegalovirus and M avium complex disease all commonly considered AIDS illnesses than in patients who don't take the drug (New Eng J of Med, 23 December 1993).
The action of both this drug and AZT destroys or inhibits entrobacteria in the gut including E coli, thus causing an overgrowth of candida and other unwanted bacteria, which cut off the body's ability to manufacture intrinsic factor, required for the absorption of vitamin B12. The final symptoms of end stage B12 deficiency are identical to the final stages of terminal AIDS.
!AJody Wells and Lynne McTaggart
Jody Wells, who was diagnosed as HIV positive 11 years ago, remains healthy without the use of drugs. He is founder and editor of Continuum, a magazine for AIDS and HIV survivors. For more information, write to PO Box 2754 London NW10 8UF. (Tel: 081 961 1170.)