the AIDS Virus, Peter H. Duesberg
1996, 720 pages, ISBN 0-89526-470-6.
Review- The Daily Telegraph (London)
NO DISEASE in the history of mankind has been investigated more
intensively than AIDS, yet no cure is in sight. As to prevention,
we are still at the stage of exhorting people to behave themselves.
The practical results of research costing tens of billions of dollars
have so far been exiguous. But the dire predictions uttered by experts
at the beginning of the epidemic have not come to pass. Mankind
is not under imminent threat of extinction from AIDS, even in San
Francisco. There are many diseases whose toll on human life remains
vastly greater than that of AIDS.
Peter Duesberg, a molecular biologist of distinction at the University
of California, can explain all this. The theory that AIDS is caused
by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is mistaken, he says.
Since all research into the condition proceeds from the assumption
that infection with HIV is the cause, it is not surprising that
research swallows up huge sums without tangible benefit to anyone
except the army of researchers. Since AIDS is not an infectious
disease, its failure to spread throughout the population is also
unsurprising. Prof Duesberg argues that infection with HIV is a
consequence, not a cause, of immunosuppression, and that the immunosuppression
that leads to AIDS is caused by the repeated abuse of toxic drugs
(in the case of homosexuals and drug addicts), or the infusion of
immunosuppressive proteins into the blood (in the case of haemophiliacs).
The supposed African epidemic is not an epidemic at all: it is simply
that when someone in Africa dies of tuberculosis with antibodies
to HIV in his blood, his disease is called AIDS rather than tuberculosis.
The epidemic thus spreads by definition rather than in reality;
the widely predicted depopulation of central Africa has not prevented
the population there from growing faster than that of any other
region of the world.
Prof Duesberg has consistently pointed to anomalies in the HIV
theory, but has tended to underestimate the growing evidence in
its favour. It is true that such evidence does not yet amount to
proof, but Prof Duesberg is much less demanding about the standard
of proof required to establish his own theories of causation. He
uses a number of arguments that are plainly fallacious. He says
early in his book that "the ultimate test of any medical hypothesis
lies in the public health benefits it generates"; this is nonsense.
It would be difficult to demonstrate that Harvey's theory of the
circulation of the blood has ever had any public health benefits,
but it accords with the facts, which is what makes it true. When
Prof Duesberg says that AIDS cannot be infectious because no infection
has existed like it before, he is denying that there is anything
new under the sun. Only bad philosophers decide on a priori grounds
what cannot happen. To argue, as Prof Duesberg does, that HIV does
not cause AIDS because no convincing mechanism by which it does
so has been proposed is like saying that man cannot be a conscious
being because no one has yet explained the means by which consciousness
is produced. Vibrio cholerae caused cholera long before anyone knew
how it did so.
Prof Duesberg's tone in this book is querulous and almost paranoid.
When he explains how the vast majority of the medical and scientific
establishment came to be mistaken about AIDS (ie does not agree
with him), he sounds like any Third World student of politics who
sees the hand of the CIA everywhere. After the conquest of polio,
he says, the virologists and infectious disease specialists, who
were once held to be the most powerful members of the American health
bureaucracy, were nearly redundant. They had, without much success,
sought viruses that caused cancer. To stave off the collapse of
their power, they invented a viral epidemic and a vast public health
scare. In this they were ably assisted by the pharmaceutical industry,
notably Burroughs-Wellcome (my heart swelled with patriotic pride
at this point), which stood to make billions from the viral theory.
Once the viral theory had been propounded, it was the virologists
who controlled the research funds; doubters such as Prof Duesberg
were treated like heretics and madmen, and their research grants
withdrawn. Ambitious researchers soon got the message and tailored
their beliefs to their career prospects. Fraud, hype and hysteria
have accompanied the AIDS epidemic from the start. It has been difficult
to keep a cool head about it.
Whatever else it does, Prof Duesberg's book dispels the idea of
scientists as unemotional calculating machines, working by using
wholly rational methods. A confrontation between the Prime Minister
and the Leader of the Opposition at Question Time in the Commons
is a model of disinterested inquiry into truth compared with the
spats in which scientists indulge. Prof Duesberg's book
is a potent witches' brew of epidemiology, character assassination,
abstract reasoning, gossip, virology and blatantly ad hominem argumentation.
I enjoyed it enormously (though it wasn't written to entertain idlers
such as me), but by the time I had finished it my head was spinning
and I felt almost physically dizzy. Could it be a virus, I wonder?
Reviewed by Anthony Daniels; Anthony Daniels is a practising doctor
Source: The Daily Telegraph (London), 15 May 1996