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HIV Symposium at AAAS Conference

The Truth Is Bustin' Out All Over HIV
By John Lauritsen

New York Native 18 July 1994

"Who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?"
                    -- John Milton, 'Aeropagitica'

Critics and defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis met in open debate for the first time on 21 June 1994, at a day-long symposium in San Francisco. The symposium, "The Role of HIV in AIDS: Why There is Still a Controversy", was sponsored by the Pacific Division of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

The AIDS Establishment did not want this event to take place. Beginning in mid-May, a campaign was whipped up in the pages of California newspapers and the British popular science magazine, Nature, to have the program canceled or at least altered beyond recognition. Up to the last moment it was not known whether the symposium would happen at all, or exactly what form it would take.

But it did take place, and was a triumph for the side questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis and other AIDS orthodoxies. The AIDS-skeptics achieved a critical mass, and spoke with confidence and authority. Those who attempted to defend the official dogmas were apologetic and defensive; they failed to rebut or even acknowledge the points made by the skeptics; and in short, they put on a very poor show. It is now clearer than ever that the official AIDS experts cannot compete in a free and open debate, which is undoubtedly the reason for the intense censorship that has impeded AIDS discourse for the past decade.

It would be an imposture and an affectation for me to pretend that I am neutral in this controversy, as I have criticized the AIDS-virus etiology in print for over ten years. I do not intend artificially to balance out the debate that took place. I will, however, try to be fair and accurate in my reporting. First, I'll describe the controversies and contentions that occurred prior to the event.

The Struggle to Hold the Symposium

The symposium, "The Role of HIV in AIDS: Why There is Still a Controversy", was organized by Charles Geshekter, Professor of History at California State University, Chico, who had for some time been aware of the suppressed AIDS controversies. Dissatisfied with previous AIDS sessions at both the Pacific Division and the National AAAS-"consensual gabfests" in which only one point of view was presented-he began in 1993 to put together an interdisciplinary panel of distinguished scientists, whose ranks included molecular biologist Peter Duesberg and other prominent critics of AIDS orthodoxy. The Executive Committee of the Pacific Division AAAS approved the symposium, including the list of speakers, at its January 1994 meeting. An announcement of the symposium appeared in the 25 January 1994 issue of the Pacific Division Newsletter.

In early April, Geshekter met with Alan Leviton, Executive Director of the Division, to review the final program, including speakers, and work out speaking order. Despite there being eleven speakers, ample time was reserved for intra-panel discussion and questions from the audience. The panel included Kary Mullis, the 1993 Nobel Laureate in chemistry, as well as two members of the National Academy of Sciences (Peter Duesberg and Harry Rubin) and a member of the American Society of Actuaries (Peter Plumley). No problems up to this point. Everything seemed set.

Then, in mid-May, an intense flak campaign erupted. Two AIDS researchers, Warren Winkelstein and William Ascher in Berkeley, put pressure on the AAAS to cancel the program. Winkelstein was quoted by David Perlman of the San Francisco Chronicle as saying: "The views to be expressed on this program have potentially serious adverse public health consequences." It is perhaps not coincidental that one scheduled talk on the symposium was to be a critique of research conducted by Winkelstein and Ascher.

The 26 May 1994 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle ran an article by Science Editor David Perlman, with the headline:

"AIDS REBELS TRY TO STEAL SHOW: But Scientists Stymie Plan By Mavericks Who Deny HIV Link." The first paragraph read:

Blindsided by a small band of AIDS gadflies, America's largest scientific organization moved yesterday to avoid sponsoring a one-sided spate of oratory over the causes of the global AIDS epidemic.

This is the kind of disinformation we have come to expect from the HIV establishment. It is preposterous to imply that the "AIDS rebels" were attempting some kind of stealth campaign, when in fact organizer Charles Geshekter had gone through all of the proper channels, and had publicized the program well in advance. It is abusive to characterize the scheduled panelists as "rebels" and their would-be censors as "scientists", when in fact the scientific reputations of the former are far more distinguished than those of the latter. And the panel was not really "one-sided", as it included Harry Rubin and Peter Plumley, both of whom are agnostic as to whether or not HIV plays at least some role in AIDS pathogenesis, as well as Raphael Stricker, who does believe that HIV causes AIDS.

Control over the symposium was taken away from Geshekter, without his consent or knowledge, by other AAAS officials. In the 26 May 1994 issue of Nature, the Executive Director of the AAAS, Richard Nicholson, was quoted as saying: "All options are open, including cancellation." Geshekter first learned from a journalist, on June 3, that the symposium remained part of the program. Following is Geshekter's account of what happened:

Between May 18th and June 4th, without ever contacting me to solicit my input or gain my support, Bob Bowman [Counselor, San Francisco State University], Michele Aldrich [AAAS Liaison to the Pacific Division] and Alan Leviton [Executive Director, Pacific Division] reconfigured the symposium. Under a blanket of silence, they added seven speakers to the program, changed the starting and concluding times, inserted a 90 minute "panel discussion" in the morning and afternoon sessions, appointed a separate moderator for them, and designated her to summarize the entire proceedings.

Between May 18th and June 9th, I received no phone calls, faxes, or letters from either local organizers of the Divisional Meeting or from the Liaison Officer in Washington to tell me about these changes. I only learned about some of them from articles in the San Francisco Chronicle and from the reporter for the Sacramento Bee.

Not until Friday, June 10th did Dr. Leviton tell me exactly how substantial the changes were, even though he admitted they had all been finalized a week earlier. He then faxed me the program, a fait accompli, eleven days before its scheduled date.

As a result of all these changes, I was inundated with last minute questions and complaints from the original speakers. The unilateral and secretive intrusions by Leviton and Bowman seriously undermined my efforts to run a scientific symposium and their organizational infractions compromised my effectiveness as Chairman. While responsibility for presiding as Symposium Chairman remained mine, Dr. Leviton emphatically and unambiguously reminded me on June 10th that final authority and ultimate power to interfere in my session rested with him.

Eager to placate the media and acquiesce to outside critics, Bowman and Leviton operated in a capricious, non-consultative, arbitrary, and anti-democratic manner. Their authoritarian and deceptive practices violated the principles of open scientific discourse which we assure our members and the public are scrupulously upheld by the AAAS. [Statement to the Council of the Pacific Division, American Association for the Advancement of Science, from Charles L. Geshekter, Chairman, History and Philosophy of Science Section, 22 June 1994]

The planned intrusion of the two 90-minute panels amounted to sabotage, as 100% of these panelists were defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. The symposium would have ended with a 90-minute panel attacking the ideas of the "AIDS rebels", followed without discussion by a "summation" from Ann Auleb of San Francisco State University, a woman known to be bitterly opposed to AIDS-critics. Fortunately for free speech, it did not happen this way.

The night before the symposium, a band of "AIDS rebels" had dinner at a very fine Chinese seafood restaurant at the tip of the Emeryville marina in Oakland, guests of Phillip Johnson, Professor of Law at Berkeley. A powerful esprit de corps developed, and all agreed that the final panel, as planned, would be intolerable. The inclusion of the pro-HIV speakers elsewhere in the program had both advantages and drawbacks. On the one hand, this would force the "AIDS experts" into debate, something they had been running away from for years. On the other hand, the extra speakers meant that speeches would have to be shortened, and there would be much less time for discussion and audience participation. With support from his comrades, many of us newly introduced to each other, Charles Geshekter resolved to assume his right, as organizer of the symposium, to moderate everything except the panel at the end of the morning session. He would insist that the final panel include all of the speakers, not just the pro-HIV people listed in the program, and that the panel would take questions from the audience.

Geshekter did prevail the next day. He was in charge of the symposium, from beginning to end. The final panel did include all of the speakers, with devastating consequences for the defenders of AIDS orthodoxy.

The Presentations

The symposium included twelve main speakers, plus another half dozen or so in the panels. For various reasons, including length, I'll not attempt fully to cover all of the speakers.

Defenders of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis were in a difficult spot. With facts and logic arrayed against them, they had a limited number of options:

- say untrue things

- say irrelevant things

- make unfounded assertions

- speculate

- engage in ad hominem attacks

- ignore points made by opposition

And by and large, this is what they did. I see no reason for me to report extensively on comments made by these people, when they were merely reiterations of the AIDS myths that we have already encountered thousands of times in the mainstream media. What I will do is highlight comments that were egregiously untrue, unsupported, or unresponsive to points made by the opposition.

Following, in chronological order, is a description of the speakers and events of the symposium:

Philip Johnson

Berkeley Law Professor Phillip Johnson set the tone for the entire day with his talk, "The role of HIV in AIDS: Why there is still a controversy". His magisterial overview, of the official AIDS paradigm and its defects, solidly established that the HIV-skeptics would occupy the high ground, intellectually and in terms of civility.

After relating that AIDS researchers themselves now have to admit they are at an impasse, that their efforts so far have amounted to failure, Johnson dissected the puzzle of how HIV could be responsible for the mass destruction of T4 cells, even though it infects only a minuscule number of them:

Official explanations of how an ordinary retrovirus can kill cells it never infects have grown ever more complicated as the prospect of a cure or vaccine has grown ever more distant. Even Dr. Robert Gallo, originally a vigorous proponent of the direct infection model, now speculates about indirect mechanisms in which HIV somehow sets off a course of programmed cell destruction that may not even require the continuous presence of the virus. In Dr. Gallo's own words at a 1993 conference, "The molecular mimicry in which HIV imitates components of the immune system sets events into motion that may be able to proceed in the absence of further whole virus." Dr. Anthony Fauci's description to the New York Times of how HIV does its destructive work attributed almost supernatural capacities to the virus: "It [HIV] overexcites some immune signaling pathways, while eluding the detection of others. And though the main target of the virus seems to be the famed helper T-cells, or CD-4 cells, which it can infiltrate and kill, the virus also ends up stimulating the response of other immune cells so inappropriately that they eventually collapse from overwork and confusion."

When a scientific research project encounters this degree of failure and confusion, scientists ordinarily ask the obvious question: "Have we somehow made a fundamental mistake in our assumptions?" HIV-science is not ordinary science, however. Its basic premise was established at a press conference, and never subjected to the kind of critical scrutiny that ordinarily protects the scientific community from endorsing a catastrophic error. The theory became fact in an atmosphere of near panic, in which the demands for an easy answer and a miracle cure were irresistible. The virus theory satisfied everyone's hopes and interests. Politicians accused of doing nothing could point to a spectacular success; the virus hunters who had failed to find a cure for cancer could justify and continue their very expensive laboratories; and the groups threatened by AIDS were promised a vaccine in the near future. Nobody had an incentive to be skeptical, and nobody was skeptical. Once the research agenda was set in concrete, those who subsequently tried to challenge the basic assumption were met only with silence or ridicule, and their applications for research funding received a cold reception.

Johnson criticized the question, "What causes AIDS", as being overly general, and bearing with it the unwarranted assumption that all AIDS diseases, in all countries and all risk groups, are one and the same thing. Instead:

To have a more productive discussion, it is necessary to put aside the most general questions and to focus on more specific issues on which a degree of agreement may be reached. That is the method of science, and it is also the method of law and diplomacy. I propose to illustrate this method by focussing on two relatively specific questions:

(1) What is the cause of Kaposi's sarcoma? and (2) What is really known about the role of HIV in causing disease in Africa?

Johnson's analysis of Kaposi's sarcoma was partly based on my own report, which appeared in the Native a few weeks ago ("NIDA Meeting Calls for Research into The Poppers-KS Connection", New York Native, 13 June 1994). His salient points were: 1) KS occurs not infrequently in gay men who are negative on the HIV-antibody test, and 2) Robert Gallo and other AIDS researchers now concede that HIV is not the cause of KS. He then posed the question:

If KS is not caused by HIV, and if many other AIDS-defining conditions occur both in the presence of HIV and in its absence, should we not reconsider the definition of the syndrome, and hence the role of HIV in AIDS?

With regard to AIDS in Africa, Johnson described the lack of testing in making AIDS diagnoses, the extreme unreliability of the tests even when they are used, the shoddy epidemiological studies conducted there:

The claims that HIV is killing millions of people in Africa richly deserve a critical re-examination. In a word, what we are hearing about "African AIDS" is not science, but hype.

He concluded his talk:

For essentially political reasons, HIV science has been ruled by unexamined assumptions. It is time at long last to have the scientific debate that wasn't allowed to occur ten years ago. Let the politics be put aside, and let the science begin.

Harvey Bialy

Harvey Bialy, a molecular biologist and Research Editor of BioTechnology, spoke on "HIV-AIDS: A hundred thousand papers and no proof". He began by saying that hypotheses need to be clearly stated, and then articulated the 1984 version of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis:


The operative terms are new, mutant and kill, so: Is HIV new? Is it mutant? Does it kill CD4 cells?

HIV cannot be new, in the U.S. at least, as it occurs in teenagers who could only have acquired it perinatally (from their mothers).

HIV would have to be mutant, as common, garden variety retroviruses are not pathogenic; however, there is no evidence that HIV is mutant. Bialy showed a genetic map of HIV, and said:

"For all intents and purposes this could be the map of 50 other retroviruses." HIV has no extra gene; there is nothing whatever unusual about it.

Does HIV kill CD4 cells? "It certainly doesn't kill the T cell lines that are used to produce kilograms of the virus for the AIDS industries." And in fact, the leading AIDS researchers now admit that HIV does not directly kill CD4 cells.

Therefore, the 1984 version of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is not tenable.

If HIV were the cause of AIDS, then a high viral load ought to coincide with illness. Bialy showed a slide, which he had labeled: "WE WISH IT WERE SO VIRUS LOAD DISEASE PROPORTIONALITY SLIDE." This slide consists of a "y" axis, an "x" axis, and three lines which represent levels of antibodies, virus, and CD4 cells. As the virus goes up and the antibodies go down, the CD4 cells go down. This slide, frequently employed by advocates of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, shows things as they ought to be, if HIV were the cause of AIDS. Bialy stated that it is a fantasy graph, backed up by no evidence of any kind.

In fact, experimental research found just the opposite: that at all stages of AIDS, and at all levels of CD4 counts, the HIV viral load ranged from the minuscule to the non-existent. "In other words, HIV behaves like a typical opportunistic infective agent, not like a pathogen." [Piatik et al. Science 259:1749-53 (1993)]

Since the 1984 version is clearly untenable, Bialy suggested a reformulation of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, which he called: THE VIRUS-AIDS HYPOTHESIS (AS EMPIRICALLY TESTED BETWEEN 1984-1994):


Even so, the modified Virus-AIDS hypothesis is unable to explain such things as:

- Why HIV, unlike any other pathogenic virus, only causes disease in the presence of neutralizing antibodies.

- The long, and unpredictable incubation period between infection and disease.

- How such a biochemically quiescent virus, that infects only a small fraction of the cells it is said to kill, can be so virulent as to kill its only natural host with efficiencies approaching 100%, and yet be so difficult to transmit horizontally [through sex].

- Why such a deadly virus is unable to cause any disease whatsoever in chimpanzees, even though they are fully susceptible to HIV infection.

- Why HIV, unlike any other pathogenic virus, only causes disease in the presence of neutralizing antibodies.

- The long, and unpredictable incubation period between infection and disease.

Bialy concluded his talk by asking:

Is undertaking questioning of this sort really grounds to be castigated as a "flat-earther bogged down in molecular minutiae and miasmal theories of disease", or as "irresponsible and delusional" or is it rather those who insist on the unassailable, inviolable truth of their hypothesis to whom these epithets apply?


In the discussion period Bialy was asked, what are the strongest arguments raised in favor of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.

He replied:

Epidemiology and correlation, which may be sufficient to *dis*prove something as being involved in the etiology of a disease, but absolutely insufficient to *prove* it.

In response to another question he replied:

Once you remove HIV from the AIDS equation, what is the reason for considering the tuberculosis of a drug addict, the Kaposi's sarcoma of a drug-abusing homosexual, the diarrhea of an African, the internal bleeding of a hemophiliac, and the kidney failure of a transfusion recipient-as being the same disease?

To someone who asked about the sexual transmissibility of HIV he replied: "It takes 500-1000 heterosexual contacts to transmit HIV from a man to a woman."

Celia Farber

Celia Farber, whose AIDS column in SPIN has run for over six years, spoke on "AIDS as a mirage of modern media: How the media reconstruct reality in The Information Age." She began by saying that the two sides in the present debate were not so much pro versus anti-HIV, as pro versus anti-debate.

She spoke of "totalitarian AIDS science", of a "self-righteous campaign to stamp out debate", maintaining that people had become "hypnotized by the extremely powerful, red ribbon-wearing Zeitgeist", by "self-appointed 'AIDS professionals'". "This Zeitgeist controls all thinking and discourse on AIDS."

Focussing on the medium of television, Farber recounted several instances of behind-the-scenes censorship involving Peter Duesberg:

In 1988 Good Morning America scheduled Professor Peter Duesberg for a program, flew him from Berkeley to New York, booked him into a hotel, and on the night before the show called him to cancel because "something urgent had come up". I turned on the television in the morning, and there was Tony Fauci, talking about HIV, AZT and AIDS.

The scenario was repeated in 1989 when McNeill-Lehrer came to Duesberg's lab to film, saying they intended to broadcast a 20-30 minute piece. All that ever appeared was a spot, about 2 seconds long.

In 1992 a CNN crew came to the lab, filmed Duesberg, and again said they would run a whole segment on all the scientists who were opposing the HIV hypothesis. This was reduced down to a 20 second spot.

Finally, in 1992, Duesberg was scheduled to be on Larry King Live. On the morning of the show Duesberg received a call from the producers, who said, "Sorry, Dr. Duesberg, but something urgent came up with the election.

Duesberg tuned in, and again saw Tony Fauci on the screen. "The most reliable standby for me in television is Tony Fauci", said Duesberg.

Television, as part of the dumbing down of America, "does not lend itself to complexity." Furthermore, television careerism is not compatible with bucking the establishment:

The big journalists are the least likely to rock the boat, and in fact I was educated on this by none other than Robert Gallo, who called me in 1988, after he'd read something I'd written. And he said that he just wanted to have a heart-to-heart talk. He said, "You seem like a nice girl-and you seem to have your head on straight-and I want to advise you that this is no way to make a career for yourself." He said, "Don't you want to be like Barbara Walters? How do you think Barbara Walters got to be where she is? It certainly wasn't by attacking and criticizing and following lunatics around." [laughter from audience]

Charles Thomas

Charles Thomas is a molecular biologist and former Harvard Professor, head of the Helicon Foundation (a private research institute), and founder of the San Diego-based Group for the Scientific Re-Evaluation of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. He spoke on "The marketing of AIDS and other apocalyptic visions."

He began with the premise that AIDS needs to be understood in the context of what he called "scary science"-the offspring of mass psychology and the funding demands of specialized government bureaucracies. Among current Scientific Scares he listed the following:








While acknowledging that one or more of the scares might have some basis in reality, Thomas indicated that they had certain common features. First and foremost, they were mysterious -- indeed, in order to be successful, they *must* be mysterious. In addition, successful scientific scares shared other properties:

- SCARES EVERYONE: Everyone is at risk (sound familiar?)

- FEW EXPERTS: Only few experts understand the subject.

- NO MULTIEXPERTS: No experts in more than one scare.

- GOVERNMENT EMPLOYEES: Experts are government employees

- POWERFUL BUREAUCRACIES promote and market these scares

- NATIONAL (government) RESPONSE is required. Private responsibility won't work.

- FUNDING CREATES CONSTITUENCY: Careers can be made on the basis of the resulting flow of tax-dollars

All of these can be understood as requirements for getting funding. If, for example, everyone were not at risk for AIDS or death from ozone depletion, there would be no public support for the bureaucracies feeding off these scares.

Similarly, the requirement that there be few and highly specialized experts is essential to retain a monopoly on the scare, as well as to sustain its air of mystery. Even knowledgeable scientists are forced to take the word of experts- an enormous advantage for the scare mongers, as the experts are paid by the government:

Virtually all of the basic scientists in the U.S. are government employees. That is, they are paid directly by government or indirectly through easily revokable contracts called "grants." These monies are usually dispensed on the basis of "peer review" - that is on the basis of the opinion of other scientists working the same field.

Research work can be stopped dead by non-renewal, and principal investigators know this very well. How well do you think a grant proposal debunking the "ozone hole" scare would fair before a committee whose members run laboratories that are making a living out of "studying the ozone hole." Do you suppose a proposal by Peter Duesberg, to test the drug-hypothesis for some kinds of AIDS diseases, would survive before a committee composed of research workers who are making a living from studying the molecular biology of HIV? We know the answer to that: he was defunded.

Maintaining that Scientific Scares are only partly, and dubiously, scientific, Thomas suggested an elegantly simple solution for the AIDS problem: cut off the funding! He said:

In my opinion Peter Duesberg destroyed the HIV hypothesis with his 1987 paper-to say nothing of his subsequent papers. As Phil Johnson has said, the HIV hypothesis was never properly established in the first place. Duesberg has destroyed it many times over since- yet the HIV- causes-AIDS Mythology is still with us, terrorizing millions.

These Scientific Scares are what might be named "political diseases" and they are not susceptible to scientific refutation. However, they can be cured by cutting off their supply of money.

Consider the following "thought experiment": Imagine the present $6 billion that goes annually to AIDS research, education, treatment, etc. being reduced sharply to ZERO. There would be howls, of course, but AIDS would disappear in two weeks. In its place would be the component diseases that were swept under the common rug and given the name AIDS. These separate diseases would be treated as such, and the (former) AIDS patients and the rest of America would be much better off.

Peter Duesberg

Peter Duesberg, Professor of Molecular Biology at Berkeley, spoke on "The drug-AIDS hypothesis". Since his ideas are laid out in detail in the many monographs he's written refuting the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, particularly in his 1992 paper (see Reading List at the end of this article), I'll give just the highlights of his talk here.

He began with some remarks about the formation of belief systems, citing the work of Konrad Lorenz on "imprinting". We tend to believe what we are first exposed to-whether a mother, a language, a religion, or a hypothesis. Thereafter, Love (or belief or loyalty) requires one to stop questioning. However, scientists are supposed to behave differently, for according to Albert Einstein, "The most important thing for a scientist is not to stop questioning." He then proceeded to pose a series of rhetorical questions.

I ask you now, would you have accepted this hypothesis ten years ago, if you had known then that AIDS as a STD would not explode into the general, sexually active population, as it was predicted to, by Margaret Heckler, Robert Gallo, Anthony Fauci, the Surgeon General, and others? Would you have believed it was a STD if not even prostitutes would get AIDS from their clients, or clients from the prostitutes? ... Would you have believed then that AIDS is a STD if you had known the statistics ten years later -- 300,000 AIDS patients in America, and not one doctor, and not one health care worker has ever contracted AIDS from his or her patient. Not even one documented case in the literature. Yes, there are a few cases who became HIV-antibody-positive, and a few of those have been treated with AZT and have become sick. But these's not one documented case of a doctor picking up AIDS from his or her patient-in 10 years, from 300,000 patients.

Would you have believed that AIDS was a sexually transmitted or transfusion transmitted disease if you had known that not even one Kaposi's sarcoma had been transmitted through a blood transfusion? KS was once the hallmark disease of AIDS, as Harvey Bialy pointed out earlier today....

Would you have believed ten years ago that AIDS was an infectious disease when HIV replicates within 24 hours, very much like all other viruses, but would cause a disease only ten years later? All other viruses that replicate in 24 hours cause a disease within a few days or weeks, or they don't cause a disease. The incubation period of a virus to a disease is a function of the time it takes to replicate. HIV replicates in 24 hours, just like measles, mumps, polio, and flu viruses, and should cause a disease in the same time period that these viruses do. But not HIV. It's said to take ten years to make up its mind whether to cause a disease or not. And often it doesn't....

As Harvey Bialy pointed out, would you have believed that AIDS causes the loss of T-cells, when at the same time the virus was patented to be mass-producible in T-cells, which are not dying from the virus? They're still growing in the same culture.

Would you have believed that AIDS is an infectious disease, when it only occurs after the virus has been neutralized by antibodies-the only weapon against viruses? You can never get AIDS before immunity, only afterwards-that's what the AIDS test predicts. In fact, immunity is so good that leading AIDS researchers often fail to find the virus in AIDS patients.

And so, after the most expensive effort ever made against a microbe in the history of microbiology-ten years of effort, tens of thousands of scientists, 22 billion dollars from U.S. taxpayers, and we have come up totally empty handed-no vaccine, no drugs, not even one patient has ever been cured from AIDS. [I disagree with Duesberg on the last point; there are people who have received an AIDS diagnosis and who have recovered their health.]

Duesberg then said that the most critical question we should have asked is: "Is AIDS really an infectious disease?" After reviewing epidemiological and clinical evidence, he concluded:

"AIDS does not fit even one of the known criteria of an infectious disease!"

Perhaps the most powerful argument against the HIV-AIDS hypothesis is the last of biochemical activity on the part of HIV:

"The microbe must be abundant and very active when it is causing a disease. If not, it's what's called an asymptomatic infection." HIV, however, is never sufficiently active that it could cause illness. In many AIDS cases it can't even be found. "In some AIDS cases there isn't even one active microbe."

Duesberg dissected the most fundamental premise of the AIDS construct, that all of the 29 (at last count) AIDS-indicator diseases are caused by a condition of "immune deficiency" caused by HIV infection. In fact:

Only about 61% of all U.S. and European AIDS cases have anything to do with immune deficiency. All microbial diseases are consequences of some form of immune deficiency-t-cell, b-cell, antibody, you name it. In America in 1992, 61% of the AIDS diseases were immune deficiency diseases. But 39% were not; they were not caused by, and often were not even associated with immune deficiency. Kaposi's sarcoma occurs in the absence of immune deficiency, and also in the absence of HIV. Lymphoma is observed, at least initially, in the absence of immune deficiency. Dementia occurs in the absence of immune deficiency, and so does the wasting syndrome, which is officially defined by the CDC as a weight loss akin to anorexia or cachexia, which has nothing to do with a microbial infection. So, a full 39% of the AIDS diseases have nothing to do with immune deficiency, and need an explanation that cannot be based on a loss of t-cells, b-cells, or antibodies.

As an alternative to the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, Duesberg presented his own DRUGS-AIDS HYPOTHESIS, which states:

"AIDS in the U.S. and Europe is caused by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and AZT." The remaining AIDS cases-hemophiliacs, transfusion recipients, and other cases from non-risk groups-reflect the normal incidence of these diseases, simply under a new name. As Phil Johnson and Harvey Bialy pointed out, hemophiliacs are actually living longer now, they have fewer diseases, than ever before, in the history of hemophilia. African AIDS is a consequence of malnutrition, parasitic infections, and poor sanitation.

He then went through epidemiological correlations between drug use and the incidence of AIDS, the correspondence between the well-documented toxicities of heroin and cocaine and the conditions associated with AIDS in intravenous drug users, the AIDS-indicator diseases found in those on AZT therapy, and the poppers-connection, about which he made an amusing digression:

The nitrite inhalants that were used by gays were regulated by the Food and Drug Administration to one part in 100,000, because of their known carcinogenic and mutagenic potential. So if you eat frankfurters, they cannot have more than one part in a million. But if you inhale 15 milliliters at a party, then you couldn't in fact be sold in the meat market the next day, according to the Food and Drug Administration. [laughter] But if you point that out, then you are a homophobe, a bigot, dangerous, and irresponsible. [laughter] Because you have to say they should have checked their condoms for HIV.

Duesberg reached the conclusion:

The Drugs-AIDS hypothesis is eminently testable. If it were correct, AIDS, unlike most other diseases, would be entirely preventable. And education could do a whole lot by just pointing out to people: maybe it's not just putting on condoms and using clean needles that's going to help you, but maybe you should watch what's going through those needles, and what you are doing while you are wearing condoms, what drugs you are needing.

Jerold Lowenstein

Jerold Lowenstein, of the University of California Medical Center in San Francisco, was the first of those who had been added to the symposium in order to achieve "balance". His talk was entitled, "The medical and scientific evidence for HIV being the cause of AIDS".

He did not, in fact, present a reasoned argument, backed by evidence, that HIV was the cause of AIDS. He failed even to acknowledge the points made by the previous speakers. He gave no indication of ever having read the literature critical of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, which by now is extensive.

Instead, Lowenstein trotted out the usual AIDS myths, that we all have heard thousands of times. Any popular book on AIDS, the special issue of Scientific American, almost any newspaper of magazine article on AIDS will contain the facts and factoids presented by Lowenstein.

He sarcastically said that "what we're hearing today" was like early theories of AIDS causation, involving nitrites and sperm. There theories, he claimed, were rejected when "other groups of people with AIDS began appearing (IVDUs, hemophiliacs, transfusion recipients, adults from central Africa, infants whose mothers had AIDS)". This "new pattern", asserted Lowenstein, "strongly suggested a viral agent, so people began looking very hard for a viral agent, specifically a retrovirus."

Lowenstein's model above, is that "AIDS" is a single, coherent disease entity with only a single cause, a model which Robert Gallo and other establishment AIDS experts have already come to reject. Why the "new pattern" should suggest a "viral agent, specifically a retrovirus", as opposed to a bacterium, fungus, toxin, DNA virus, or something else, is left to the imagination.

Lowenstein talked about Gallo and Montagnier, without a hint of the strife between them, and after several very forgettable minutes, made the following statement, which I wish to examine:

At the present time it appears that all AIDS patients throughout the world are infected with HIV, and nearly all HIV-positive individuals will eventually get AIDS-although there does seem to be a small subset who escape that fate. [verbatim]

Yes, that, word for word, is exactly what he said. The statement is outstandingly untrue, and it is difficult to believe that Lowenstein didn't know better. (For thorough refutations see the Bio-Technology articles of Eleopulos [1993] and Duesberg [1993] in the Reading List following this article.) Even Gallo and Montagnier, who are each committed to the HIV-AIDS hypothesis to the tune of $100,000 per year, now admit that most HIV-antibody-positive individuals will not get sick.

And he showed a slide of an artist's rendition of HIV, with colored knobs and so on, and he asserted that the knobs did something or other. And he showed an electromicrogram of HIV. And he talked about how CD4 cells decline. ("When it gets down to about 200, virtually 100% of all AIDS patients develop AIDS ... they get opportunistic infections ... they get very, very sick, they waste away, they get tumors.")

And he talked about there being "several different patterns of AIDS throughout the world", which he described at length- totally ignoring the arguments previously made by Phillip Johnson, Harvey Bialy, and Peter Duesberg, that European/American AIDS and African AIDS are clearly two different epidemics, with different epidemiologies and different diseases.

And he talked about SIV (Simian Immunodeficiency Virus) which causes illness in monkeys in captivity (though not in the wild). He did not, however talk about HIV in monkeys, which would have been more relevant, but would have weakened his case. In fact, chimpanzees were injected with HIV over ten years ago; they became infected, as evidenced by the formation of antibodies; and nevertheless they remain perfectly healthy.

And he informed the audience that "HIV belongs to the lentivirus family of viruses." ("Lentivirus" means "slow virus"; it is meaningless nomenclature devised to rationalize the alleged 10-year latency period between initial HIV infection and the appearance of the first AIDS symptoms. Peter Duesberg once remarked, "There are no slow viruses-only slow virologists!")

And he asserted, "There's a very rapid rise these days in AIDS cases acquired heterosexually, in the U.S."

Lowenstein's conclusion consisted of a series of assertions, none of which was true:

"In conclusion: the reason why I and 99% of my colleagues are convinced that HIV is the cause of AIDS is that all AIDS patients are infected with HIV, virtually all HIV-positive individuals will get AIDS, elimination of HIV from blood products has stopped this route of AIDS transmission ... the anti-HIV drug AZT greatly reduces mother-fetus transmission of AIDS, the use of condoms has curbed the AIDS epidemic in homosexuals in San Francisco, AIDS did not occur in countries like Thailand until HIV was introduced, and finally, health care workers with no other risk factors get AIDS from accidental needle-sticks-there are several dozen such cases."


In the discussion period following his talk, Lowenstein received his comeuppance for making unfounded assertions.

Someone in the audience asked him how he would reconcile the differences between his statistics and those presented by Duesberg, regarding the numbers infected. Lowenstein replied:

"They come from all the leading scientific journals: Science, Nature, New England Journal of Medicine, the epidemiology journal, Scientific American -- all my data comes [sic] from standard sources, CDC ... but according to some of our earlier speakers, all these organizations are engaged in a huge conspiracy to delude us-so if that's so, then I'm deluded too."

Peter Duesberg then interjected: "Who said they were in a conspiracy? I haven't heard that. I was here since eight o'clock."

[Someone in audience]: "Those were your words."

[Duesberg]: "My words?"

[Someone in audience]: "No, those were his words. That's what he said."

[Lowenstein]: "Well, that was the impression I got."

[Duesberg]: "Oh, it was an impression. I see."

Molecular biologist Harry Rubin then commented:

I was confused by some of Dr. Lowenstein's slides, because in some cases the slides referred to the spread of HIV and in other cases to the incidence of AIDS. But they seem to be conflated. He talked about HIV spreading as though it were AIDS spreading. That's something that one has to be very careful about. I think it's become somewhat of a habit to confuse the one with the other.

The second point is that Dr. Lowenstein said that 99% of his colleagues accepted the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. I don't know whether he's polled his colleagues, and I don't know who his colleagues are. I suspect they are people who are closely associated with the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. I haven't polled my colleagues either, but in my discussions with them I'd say that most of them are pretty confused. And they're also scientists-virologists and molecular biologists. And they're very uncertain at this point. They're certainly not willing to make a definitive conclusion. I'd like to know what this figure comes from, that the predominance of, or the great majority of, or almost 100% of scientists agree that HIV causes AIDS.

Finally, I'd like to ask a question about the heterosexual rise. Now, in this past year "AIDS" has been re-defined again, as it was in 1987, to include such conditions as cervical cancer and tuberculosis, and as a result there's been a 50% increase in the number of AIDS cases. I wonder to what extent the rapid rise in heterosexual AIDS is due to re-defining AIDS in order to maintain the public scare that Dr. Thomas was talking about, that AIDS is a threat to the heterosexual community. That's for Dr. Lowenstein.

[Lowenstein]: "That was quite a question. [laughter] There's not much I can say."

[Rubin]: "Well, why don't you say what you can say?"

[Lowenstein]: "Well, among my colleagues who see and treat AIDS, I don't know of anyone who doubts the HIV-AIDS association."

[Duesberg]: "But aren't we talking about cause, not association? That's very different."

Someone in the audience then asked for a clarification of obvious disagreement between what Duesberg and Lowenstein said on health care workers. "Are they really at risk for either HIV or AIDS?"

[Lowenstein]: "According to the literature, as I read it, and from my own experience, a number of health care workers who had no other apparent risk factors have acquired AIDS as a result of accidental needle-sticks.... AIDS, I'm talking about AIDS."

[Duesberg]: "AIDS, Dr. Lowenstein? Could you give me the reference for that? [pause] If you know the literature? [pause] Oh, you don't know the literature? Then you don't know those numbers. I think it's very impressionistic here. Anyway, I did check the literature, and I couldn't find one such reference, except for Fauci reporting on Nightline that city health care workers got AIDS disease, but he also added that they were treated with AZT, which is a sufficient cause for AIDS. ... That's the only literature I could find on health care workers getting AIDS."

[Lowenstein]: "Two individuals in Holland got AIDS as a result of accidentally being injected with blood from AIDS patients."

Harvey Bialy then put a series of questions to Lowenstein:

You made the statement that HIV replicates in and destroys t-cells. This is the crux of the entire debate. What is your evidence?

Secondly, you showed a slide, which was basically the same slide that I showed, and I went to such pains to show that the slide had no basis in experimental reality. You seemed to ignore that completely, and went on to show the slide as though it were true. So how do you reconcile the data from Piatik et al. with that slide you showed about the course of HIV replication and the loss of t-cells?

And finally, why are hemophiliacs not dying of AIDS? They were all infected ten years ago or more-way long enough to have exceeded the latency period. Half the hemophiliacs in the United States should be dead or dying of AIDS now, and yet it's less than 12%. You need to explain that. Please!

[Lowenstein]: "I don't see why I need to explain that.

Hemophiliacs are dying of AIDS."

[Bialy}: "The HIV-AIDS hypothesis postulates a ten-year latent period between infection and disease. That means that if you have 16,000 people with the infection, after a ten-year period, approximately half of them should have the disease. But only 10-12% have the disease. This is a discrepancy! How do you explain it?"

[Lowenstein]: "How do you explain the 10-12% who *do* die?"

[groans from audience]

[Bialy]: "What are they dying of? They're dying of the same diseases that hemophiliacs always die of, but now they're called "AIDS" because they've been diagnosed as having HIV-antibodies."

[Duesberg]: "Those hemophiliacs are not immortal." [laughter]

[Bialy]: "What is your evidence that HIV is destroying t-cells by infection? I would love to see it. I've been waiting ten years for it."

[no response from Lowenstein]

The Morning Panel

At the end of the morning session came the panel, moderated by Ann Auleb of San Francisco State University, which was supposed to comment on what had been said so far. The panel did not include any critics of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.

First was Jan Kuby, an immunologist at San Francisco State University. Virtually her entire whole talk consisted of speculation, which was irrelevant to evaluating the HIV-AIDS hypothesis. She talked about autoimmunity, t-cell activation, antigens, apoptosis (programmed cell death), etc.

Kuby talked about highly inbred mice known as "SCID mice", which are severely immune deficient. Researchers injected bits and pieces of human cells and HIV into the SCID mice, with ill effects. She made an attempt at humor: "None of the mice were using poppers, taking AZT, or injecting drugs." No one laughed.

She speculated that AIDS dementia might be explained by HIV infection of brain macrophages, by cell fusion, and/or by cytokine imbalance. She digressed that a cytokine, IL1, may be implicated in Alzheimers.

She informed the audience, "98% of the t-cells are in lymphoid tissues, but most data is [*sic*] based on blood", and she asserted:

The virus is infecting cells in the lymph nodes- massive amounts of virus are being produced there ... even before we can see anything going on in the blood at all.

The above statement is simply not true. The lymph nodes do collect viruses and viral debris-just as the lint filter in a clothes dryer collects lint-but if "massive amounts of virus" were being produced anywhere in the body, there would also be massive amounts of virus in the blood.

I see no need to report more of the same. After the extremely lucid presentations of the HIV-critics, it was several steps down to the muddled techno-babble of Jan Kuby.

Next came Michael Ascher, of the California State Department of Health Services. He is co-author, with Warren Winkelstein, of an article, "Does drug use cause AIDS?" (Nature, 11 March 1993), which aspired to refute Peter Duesberg's Drugs-AIDS hypothesis on the basis of a cohort study. He made it clear up front that he does not believe in the direct-killing HIV hypothesis, but rather in the "genetic mimicry" version (to be presented later by Raphael Stricker).

Whereas the HIV-critics had been unflaggingly courteous, both in their talks and during discussion periods, Ascher's style of debate was heavily dependent on sarcasm. He repeatedly referred to Duesberg as "Peter", although the two are not friends. He ridiculed the nitrites-KS connection, apparently unaware that at least part of the AIDS establishment is now moving in that direction. He expostulated that saying AZT causes AIDS diseases is like saying insulin causes diabetes, apparently unaware of Duesberg's extensive analysis of AZT's toxicities.

In a brief talk with Ascher afterwards, I found out that neither he nor Winkelstein has ever had professional survey research experience, even though survey research is what they attempted to do. (As I myself have been in professional survey research since 1966, I'll have a few words to say about the Ascher-Winkelstein study later.)

Next came Robert Schmidt, a physician, who presented a multifactorial approach to diseases of the elderly. It was a thoughtful and interesting talk, but quite irrelevant to the central topic of the symposium.

In the discussion period, a graduate student confronted Ascher with serious methodological flaws in his study, in particular the fact that the investigators failed to verify drug use. Ascher replied that it was a random sample, and that ought to take care of the problem, as any biases in replies on drug use would be randomly distributed. The sheer, overwhelming fatuousness of this answer had members of the audience groaning and shaking their heads in disbelief.

A physician in the audience asked Ascher if he would take AZT if he had stuck himself with an HIV-infected needle. Ascher said nothing, made a face, and shook his head "no". However, Lowenstein said that he would take AZT.

Peter Plumley

The first speaker of the afternoon session was Peter Plumley, Consulting Actuary, whose talk was entitled: "An actuarial analysis of the AIDS epidemic in the United States." His central thesis was that official AIDS statistics, and pronouncements of the Public Health Service, have greatly distorted and exaggerated the epidemic, resulting in unrealistic perceptions of the relative risk of various sexual acts. The excessive fear of AIDS has adversely affected the lives of many people.

In his opening comments, Plumley said that "AIDS has replaced smoking as the greatest single cause of statistics." His interest in the topic of AIDS developed from seeing "so much bad interpretation of data."

While agnostic as to whether or not HIV causes AIDS, Plumley clearly leaned to a multifactorial approach, and suggested emphasizing the message, "Good Health Prevents AIDS". For the purposes of his talk, he made the assumption that HIV is the cause, and then evaluated the risks of becoming infected by various activities.

Most of his talk was geared to the "vast majority of people", heterosexuals who are in good health and free of STDs, and not involved in a regular relationship with a gay man or IV drug user. For them the risk of HIV infection is so slight, even with multiple sexual partners, that "using a condom is comparable to wearing a hard hat for a walk down Main Street."

For gay men the risk of acquiring HIV infection or AIDS is higher, not least because of the "immunosuppressive risk factors" affecting some gay men. Eliminating these risk factors is as important as taking precautions to avoid HIV.

Kary Mullis

Kary Mullis is the 1993 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry. He is a superbly gifted entertainer, with a wonderfully expressive voice, a perfect sense of timing, charisma, and a sense of humor that is both zany and analytical. The first part of his talk dealt with the enigma: Why is there no monograph which marshals all of the arguments in favor of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, and which replies to the criticisms that have been raised by Peter Duesberg and others?

Mullis was writing a report on the use of PCR for HIV, when he came across the phrase, "HIV is the probably cause of AIDS".

In his own words:

I asked the guy sitting beside me, "What is the support for that, what's the reference?" And he said, "You don't need a reference, everybody knows that."

I assumed there must be such a reference, and that there might be a controversy over who got credit for it, because I was under the impression that Gallo and Montagnier might have been fighting over who had first shown that HIV was the cause of AIDS.... I went back over their early papers, and found that neither of them had shown that HIV was the probable cause of AIDS.

I was running into a lot of people who were doing AIDS research, and every time somebody would give a talk, I'd go up to them afterwards and ask politely: Who I should quote -- was there a paper or a review that I should quote for that statement? It seemed like a perfectly reasonable question to ask. Some people took offence. Most people said the same thing: "But everybody knows, you don't have to prove it." Well, you know, everybody knows the sequence [of a certain chemical], but they also know where to find the references.

And I started getting uncomfortable with the fact that nobody seemed to know. So I changed the question to, "When did you, personally, become convinced that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS? (I mean, you're working on it as though you are.) [laughter] What papers did you read?" And they'd say, "I've got it in my office." And I'd say, "Would you send me the titles, so I can look them up." ... [They never did.] And some would say, "Read the CDC report." So I got that and looked through it, and said to myself, "Now the CDC doesn't get credit-they didn't do the experiments to demonstrate that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS."

And then finally, Luc Montagnier came to San Diego, and gave a talk, and I thought, this guy will know. [laughter] After the meeting I asked him, and he first mentioned the CDC report, and I said I had already looked at it, that it wasn't what I was looking for-that I wanted a scientific paper that would support the notion that HIV is the probable cause of AIDS, not the consensus of a bunch of people who'd already begun looking at it. He said, "Well, let's see ..." (and there was a little knot of people around us at that point, thinking, the man must have an answer to that question), and he said, "Why don't you quote the SIV work?" And I said to myself, "Oh my god! There really isn't such a paper, there can't be, or he wouldn't have to refer ... to a virus that might kill a monkey ... to illustrate the probability that HIV is the cause of AIDS!"

Mullis described his hearing and then meeting Peter Duesberg, and his entry into the ranks of HIV-skeptics. The remainder of his talk consisted of a half-serious, half-facetious description of "another hypothesis, that has no experimental support." His "interesting hypothetical disease" is a variation of the "immune overload" hypothesis, the idea being that infection with millions of *different* microbes, through contact with thousands of people, who each had contact with thousands of people, might lead to a breakdown of the immune system.

Harry Rubin

Harry Rubin, Professor of Molecular Biology at Berkeley, is regarded as the Dean of Retrovirology, as four decades ago he created many of the techniques for studying retroviruses and trained many of the people who are now the world's leading retrovirologists. He spoke on "The rush to simplification of complex problems in biomedical science: Cancer and AIDS."

Describing himself as a "chronic fence-sitter", he said he was agnostic as to whether or not HIV might play some role in AIDS, and was willing to be convinced either way, however:

I came here expecting to hear some really convincing defence of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis, and maybe that will occur later this afternoon. But so far, I must say, I've been disappointed.

He spoke of the difficulty of having open, scientific discussion of AIDS: "What's transpired in the development of this symposium is illustrative of the difficulty of making a critical scientific analysis of the AIDS problem. It's really more of a political than a scientific problem." He then went on to lambaste the reporting of David Perlman, Science Editor of the San Francisco Chronicle.

Rubin then described his pioneering work forty years ago on the Rous sarcoma virus:

This was the first virus identified and characterized as a retrovirus-the one that, at least until AIDS, was the one most studied and worked on.

This kind of virus has been associated since 1910 with several types of leukemia in chickens. Notice, I used the words, "associated with". They were given the name, Avian Leukosis Virus, indicating they cause a type of leukemia in chickens, along with many other symptoms, incidentally. Now what I learned from my own work-I developed the way of assaying these viruses in culture so they could be worked with, in a fairly expedient manner-is that these leukemias could and would occur in the absence of the retroviruses.... Every cell in the chicken is infected, and every cell is constantly producing virus, but even then ... only 15% of those chickens, who were congenitally infected, developed the leukosis. In spite of these findings, these viruses are still called Leukemia or Leukosis viruses, as they have been for 85 years. The assumption is made that they are the sole, or at least the prime, cause of the disease in chickens.... One of the things I want to point out is the tricky business of naming a virus. Naming something HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, Avian Leukosis Virus, Avian Myelocytosis Virus-all of those names fix in the minds of those who use them, or work with them, that *this* is the proof. It's like Noah naming the animals, a way of controlling them.

Rubin then described meeting held by AmFAR in Washington, DC in 1988, which I also attended. (My report, "Kangaroo Court Etiology: AmFAR Holds a Forum to Discredit Duesberg, But Winds Up Confirming Shabbiness of 'Proof' of HIV as Sole Cause of AIDS", appeared in the New York Native of 9 May 1988.):

Now I've come to my point about the politicization of this issue. In 1988 the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) convened a meeting in Washington, DC, which had the obvious purpose of silencing Peter Duesberg. As I had discussed the matter with Peter on many occasions, he asked me to join the meeting, even though he knew I was an agnostic about the role of HIV-more like Erasmus than Martin Luther. I reluctantly agreed, feeling I could play the role of an intermediary. How naive I was! I did some extensive reading before the meeting, and a lot of questions occurred in my mind, that I thought needed discussion. When I raised those questions at the meeting, I got the response you might expect from a bunch of fundamentalists confronted with someone who questioned the virgin birth. [laughter] For example, Anthony Fauci interrupted me at one point, in a rage, saying how could anyone doubt the compelling role of HIV, when there was this HIV-infected baby, who had never been exposed to other viruses, bacteria or drugs, and developed AIDS. Well, I had no answer. If I did, I couldn't get up, he was so mad. Well, I later learned that the mother of that baby was an intravenous drug user who had all sorts of health and nutritional problems. Anyhow, the infant did not have a shortage of t-cells, which was supposed to be the characteristic marker of HIV, but a shortage of b-cells. So there's at least some question here. But that question wasn't allowed to be discussed.

Then I questioned the role of immune deficiency in producing a tumor known as lymphoma. I had spent a fair amount of time working of a strain of mice that were genetically unable to produce t-cells, that were severely immune deficient-more immune deficient than the worst AIDS cases. But in fact that strain of mouse, the so-called "nude mouse" or "a-thymic mouse", had no higher incidence of any tumor than did a normal mouse, and that includes lymphoma. I was then treated to an angry lecture about the presence of killer cells in these mice. Well, killer cells they may have, but these were totally ineffective in rejecting tumors. So the question remains, how can we say that lymphomas develop from immune deficiency, when the best and strongest model, the nude mouse, for immune deficiency, produces no lymphomas. We didn't get a chance to discuss that either.

Subsequently after that meeting, at a little social gathering, I had a discussion with a medical corps major (I won't mention any names) who was the Army's leading AIDS specialist. He told me that he had seen AIDS cases with Kaposi's sarcoma in recruits, a condition then commonly associated with AIDS, at least in homosexuals. He told me that some of these cases were AIDS. And I asked him if they differed clinically from the other six cases [which were not AIDS]. He said, no, they didn't differ clinically at all, but they had antibodies to HIV. So I realized then I was dealing with a self-fulfilling prophecy. If there are HIV antibodies when you have Kaposi's, then it's AIDS, and if no antibodies when it's Kaposi's, then it's not AIDS, just Kaposi's. No wonder there's such a strong association between the virus and AIDS, if the diagnosis is based on the presence of the virus. He told me then that I didn't really understand medicine. [laughter] He's telling the truth.

I'm kind of glad that I don't. [laughter and applause] He told me that the role of the virus had been proved, to the extent that "AIDS" was no longer a "Human Immunodeficiency Syndrome"-the "syndrome" was the "s" part of "AIDS"- but "Human Immunodeficiency Disease", Now, what's the difference? He told me, "You are taught in medical school, that 'syndrome' means you don't know the cause of a disease, and 'disease' means that you do know the cause. And since now we're calling this a disease, therefore we know the cause, and it's HIV. So quite asking questions. And let's have another drink." [laughter]

Rubin then went into a somewhat technical discussion of mutation, epigenetics, and cancer, which led him to conclude:

Cancer can only be understood at the level of the complex dynamics of cellular interaction with the aging process and other such considerations as diet, smoking, lifestyle, etc.-what in fact Dr. Schmidt presented us with this morning. The trouble with that is it doesn't make easy reading for the public, or for science writers who won't take the trouble to dig things out. That's not the kind of thing that the editor's going to print, that cancer is complex. We've got a gene that's been isolated and reported in Nature and Science this week-that really gets some excitement.

The same basic process is at work in AIDS. Ten years ago there was tremendous pressure (I don't think most people remember it) for NIH, for epidemiologists and virologists, to come up with a cause of AIDS that everyone would understand. It was very important that everyone understand it. And sure enough, Robert Gallo did so. The result was trumpeted in a big news conference put on by Margaret Heckler, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare. Here was this vast complex of 25 diseases, and more have been added since, and it was all due to this one retrovirus. Well, someone who has spent every day of his adult life working in the field and at the bench, and who's had the experience of the questionably named Chicken Leukosis Virus, found this a little hard to swallow in its unexpurgated form. I didn't deny that it might have some role, but this was too simplistic. It still is too simplistic, in my estimation. It may be part of the truth, but it's certainly not the whole truth. At this moment it's the greatest bar we have to a deeper understanding of a very serious problem.

If there ever was a case of multifactorial disease occurrence, in my estimation, AIDS is the case. In closing, let me say a word about Peter Duesberg, who has been pilloried from post to post in the press, as you have seen. I made it clear that I do not go along with his total rejection of a role for the virus. I will say, that if it were not for Peter Duesberg, there would be no one raising questions at all, including me. [applause for Duesberg] So while I continue to disagree with him, and find him a pain sometimes [laughter], I respect what he's done, and I might say that he's done it at enormous sacrifice to his reputation and to his career. [applause]

Raphael Stricker

Raphael Stricker, MD, spoke on "Autoimmune processes that contribute to the pathogenesis of AIDS." In his highly technical talk, he rejected the explanation that HIV caused AIDS by direct viral infection. Instead, he speculated that autoimmune processes may be responsible for much of the pathogenesis in AIDS. Since there exist certain homologies between HIV and human cells, a "genetic mimicry" may operate, in which the body becomes confused, runs amuck, and starts destroying itself.

I do not regard this hypothesis as even slightly tenable, and consider that Harvey Bialy refuted it more than adequately in the morning. HIV is a perfectly ordinary, perfectly conventional retrovirus. If the immune systems of our bodies were so easily confused, our species would have died out a long, long time ago.

Bryan Ellison

Bryan Ellison is a graduate student in molecular and cell biology in Berkeley. His talk, "Drug use does cause AIDS: A reappraisal of the San Francisco Men's Health Study", was based on a paper jointly written by himself, Allen Downey (a statistician), and Peter Duesberg. It was a severe critique of the article by Michael Ascher, Warren Winkelstein, et al., ("Does drug use cause AIDS?", Nature, 11 March 1993), which purported to show that HIV and HIV alone was responsible for the development of AIDS in a cohort of San Francisco men.

It had been claimed in the Ascher report that AIDS and t-cell depletion occurred only in the men who were HIV-antibody-positive, and that drug use had no effect whatever on either t-cell depletion over time or on the development of AIDS.

Ellison said that he and his colleagues had obtained the raw data from Ascher and Winkelstein, and found that Ascher et al. had seriously misreported the data. By using a circular definition of AIDS, which required HIV seropositivity in order for diseases to be recorded as AIDS, Ascher et al. overlooked at least 45, and possibly as many as 200 AIDS-related diseases among the HIV-antibody-negative men.

According to Ellison, Ascher et al. made it look as though some of the HIV-antibody-positive men who developed AIDS had been nonusers of drugs, which they did by defining drug use in a narrow and capricious way, focussing only on four drugs (marijuana, nitrites, cocaine, and amphetamines), and only on self-reported use during a two-year period. AZT use, reported by 54% of the seropositive men in the cohort, was ignored by Ascher et al. entirely. By these stratagems Ascher et al. included users of marijuana, nitrites, cocaine, downers, hallucinogens, and AZT among their "no drug use" group. It turned out that the only two men in the study who never claimed drug use, also did not lose t-cells over time.

Ellison charged:

By ignoring huge gaps and striking selection biases in the database, Ascher et al. reached the unsupportable conclusions that HIV-positive and HIV-negative men used similar amounts of drugs and that levels of drug use were not related to the risk of developing AIDS. In contrast, we found that HIV-positive men used significantly more heavy drugs than did HIV-negatives, and that drug use was more highly correlated with AIDS-related diseases than was HIV.

A striking feature of the article by Ascher et al. had been a line chart, which allegedly showed trends in t-cell levels over time, according to both HIV-antibody status and drug use. In the HIV-positive group, t-cells declined steadily, regardless of drug use. In the HIV-negative group, t-cells remained steady, also regardless of drug use. Ellison charged that this result had been obtained by "some unexplained 'adjustment'", and that the inclusion of error bars "exposed much greater variability in t-cell counts."

In conclusion Ellison said that drug use did indeed cause AIDS. He characterized the misreporting of data by Ascher and Winkelstein a "serious breach of scientific ethics", and called upon them to retract the paper.

A Digression on the Ascher-Winkelstein Report

I myself have also criticized the Ascher-Winkelstein report, but using a very different approach (John Lauritsen, "Surveying Ascher and Schechter", Rethinking AIDS, May 1993). It was clear to me from reading the report in Nature that the methodology was dubious, the charts had a too-good-to-be-true quality, and above all, the data did not make sense. As a professional analyst, I will not comment on data until I am sure they are valid. To do this thoroughly would require obtaining a clear and comprehensive description of methodology, as well as copies of all questionnaires, recording forms, tabulation specifications, and computer runs. In addition, at least some of the interviews would have to be independently validated-meaning that respondents would be contacted and interviewed to determine whether previous interviews had been done competently and honestly.

I wrote to Ascher, asking for copies of blank questionnaires, etc., and received a reply from Winkelstein, in which he said that if I were in San Francisco, and paid a search fee of $25 per hour, it might be possible to obtain some of the materials I wanted. Considering that the study was publicly funded, and therefore subject to the Freedom of Information Act, his response was preposterous.

An unvalidated survey has little or no credibility, and since the Ascher-Winkelstein study is not even open to validation, it deserves to be rejected on this basis alone.

It has been my experience as an analyst, without exception, that when data don't make sense it is because there is something wrong with them. It doesn't make sense that a single, biochemically inactive microbe could be the cause of the 29 (at last count) AIDS-indicator diseases. It doesn't make sense that drugs don't do anything.

Charles Geshekter

The Moderator of the symposium, Charles Geshekter, spoke on "rethinking the AIDS epidemic in Africa." Official statistics, he maintained, have been unreliable to the point of absurdity.

Africa is supposed to be saturated with HIV, its population ravaged by the AIDS epidemic. And yet, since 1981 -- thirteen years-there have been only 151,000 confirmed AIDS cases in all of Africa.

Most AIDS cases are diagnosed on clinical symptoms alone.

The HIV antibody tests, ELISA and Western Blot, are almost useless, as they cross-react with antibodies to many diseases that are endemic to Africa. Furthermore, the symptoms attributed to "AIDS" are indistinguishable from those that have plagued Africa since the beginning of the 20th century.

Geshekter debunked the media myth that the African AIDS catastrophe can only be averted through the intervention of Western science. After describing some of the shoddy AIDS science that has been foisted on Africa, he defined an "expert" as "a person who can tell by the wrinkles on a bed whether the screwing was for love or for money."

Particularly dangerous, in Geshekter's opinion, is the pressure to use the toxic, DNA chain terminator drug, AZT, on HIV-positive Africans.

Warren Winkelstein

Warren Winkelstein, Professor of Public Health at Berkeley, spoke on "Inferences from epidemiological data." His brief talk mostly presented points from the report he had co-authored with Michael Ascher (Nature, 11 March 1993). He showed a slide, in which none of the HIV-negative men developed AIDS, whereas those who were either HIV-positive upon entry into the study, or became so later, did develop AIDS.

Winkelstein then addressed Bryan Ellison's claim, that at least 45 HIV-negative men had developed AIDS-diseases. This was ridiculous, said Winkelstein, because if these 45 HIV-negative men had really had AIDS, then 36 of them ought to have died, according to the latest AIDS projections. However, only [ONLY!] 7 of them had died. Presumably this meant that Ellison was wrong, and they couldn't really have had AIDS-illnesses.

Let's examine Winkelstein's logic here. First of all, no matter how sick the 45 HIV-negative men were, they would not officially have been diagnosed as having "AIDS", since a positive result on the HIV-antibody test is necessary for the diagnosis. In consequence, they would not have received a prognosis of death; they would not have been programmed to die. Above all, they would not have been prescribed AZT! If these data were reliable, one could argue that an AIDS diagnosis is deadlier than AIDS itself.

Winkelstein made no further attempt to refute the criticisms made by Ellison, and the rest of his talk was not of general interest.

Warner Green

Warner Green, virologist at the University of California Medical Center, San Francisco, was still another of those added for "balance". His brief talk consisted mostly of unsupported assertions, which he asserted were facts.

"HIV infections from accidental needle sticks, in health care workers, who had no concomitant drug use or other risk factors, have led to death." [No such case has ever been reported.] "We now know that HIV can be recovered from 100% of AIDS cases." [This statement is flatly untrue.] HIV does kill t-cells. "I don't see what the problem is here." [Not only all of the HIV-skeptics, but most proponents of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis now accept that HIV does not kill t-cells.]

And so on. Nothing that Green said addressed the points made by the critics of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis.

The Final Panel

For the final panel, Charles Geshekter had all of the speakers come on stage. He said that, since there were a dozen and a half of them and many people from the audience wanted to speak, both questions and answers would have to be brief. He displayed a cow bell, which he would ring if someone ran on for too long.

Asked to define "epidemic", Warren Winkelstein began by saying, "An epidemic is an unusual occurrence of disease." He went on from there, and several minutes later Geshekter had to ring the bell on him.

Peter Plumley commented that the teen-aged AIDS cases have gone down for the past two years.

Harvey Bialy pointed out that the perfect, 100% correlations that were shown in Warren Winkelstein's slides, fell apart when the data were examined independently.

Bryan Ellison followed up by saying that in the Ascher-Winkelstein study, there were enormous gaps in the data, and that the questions had been poorly set up. No one has ever done a rigorous survey of the surveys themselves.

Michael Ascher then attacked Bryan Ellison-something to the effect that candidiasis of the mouth wasn't an AIDS-defining illness, whereas candidiasis of the esophagus was.

Peter Duesberg then jumped into the fray, saying that the Ascher-Winkelstein study, which allegedly refuted the drugs-AIDS hypothesis, was incredibly irresponsible and dangerous-for it appeared to recommend the use of drugs.

A student of epidemiology asked Winkelstein why he had not verified drug use with widely accepted serological tests, to which Winkelstein replied that "survey research technology is widely accepted"-an unresponsive answer, to say the least.

A woman in the audience asked Ascher and Winkelstein how they determined if someone were HIV-positive or -negative, citing the Eleopulos study (see Reading List) which indicated that both antibody tests were unvalidated and highly unreliable. Ascher replied that all of the tests were reliable.

Harvey Bialy, in response to a question from a man in the audience, said there were 15 to 18 ways HIV could cause AIDS, but no proof. All of the hypothesized indirect mechanisms were admissions of failure.

Michael Ascher ridiculed the direct-killing mechanism, saying it was dead, that "Fauci would be the first to tell you." Warner Green replied that he still held to direct mechanisms.

Asked why he did not consider HIV-AIDS to be a falsifiable hypothesis, Kary Mullis cited two points: 1) the increase in the postulated latency period, and 2) the switch from direct to indirect mechanisms.

Harvey Bialy indicated the absurdity of the claim that HIV causes AIDS in 100% of those it infected, whereas the polio virus, for example, causes polio in only 3-4%.

Warner Green responded, "This is a most unique retrovirus", and said that HIV had extra genes.

At this point Kary Mullis exploded, "If you spend 22 billion dollars, you can fucking find some extra genes!"

Peter Duesberg informed Green that all retroviruses have the same number of nucleotides; all have 9 kilobases of genetic material.

Warren Winkelstein, who had seemed in a deep funk, ever since the bell was rung on him, rebuked the panelists and the audience for a lack of seriousness. "People are dying", he said Without missing a beat, Kary Mullis turned to him and said, "We're not laughing at AIDS, we're laughing at you!"

After a few desultory comments, that was the end of the symposium.


If the HIV-skeptics were in high spirits at the end of the symposium, it came from the awareness that they had carried the day. The other side utterly failed to rebut any of their major points.

In contrast, the HIV-defenders wore tense, defensive, hang-dog expressions, as though they were on trial for something. Although they could still parrot the old, and a few new, AIDS myths, none of them were able to put together a reasoned argument.

The principle of "balance" really ought to be applied to future AIDS programs of the AAAS and all other groups. Never again should only the HIV-AIDS point-of-view be represented.

The HIV-AIDS hypothesis is dead. Only in a genuine spirit of Free Enquiry can we discover exactly what "AIDS" is and what its causes are. *

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