DISPUTES EPIDEMIC OF AIDS
By Neville Hodgkinson
The Sunday Times (London) 22 May 1994
new study has uncovered powerful evidence that the "AIDS
test" is scientifically invalid, misleading millions into
believing they are HIV positive when they are not infected with
published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, provide practical
evidence that HIV tests may be triggered by other factors, such
as leprosy and tuberculosis. They have heightened concerns that
the spread of AIDS in Africa has been wildly exaggerated.
was made by a team headed by Dr Max Essex of Harvard University's
School of Public Health and a highly respected AIDS expert. One
of the originators of the hypothesis linking HIV with AIDS, Essex
was also a leading exponent of the theory that the virus originated
with scientists from the University of Kinshasa and the health ministry
in Zaire, stumbled across the apparent flaws in the tests during
an investigation into whether leprosy patients, and those in close
contact with them, were at increased risk of being infected with
examination of 57 patients, using more precise testing methods than
usual, the team decided only two were carrying HIV and none of a
group of 39 contacts. But about 70% of the patients and 30% of the
contacts were HIV positive, according to two leading versions of
Elisa, the most common test.
The team also
found that another, supposedly more sophisticated test kit called
Western Blot was equally unreliable. It gave a positive reaction
in 85% of the patients who were negative with the other tests.
investigations, the scientists concluded that proteins from the
leprosy germ to which millions of Africans are exposed were causing
cross-reactions with the HIV test, creating false positives.
this, the researchers said that the Elisa and Western Blot tests,
mainstay of HIV testing worldwide, "may not be sufficient for
HIV diagnosis in AIDS-endemic areas of central Africa where the
prevalence of mycobacterial diseases is quite high".
provide dramatic support for a report last year in the journal Bio/Technology,
in which Australian scientists conclude that the "HIV test"
had never been properly evaluated, misleading cross-reactions were
common and the test was meaningless except as a marker for many
report showed that although most healthy people test negative, many
of those facing chronic challenges to the immune system that have
nothing to do with HIV were liable to produce a positive result.
It cited evidence that these challenges probably included some of
the conditions known to lead to AIDS, such as chronic drug abuse,
repeated transfusions of blood or blood products, and multiple infections.
a medical physicist and AIDS researcher who led the Australian team,
said the study "confirms that we have to question all the HIV
tests, especially in AIDS patients who have all types of infectious
agents in them".
Dr John Papadimitriou,
professor of pathology at the University of Western Australia in
Perth and a co-author of the Bio/Technology study, said the Zaire
research demonstrated that the HIV tests were inadequate: "Why
condemn a continent to death because of HIV, when you have other
explanations for why people are falling sick?"
have also begun to question the orthodox view: "Europeans and
Americans came to Africa with prejudiced minds, so they are seeing
what they wanted to see," said Professor PAK Addy, head of
clinical microbiology at the University of Science and Technology
in Kumasi, Ghana.
In an interview
in New African magazine, he said: "I've known for a long time
that AIDS is not a crisis in Africa as the world is being made to
understand. But in Africa it is very difficult to stick your neck
out and say certain things.
came out with those frightening statistics on AIDS in Africa because
it was unaware of certain social and clinical conditions. In most
of Africa, infectious diseases, particularly parasitic infections,
are common. And there are other conditions that can easily compromise
or affect one's immune system."
He added: "The
diagnosis itself, merely being told you have AIDS, is enough to
kill, and is killing people." *