of Humbug Hides The Truth On Aids
By Gordon Stewart
The Sunday Times (London) 7 June 1992
is being spoken and written about HIV and AIDS. Critics of recent
articles in The Sunday Times questioning whether the human immunodeficiency
virus (HIV) is the true cause of the disease seem to assume they
alone hold the moral high ground. They say the public welfare
is so intimately involved that nobody should question their utterances,
except perhaps within the confines of specialist journals.
But what if
the orthodox view is manifestly and tragically wrong? And what if
those journals refuse to publish even verifiable data that puts
the conventional view into question?
continue about the role of HIV, the public has been led to believe
AIDS is bound to spread to the general population by natural heterosexual
intercourse, so that everyone who is sexually active is at risk.
This is true, says the World Health Organisation in its Global AIDS
News, "not only in developing countries ... but in the industrialised
world as well". A grim prospect for human health and survival.
Yet an analysis
of official registrations of AIDS cases both in northern industrialised
Europe and the United States shows that this is exactly what is
AIDS is almost
exclusively confined to certain groups that engage in some very
specific behaviours that put them continuously at risk of various
infections. Those infections are then manifested in potent form
as the diseases we call AIDS. Outside those groups, there are some
tragic accidents such as AIDS in recipients of contaminated transfusions,
and in infants born to mothers who have developed AIDS because of
being on drugs or otherwise at risk.
But there are
no signs to date that the disease is going to spread to the general
population in Britain. This is true also of America, where AIDS
struck several years earlier and is eight times more common than
I have tried
repeatedly to draw attention to the discrepancy between these facts
and the official view of what is happening with a series of articles
submitted to the leading medical and scientific journals. So far,
every one has been rejected and my experience is not unique.
It is a scandal
that the major medical journals have maintained a conspiracy of
silence over any dissent from the orthodox views and official handouts.
A fresh example
of the misleading propaganda and half-truths being fed to both the
public and the medical profession appears in this week's British
A lead letter
draws attention to the high (although declining) rate of HIV infection
among drug users in Edinburgh, a state of affairs that has been
known about for many years. But what is not stated is the fact that
the latest official statistics, for April, show there were no new
cases of AIDS in women in Edinburgh during that month, or indeed
anywhere in Scotland. There were only four cases in men: two homosexual,
one on drugs, the other with a partner abroad.
This, in miniature,
is the pattern of AIDS for most of the United Kingdom, where there
were only 112 new cases in April, an incidence of one in 500,000.
That is about one case per 300 GPs except perhaps in London, which
accounts for 70% of AIDS in the UK, mainly in three or four well-defined
when AIDS first appeared in the UK, the cumulative total of cases
to the end of April this year is 5,894, of whom 5,523 (94%) are
men. Of the 371 (6%) women registered as AIDS cases, only 24 (one
woman in 750,000) are in non-risk groups. Hardly an epidemic. In
fact, a somewhat rare disease, though sad enough in human and financial
(Pounds 100,000 per case) cost to our country.
argue that these tiny figures are nevertheless the seeds of an epidemic
that spells danger for the future. But it is at some unspecified
time in the future the supposed incubation time between infection
and disease keeps being extended, and now stands at 10-15 years,
with some saying it could be up to 30 years, because so many HIV-positive
subjects remain in good health. The situation is rapidly becoming
the critics are overlooking the view of the future provided by what
is happening in New York city, where last October there were 35,392
cases in adults registered by comprehensive city-wide surveillance
since 1982. Of those, 29,992 (85%) were men. Of the 5,400 cases
in women, 4,774 (89%) were in high-risk groups and only 27 (0.5%
of cases, 1 in 100,000 women) in the low-risk general population.
And New York city is an epicentre of AIDS, with 20% of all cases
about what is happening in New York is accessible in greater detail
than in London. It shows that 94% of cases are in risk groups; and
of those, 13% are men with Kaposi's sarcoma, a condition that even
the AIDS orthodoxy now accepts can occur in young homosexual men
without HIV, and 57% are diagnosed with pneumonia due to the same
parasite, Pneumocystis carinii, that distinguished the first AIDS
is undoubtedly a product of various forms of risk behaviour. In
its beginnings in New York and California, AIDS was identified because
of its unique occurrence in certain communities of homosexual and
bisexual men, and of drug addicts.
The men in
these homosexual communities, who were not representative of all
homosexual men, engaged in anal intercourse and various traumatic
para-sexual activities with each other and multiple partners, mainly
in bath-houses where by definition any infections present were shared.
played a part, including immuno-suppressive drugs such as nitrites
(poppers: freely on sale in London) and antibiotics for self-treatment
of the sexually transmissible infections that were rampant.
members of these communities transferred infection to their women
partners who were, apart from drug-users and victims of transfusions,
the only part of the female population to get AIDS.
The other main
risk group are drug-users of both sexes who acquire unmanageable
infections because they use contaminated drugs, share needles, and
often live in very unhygienic conditions. These are the two main
groups in whom AIDS started and is continuing.
In 1983, when
I retired, the World Health Organisation asked me to look at behavioural
and social aspects of communicable diseases and their impact on
family planning and other programmes. This led me straight into
from the grass roots was emphatically that AIDS was spreading alarmingly
in the risk groups, and only rarely outside them. Predictions calculated
on this basis gave results very close to what subsequently happened.
As shown in the table, they are much more accurate than predictions
about the likely course of the epidemic made by the government's
advisers on AIDS, by the Health Education Authority, and by many
other experts and authorities.
for example, that on the basis of data available in 1989, it was
possible to predict there would be 1,326 new cases in the UK in
1991 as opposed to 3,690 cases (reduced from an earlier estimate)
predicted by members of the Cox Committee, who were official advisers
to the government. The actual total of new cases registered by the
diligent surveillance unit of the public health service was 1,370.
model upon which my predictions are based works also for New York,
where it correctly predicts a cumulative incidence of a little over
40,000 cases to date.
for the errors in the official picture has been the assumption that
HIV was a new virus that would inevitably spread disease in the
There is indeed
strong correlation between the presence of HIV in a population and
AIDS. But there is more to AIDS than just HIV. Professor Peter Duesberg
and, more recently, Professor Luc Montagnier, leader of the team
that first isolated HIV, have shown that this retrovirus does not
have the power to kill cells of the body's immune defence system
that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS simply does not fit the clinical
and epidemiological facts.
None of this
is meant to justify any complacency. Like other sexually transmissible
infections, HIV is a marker of behaviour which, in itself, carries
high risks of disease. The virus also has the power to cause disease
in lymph glands, and it may contribute to a state of autoimmunity
whereby normal defences against infection become disordered. But
the infections that lead to severe disease and death in AIDS can
occur independently of HIV.
AIDS in Britain
and similar countries is a predictable disease, largely man-made
because of the sudden, unprecedented extension during the 1970s
of sexual and drug-taking behaviour that courted risks of all kinds
of infections in the mouth, gullet, lung, lower bowel, rectum, genital
organs and bloodstream. Addictive drugs are by themselves highly
damaging to the body's defences and vitality. So, also, are genetic
and other defects of immunity in many members of the risk groups.
AIDS as a new viral infection to which everyone was susceptible,
and by exempting the behaviour leading to it from the social sanctions,
contact-tracing and plain language applicable to other dangerous
infectious diseases, health authorities gave a green light to the
continuation of risk behaviour.
At the same
time, through their panic statements about everyone being at risk,
they spread undue alarm and anxiety among millions, including those
who were HIV-positive.
will probably incur a further bout of furious criticism from members
of the orthodoxy. My final word is for them. I would ask them, first,
to recognise the extreme danger to public health produced by the
package of risk behaviours outlined above.
to ponder the further danger of ignoring, belittling and suppressing
verifiable information that rightfully belongs to the public, whose
understanding and co-operation are essential for the control of
this man-made menace to the health of the younger half of the world's
is emeritus professor of public health at the University of Glasgow