AIDS; The tragic cost of premature consensus
The Free Press/Macmillan USA 1993
it has been considered an established fact that the presence of
HIV is the sole and sufficient cause of the disease known as AIDS.
A closely related assumption has also been that AIDS is something
new and unprecedented in medical history. These assumptions underlie
our whole approach to tracking and containing the spread of AIDS,
treating the disease itself, and determining new avenues for medical
research. But now, in a pathbreaking book, Robert Root-Bernstein
shatters these assumptions and reopens fundamental questions concerning
what we really know about AIDS.
reviews the entire existing corpus of AIDS research, strongly challenging
the HIV hypothesis. For example, he shows that many people infected
with HIV remain healthy. Sexual transmission is difficult. Female
prostitutes rarely contract HIV unless they also use drugs. AIDS
has not become the heterosexual plague predicted just a few years
ago. Sometimes HIV-positive people even rid themselves of the virus.
Root-Bernstein also mines the annals of medical history over the
past hundreds years to present cases of probable AIDS that long
predate the current epidemic, and cases of apparent AIDS without
in detail the working of the human autoimmune system and effectively
deconstructing the conventional wisdom about AIDS, Root-Bernstein
then presents alternative "multifactorial" models of AIDS,
which view the disease as resulting from numerous synergistic insults
to the immune system, including HIV, and autoimmune models, in which
these insults initiate a civil war within the immune system itself.
In this view, a person must already have some impaired immunity
- whether from illicit and prescription drug use, promiscuity, anal
exposure to semen, transfusion, malnutrition, or other microbial
infections - in order to contract HIV in the first place. Root-Bernstein
thus refocuses attention on specific controllable factors that may
determine, rather than increase, our risk of AIDS. He also offers
hope to those with HIV that they may yet survive infection by eliminating
exposure to these controllable factors.
Coming at a
time when many in AIDS research and the public are becoming increasingly
dissatisfied with the official AIDS establishment, Root-Bernstein's
book should stimulate intensive reappraisal of our approach to AIDS
both within the medical research community and in the society at
who held a MacArthur Prize fellowship from 1981 to 1986, is associate
professor of physiology at Michigan State University.