Most AIDS scientists refer freely to HIV as "the causative agent of AIDS", or the "primary cause of AIDS", but when asked just exactly what body of scientific evidence supports the notion of HIV being the cause of AIDS, they are less certain. Although there is a strong correlation between HIV and AIDS, meaning that most people with AIDS also test positive for HIV, it is not a total correlation, nor is correlation proof of causation.
Though some 60,000 papers have been written on HIV, the evidence that HIV causes AIDS is still tenuous and can best be described as circumstantial: the damage is done, the cells are depleted, and HIV is present at the scene of the crime.
Despite billions of dollars and years of research from around the world, the question remains, how does HIV cause AIDS ? Mainsteam AIDS opinion asserts that there is no question as to whether HIV causes AIDS, the only question is how, while the dissident view insists that we don't yet know whether HIV causes AIDS.
The HIV / AIDS hypothesis was first announced at a press conference on April23 1984. Robert Gallo, MD, of The National Cancer Institute, stepped up to a podium at the packed press conference in Washington DC and announced that the cause of AIDS had been found. It was, he claimed, a new retrovirus (RNA virus with tumor-causing properties), supposedly in his own lab, that he named HTLV-III (Human T-cell Lymphotropic Virus), and which was later renamed HIV. At the time of the announcement, this hypothesis was based on nothing more than a strong correlation between AIDS cases and HIV. Most, though not all, of the AIDS patients studied, showed antibodies to HIV. Half of them had detectable live virus. With the help of the world media, Dr. Gallo's hypothesis soon became accepted as fact. The first reports stated that the "probable" cause of AIDS had been found, but very soon the word "probable" was dropped as HIV found it's new identity as "the AIDS virus".
" Nobody in their right mind would jump into this thing like they did," says Dr. Kary Mullis, of La Jolla, California, recipient of the 1993 Nobel Prize in Medicine, and inventor of the Polymerase Chain Reaction, that is one of the mainstays of AIDS viral technology. " It had nothing to do with any well considered science. There were some people who had AIDS and some of them had HIV, not even all of them. So they had a correlation. So what ? "
In 1987, molecular biologist Peter Duesberg, PHD, Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkley, launched a frontal attack on the HIV / AIDS hypothesis in the journal Cancer Research. Dr. Duesberg, a world-renowned scientist and long standing member of the National Academy of Sciences, had helped map the genetic structure of retroviruses, and is known as one of the world's leading experts on retroviruses. After reading every single paper ever written on HIV and AIDS, Dr. Duesberg concluded that the virus was "harmless", pointing out, among other things, that HIV was a latent, inactive virus, which infected very few cells. Dr. Duesberg stated flatly that he "wouldn't mind being injected with it".
Can There be AIDS Without HIV ?
Growing numbers of cases of severe immune suppression have been reported that appear to be clinically identical to AIDS, but do not test positive for HIV. Because HIV is not present, these cases are not registered as AIDS. The Centers for Disease Control's rationale for this is simple: AIDS is caused by HIV. Therefore, if HIV is not present, the cases cannot be AIDS.
Although several hundred cases of HIV negative "AIDS" have been documented in the medical literature for years, it was not until the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam in July of 1992, that the world media reacted with alarm, writing front page stories about the "new disease", and criticizing CDC officials for not taking the "handful" of cases more seriously. A single abstract sparked the uproar, written by an American doctor who reported on six cases of AIDS with no HIV. Upon hearing the doctor's presentation, several more doctors started to volunteer cases of their own that fit the same description.
Seeking to calm the ensuing chaos, the CDC quickly settled on a new name for the "mysterious new disease". It would be called "ICL", which stands for Idiopathic CD-4 Lymphocytopenia. "Idiopathic" refers to a disease for which the cause is not known. " That's what they should call AIDS", says Harvey Bialy, MD, scientific editor of the journal Bio Technology, and an outspoken critic of the HIV causation theory of AIDS. "ICL, it's perfect !"
Perhaps the most striking point of Dr. Duesberg's critique of the HIV / AIDS hypothesis was that HIV showed very little direct cell killing activity. In fact, when he viewed HIV under a microscope, amidst lyphocytes (cells important in the creation of antibodies), it didn't move at all, and the cells remained perfectly intact. According to Dr. Duesberg, this is to be expected. "Retroviruses are not typically cytocidal, that is, they do not kill cells." The mainstream AIDS community, for it's part, contends that direct cell killing is not necessary in order to implicate HIV, believing that the virus kills cells by one of several highly complex indirect mechanisms. One of these is known as apoptosis, a mechanism by which HIV is said to program cells to kill themselves in the future. Dr. Duesberg counters that there is no evidence for any of these elaborate mechanisms, and that HIV is far too simple in it's genetic structure to be able to perform all these feats.
Harvey Bialy, MD, scientific editor of the journal Bio Technology, agrees. " HIV is an ordinary retrovirus," he says. " It only contains a very small piece of genetic information. There's no way it can do all these elaborate things they say it does ". Dr.Duesberg further argues that the HIV / AIDS theory fails to fulfill the standard set of rules used to determine whether a particular organism causes a particular disease. These rules, known as " Koch's Postulates ", were established by German bacteriologist Robert Koch, who determined the causes of tuberculosis, anthrax, and several other infectious diseases using the following rules :
Dr. Duesberg concedes that there are limitations to Koch's Postulates, especially since most pathogens (disease causing agents) are pathogenic only when the immune system is already below par. However, he argues, HIV has been shown to fail all three postulates, since it has already been established that the virus is not present in every case of AIDS-like disease; because it is found not in one, but in twenty eight distinct diseases; and because chimpanzees, when inoculated with HIV, have consistantly failed to develop AIDS.
There are at present 125 to 150 chimpanzees around the world in captivity who have been injected with HIV , some as long ago as ten years. None of the chimps has developed any symptoms of AIDS.
A British study conducted in 1987 also looked at accidental exposure to HIV by medical personel (scratched with a needle previously used on infected individuals, for example). The study noted, " One surprising and midly reassuring fact is that when health workers were examined after needlestick wounds only one out of fifteen hundred in the United Kingdom and the United States became infected ."
Though many people do become infected with HIV, a great deal of evidence now points to the possibility of a healthy immune system being able to keep the virus in check. Australian researchers have been studying a group of six people who each received contaminated blood products infected by a single common donor. Both the donor and the people infected have now been under scrutiny for up to ten years, and after this length of time both the donor and five of the recipients have remained symptom free, with no decline of CD4 cells (cells involved in immune function and used as a marker for evidence of AIDS) and no sign of the P24 antigen (a specific maker that identifies a cell and causes the production of antibodies to destroy it) in the blood, which is considered a sign of worsening AIDS conditions. One of the six recipients has died of pneumonia (pneumocystis carinii), but she had received massive immunosuppressive treatment for systemic lupus erythematosis (an inflammatory disease causing abnormal growth of blood vesels and connective tissue) and cannot be regarded as a typical individual. In only one of the surviving study group members has it been possible to even isolate HIV. In the others, the researchers were unable to find evidence of the presence of the virus, despite repetitive testing of body fluids.
The researchers have no clear cut answer for their findings, stating, " It is not clear whether the benign course of HIV infection was due to host, viral, or other unknown factors ". Their belief is that this was possibly a less virulent strain of HIV, but credit for lack of progression to AIDS could just as easily be due to healthier immune systems, with the exception of the immune compromised patient with lupus. Even more significantly, the lack of HIV development could be due to the absence of co-factors.
The AIDS establishment still stands firmly by it's conviction that HIV causes AIDS, although they are now finally conceding that HIV alone may not lead to AIDS without the help of one or more co-factors. These can include recreational and pharmaceutical drug use, recurrent infections, chronic use of antibiotics, poor nutrition, and polution, as well as many psychoeuroimmunological co-factors, such as stress, fear, and despair.
When AIDS was first recognized in 1980/81, the symptom was called GRID, for Gay Related Immune Deficiency, since it was initially only found in gay men. The first few hundred cases were seen in male homosexuals, who lived in major cities, particularly in New York and San Francisco, who had frequently used both recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, and had been exposed to numerous bacterial infections and sexually transmitted diseases. The CDC initially suspected that AIDS was caused by drugs, most specifically amyl nitrates, or "poppers", a drug that was prevalent in gay discos of that era, and which proved to cause Kaposi's sarcoma in rats.
Other groups, though, soon started showing up as targets for AIDS's host of opportunistic diseases. Hemophiliacs, intravenous drug users, and the Third World poor, particularly in Africa, all started coming down with the mysterious disease. As with gay men, all these risk groups shared similar symptoms of immune suppression caused by a number of possible factors, including drug use, frequent exposure to various bacteria and germs (as from a blood transfusion or a dirty needle), unsafe sexual practices, malnutrition, unsanitary eating and living conditions, or a combination of some or all of the above.
Before HIV was declared to be the single cause of AIDS, many of these various immunosuppressive factors were still being investigated. In 1984, with the discovery of HIV, these other investigations suddenly stopped. Ten years later, there is a vast amount of research on HIV, and very little on any of the possible co-factors. " We were all forced into a very dogmatic and simplistic view of what caused AIDS", says Michael Lange, MD, an infectious disease specialist at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York City. " Today I think even the greatest proponents of HIV no longer believe that it does all that damage to the immune system by itself. There have to be other factors involved. And because of the HIV hypothesis there's been little or no research done on what those other factors may be ".
AIDS is often accompanied by a steady decline in CD4 immune cells, which in a healthy person should hover between 900 and 1600, but in a person with AIDS can decline to as low as zero. In 1989, a CD4 cell count of less than 500 became the cut-off point after which AZT therapy was advised. Virtually all AIDS therapies, both mainstream and alternative, have used the CD4 cell count as a marker for immune suppression. Official doctrine has it that HIV also destroys T4 cells, another critical part of the immune system. T4 cells scout out and identify invading pathogens, and trigger other immune system cells to attack these invaders. With a drastic reduction in T4 cells, the ability to respond against potential disease is reduced. Germs which ordinarily would have no effect on the body become potent enemies.
Another phenomenon in people with AIDS is a curious reversal of the ratio between T4 and T8 cells (another cell type vital for proper immnue function). While a healthy person has a high T4 cell count and a low count of T8 cells, a person with AIDS has the opposite ratio. The CDC has now applied for permission to say officially that if the absolute ratio count of T4 to T8 cells in the body falls far below the normal range of 1000 to 200, this, with a positive HIV test, is sufficient for a diagnosis of AIDS.
Alternative physicians, even though they have been successful in reviving overall health in persons with AIDS (PWA's), have struggled with the restoration of full T4 cell counts. It has been observed, however, that high T4 counts do not necessarily correspond with health. Researchers have found people whose T4 counts are almost non-existent (under 10) who show no signs of the disease.
Prior to AIDS, T-cell counts were rarely performed, and scientific understanding of their significance remains unresolve. At the AIDS Conference in Berlin in 1993, researchers stressed that they no longer believed that CD4 counts were a particularly valuable marker for clinical disease progression, because certain drugs had raised CD4's with no improvement in health.
AIDS has thus been simplified by the media, in part, to mean nothing more than a deficiency of these immune system cells. While T-cell loss is certainly one of the markers for AIDS, blood test of a typical patient reveal a far more complicated picture, a kind of immunological chaos that is commonly referred to as " immune collapse ". Some scientists feel it is even more complex than that, that it is a problem of the immune system gone haywire, perhaps even attacking itself in a process known as " autoimmunity ". The only thing totally clear at present is that the immune systems of people with Aids are damaged, and that the most important thing is to explore what treatments may restore the immune system, thereby restoring health.
The HIV / AIDS Trap
" I discovered that I was HIV-1 antibody positive in the Spring of 1987, while in the process of deciphering what I consider to be non-life threatening but bothersome health problems that I strongly suspected were not AIDS but the result of other stresses on my immnue system ", says G. Steven Rose. A gay man, Mr. Rose was trying to go through a process of elimination in order to find out exactly what microbial factors and other stressers were causing his recurring bouts of mononucleosis and depression. He found evidence of several microbes, including cytomegalovirus (CMV), Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), and hepatitis B. " Because I tested positive for the HIV antibody, I wound up getting sucked into the AIDS machine. I was put on an AIDS track that seemed to have a mind of it's own, winding up in an AZT clinical trial.
AZT was offered to me as the only hope to deal with HIV infection. I doubted the paradigm from the start, but it took me awhile to stand up to it. I finally realized that the AZT was harming me and walked out in disgust. I realized that chasing one killer microbe could not possibly be the way to restore my health, that my health was not as bad as I suspected, and that the only way to heal myself to the degree that I was sick, was to not take toxic drugs. I didn't follow any elaborate alternative methods, relying only on diet, rest, and a simple meditation technique, I simply stopped doing the damage, and gradually, my health returned. Today, as far as I can tell, I'm not dying of AIDS. In fact, I've developed a pot belly. I've moved away from the medical model and towards living with myself the way I am and the more I do that, the healthier I become ".
AZT is now the most widely sanctioned medical treatment of AIDS currently in use, although many experts suggest that it is highly toxic and just as likely to kill the user as is AIDS. The reasoning behind it's continued use is that AZT is believed to interfere with the process by which HIV-RNA is converted into DNA, thus neutralizing it's effectiveness. This does not happen in all the infected cells, though, leaving a reservoir of infection. Also, if HIV is not the major cause of AIDS, this interference might in itself be of limited value, even if all the infected cells were influenced.
While there may be a short term (months rather than years) increase in T-cell numbers, this is usually followed by a rapid decline to a point lower than that before AZT treatment began. Until recently it was believed that there was evidence of a very small increased survival rate in those taking AZT but the results of the recent Concorde study confirmed that the drug neither prolongs life nor staves off symptoms of AIDS in those with HIV but no symptoms.
The supposed benefits of AZT also do not take into account the strong negative trade-offs, in terms of side-effects. When viral DNA synthesis is being interrupted by the drugs, it also stops normal healthy T-cells from being able to synthesize DNA. HIV will also rapidly develop a resistance to the drug, mutating into different strains which are not influenced by it.
In addition, most health experts believe that, even when infection is active, at most one T-cell in five hundred is infected with HIV. This means that 499 healthy T-cells are killed by AZT for every one which contains HIV and which is deactivated. Since one of the main medical theories about HIV is that it does it's harm through the destruction of T-cells, it becomes clear from the scenario outlined above that AZT is nearly five hundred times more harmful to the immune system's healthy T-cells than is HIV. This theory does not even include the damage done by AZT's admitted toxicity, which suppresses the important tasks of bone marrow, without which immune function collapses, causing anemia, neutropenia (abnormally small number of neutrophils in blood, a white blood cell that protects against infection) and leukopenia (abnormal decrease in white blood corpuscles) in between 20 and 50 percent of people given the drug, with up to half of these requiring transfusions within a week of commencing it's use.
Among other common symptoms resulting from AZT side effects are muscle wasting, extreme nausea, acute hepatitis, headaches, insomnia, dementia seizures , and the appearance of cancerous lymphomas (9% of patients).
When comparing AZT treatment studies with the results of the Healing Aids Research Project (HARP) study conducted by Bastyr College in Seattle, Washington which treated HIV infected patients using alternative therapies such as nutrition, herbs, psychological counseling, and hyperthermia, it was found that, unlike all the published AZT results involving similar patient groups, none of the HARP patients progressed over a one year period, to AIDS itself, or died, whereas in the AZT studies, the progression rate was between 3 and 7 percent. This points out that alternative methods, which are much cheaper economically, produce at least as good results, over a one year period as AZT, with no toxicity. A longer HARP study is in progress.