HIV Dissidence Debate
Foo Fighter Fires Back
I was quite surprised and disappointed to see what became of my interview with the MoJo Wire regarding our band's support of Alive and Well AIDS Alternatives. The story takes a decidedly derisive view of our efforts and summarily dismisses the content of our message.
I suppose this should have come as no surprise. Reiterating the belief that HIV is the cause of AIDS is an easy thing to do. Understanding the science and politics of the situation is much more complicated and requires study with a critical and open mind.
Those who take the time to investigate will find that popular ideas about AIDS are based on a hypothesis that does not stand up to scientific scrutiny. In 1984, Dr. Robert Gallo defied accepted scientific protocol by calling a press conference to declare that he had found the "probable" cause of AIDS. He did this with the support of various public health agencies, but without having published evidence for his hypothesis in a medical journal. Publishing research allows other scientists to verify the conclusions and keep unfounded ideas from leaving the research labs. Nevertheless, the media went ahead and reported that the HIV virus was the cause of AIDS. Later, when Gallo's article was published, the evidence proved less than conclusive.
According to AIDS critic and Nobel laureate Dr. Kary Mullis, "If there is evidence that HIV causes AIDS, there should be scientific documents which either singly or collectively demonstrate that fact, at least with a high probability. There are no such documents." HIV is also the only existing virus believed to cause a group of diseases known to be caused by other viruses and bacteria. It is important to understand that AIDS is not a disease itself but rather a semantic tool created by the Centers for Disease Control to track 29 previously known conditions, each with causes and treatments identified before the invention of AIDS. All of these conditions occur in people without HIV.
When a person tests positive for HIV, it is not a test for the virus itself but for antibodies to the virus, and the test is not able to distinguish between HIV antibodies and a multitude of other antibodies. Many conditions can lead to a false positive result, including flu shots, hepatitis, and pregnancy.
Once given this tenuous diagnosis, people are encouraged to take drugs of unproven efficacy and proven toxicity in an effort to delay the onset of AIDS. The drugs are known to cause some of the same diseases classified under the category of AIDS. How is it possible, then, to determine what has made a person sick?
With this clear evidence for doubt, why aren't more experts raising questions about AIDS? Unfortunately, a combination of circumstances stifle unfettered inquiry. Those who study the virus most often make a living from it and when careers and reputations are at stake, critical voices can be muted in the interest of maintaining a comfortable status quo.
How is AIDS research to progress when the premise of science is questioning but the premise of questioning HIV is considered so dangerous that even venturing into the facts is too great a risk?
I am not a medical professional, and I am relatively new to these questions, but I am convinced that those who have tested HIV positive and those sick with AIDS are being done a disservice by not having all the information available to them.
The MoJo Wire accuses us of not understanding the impact of our advocacy on our audience who were described in the article as "potentially gullible." I would say that we are all potentially gullible, and that only a free flow of critical information allows us to avoid this and make positive, responsible choices in our lives. The article also insinuated that our desire to see critical facts about AIDS brought before the public could cause fans to abandon safe-sex practices. I have full confidence in the ability of Foo Fighters' audiences to distinguish between questioning HIV and the obvious value of safe-sex practices.
It is this absolute reluctance [by others] to review the facts that compelled me to involve the Foo Fighters in the work of Alive and Well Aids Alternatives. There are simply not enough avenues for their message and I thought we could help.
Bassist, Foo Fighters
MoJo needs to open its mind
My impression of the Silja Talvi piece on the endorsement by the Foo Fighters of Christine Maggiore's Alive and Well group was that it was transparently and deliberately full of misinformation. Talvi referred to "Maggiore's theories" and noted that she was not a medical professional. But Maggiore has never claimed to have any theories of her own regarding the role of HIV in causing AIDS. Her book is simply a summary of the conclusions of a large and highly-credentialed group of dissident AIDS researchers, most of whom are members of the nine-year-old Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis.
Far from being a "fringe" group, it includes among its 2000+ members at least two Nobel laureates. To my knowledge, none of these people is affiliated with any right-wing or anti-semitic conspiracy theorists and what they have proposed is actually quite modest, a simple reassessment of the HIV=AIDS hypothesis on the grounds that it has been completely unproductive in terms of public health benefits, and that it contains an abundance of apparently unresolvable contradictions and paradoxes.
It has been said that there are no paradoxes in science, only bad hypotheses, and in the final analysis HIV=AIDS will surely rank as one of the worst, stupidest, flimsiest, most thoroughly unsubstantiated hypotheses in medical history. Christine Maggiore is absolutely correct when she says there is no proof that HIV causes AIDS, and the reason for that should be apparent to anyone with even a particle of intelligence: the HIV=AIDS hypothesis is unprovable. It was initially promoted and then prematurely adopted by a group of mediocre, self-serving, junk scientists at the NIH and CDC. Its almost universal acceptance is attributable only to a massive propaganda campaign that has managed to sell an ideology of fear and hopelessness, that pathologizes sexual intimacy, that is based on the most vile, pernicious, and dogmatic anti-science since the Third Reich. It has resulted in untold suffering for millions around the world (and of course billions of dollars in profits for the pharmaceutical industry), and the AIDS dissidents, the Foo Fighters now among them, should be commended for their courage in attempting to expose it as an unfounded theory driven by greed and incompetence resulting in a misguided and disastrous public health policy.
They also deserve, rather than scorn and marginalization, a forum for presenting their views without censorship, ideally in the form of a debate or discussion. Mother Jones and other progressive publications could and should provide that forum. But the editors would first have to find the courage to unlock and open their minds, to temporarily suspend their preconceived beliefs about AIDS and HIV. To do any less, to implicitly agree with the medical establishment that the issue is settled and there is nothing to discuss, is to be guilty of complicity in the perpetuation of this enormous scandal.
Dropped the ball
As an alternative news journal MoJo Wire has dropped the ball on the Foo Fighters piece questioning the orthodoxy on HIV and AIDS. I have known Christine Maggiore for several years and have shared much of my own research into the legitimacy of the AIDS establishment position that retroviruses do indeed cause disease in humans. Additionally, I have had opportunity to talk and share research with a number of accredited scientists who also support the movement to reappraise the HIV=AIDS hypothesis. You have hurt your credibility with some of your audience with this unwarranted hatchet job.
I don't imagine that a journal with your vast resources would not know better than to slander a group of people who have done extensive homework on this complex subject. You may or may not know that Christine was able to arrange perhaps the only open debate between adherents to the mainstream hypothesis and the HIV dissenters. It took place in 1999 in Santa Monica, California, and all who attended agreed that it was a wonderful debate. Perhaps you should reconsider your own position on medical common sense, the sudden appearance of new pathogens, and the use of hysterical propaganda toward the aim of furthering covert eugenics policies.
Keidi Obi Awadu
The Conscious Rasta Press
Many respected and well educated people are skeptical about just swallowing the dogma that HIV causes AIDS. I chanted it, too, until I learned some interesting numbers:
1) While 75% of American hemophiliacs are HIV positive, only 10% of their spouses are. Based on studies on hemophiliacs, 1000 unprotected sexual encounters are necessary before HIV is transferred -- strange, considering it is supposed to be a STD.
2) While world-wide infection rate seem to be soaring, the number of Americans with HIV has stubbornly refused to stray above one million since 1985. This is not the way a new virus behaves; new viruses explode into a population. And it's not because of an increase in protected sex: other venereal diseases have increased.
3) 86% of AIDS (not HIV, please note the difference) patients are intravenous drug users or homosexual or both. Of the prostitutes that have AIDS, the majority are intravenous drug users. Most sexually transmitted diseases don't pick and choose this well.
I'm no fan of HIV deniers, and have spent considerable time debunking their theories, but to connect them to anti-Semitic groups is a gratuitous ad hominem attack. That kind of slur will only make people think that the "HIV causes AIDS" viewpoint lacks factual support.
As for Maggiore's statement that "your risk of being hit by lighning is
greater than that of contracting HIV through a one-time random sexual
contact with someone you don't know in America," if you do the math
( www.righto.com/theories/lightning.html) it turns out that your risk of ever getting hit by lightning is considerably greater than that of dying in one automobile trip! This is only meaningful, however, if you only have sex or drive once in your life. Otherwise, HIV and auto accidents remain a higher risk, of course, than lightning.
I think that your article "Foo Fighters, HIV Deniers" was heavy on sarcasm and light on a sincere investigation of alternative views on AIDS. I am far from a world expert on AIDS, but I have published peer-reviewed articles in biology and computer science and have read several hundred of the basic research papers on AIDS. I have found myself with similar views to Christine Maggiore and the Foo Fighters. I have yet to find a paper that provides proof that HIV is the cause of AIDS, just a lot of hype based on an (imperfect) association with antibodies that are believed to be generated by exposure to HIV and sickness. I have yet to find a paper that has proven that HIV tests are accurate, and I have yet to find a paper that unquestionably shows that HIV drugs prolong lives. There are actually many people like Christine Maggiore who have resisted the pressure to take HIV drugs and have remained well.
It is ironic that a left-wing magazine would put itself in the position of defending the multibillion-dollar interests of multinational drug companies. Somehow there seems to be a feeling that because many of the leading spokesmen for the gay community believe that HIV is the cause of AIDS, and that more pharmaceuticals are the answer to the problem, that it is homophobic to even question the incredibly weak science behind this position. This ignores the many gay men who have rejected the drug-focused direction of their supposed leadership, and marginalizes those who question the dogma that HIV=AIDS=Death as "right-wing gay-haters."
Foo-d for thought
Instead of exposing corporate greed, as you have done so well in the past, your recent article supporting the medical mantra for HIV causing AIDS reads like a pharmaceutical PR piece.
The HIV/AIDS connection is a hoax now perpetuated by duped physicians with little time to research anything, much less corporate dogma.
I can only hope that someday you will dig deeper and reveal the untenable connection between HIV and AIDS. In fact, should you ever reveal that HIV even exists, you would be the first on the planet to prove it.
Until that revelation, thousands will die from toxic drug overdoses administered by well-meaning physicians. HIV has never killed anyone.
Congratulations on publishing a story that no doubt will get you a massive amount of hate mail. The fact is that the propaganda from these "AIDS dissidents" is so full of half-truths, distortions and plain falsehoods it is hard even to know where to begin.
One fact which your readers might want to be aware of is that a growing number of followers of the "dissident" line have begun to defect, as their real-world experiences begin to show them the fallacies of these "AIDS reappraisers." My recent article on this subject should still be available on the San Francisco Bay Guardian's web site, at http://www.sfbg.com/News/34/17/hiv.html.
You were quick to point out that Christine Maggiore has no medical background. True, but I think it was this fact alone that allowed her to examine the available evidence objectively. She came to the same conclusions that several hundred medical and scientific professionals have also come to. Your failure to get comentary from any of these scientists clearly establishes your slant.
By no means do I fully support all of Christine's assertions, but clearly there is much conflict within the recognised data. The scientific comunity has yet to prove that HIV causes AIDS, which is why so many recognized scientists have formed their alliance.
Why the double standard on AIDS?
When investigating the military industrial complex, I doubt that Mojo would rely on career military people as sources for the "truth" about military threats. So why should your policy be any different on a story about the medical industrial complex? Rather than dismissing hundreds of respectable scientists as "lunatics," why don't you try talking to some of these scientists who are offering alternative explanations for AIDS?
With AIDS, the left has become the leading cheerleader and most vocal advocate of a giant corporate complex, and has done so out of the belief that this complex is acting altruistically. Perhaps it is time to investigate AIDS science with all the vigor of the investigation of other massive corporate productions.
Greg Nigh, medical student
Silja Talvi responds:
In deciding to pursue this story, I had only an inkling of the kind of response it would provoke. The last few weeks have generated numerous protest letters from members of the HIV dissident movement. Some of this mail has targeted me personally, including outrageous suggestions of my complicity with pharmaceutical companies, implications of fabricated quotes and source names, and, most of all, a criticism of a perceived lack of willingness by myself and the MoJo Wire to explore the "alternative" viewpoints put forth by the dissident movement.
It should go without saying that such charges are unfounded. All of my sources were, of course, real people who gave their quotes freely, and whose comments pertained to the story directly. All of the quotes are completely accurate and were verified by fact-checkers. I am not, and have never been, a recipient or beneficiary of pharmaceutical funding.
As to the most common charge levelled by the HIV dissidents: Despite the fact that this was a relatively brief news story, I did, in fact, spend a significant amount of time studying the material contained in Maggiore's book, in addition to supplementary materials by the HIV dissident author PhDs who serve on Alive and Well's advisory board. I am also familiar with the dissident movement as it had attracted a certain amount of mainstream news coverage in the early 1990s, only to eventually fade from the media radar after the publication of research findings that refuted many arguments put forth by the HIV dissenters.
Although the members of the HIV dissident movement have expressed their anger toward the editors and myself for taking an "orthodox" HIV viewpoint, the fact remains that an overwhelming and constantly increasing amount of scientific and medical research does point to a correlation between HIV and AIDS.
The emphasis of many of the the written works of HIV dissidents and some of the letters to this site have focused on behavioral causation (gay sexual practices, illegal drug use, antiviral drugs). Again and again, researchers have pointed out that such arguments leave out hemophiliacs, those medical professionals infected through needle stick injuries, children born to HIV-infected mothers, and those whose only risk factor was heterosexual sex. In such cases, the only identified commonalty has been the presence of HIV. Non-profit AIDS organizations and activists have long since decried and discredited the notion that lifestyle practices by gays or other groups have brought about the phenomenon of AIDS-related deaths.
While infection rates in the US have "stabilized" (and shifted demographically to affect an increasing number of people of color and women), the scope of the international epidemic is vast and devastating. To suggest otherwise is to ignore -- or distort -- the enormous body of research on this subject.
Certainly, there remain many questions about HIV and AIDS. Why some people do not develop AIDS even after years of infection with HIV tops the list. The continued evolution of antiviral HIV drugs are worth studying, as are the value and efficacy of primary or complimentary holistic treatments. Mandatory testing and reporting issues, and questions surrounding the breast feeding of infants born to HIV+ mothers (particularly in developing countries with high child malnutrition rates) are active -- and often intensely polarizing -- debates. Sociological issues pertaining to the shifting demographics of HIV infection and the socio-historical reasons for the popularity and impact of AIDS conspiracy theories are also important issues.
The questions posed -- repeated, mantra-like in many other letters to myself and the editors -- tend to revolve around the issue of causation and correlation: "Can you prove, in any one research study, that HIV causes AIDS?"
For anyone with even a basic understanding of the scientific process, it is a curious, no-win kind of question. Can HIV dissidents "prove," for their part, that HIV does not cause AIDS? Can we say, for that matter, that scientists have "proven" the link between smoking and lung cancer? Between a diet high in cholesterol and saturated fats and heart disease and obesity?
While there is no one laboratory study establishing irrefutable HIV-AIDS causation -- as is the case with so many other health problems and many other viruses and resulting diseases -- a preponderance of voluminous, well-researched evidence supporting that relationship does exist. Check out the links below to find out more.
The choice to ignore or reinterpret the preponderance of evidence postulating correlation between HIV and AIDS is, of course, a matter of legitimate personal choice. But when a major rock band embraces this perspective, disseminates literature to this effect, and directs its young audience members toward an HIV dissident group, a legitimate and controversial issue emerges: What place, if any, does a group of rock musicians have in helping to shape a medical and scientific debate on HIV and AIDS? And what are the potential implications of the band's decision to do so?
Mendel says that he has "full confidence in the ability of Foo Fighters' audiences to distinguish between questioning HIV and the obvious value of safe-sex practice." Professionals who work with teens and young adults say otherwise. Herein lies the issue.
A link to Alive and Well and to the Foo Fighters home page was provided from the main body of the Foo Fighters article. Readers interested in more information about scientific research surrounding the correlation between HIV and AIDS, exploring the history of the HIV dissident movement, and in finding answers to the questions posed by many of the writers to the Letters section can reference the following information:
"The Relationship Between the Human Immunodeficiency Virus and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome," written by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"The AIDS Heresies: A Case Study in Skepticism Taken too Far," by Steven B. Harris, M.D.
"Dissident Scientists and Government Conspiracies: A Look at Alternative AIDS Theories," by Aaron Plant, HIV InSite.
"Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge," by Steven Epstein (University of California Press: 1996).