Saturday, March 11, 2006

"HIV Doesn't Cause AIDS, and AIDS isn't Contagious"

The "HIV doesn't cause AIDS" movement has made the cover of this month's Harper's, in the form of Celia Farber's article "Out of Control".
The article begins innocuously, with a description of the 2003 death of Joyce Ann Hafford, a 33-year-old pregnant woman diagnosed with HIV who took experimental doses of the AIDS drug nevirapine. This drug was one of the subjects (along with AZT) of a notoriously shoddy and ethically questionable study in Uganda conducted during the late '90s; pregnant mothers were given the drugs without proper controls (there was no placebo group at all) and without proper follow-up. The study was investigated and criticized by two separate teams, and nevirapine was not approved by the FDA - but it is still being used in the U.S. and dozens of other countries. As in Hafford's case, its use can result in severe liver damage and/or death.
Africans being used as medical guinea pigs is a very real problem. From the polio vaccine trials of the 1950s to the nevirapine trials, the entire continent has been used as a giant pharmaceutical lab by foreign nations. Conventional wisdom says Africans are so badly off, it doesn't matter if they're pumped full of potentially lethal drugs. Hmm. Sort of the same logic used to justify the Tuskegee syphillis "experiment", isn't it? The Constant Gardener isn't quite so fictional as it appears.

However, Farber's grasp of real-world problems slips away three-fourths of the way into her article. She begins to detail the au courant theories that HIV doesn't cause AIDS, and AIDS may be iatrogenic (caused by overmedication). She doesn't go into the theory that HIV/AID isn't contagious, thankfully.

Many people now believe that HIV is not the source of AIDS, and thanks to widespread distrust of both the government and mainstream Western medicine, this belief has become a cause for some people. (This bizarre trend could be the bastard child of the AIDS conspiracy theories that have proliferated since the '80s, but a surprising number of respectable researchers support it.) HIV+ women intentionally get pregnant, insisting that HIV will not be passed to their babies, and even if it is transmitted, it can't possibly result in AIDS. Also, many HIV/AIDS patients refuse AZT because they consider it harmful and unnecessary; some turn to alternative treatments like holistic medicine, or simply don't seek treatment at all. The first major proponent of this HIV Doesn't Cause AIDS theory was Berkeley virologist Peter Duesberg, who in a 1987 paper in Cancer Research stated that HIV can't cause AIDS. Later he theorized that AIDS is iatrogenic, caused partly by heavy drug use (particularly stimulants) and partly by syphilis. Rather than viewing Duesberg's extremely controversial hypotheses as research in the works, a growing number of HIV activists are living them.

The poster child for the HIV Doesn't Cause AIDS, and Neither Disease Can Be Transmitted movement is Christine Maggiore, an HIV+ mother. She and her husband, Robin Scoville, claim AZT is more harmful than AIDS, and that the media spreads mininformation and propaganda about an imaginary AIDS-HIV connection. Maggiore established a foundation to spread this message.
Scoville and Maggiore had two children. Maggiore appeared on a magazine cover with "NO AZT" written on her pregnant stomach, and was cheered by rock concert crowds when she spoke out aginst the traditional HIV/AIDS theories. She breastfed her kids and refused to have them tested for HIV/AIDS, insisting the diseases can't be transferred from mother to child by any means. For herself she sought only alternative treatments.
It's a curious fact that HIV+ people who don't inform their sex partners of their staus are routinely charged criminally, while HIV+ moms are not.
When Maggiore and Scoville's younger child, Eliza Jane, was about 2 years old she came down with a bad cold and an ear infection. Very reluctantly, Maggiore followed a pediatrician's advice and gave her daughter amoxicillin. Within days, Eliza Jane became wan and listless, then suffered some sort of attack in the night. Her parents frantically called 911, and the toddler was rushed to hospital. She soon died.
Maggiore immediately blamed the amoxicillin, for it was the only drug Eliza Jane had ever ingested. Both parents maintained she had been perfectly healthy until then.
An autopsy revealed otherwise. Eliza Jane had full-blown AIDS and had died from related pneumonia. Even faced with copious medical evidence, Maggiore vehemently denies her child had AIDS. The coroner's findings were politically motivated, she says. But she did have her son tested, for fear he'd be taken away if she didn't (he is HIV/AIDS negative).

Even the Maggiore incident hasn't cooled the heels of activists. Conspirologist Jon Rappaport's popular book AIDS Inc: Scandal of the Century describes how AIDS became big business and how pharmaceutical interests manipulated the media to promote the HIV hypothesis above all others. Celia Farber's articles have appeared in several mainstream publications.

To date, more than 2300 people have signed the petition of the Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. This group seems to be on a better track than the activists and conspirologists; questioning the concensus view and calling for a re-examination of the evidence is not only justifiable, it's healthy! Where would we be if some of the reigning (but bogus) scientific theories were never called into question? The problem with the HIV Doesn't Cause AIDS movement isn't its motivation, but its actions. Supposing HIV doesn't cause AIDS...wouldn't it be safer to assume that it does until proven otherwise? Why endanger unborn children and a plagued continent like Africa before the final verdict is in?

9 comments:

Laura said...

"Africans being used as medical guinea pigs is a very real problem." This is the same for new birth control methods as well. They're often tested on poor Asian and African women - you know, cuz if they die or become sterile - not big loss right?

Of all the things to argue about, why is this even one of them? When Bill Frist said AIDS could be transmitted through tears (he's an MD by the way) I just about fell off my chair. Is this something we really need to argue about? Can't we just work together to find a vaccine?

SME said...

Exactly! All this nitpicking, and the real problems are being overlooked.

Bridget Jones said...

Harper's posts comedy? Who knew?

SME said...

For humor, it's not funny enough! :D

Anonymous said...

Aids is a scam. PERDIOD.

Gertie said...

I would just like to say I was present at some lectures right after it was made official HIV was the cause of Aids regarding whether HIV was the sole cause of Aids. The main speaker was a heretofore very mainstream researcher who had discovered cause and cure of a number of illnesses, not some crazed schlock slinger. The venue was a very mainstream medical conference, and this man was very obviously treated as a respected doctor and researcher. After he spoke, it was clear there was a lot of scrambling by many of the establishment to distance themselves from him. However, there were some in this distinguished community who made it clear that was all politics in various private conversations I was party to later during the conference. Many indicated they felt there was probable merit to what was said, but he was a fool to voice it in the current political climate He said a few things that make a lot of sense. Please keep in mind he backed every single statement up with specific facts like numbers per day which I simply don't recall. The first thing he said that got my attention was, "Many hundreds of people die every single day with all the symptoms of Aids and have for a long time. Now that the government has decreed HIV the cause of Aids, if they are not HIV positive, despite having all the symptoms, we aren't allowed to call it Aids. This is the only disease ever treated this way. If you have the symptoms of say mumps, we look for something held in common by all sufferers. If we think we've found the culprit and then find a very significant population of sufferers who don't have it, we rule that out as the culprit".

I wonder is this the reason twenty years later we still don't have a vaccine for Aids? And oh, by the way, from then to now, if you wanted funding to prove something else or something more was involved in the causation of Aids, forget it. The government was not having any of that nonsense. Another thing I found interesting at the time was how short a time it took them to name HIV as the culprit, and he also touched on this. The amount of time they took to come up with a culprit as demanded by the government was extraordinarily short by any standards.

I admit I don't recall this doctor's name and I wish that I did. I do know he mentioned of the many patients he'd seen with full blown Aids symptoms every single one had suffered from syphilis previously, but a significant percentage were HIV negative. He also expressed concern perhaps it was testing errors. He had not seen any children of Aids infected parents, perhaps because I am fairly certain at that time there was still a lot of contention whether it passed to the children of infected parents, and under what conditions, and so forth.

Even if it is correct that HIV causes Aids, I rather suspect our blind adherence to accepted concepts of the disease is hurtful to development of effective vaccine, cure, and prevention methods. This certainly would not be the first time the commonly held medical truth wound up a complete myth. Just look at stomach ulcers. The poor researcher that finally convinced the medical blockheads of an infectious causation resorted to actually infecting himself, then came to the sad knowledge the only cure he had at the time could not be used by him. He had a severe reaction to it when he tried it. He did get his point across, though, by showing first if he treated sufferers with a certain dose of a specific antibiotic for a specified time, it disappeared. Then he showed he could reproduce it by introducing the culprit he’d named. Frankly, the day they demonstrate reproducibility is the day I’ll buy wholesale HIV causes Aids. With cloning and such there is surely a way to demonstrate this. Maybe the reason we aren’t hearing of such trials is someone fears their diagnosis won’t stand up to scrutiny.

SME said...

I realize that the HIV/AIDS theory needs further study, and I fully support scientific reappraisal of it. What I will NOT support is people intentionally infecting themselves and others with HIV and/or AIDS just to prove their own hunch that these diseases aren't deadly.

HIV+DaveyBoy said...

Seeking other HIV+/AIDS status people to chat about dealing with being "POZ", please drop in and visit me on http://www.13km.com ;)

Leviana said...

AIDS is a completely different disease than HIV and can be treated with medicine of certain Canada No Prescription