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World AIDS Day again: when it will end, knows God

December 1st, 2011

Biggest bandwagon boondoggle in scientific history rolls on undisturbed by critics

Mounting failures of research, threats to funding may save some from useless drugs and cures

Twenty eight years of irrational “science” has sickened multitude, but supported many more

WORLD AIDS DAY Button - wear it and join in with world's biggest science fantasyThe AIDS propaganda machine turned up the volume to maximum today, after a few weeks in which setbacks seemed to hog the headlines, the latest being a gel test in Africa which was less effective than a placebo, contradicting an earlier study. Funding also is massively down, economic circumstances being what they are worldwide. The Global Fund cancelled fundraising till 2014 after donor nations fell short of pledges by $2.2 billion

Leading news media from PBS and the BBC to ABC and NBC, not to mention the supreme media authority on HIV/AIDS science, the New York Times, turned the spotlight onto HIV/AIDS to hail World AIDS Day, Dec 1, 2011. Their coverage marks 30 years of global assault from the virus that popped up in 1981, like a visitor from another galaxy, to turn some of us into pod people invisibly carrying an undetectable microbe that will reliably bring them down if given up to twenty years to wreak its vengeance if they are gays, drug users and – as long as they don’t live in the USA or Europe – millions of heterosexuals worldwide, there being 34 million at current count who now harbor the invader, most of them unaware of it. As Brian Williams told Bono on air tonight, with “30 million dead over thirty years in warfare we’d be angry, we’d be fatigued and we’d be trying to end it.”

Thus they drum into the public ear the same old story with the same alarms, with the same old moral to the fable – we need to spend more. But this week there is a twist – the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight, in theory anyway, if new infections can somehow be reduced.

We shouldn’t sound skeptical on such an important day for extending our sympathy to the victims of this ongoing crisis, we realize, but as one of the handful of people in the world, apparently, still willing and able to read the scientific literature of the field who didn’t actually write it, we think we deserve to be given a tale which makes consistent sense if our taxes are going to be applied to its amelioration.

And we have to say that anyone who thinks at all about what is being peddled to the public according to the juggernaut though still utterly unproven theory that HIV is the cause of the AIDS catastrophe they will see more anomalies than they can shake their heads at. Not that our media gurus express any doubts, of course. All announcers, talking heads, columnists and reporters from Michael Specter of the New Yorker downwards seem to serve in unison as unquestioning handmaidens of the story handed out by officials and the scientists for public consumption in this arena, and they paint the same dire picture over and over without ever challenging it in the slightest detail. But if you are looking for consistency with what the journals of the field tell us, huge gaps appear.

That is to say, instead of their stories reflecting what the studies in HIV/AIDS tell us, the cacophony that arises from those that make a living and a reputation from seeking a solution to HIV/AIDS whenever funding is threatened in the field (and contributions to the Global Fund are down 10 per cent, it seems) tells us many things that seem to us to be at odds with each other, let alone with the scientific story we know and have grown to love, if only for its imaginative flair.

The ultimate solution in sight – Obama

But first, the good news. All agree as usual on the basic theme of World AIDS Day, which is that science is working to bring a solution to the emergency, and is on the verge of success, which will see the virus chased away forever, and a world free of the HIV virus, just as it is now free of smallpox and rinderpest (cattle plague).

But not yet. We need to spend more money than we are spending, which is not enough. In fact, there has never been a moment in the thirty years of this global virus attack in which sufficient money has been spent on defending us all from HIV, according to all in the field. A few scolds have raised their voices from outside from time to time to point out that deaths from cancer and circulatory problems are far higher in proportion to funding than in HIV/AIDS, but they have always been quickly silenced by outrage from activists and the rest of the army dedicated to maximizing attention and funding for the battle against HIV.

The cause has become such a no brainer for leading politicians that today we have not one but three Presidents at once urging the world to support AIDS treatment worldwide, with Bush from Tanzania and Clinton standing by on satellite as Obama promises (video and transcript) to expand the four million getting “lifesaving treatment” by another two million to six million by 2013. Drugs will also be delivered to 1.5 million pregnant women over the next two years.

All that compares with 66 million infected worldwide since the pandemic began, with 34 million now “living with HIV/AIDS” of which 5.5 million are in South Africa, so clearly it is “not enough”, according to the orthodoxy, so it allows Obama to say that “no other country has done more than this country, and this is a testament to the leadership of this country’ but also to add that “we cannot afford to become complacent” ie we need more money. Indeed, global support for HIV and AIDS programs retreated to $15 billion last year, well short of the $22 billion to $24 billion the UN says is needed for 2015, and with the donors to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, TB and malaria cutting back by 10%, it will halt new grants until 2014, and Obama appealed to China and other emerging powers to raise their contributions.

Next year the World AIDS conference will be held in the US for the first time, now that Obama has allowed HIV-positives to enter the country, to join the million or so already here.

As usual along with the stick of fear of shortfall in funding once again the reliable carrot of ultimate victory over HIV was dangled. Despite the recent failures of both vaccine efforts and the trial where prevention gel proved useless after all in combating new infections, which it actually multiplied, new infections in the world have flattened to a new low, the lowest since 1997 and a banner above Obama’s head in Washington trumpeted that “It is the beginning of the end of AIDS”, referring to what is called the “real possibility” in sight of reducing new infections with prevention and earlier treatment (said to reduce infection rates by 95%) to such a low level that the total number of new HIV positives in the world will begin to shrink and eventually disappear, to yipeld “an AIDS-free generation. But that’s what we’re talking about. That’s why we’re here ”

Skeptics who had expected that the thoughtful academic infighter Obama, as a black man with an equally smart wife, would cotton on to some of the problems with the HIV/AIDS story m,ust have been disappointed by the total commitment to orthodoxy evinced in his speech. But then this is par for the course for a President whose appetite for the unorthodox seems minimal on every front.

And the return of Nobelist Harold Varmus, author of The Art and Politics of Science to Washington to head the NCI and become one of Obama’s three chief science gurus co-chairing the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology probably scotched all such hopes a year ago anyway. Nobelist (for oncogenes) Varmus is known for his wariness of skepticism in HIV/AIDS, and his lack of support for chief HIV and oncogene skeptic Peter Duesberg’s funding applications at the NCI.

Even a cure!

All this posturing and mindless clamor is routine for World AIDS day of course, except for the novel hope for an actual “cure”, which is being trumpeted by Times reporter Andrew Pollack, who in the Tuesday Science section reviews Matthew Brown and other cases where after bone marrow transplants or gene therapy HIV could no longer be detected in the body. Such a cure if available to others would solve the problem that antiviral drugs still only turn AIDS into a chronic disease with a lifetime of taking the drugs, Pollack informed us.

The push for a cure might seem even less urgent now that antiviral drugs have turned H.I.V. infection from a near-certain death sentence to a chronic disease for many people.

But the drugs are not available to everyone, and they do not eliminate the infection. Even if undetectable in the blood, the human immunodeficiency virus lurks quietly in the body. If a patient stops taking the drugs, the virus almost always comes roaring back.

So people with H.I.V. now must take drugs every day for life, which some researchers say is not a sustainable solution for tens of millions of infected people.

“I don’t think the world has the resources to deliver these drugs to everyone who needs them for decades,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

The $110 million grant game

So NIAID is handing out $70 million over five years to explore the possibilities, with another $40 million or more coming from California’s stem cell agency and interested companies. The approach centers on eliminating a gene for a protein on the surface of immune cells which allows the virus entry to the cell.

Pollack makes clear however that it is not certain that the process undertaken in the gene therapy case was what caused the result and anyway gene therapy ion a case by case basis is hardly going to solve the global problem.

All in all it is pretty clear that the researchers don’t really know what they are doing, and the whole article seems to contradict basic facts established regarding HIV early in the life of the paradigm, which is that the virus doesn’t do anything at all except create a vaccine against itself, and that its reduction to a negligible presence that can only be detected with PCR is standard in everybody.

Thus the ending to the piece, in which facts crumble into speculation:

“Dr. Siliciano and Dr. Margolis are trying to eradicate the virus from the body.

H.I.V. can lie dormant for years. One refuge is the resting memory T-cells, which are the long-lived cells that “remember” exposure to a pathogen and help mount an immune response if the same germ invades the body years later.

The hope is that a drug can activate the latent virus and flush it out of its hiding places. One candidate, now being tested in a small clinical trial, is vorinostat, sold by Merck under the name Zolinza to treat a rare cancer.

Vorinostat reverses a mechanism that cells use to silence genes. H.I.V. is believed to take advantage of this mechanism to become dormant.

Another candidate, now being tested in primates, is an antibody developed by Merck to block a protein called PD-1.

But the sterilizing cure would also be challenging. “The virus is in the brain, it’s in the heart, it’s in the kidney, it’s in lots of different tissues,” said Dr. Jay Levy, a virologist at the University of California, San Francisco.

Vorinostat might activate not only the virus, but also genes that are supposed to remain silenced, causing side effects. Activating too many resting memory T-cells could lead to a dangerous immune system overreaction.

And once the cells and viruses are awakened, they would have to be killed, not just allowed to run amok.

Any attempt at a cure must be very safe, because most patients already do well on antiviral drugs, said Mark Harrington, executive director of the Treatment Action Group, an AIDS research policy organization.”

Of course, nothing seems to stop the willingness of HIV/AIDS reporters to print anything which pushes the fantasy even to heights which are clearly mistaken even by the rules of the paradigm game itself. Thus we have as the most exciting story this week the news that Six HIV patients die after church tells them to stop taking meds because they were healed by God: report.

This was published in the New York Daily News complete with a video from Sky News of a healing ceremony at the Church “in which HIV patients are told they can be cured of their disease.”

At least six HIV-positive people have died after evangelical churches in Britain reportedly told them to stop taking their medication because they had been healed by God.

Pastors at several churches in England and Scotland told undercover Sky News reporters that they could be healed through an exorcism-like process that involves shouting over the patients and spraying water in their faces.

A pastor at the Synagogue Church of all Nations (SCOAN), a wealthy televangelist organization with branches throughout the world, told one undercover reporter – who actually is HIV positive – that they had a 100% success rate.

“We have many people that contract HIV. All are healed,” Holmes said.

Holmes even said that if symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea persist, it’s a good sign that the virus is leaving the body.

“We’ve had people come back before saying, ‘Oh, I’m not healed. The diarrhea I had when I had HIV, I’ve got it again'” Holmes said.

“I have to stop them and say, ‘No, please, you are free.'”

And according to the Sky News investigation, as many as six individuals have died after churches instructed them to discontinue their medication.

One of the victims, Emmanuel, stopped taking his medicine a year ago after being instructed by a pastor at his church in London.

The pastor told him that once god forgave him, “the disease will definitely go.”

What’s really wrong with HIV

So once again, the whole world celebrates World AIDS Day, according to which all of us join in a moment of reflection on what if anything we are doing to help the unfortunate victims of modern medicine in the arena of HIV/AIDS. We say the victims of modern medicine and not the victims of the dread virus advisedly, for we view our responsibility to be among the few people in the world in science or out of it who actually read the scientific literature fully, and have have known ever since 1987 that it is the medicine and not the supposed agent which sickens people who suffer from having registered positive on the HIV test for antibodies to HIV.

Our prime source for this unconventional wisdom is one of the finest papers ever written in the peer reviewed literature of the field of HIV/AIDS, indeed one of the finest papers ever published in science, the paper in Cancer Research in which Peter Duesberg of Berkeley examined the then popular idea that viruses of a certain kind might cause cancer. (Duesberg, P.H. (1987) Retroviruses as Carcinogens and Pathogens: Expectations and Reality (Cancer Research 47: 1199-1220)

In this paper, easily accessed at this link anyone with the slightest intelligence may read the pack of convincing reasons why retroviruses do not cause cancer, and indeed why the whole theory that cancer is caused by ‘oncogenes’ is a non-starter (“Above all, neither active nor latent viruses offer targets for tumor therapy, since tumors are not maintained and are not directly initiated by viral genes, and also occur despite active antiviral immunity.”) Beyond that, the final section of the paper, on Retroviruses and AIDS, decisively rejects a virus or viral cause of AIDS: “It is concluded that AIDS virus is not sufficient to cause AIDS and that there is no evidence, besides its presence in a latent form, that it is necessary for AIDS.”

Cancer Research is a journal of impeccable reputation, and the publication of this article caused a flurry at NIAID at the time. Internal memos reveal that this excitement was hardly a welcome for the unexpected enlightenment that HIV could be ruled out as the cause of AIDS, however. Rather, there was concern over how this paper was able to get into print without being headed off by members of the growing cabal of editors, bureaucrats and activists who were anxious to protect the established funding focus, HIV research, from any doubt.

This anxiety to fend off the debunking of HIV as the putative cause of AIDS has since expanded to what amounts to professional censorship of any suggestion that the unproven paradigm under which all work in the field is wrong. Although the debate briefly flourished in some panels and reached a high point in an exchange in Science in 1988 (HIV Is Not the Cause of AIDS, and Duesberg published a followup piece in the Proceedings of the National Academy in 1989 (Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Correlation But Not Causation, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 86, pp. 755-764, February 1989), there has been no answer to his reviews in any of the journals he published them in, with the exception of the laughable effort in Science, which escaped peer review, as have all justifications for the HIV belief since (there is no good reference available for any proof that HIV causes AIDS, as Kary Mullis, who won the Nobel for inventing PCR, has always pointed out).

In other words, we have a series of peer reviewed articles (there have been more since) by Duesberg in some of the top journals in science condemning the HIV paradigm, with no attempt at direct refutation in the same journals, versus the NIAID web site page, not peer reviewed, as their supposed scientific rebuttal. Yet what the world believes, from politicians, officials and bureacrats down to doctors, nurses, activists, patients and public worldwide, is the opposite, exactly the claim he disproved – that HIV is the one and only cause of AIDS.

How did this come about? In a phrase, it is the result of the politics of organized stupidity. That is, the little appreciated fact that in science as in society generally, deft political management can establish a fortress of conventional wisdom impregnable to countervailing evidence, reasonable argument, or even common sense. Once it is accepted at the beginning, in this case for lack of any alternative to rally around, a single prima facie ridiculous notion can become the global paradigm of a multi billion dollar field, quickly built up by its growing social utility and fueled by the conscious or unconscious self interest of all participants in the debacle, until it becomes the overwhelmingly dominant idea, the established premise which governs all thinking in the sphere it occupies.

Windows showed the way

The phenomenon is familiar outside science in the field of computers, where an inadequate and troublesome operating system (DOS) became the foundation for Windows, and Windows took over to rule the the world, because after a certain point iWindows PCs outsold Macs to such an extent that their social utility became overwhelming.

Even though Apple computers were centered on an operating system which was better designed and integrated with add on peripherals such as external drives, printers and scanners, and was much more intuitively intelligible than Windows, if you bought a PC you joined most of the world in using the same hardware and software as they did, which became much cheaper than Mac software, and the myriad problems which you later had to deal with were not evident at the beginning. So the bad replaced the good, as it were. PCs outsold Macs and reigned supreme until Apple moved into mobile computing where with iPods, iPhones and then iPads, it could escape Microsoft’s dominance and establish its own near monopoly.

That the same phenomenon takes place in science is hard for some people to accept, given the professed self correction of the field. False claims cannot live for long, we are constantly told by all who celebrate the goal of science as truth seeking. If results cannot be repeated, we are assured, they will quickly find themselves deposited in the circular file. Nothing can stop this self checking process, as scientists vie for distinction in their hunt for new knowledge. Fraud and error must come tumbling down as peer reviewers double check every manuscript at leading journals. Good scientists have an innate distaste for inaccuracies on the loose, let alone falsity. In a profession which feeds on research and evidence and exists to establish facts, not to color them, any supporter of a false belief will be instinctively shunned, if not prosecuted.

Paradigms are territory

Or so goes the naive view, unaware of the way scientists usually behave in fighting for one viewpoint over another. Like everywhere else in the academy, which is the realm to which scientific theory and research now belongs, people stake out territory and defend it with all the energy of medieval nobles defending their castles. Not only does a ruling paradigm once in place let loose a torrent of commercial cash and government funding to bolster and expand its reign, but it becomes the sine qua non of the high positions of its ministers and priests, either in teaching their beliefs to new generations or in accepting the Nobels, Laskers and other prizes which soon confirm their distinction. Their expertise becomes their stock in trade for visits with the media, advisory positions with hospitals, corporations and other fee paying institutions, designing medical tests and medicines, and for reaping royalties from autobiographies and textbooks. These days, scientific expertise can be so financially lucrative that scientists can retire as multimillionaires even if they are not well known.

That, at least, is the lesson of thirty years of HIV/AIDS, thirty years in which a paradigm blown apart intellectually by the leading scientist in the field (Duesberg was the only member of the National Academy among his colleague in retrovirus research) in a brilliant paper within three years of its adoption has nevertheless survived and flourished ever since. For by 1987 the 1984 claim that HIV was possibly the cause of AIDS had by then become a sacred funding cow, professionally and socially impregnable to the toughest skepticism and its bunkerbusters, even though the reviews reinterpreted the evidence in a way which made perfect sense, as compared to the new paradigm which contradicted standard science and common sense at every turn, and still does.

Anybody who is the least bit appreciative of good thinking, good writing and good science should read Duesberg’s early papers, particularly the three mentioned so far in Cancer Research, Science and the Proceedings of the National Academy. In the current day and age of bad syntax and camouflage jargon it is refreshing to read them and realize that at least one good honest mind is left in science. They are so exemplary in their logic and clarity that Nobel winning biologist Walter Gilbert of Harvard is known to have served them up to his graduate students as specimens of how to critique a scientific belief. They resemble nothing so much as a fresh mountain stream traveling glistening and sparking in the sunlight on its way down to the muddy waters of the Mississipi, that murky, lazy but mighty river which is a metaphor for crowd thinking in HIV/AIDS, an early sample of which is seen in the attempted defense of their ridiculous but profitable new belief by William Blattner and colleagues Robert Gallo and Howard Temin in their Science rebuttal.

Questions unanswered for 27 years

But it is not simply the quality of reasoning in which Duesberg excelled by comparison, that argues that he is right, even to those who do not have the time or the inclination to actually read what he has said then and since. Not is it simply the fact that ever since he has been answered not in direct confrontation on the same stage or in the same journal but with the politics of exclusion and condemnation from a distance, and withdrawal of the support he had always easily won for his funding proposals at NIH. It is that his strictures and the objections with which he defeated the credibility of HIV as the cause of AIDS in the eyes of all who paid attention with an open mind have not dated. They are as strong and persuasive and as relevant as they were 27 years ago.

This is true even though more evidence has come through research over the years which he could have added to his masterpieces if it had been available at the time. One of the most important of these is the remarkable revelation that HIV is virtually noninfectious, almost impossible to transmit in heterosexual sex, let alone in casual contact or kissing. This was shown by the largest study of its kind ever undertaken, managed by a fully paid up member of the HIV/AIDS science establishment, Nancy Padian of UCLA, who studied over three hundred (372) “discordant” heterosexual couples over six years and found not one instance – not one!- where HIV had crossed from the HIV positive partner to the HIV negative one, so that both were positive. In other words, among the largest group in society HIV never transmits. It is only inherited, as it were – passed from mother to child in the womb. HIV/AIDS, if it actually existed, would be a disease which would never spread, let alone cause an epidemic. (Padian NS, Shiboski SC, Glass SO, Vittinghoff E. 1997. Heterosexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Northern California: results from a ten-year study. Am J Epidemiol 146, 350-357)

The paper and the study is so embarrassing to HIV/AIDS paradigm promoters that it has been vehemently disavowed in its implication by none other than the author herself at an HIV promoting site named rather egregiously AIDS Truth (HIV heterosexual transmission and the “Padian paper myth”, where she tries to contradict her results by insisting that HIV is heterosexually transmissible under various circumstances (the presence of diseases, for example) and and to suggest otherwise is wrong. But the fact remains that no transmissions were observed in her study which included almost fifty couples which took no precautions and even the rates she suggests in her defense are too low to make any epidemic possible (they range from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 1000).

We had the chance at a Washington meeting party to congratulate Professor Padian on her great contribution of “demonstrating that heterosexual transmission of HIV through sex was rare or nonexistent” and received the faint reply that “Well, it’s is higher in Africa!” Be that as it may, she deserves credit for placing the largest spanner in the works of the HIV paradigm since its inception in 1984, when Robert C. Gallo launched this scientifically absurd but politically magnetic notion by producing four papers which showed he was able to find evidence of the retrovirus in less than half (41%) of his blood samples of AIDS patients, evidence which actually argued against the idea, rather than for it as a “probable” cause of AIDS. Despite this obvious flaw, the media were naming it the only culprit within weeks of his press conference with Health Secretary Margaret Heckler. The belief was off to the races and has never been held back since.

So what exactly is it that you believe in when you accept HIV as the cause of AIDS? Let us count the ways, and see how you like them. To believe in HIV/AIDS, you have to believe in

-an infectious viral disease causing a global epidemic where the virus’s rate of infection is quite possibly zero among heterosexuals
– a cell killing retrovirus, when retroviruses are otherwise known never to kill cells
– a virus which is provided to labs in immortal cultures of the same human T cells it is said to kill off in people
– a transmissible, fatal virus that hardly be found in most patients, even dying ones, only antibodies to it
– a disease where patients merely with antibodies can nevertheless transmit the agent and die of the disease
-a disease whose nature varies radically from place to place, being almost entirely a homosexual and drug user ailment in North America and Europe, but entirely heterosexual elsewhere
– a disease that correlates with drug use in North America and Europe, yet is to be prevented by a bowl full of damaging and ultimately lethal drugs
– a disease whose mechanism, including an up-to-twenty-year delay in onset, is as yet quite unexplained
– a cell killing disease that also causes cell multiplying cancer, with no trace of the virus in the cancer
– a disease said to be a killer epidemic in Haiti and South Africa, with no significant change in overall mortality, and long endemic in sub-Saharan Africa, where a population explosion nonetheless has added 200 million people in the last decade, to 800 million, with a growth rate of 2.5% annually.
– an epidemic mapped in Africa by the World Health Organization almost entirely without the benefit of AIDS tests
– a disease for which the tests are not for the agent but for antibodies to it
– a disease for which the tests cross react with many other agents
– a viral epidemic without initial exponential growth or bellshaped rise and fall, which has maintained level prevalence in the US for 30 years (at around 1 million positives)
– a viral epidemic which has not found immunity anywhere
-a killer disease where no doctor, nurse or researcher working with it has caught the disease
– a disease with risk group, lifestyle, and malnutrition specific symptoms
– a disease whose every symptom is shared with other diseases–in fact, a disease which would in every case be counted as those other diseases except for the supposed presence of antibodies to the “virus that causes AIDS”
– a viral epidemic without a sign of a promising vaccine despite the best funded army of researchers in history
– a viral disease which quickly achieves the antibodies of vaccination of its own accord
– a virus transmitted 25-50% through birth which has produced no epidemic among children.

As we have often said, anybody who knowingly believes in the above list we would like to contact us, since we have a bridge from Manhattan to Brooklyn that we would like to sell them for an extremely large sum of money.

Irrationality reigns

But all of the above is probably whistling into the wind, yes, we know. In the first place, few people are capable or willing to read such a long post on the Web, even on an iPad. Secondly, the requisite interest in logic and good sense (which we have proudly delivered in spades) is apparently missing from a vast segment of the current population of the United States. Whether this is the fault of the educational system, or simply the perceived irrelevance of education as properly defined (training in the ability to sift knowledge, think about it for oneself, and write down the results in intelligible fashion) we do not know. But it seems to us a major factor, perhaps the factor, which prevents enlightening the population at large as to the truth and falsehood of any scientific proposition, let alone the absurd fictional nature of the grand proposition that HIV causes AIDS, and one should take sickening and ultimately possibly lethal drugs to combat it.

In other words, rationality is not a common characteristic of the voters of this great democracy. That’s why we will leave you with a short example of just how far the myth tends to expand beyond the bounds of rationality even on the basis of the accepted wisdom.

According to a report this week on ABCTV news, the private Milton Hershey prep school has refused a 13 year old boy “with HIV”we learned from ABC news Fri Dec 2, on the grounds that he “might have unprotected sex.” The spokeswoman explained that “the disease this child has poses a direct threat to the students.”

However, ABC News helpfully added that “HIV is transmitted primarily through blood transfusions and sexual contact never through casual everyday contact,” and that legal challenges to such bars, as a lawyer explained, always have won so far.


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