Bad science, Bad Journalism -- The HIV retrovirus: Discovery or invention?
Have you seen "The Truman Show" starring Jim Carrey? Carrey plays Truman, who is the unknowing star of a reality television show transmitted throughout the world. Truman is happily living his perfect life in a perfect suburb with a perfect wife until he begins to catch some clues that something just isn't right. The film is about his process of discovering his entire life, and all of his physical surroundings, are fabricated. The island he lives on is the world's largest television set, viewable from space. Everyone is in on it; Truman is monumentally deceived. His wife, mother, best friend, co-workers and thousands of townspeople are nothing but actors.
When Truman realizes what's going on, he breaks out of his home and hops into a sailboat to get away. After surviving a brutal storm induced by the show's creator, the water is calm and his boat abruptly hits the side of the dome that looks like the sky. Truman is stunned and slowly he touches the wall. As he touches it, he lets out a sigh of relief. Finally, he knows and feels reality! He is angry and beats the wall with his fists; then he collapses and cries.
While researching the subjects of this article, I felt like Truman as he touched that wall. For years I reported on HIV/AIDS for the Seattle Gay News with energy and empathy. I have done a lot of what I consider to be promotional writing to bring attention to countless AIDS events and fundraisers. I edited a minimum of five obituaries per week of young gay men who were said to die of AIDS. I never once questioned, nor did I hear anybody else question, the science behind the discovery of HIV and its connection to AIDS - it was all steadfastly assumed. "HIV/AIDS facts and figures" were fed to us at the gay press by AIDS organizations that were on the front lines of the bloody battle. They were articulate and repetitive about the sexual transmission of HIV. To question the science behind the new retrovirus HIV and its causation to AIDS would be like questioning if the sky was really blue. Or maybe our reality had been constructed, like Truman's.
Defining AIDS: a collection of known diseases
AIDS is not a disease. It is not one disease but a collection of 29 known diseases; which include "signs" of bodily distress, like unexplained weight loss. If you deconstruct the acronym, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, you can see it hinted AIDS is a group of symptoms that characterize immune system breakdown. Media presents AIDS as being a disease ("AIDS is a disease of poverty, AIDS is sexually transmitted,") but the nation's official AIDS registry, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP), has always said AIDS is a bunch of diseases, none of which are new. All media representatives seem to fall into non-questioning guilty stupors when AIDS is involved and fail to ask such questions as: "What did the patient actually die of?"
If they did, the answer would be: pneumonia, Kaposi's sarcoma, lymphoma, tuberculosis, herpes simplex, the "wasting syndrome," chronic intestinal isosporiasis, candidiasis of the bronchi, invasive cervical cancer, recurrent salmonella, esophageal candidiasis and 19 other known diseases. These are now "opportunistic infections of AIDS" - if you test HIV antibody positive.
Currently we are at 29 known diseases that are defined as AIDS and we are always anxiously awaiting more. The definition of AIDS has changed at least five times since its invention in 1982. Maybe you noticed a lot of stories about the increase of women with AIDS around 1993 or a little after? The news stories forgot to tell readers the CDCP added cervical cancer, along with several other female-specific conditions, to the definition of AIDS that year.
Some of the most important and absurd definition expansions were in 1987 and 1992. In 1987 the CDC said that even if a patient's immune suppression disorder was already known, like from chemotherapy or born with a congenital immune deficiency, the patient should be counted and regarded as an AIDS patient. In 1992 the CDC said anyone having a low T-cell count has AIDS, even if the individual is not sick, has no symptoms or "opportunistic infections," and has not taken an HIV antibody test. The flu really should be considered to be part of AIDS, because if you receive a flu shot or have the flu, you would test positive on the HIV antibody tests (Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay and Western Blot).
AIDS is the first disease in history that no one can survive by definition, thereby delivering a hopeless and demoralizing message to those diagnosed HIV antibody positive. Once someone is diagnosed with AIDS, he or she stays in that category forever, regardless of improvement or cause of death. There are no criteria listed in any definition that allow a person to fight, and beat AIDS, unlike cancer or heart disease or any other illness.
The difference between hope and certain doom (by official definition) is how you do on the HIV antibody test. It all comes down to the test. The difference between having AIDS or pneumonia is the test. The difference between having tuberculosis or AIDS is the antibody test. Here's the equation: pneumonia + HIV antibody = AIDS; pneumonia - HIV antibody = pneumonia. Tuberculosis + HIV antibody = AIDS; tuberculosis - HIV antibody = tuberculosis. So, the crucial subject worthy of investigation is: what is HIV and how do you test for its existence?
Retroviruses and HIV
AIDS orthodoxy says HIV is an infectious retrovirus that hijacks the genetic structure of the body's cells, creating more and more of itself to overpower the immune system and make the individual succumb to one of the 29 diseases.
The discovery of retroviruses came about 1970, when Nixon declared a war on cancer and hundreds of millions of dollars were thrown toward research into a viral cause of cancer. The research seemed promising at first because retroviruses do not kill infected cells but integrate into the cell's cancer-causing agents. A retrovirus raids a host cell with the help of an enzyme that catalyzes the synthesis of the host's DNA from RNA. This is called "reverse transcriptase activity" and it may be a clue a retrovirus is there, but not definite identification. Cells without retroviruses also have this activity.
A contradiction surfaces at this base level because if HIV is a retrovirus, how can it kill T-cells? Killing T-cells (immune-helpers) is a cornerstone of AIDS. Retroviruses replicate like crazy, which is a cornerstone of viruses. [Head-scratcher #1.]
The viral war on cancer failed and in 1977 the National Cancer Institute Virus Cancer Program was abruptly closed. But seven years of money and time allowed scientists to thoroughly research and explore retroviruses. Out of that research came protocols for identifying and isolating retroviruses. It was agreed among scientists that an alleged retrovirus must be completely isolated in order to identify its proteins, nucleic acids and RNA/DNA structure, so it is not confused with other confounding cellular matter, which also has its own proteins, nucleic acids and RNA/DNA. Scientists need to identify the thing itself before they can make assumptions about its components, which are the basis for tests and cures.
"Proof for the existence of a virus is unconditionally contingent upon finding a right looking particle (virus-like) that is able to faithfully replicate," says Val Turner, emergency physician at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia. Turner goes on to explain the virus identification process. "Merely seeing a particle, even viral-like, is not sufficient proof because multiplication is the name of the game with viruses. The method of convincing oneself, or the whole world, that a virus exists is: 1) to grow whatever cells are thought to contain the virus 2) purify the particles, so they are not confused with the cells in which they were grown or constituent proteins or acids 3) document these chemical constituents 4) introduce pure particles into a virgin cell culture and prove what comes out is exactly the same as what went in."
Number two and four seem to be especially challenging to HIV. An accepted fact in retrovirology is to use the original Pasteur Institute virus isolation protocol. Scientists do this by spinning virus-like particles around real fast and particles fall down the test tube in accordance to their density. Retrovirologists agree retroviruses should band at the 1.16 gm/ml density band and that this protocol should be able to be replicated by anyone in the world.
Although knowledge of retroviruses became solid through the 1970s, there was no solid evidence retroviruses played a role in cancer. One good try was by a National Institute of Health (NIH) virologist, Dr. Robert Gallo, when in 1975 he said he had isolated the first human retrovirus from a leukaemia patient. It turned out his samples were contaminated with retroviruses from a monkey, a gibbon and a baboon and therefore his retrovirus connection to human leukaemia was not valid.
Gallo's HTLVs = HIV
Gallo was heavily involved and committed to finding a viral cause to cancer and leukaemia during the 70s. Gallo's sister had died of leukaemia at a young age and it had a darkly profound affect on Gallo and his family. Gallo was also an exceedingly ambitious and competitive personality and those close to him said only his ego challenged the size and fury of his competitiveness and ambition. Imagine the prestige of being the scientist to discover the cause of AIDS - the touted "disease(s)" of the twentieth century," expected to surpass the Black Plague in deaths. This man or woman would surely be awarded God-like status and the Nobel Prize would be a given. Why has the Nobel Prize not been given for discovery of "the cause of AIDS?"[Head scratcher #2].
Gallo's retrovirus money was drying up and he desperately needed a breakthrough. He thought he found one when he grew cells of a leukaemia patient and saw reverse transcriptase activity. Gallo claimed it was a retrovirus because he saw transcriptase activity, but he did not isolate the virus with the aforementioned process. He called his new retrovirus Human T-cell leukaemia virus or HTLV-I. (Then came HTLV-II and HTLV-III became what is now known as the HIV retrovirus.)
There were some now-familiar contradictions right away (that Gallo admitted) like why is HTLV readily found in perfectly healthy people, and how could it be that only one percent of those "infected" with HTLV ever develop leukaemia? [Head-scratcher #3]
Fast track to the "AIDS virus"
In 1982 Gallo presented the hypothesis that the cause of AIDS is a retrovirus. A year later, colleagues of Gallo claimed they found antibodies to HTLV-I in AIDS patients and Gallo made the same claim at about the same time. However, while HTLV-I was accepted to cause T-cell proliferation and cause leukaemia, the hallmark of leukaemia, the hallmark of AIDS was T-cell depletion. [Head-scratcher #4] Gallo noticed the contradiction and easily fixed it by simply replacing the "L" in HTLV from "leukaemia" to "lymphotropic" and later the messy "L" was dropped altogether for HIV. Wha la! Isn't science easy?
In the same month, Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute in France described the isolation of a retrovirus from the lymph nodes of a homosexual man with lymphadenopathy. Samples of this virus, called Lymphadenopathy Associated Virus (LAV) were sent to Gallo's laboratory on several occasions. Montagnier had not written a paper yet and Gallo offered to look through the draft before publication. Gallo offered to write an abstract for Montagnier's paper and read it to him over the phone. Gallo's last sentence read: "The virus appears to be a member of the human T-cell leukaemia virus (HTLV) family," thereby linking the two in history. Montagnier said he never would have agreed to that statement but he didn't understand Gallo's English. This is important because conventional HIV science is based on these discoveries of Montagnier and Gallo.
Gallo was desperately trying to find a solid connection to his retrovirus family and AIDS, and in 1984 his team was testing the blood of people with AIDS. They had a hard time finding any HTLV, so they used hothouse techniques and pooled together a brew of selected, cancerous cell lines from ten different patients. Gallo said he found another retrovirus in the blood of these samples and called this one HTLV-III, which would later be abbreviated to HIV. Needless to say, pooling together several blood samples is very bad science and is far, far removed from actually isolating and proving a retrovirus is there. But it was good enough for Gallo and the US government, who wanted an answer to this embarrassing, deadly problem without discourse.
On April 23, 1984 Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler, with Dr. Gallo by her side, announced that Gallo and his co-workers "had found the probable cause of AIDS" and they had developed a sensitive test to show whether the "AIDS virus" was present in the blood. Gallo filed for a US blood test patent, which he had developed, the same day. It was a public relations event that will forever reverberate in history.
It is important to note this announcement was made before any scientific papers of Gallo's were published that shared an experiment and findings claiming HIV isolation and its link to AIDS. What was probably most damaging was when The New York Times splashed the announcement on the front page, saying the cause of AIDS had been found and it's the "AIDS virus." Science is a community based on a sportsman-like premise that says, "You come up with an idea, and we - the rest of the community - will see if we can tear you down or replicate your findings." Normally, papers are published and other scientists mimic the experiment and publish their findings in the form of confirmations or disproofs. This never happened with the "discovery" of HIV. The next month Gallo and colleagues did publish four papers in Science, but those papers did not isolate HIV by identifying it under electron microscope nor was isolation at the 1.16 gm/ml band achieved.
It turned out Gallo actually stole Montagnier's LAV sample and photograph when they were sent to his lab. Gallo used Montagnier's stolen sample for his published papers making the claim to have found HIV, the cause of AIDS. He needed to steal the sample, because he was having a hard time finding what he wanted to find. A big battle ensued because now the stakes were very high if LAV a la HTLV-III (HIV) was "known to cause AIDS." Just imagine the royalties on the HIV test! The discoveries, inventions and subsequent patents of scientists are profoundly lucrative for their employer. In Gallo's case, it was the US government's National Institute of Health (NIH). Gallo's inventions provided over half of the organization's enormous income.
The Pasteur Institute alleged that Gallo had misappropriated LAV in developing the HIV blood test. The conflict ran through American courts and ended when President Reagan and French Premier Francois Mitterand got together to cut the pie down the middle and agreed both Gallo and Montagnier could claim to be the "co-discoverers of HIV" and, most importantly, both would share royalties.
This conflict caught the attention of investigative journalist John Crewdson and he published a lengthy article in the Chicago Tribune. The article caught the attention of a US senator and three formal inquires followed. One inquiry was done by the NIH, and (big surprise) they thought Gallo's actions did not meet the formal definition of misconduct. Then the case was kicked to the Office of Research Integrity and Gallo was found guilty of scientific misconduct. (If you would like to read in detail about this fiasco, check out Crewdsons book Science Fictions, available at Multnomah County library.)
Although the "co-discoverer" of HIV was found guilty of scientific misconduct because he "created and fostered conditions that give rise to falsified/fabricated data and falsified reports," all HIV/AIDS information, statistics and treatments are based on his science. [Head-scratcher #5]
The four Gallo papers published in Science in 1984 and Montagnier's first paper are the reference and proof of HIV and its causation to AIDS. Montagnier never thought his LAV was related to Gallo's HIV family and later he said he thought HIV alone is harmless. For a detailed analysis of these papers, please use the internet and go to: Virusmyth.net - Find - Papadopoulos et al Eleni (Eleni Papadopulos) or The Perth Group. (Also see attached resource list sidebar.)
We, the public, who are concerned with HIV infection and AIDS, play Truman in this reality show. The creator, the man in "The Truman Show" who manipulates the drama from a fake sun, is not Gallo, but the large, nebulous health organizations that are fused with government. Gallo, and present day rhetoric-with-no-evidence shouting orthodox scientists, health care providers and AIDS organizations are simply our best friends, mothers and spouses.
AIDS: The Failure of Contemporary Science: How a Virus That Never Was Deceived the World, by Neville Hodgkins
Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Cost of a Premature Consensus, by Dr. Robert Root-Bernstein
Positively False: Exposing the Myths Around HIV and AIDS, by Joan Shenton
Prescription For Profit: How the Pharmaceutical Industry Bankrolled the Unholy Marriage Between Science and Business, by Linda Marsa
The AIDS War: Propaganda, Profiteering and Genocide from the Medical-Industrial Complex, by John Lauritsen
AIDS: The HIV Myth, by Jad Adams
The Gravest Show on Earth: America in the Age of AIDS, by Elinor Burkett
Inventing the AIDS Virus, by Dr. Peter Duesberg
Science Fictions, by John Crewdson
To get your free copy of What if Everything You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong? by long-term HIV survivor Christine Maggiore call or write: Portland Health Education AIDS Liasion (HEAL) at: email@example.com or (503) 227-2339.
This is part four of a five-part series:
phone: (503) 227-2339
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