How accurate are the HIV tests? -- and a talk with a long-term thriver
I consider myself a long-term thriver," says Garland Perry, a Portlander who has tested HIV antibody-positive for more than 18 years. "I never did like that 'survivor' stuff. In 1984 when the test was first announced by Gallo at a press conference, I dutifully ran down like other active gay males and got tested. I tested positive then and have every year since.
"I was skeptical from the beginning," Perry continues. "I was suspicious that a single agent caused AIDS and I thought conservatives would just love to say all gay sex is dangerous. I had come to not believe everything the government said was true because of my political awareness about Central America. I personally don't believe HIV can make anybody sick and my last three boyfriends have come to believe that also.
"I have never been deathly ill and I have never taken any HIV drugs. It's not to say I don't have health problems; I do, but I think HIV is only one minor thing my body has to deal with, if it is there at all. I have migraines, but I think it is because I stared at a computer for 15 years and I have carpal tunnel because I typed so much. I do have a fragile immune system, but I always have, since I was a kid. I have to really support myself, eat right, stay active, etc."
Perry says he has seen the best HIV doctors in Portland and they have not exactly helped him create a vision of vitality and hope. "Marcia Coodley of Fanno Clinic told me the image I should think of is that my health is like a train that is headed for a cliff, and that I may feel fine now, but I am going to reach that cliff and I had better get on drugs. I have been to all the doctors that the gay community thinks are good, have good bedside manners and are warm and understanding. But they give me the cursory look-over and tell me I should go on cocktails."
"Cocktails" is the gay camp term for protease inhibitors, the newer combination drug therapy that is supposed to be superior to its patient-killing precursor AZT, a liquid chemotherapy.
Perry attends classes and functions at Project Quest and The Immune Enhancement Project and has seen his fellow HIV-positives who are on cocktail therapies. "They talk about the side effects a lot — nausea, diarrhea and the protease paunch — and they look puffy and gaunt at the same time, and I find it very disturbing. They (doctors) attribute the drugs to the decline of AIDS, but I wonder if it's because they stopped AZT and have decreased the dosages of cocktails.
"I think the reductionist view to look to a test tube to explain peoples' health is wrong. Health is not a single thing. Do people have community? Joy? Proper food and shelter? Many, many things contribute to health," Perry says.
Western medicine has been stuck on the "magic bullet" theory for some time. One disease, one cause — and lucky for those drug companies — one cure. Perry is a moving, thriving example of one HIV/AIDS paradox: how can someone so consistently be "loaded" with HIV yet never succumb to the 29 diseases known as AIDS?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDCP) takes care of it by throwing Perry and thousands like him into the category: HIV positives who have not yet acquired any "opportunistic infections." This "latency period" has curiously gotten longer and longer since its first creation. About 17 years ago it was two to four years, then it doubled to eight years and now "experts" are telling us a lethal virus may be innocently lying dormant in our bodies for 15 years to a lifetime. This fantasy creation of a "latency period" just adds more fear to the sexually active general public. Conventional HIV/AIDS theory cannot explain why thousands of people like Perry exists so they made-up the latency period; there is no scientific evidence for it.
The paradox of Perry points to three possible things, alone or in combination: 1. HIV does not exist (it has never been properly isolated); 2. HIV is a harmless passenger retrovirus like other retroviruses; or 3. the tests to identify HIV are not accurate.
The Alliance has covered number one and two in previous issues. The HIV retrovirus and the flawed science behind its "discovery" were the subjects discussed last month. As was noted, AIDS is defined by an HIV antibody-positive status. The difference between having pneumonia, for example, or having AIDS is the outcome of an HIV antibody test. Here's the equation: pneumonia + HIV antibody positive test = AIDS; pneumonia — HIV antibody positive result = plain ol' pneumonia.
Virus isolation and the tests
It was also discussed last month that HIV has proven impossible to obtain directly from patient tissue and it has eluded standard retrovirology techniques to achieve isolation. To isolate an alleged new virus is a tenet of virology. How can you know what is really there and identify its elements, like proteins and RNA/DNA, if you do not see it all by itself? Because test manufacturers do not have a sample of HIV to see under an electron microscope, they use another technique of spinning the alleged virus around real fast and its proteins fall in accordance to their density. When these proteins are exposed to "AIDS" blood, the antibodies that attach to them become the basis for the ELISA and Western Blot tests.
Since AIDS is not one disease, but any one of 29 known diseases, there is not an "AIDS test." What is commonly known as the "AIDS test" in the U.S. is the ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and the Western Blot. These identify antibodies that react to proteins that are allegedly proteins of HIV. There is also a lesser-used, expensive test that reads genetic fragments of what is believed to be the RNA/DNA of HIV called the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test. In the U.S., two ELISA tests and one Western Blot test confirms an HIV-positive status. Confirmation of an HIV status differs throughout the world. There are no standards for what constitutes a HIV-positive status in the U.S. or anywhere in the world.
Depends on where you test....
As was noted in the July issue of The Alliance, African HIV/AIDS statistics are based on estimates, and when a handful of pregnant women are tested, only one test is administered and it is the most unreliable (the ELISA). The World Health Organization and the CDCP admit that if someone has or has had malaria or tuberculosis they test positive on an ELISA test. Britain has ceased using the Western Blot test because experts there agree it is unreliable, yet U.S. experts say the Western Blot is highly specific to HIV and boasts it is 99 percent accurate when used with an ELISA. Britain uses the ELISA test, which the Centers the CDCP says is not accurate (4 out of 5 ELISA positives are Western Blot negative) and should only be used for screening. Who or what is right? It's only our lives that are at stake.
Having antibodies to an illness used to be a good thing until AIDS came along. Creating antibodies is the idea behind vaccines such as those for polio. A vaccine is a small dose of the alleged cause itself, so the immune system can develop its strategy and army needed to ward off the foreign invader. In AIDS science, however, antibodies are the kiss of death and evidence to begin taking highly potent pharmaceutical "cocktail" treatments.
The ELISA test was developed in 1985 and it is thought to be highly sensitive but extremely non-specific. The ELISA detects antibodies to groups of proteins thought to be HIV proteins. They are specified "p" for protein and a number that represents their molecular weight. HIV is recognized by p24, p17, p41, p120 and others, and it wasn't until the early 90s that researchers thought to look into how ubiquitous these proteins might be.
A group of Australian researchers (known as the Perth Group) reported finding the proteins are not specific to a unique retrovirus but are due to the immune system being activated by a variety of reasons. P24, which was the only protein thought to be truly specific to HIV, was found in more than 40 percent of patients with multiple sclerosis and about 13 percent of people with generalized warts, for instance. And they pointed out that p24 was not found in all AIDS patients and over one-half of those testing p24-positive later tested negative.
In fact, it is common someone can test positive on the ELISA and when time passes and they retest, they test negative. The U.S. Army has a policy to test and wait a couple of months to retest because of all the false positives. Four out of five ELISA positives are Western Blot negative.
The Perth Group argues maybe all positives are false positives because the main AIDS risk groups — gay men, drug users and hemophiliacs — are all exposed to foreign substances known to cause immune dysfunction and antibody reaction, such as semen in the bloodstream, recreational drugs and Factor 8 (for blood clotting).
The CDCP states in its 1993 test guidance report that ELISA results "should never be used alone to report a final positive result" and should only be used for screening purposes. The 1994 edition of "AIDS Testing," a 400-page text edited by CDC experts, even admits that "the virus cannot be detected directly by conventional molecular biology techniques," and that HIV is highly inactive, which should have put HIV in a very different category from other infectious viruses.
All of this means the ELISA often gives a false positive result, yet it remains the most widely used test in the Third World. Scientific literature has documented at least 70 conditions that trigger a false positive result on the ELISA, including pregnancy, autoimmune disorders, fever, the flu and flu shots. The U.S. Army has a policy to not test soldiers if they have had a flu shot in the last six months. The Army has found flu shots almost always give false positive results.
The Western Blot test
The Western Blot test also identifies a selection of proteins but they are thought to be more specific because the proteins are separated. A strip of nitrocellulose paper is incubated with a dilution of a blood sample. If antibodies to those proteins are present, one is said to be positive.
The Perth Group took a hard look at the Western Blot and ELISA tests in a 1993 Bio/Technology paper entitled "Is a Positive Western Blot Proof of HIV Infection?" They say both tests are seriously flawed because: 1. They are not standardized; 2. The tests are not reproducible; — and back to the original science — 3. HIV lacks the gold standard of science, virus isolation.
Any antibody test only becomes meaningful when it is standardized, which means a test result has the same meaning in all patients, in all laboratories, in all countries. This sure ain't the case with HIV. In the study, one blood sample was sent 89 times to three different labs. It was positive 64 times, indeterminate 23 times and negative once. I could literally fill The Alliance with instances of varying test results and wild inconsistencies.
From the first antigen-antibody reactions performed by Montagnier and Gallo (co-discoverers of HIV), it was found that not all of the "HIV proteins" react with all blood sera from AIDS patients. Even sera from the same patients obtained at different times did not react in the same way to the same tests. Also, they noted that sera from AIDS patients may react with proteins other than those considered to be HIV antigens. This is what you call cross-reaction and there is lots of it with HIV.
Laboratory definitions of what constitute a positive result are all over the map. In the beginning, most laboratories used the CDCP criteria that said the presence of either the p24 and p41 protein means a positive result. But by 1987 it became apparent these proteins were not specific to HIV. There is still no nationally agreed upon criteria among major U.S. labs for Western Blot interpretation! Laboratories have their own differing criteria about a positive result but agree a negative result requires the absence of any and all protein bands including those that do not represent "HIV proteins." (Do they want us to be positive?)
Because there are no standards for the ELISA or Western Blot tests, even first-class labs produce differing conclusions, thereby being unable to reproduce the same results. Since the beginning of the epidemic, many AIDS patients do not test HIV-positive and many who do test positive never get sick. The CDCP has relaxed s criteria for the Western Blot to get over the embarrassing fact that fewer than half of all AIDS patients test positive for HIV!
If all this isn't enough, human bias also exists to throw off the reliability of HIV tests. Journalist John Lauritsen sent the same blood sample to a lab under different risk categories. He found the same sample of blood tested positive when the lab thought it came from a gay man and negative when technicans thought it came from a heterosexual.
The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test was invented by Dr. Kary Mullis who won the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry for it. Dr. Mullis is a leading AIDS "dissident" and says if you have to use his test to see anything, it is biologically insignificant. The PCR test is used by AIDS orthodoxy to monitor "AIDS patients" who are on drug treatments. The PCR measures the famous "viral load," which dissidents affectionately call a "viral load of crap."
PCR technology amplifies the tiniest amount of any DNA sequence, to find the proverbial needle of HIV in a haystack of DNA. Dr. Eric Barklis, Associate Professor of the Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at OHSU, explains it simply: "The PCR test detects an essential part of a virus, but not the virus itself. An analogy would be that if you had a way of detecting car engines, you could be confident a working car is there. But of course, some car engines are in factories and others are in cars but no longer work."
The PCR test costs a couple of hundred dollars, so only the privileged who have submitted themselves to conventional drug therapy generally receive it.
Betting our lives
It seems clear there are serious questions about the reliability of HIV tests and it is a crime against humanity since so many people bet their life on it. Perry is lucky. He did not feel the need to commit suicide upon hearing of his HIV status, nor did his partner come home to murder him and his children. This happens frequently around the world. In the U.S., people like Perry live with the pressure of possible death, looming and waiting, and others begin taking toxic drug treatments out of fear and misinformation.
"I am resentful if it is a big illusion, a big lie, which I think it is," says Perry. "Our community was torn apart by this. AIDS came to nip our growing gay rights movement in the bud, which I think could have helped the rights of all people. It was stopped by a fundamentalist belief system that said gay sex (or even all sex) is evil and therefore it kills people."
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or (503) 227-2339.
This is part five of a five-part Portland Alliance series. Kim Stephenson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to The Portland Alliance.
add a comment on this article
add a comment on this article