(continued from previous post)THE DISSIDENT CASE, POLITICS AND PUBLIC HEALTH POLICY
The failures of the past fifteen years are fairly and squarely affixed to the five Montagnier and Gallo 1983/84 Science papers. That the titles of three of these papers contain the word "isolation" and yet no such evidence was presented, must stand as a memorial to the demise of editorial integrity. The dissident cases, that HIV does not exist (Eleopulos), or if it does exist does not cause AIDS (Eleopulos and Duesberg), ultimately implies there will be devastating outcomes in terms of scientific credibility including the failure of peer review, the reputations of many experts and non-experts, a challenge to the trust the citizen places in the hands of government, scientific and medical leaders as well as an uncertain period of ignominy for the medical profession as a whole. Weaving a just resolution through this maze of socio-medico-legal bedlam will require the utmost perspicacity and tenacity from political leaders.
Perhaps there are already signs of quiet beginnings with the 1994 return of the discovery of HIV to the French by the Americans followed by the most recent admissions of Montagnier in his 1997 interview. Perhaps it is also written in the faces of the Nobel Committee and the stubborn absence of a Nobel prize awarded for any of the 100,000 scientific papers representing HIV/AIDS research. Exceptionalism
Over and above all the uncertainties surrounding the HIV/AIDS debate, AIDS science and medicine must stand as the most remarkable case of "exceptionalism" in history. The funding it attracts far outstrips that justified by its prevalence and economic impact.(161) For example, over the past 17 years Australia has a cumulative total of 7,766 cases of AIDS including 5575 deaths.(162 ¥§) The big spenders are (in order) the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy. Their combined annual HIV/AIDS research budget amounts to US$1.8 billion for a cumulative total of 761,572 AIDS patients (many of whom are dead). Of an additional $US20 million spent by the European Union in 1994-98, most "money goes to support travel and meeting costs rather than laboratory research".(163) While thousands of dollars per patient are spent on HIV/AIDS research, only a few dollars are spent on heart disease, cancer, mental illness, suicide prevention or road trauma. The funding paradox reaches epidemic, almost farcical proportions in developing countries where Western AIDS workers spend their days dispensing advice and condoms to a population dying for want of potable water, adequate sanitation and nutrition, antibacterial, antitubercular and antimalarial medicines. In a word, dying of poverty.
Currently, the annual cost of anti-HIV drugs for one person costs about $US15,000 (which is greater than the entire health budget for many a third world village). With 650,000 to 900,000 HIV positive patients in the US as of July 1996, it would take $10 billion to pay for drugs alone. This must be viewed against the World Health Organisation's estimate that by the year 2000 there will be 30-40 million HIV infected people. Without HIV, AIDS patients, specialist AIDS units and their employees can rationally be absorbed into existing infrastructure of clinics and hospitals. The pursuit of expensive drugs designed to kill HIV will be irrelevant as will be the travail of the legions of HIV researchers. The same applies to AIDS councils, the armies of AIDS educators, AIDS fund raisers, volunteers and AIDS organisations. In the US alone there are 93,000 of the latter, one for every four persons ever diagnosed with AIDS.(34) Clear thinking
Homo sapiens (thinking man), was not named in vain. An honourable society provides unfettered information and encourages its members to make rational choices. Epidemiology shows that the development of a positive "HIV" antibody test and AIDS is not so much related to a given sexual practice but rather to the frequency of passive anal intercourse in both men and women. It follows that AIDS is not a disease of sexual orientation. As far as women are concerned, it is prudent to note that in absolute terms, innumerably more women than men engage in anal intercourse. Thus AIDS is not unlike the case of the recently appended AIDS defining disease cervical cancer which, long before the AIDS era, was known to be related to the frequency of vaginal intercourse. Even so, it is not the act itself but the very high frequencies of the act which is pathogenic.
As serious as public reaction to an ill conceived retrovirus may prove, it will not be anywhere as serious as the legal backlash. There are countless individuals alive who believe they are infected with a deadly microbe, many of whom are currently treated with potentially toxic drugs with no proven benefit. They avoid intimacy, avoid having children and sometimes even casual contact with others. It would take a flotilla of poet laureates to voice the collective pain and suffering engendered by such a mistake. It would take an army of mathematically gifted lawyers to quantify, and the nation's coffers to compensate, those who lives have been ruined by what Neville Hodgkinson has called "the greatest scientific blunder of the 20th century".(29) This is not to mention patients and relatives who have died at their own hands. In 1987 former US Senator Lawton Chiles of Florida told an AIDS conference of a tragic case where twenty two blood donors were informed they were HIV infected on the basis of an ELISA test. Seven then committed suicide.(164)
In June this year the Swiss AIDS analyst Michael Baumgartner persuaded United Nations officials to include a dissident session at the XIIth International AIDS Conference held in Geneva. Speakers included Huw Christie, the editor of Continuum magazine, AIDS analyst and documentary film maker Joan Shenton, epidemiologist Professor Gordon Stewart, retrovirologist and electron microscopist Professor Etienne de Harven, virologist Dr. Stefan Lanka and, by satellite from Perth, Eleni Eleopulos and her group from the Royal Perth Hospital. In the audience were observers from the Pasteur Institute and the US National Institutes for Health. The topic of the session was a scientific critique of the HIV antibody tests and the evidence for the existence of HIV. At the official press conference held after the meeting, Professor Bernhard Hirschel, chairman of the Organising Committee, accused the speakers of "using outdated and untrustworthy scientific data". However, the "outdated" data is that of Montagnier and Gallo which led to the 1984 proclamation that HIV is the cause of AIDS. That considered "untrustworthy" is the HIV experts’ own data.
Notwithstanding these and many other challenges to the current dogma, HIV/AIDS experts are not in the least disquieted by sceptical patients, relatives or scientists and inveigh heavily against inquisitive journalists alleging great harm to public health. Thus it appears the only hope for an immediate resolution of this troubled issue is lawyers appearing for plaintiffs desiring judgements that they are or are not infected with an AIDS causing virus. However, even if an examination of "HIV science" is destined to be scrutinised by courts of law, at present one must be realistic that in the short term the status quo is extremely unlikely to change. A real debate?
Nonetheless, it is inexorably drawing nearer to the time when world governments will convene an international, adjudicated debate on this subject. In contrast to the 13,775 participants from 177 countries who attended the June Geneva AIDS Conference, this should be a small gathering where a dozen or so experts from each side put their respective cases to a disinterested group of scientists of the utmost stature, for example, another dozen made up largely of Nobel laureates. There is a precedent for such a ‘consensus conference’ or ‘conference de citoyens’ in common sense and "along the lines of a model invented in Scandinavia and since applied in the United Kingdom and elsewhere". A "jury" of 14 people "screened for independence from interested parties" have issues "debated in front of them by scientists, non-governmental organizations, industrialists and other bodies…The power of public research bodies is probably the best guarantee of independence with respect to private sector research and the influence of multinationals".(165) By AIDS standards, funding for such a meeting would be trivial. Indeed, such would be its significance it would make money for the organisers.
Perhaps a disinterested observer could be forgiven for concluding that, although we are approaching the eighteenth year of the AIDS era, and have spent many billions of dollars on treatments and research, the words of Duesberg continue to taunt us: "By any measure, the war on AIDS has been a colossal failure...our leading scientists and policymakers cannot demonstrate that their efforts have saved a single life".(1) Perhaps those of Eleopulos group are of even greater portent: "The single most important obstacle in finding the explanation for AIDS is the belief in HIV.(19,26) In his recent book, "Dancing Naked in the Mind Field", Dr. Kary Mullis writes, "Years from now, people will find our acceptance of the HIV theory of AIDS as silly as we find those who excommunicated Galileo".(2) Indeed, it was Galileo who counseled, "In Science the authority embodied in the opinion of thousands is not worth a spark of reason on one man". Perhaps, seventeen years in, we should all pause, look around, and then take a long look back. Dr. Valendar F. Turner, Department of Emergency Medicine, Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, West Australia. Andrew McIntyre, Freelance Journalist, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
Voice 08 92242662
Fax 08 92247045
Website http://www.theperthgroup.com ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
The authors gratfully acknowledge the assistance of Mr. Peter Bloch of General Media International and Penthouse Magazine New York City for making available excerpts of Dr. Mullis’ forthcoming book. ENDNOTES
*US journalist Christine Johnson's interview (now available in six languages) with the leader of the Perth group, was reviewed by scholar and international gay media personality Professor Camille Paglia, in her column in the US Salon magazine October 28th 1997: "For a superb critique of the scandalously overpoliticized scientific research on AIDS, see Christine Johnson's long interview with Australian biophysicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos in the new issue of the British AIDS magazine Continuum. The American major media have effectively suppressed long-standing questions about whether the AIDS test is reliable or whether an HIV virus in fact exists at all".
**On May 5th 1998, two US Republicans said they were exploring ways to give a comfortable retirement to 1,500 chimpanzees that were bred for AIDS research. Accompanied by primate expert Jane Goodall, House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Jim Greenwood, R-Penn. said they were working on a bill to set up sanctuaries for the chimps. The chimps, bred in the United States specifically for AIDS research, did not turn out to be the effective models that scientists had anticipated. With no research use, the primates that are man's closest cousins are languishing in cages at an annual cost of $US7.3 million.
§ In 1988, Eleopulos' paper that HIV does not cause Kaposis' sarcoma was thrice rejected by the Medical Journal of Australia on the advice of an "established expert". The reviewer stated, "The author tries to argue that Kaposis' sarcoma cannot be caused by HIV infection, and that therefore AIDS is not due to HIV infection. The arguments put forward by the author are quite unsatisfactory, and are not supported by even a desultory reading of the literature quoted. In addition, the author fails to examine the body of epidemiological, immunological and cellular literature concerning the pathology, pathogenesis and clinical associations of this fascinating manifestation of HIV infection". Yet this is the very "epidemiological, immunological and cellular literature" which eventually led the "established experts" to accept that "this fascinating manifestation of HIV infection", is not caused by HIV infection.
¥ Asked to comment at the Geneva conference on the fact that England and Wales have dropped the use of the WB to "confirm" positive HIV ELISAs, Gallo commented, "Well, the bulk of the world uses it. If some technology comes across better I’d be the first to say do it. I mean obviously. The Western blot’s a valuable test as defining the proteins that you have antibodies to. Everybody uses it experimentally and most people use it around the world. Not in Eng…,Britain doesn’t use it, maybe there are two countries that have found a better way. God bless them. OK?"
§§ In 1997 the Perth group attempted a second time to engage the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in debating the HIV/AIDS controversy by submitting a paper entitled "A critical analysis of the evidence for the isolation of HIV" (www.virusmyth.com/aids/data/epappraisal.htm
). It is editorial policy to "welcome personal views of surgeons on a variety of topics", and to publish papers on "current and controversial issues". Although both reviewers accepted the bulk of the scientific arguments and found the paper "interesting reading", they advised against publication because, in their view, an analysis of evidence for the isolation of HIV was of "no real relevance…to a surgical audience" or "would be of little interest or use to the majority of readers of the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Surgery".
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