Professor of Molecular Biology
University of California, Berkeley
Rubin concluded by saying that he found any single cause of the enormous complex of diseases to be seriously inadequate. While he was not willing categorically to rule out the possibility that HIV might play some role in some cases, he was “not ready blandly to accept it as the single cause of all of the disease complex.” Rubin posed the question, to what extent is the virus itself an opportunistic infection? He found it irresponsible to focus exclusive attention on the putative viral cause while failing to address the associated practices of high risk groups (heavy use of recreational drugs, overuse of antibiotics, promiscuous sexual behavior) which are themselves known to compromise the immune system.
In the question period following Rubin’s presentation, William Haseltine bluntly challenged Rubin on the issue of high-risk behavior, and asserted that the best correlation with AIDS is “evidence of viral infection”, and that there were many instances of AIDS in persons with no known risk factors. Rubin replied that the serological evidence seemed to argue against HIV, since in many PWAs neither antibodies nor virus could be detected.
Beluda then intervened, apparently annoyed by Haseltine’s belligerence, to state that sometimes even a single exception is sufficient to disprove a theory. HIV antibodies are reportedly found in 90% of PWAs, but what about the other 10%? “This is the crux of the matter”, Beluda said, “the virus cannot be found in all cases of AIDS.”
Fauci responded to Beluda by saying that a good lab was able to isolate the virus in 90-100% of the cases, that there was “no question about it”. Fauci did not provide a reference to published data, nor did he indicate what the “good labs” were, or how exactly they differed from the not-so-good labs.
Since Duesberg’s presentation covered a lot of ground, I’ll try to summarize just the main points here. To understand the full scope of his arguments, his latest article should be consulted. 4
Basically Duesberg argued that HIV does not have the physical properties to cause disease, let alone the devastating pathology associated with AIDS. The HIV hypothesis is fraught with contradictions (or “paradoxes”); it violates the rules that all other microbes follow when they cause disease; indeed, the hypothesis sometimes violates the principle of causality itself.
Duesberg began by attacking the prevailing hypothesis: that HIV kills T-cells after a bizarre latent period of 5-8 years. This cannot be true, he said, because retroviruses do not kill cells — in fact, retroviruses make cells grow faster. The “AIDS virus” hypothesis is now the basis for over $1 billion research efforts annually, making it the most expensive virus in history. The HIV hypothesis is the basis for the “AIDS test”, which is in fact only a test for HIV antibodies. Antibodies, which for 200 years have been interpreted as good news, are now interpreted as a prognosis for death. Positive results on the antibody test have resulted in suicides and broken marriages; they would be the basis for denying residence in China. The presence of HIV antibodies is now being used to justify treatment with AZT, which has one known effect: to stop DNA synthesis; the obligatory consequence of incorporating AZT into a human cell is either a dead or a mutated cell.
The “AIDS virus” hypothesis is based only on correlation — between HIV antibodies and AIDS — a correlation in the neighborhood of 80-90% (“They never say 100%”). And even if the correlation were 100%, this would not prove causality. Further, antibodies are not the same as the virus itself, which is so extremely difficult to detect that only the most expensive laboratories in the country are capable of doing so, and even then, only in about half of the cases of AIDS.
All known viruses (polio, hepatitis, et al.) are biochemically active when they cause disease. They have to kill or intoxicate more cells than the host can regenerate. Paradoxically: HIV is inactive and latent, even in patients who are dying from AIDS. A virus cannot cause harm without doing something. Although viruses can go through periods of latency, neither herpes nor any other virus is inactive at the time that it causes disease. HIV actively infects fewer than one in 10,000 T-cells, even in fatal cases of AIDS. This is trivial, the equivalent of losing one drop of blood every day.
Viruses cause disease before, not after antiviral immunity. This is why vaccination works. Paradoxically: HIV is said to cause AIDS only after a peculiar latent period of 5 to 8 years.
HIV is a retrovirus, and retroviruses do not kill cells. On the contrary, they depend on living cells to reproduce. This is why retroviruses were the most plausible viral carcinogens in President Nixon’s “War on Cancer”. Paradoxically: the retrovirus called HIV is said to cause AIDS by killing T-cells. In fact, Robert Gallo and others have observed that T-cells in culture produce much more virus than is ever produced in AIDS patients, yet survive indefinitely, developing into immortal lines.
No known virus discriminates between men and women, or between heterosexuals and homosexuals. Paradoxically: even eight years into the epidemic, AIDS shows an absolute preference for men (92%).
The transfusion cases have been used as an argument for the HIV hypothesis, yet transfusions do not discriminate between HIV and all other microbes, toxins, etc. that are in the blood. That the transfusion argument is not strong, but tenuous, is shown by the control group of 14,000 hemophiliacs in the United States who are antibody positive, yet only 300 (2%) of whom have developed any of the many symptoms of AIDS. The low incidence is even more striking in light of the fact that hemophiliacs are a congenitally sickly population; only a few years ago, their average life expectancy was 11½ years. Furthermore, it is now three years since the HIV antibody test came into use to screen blood. We should have seen at least a levelling off of the “transfusion cases”, but contrary to expectations, they have just doubled.
According to basic logic, a virus or other pathogen would at least have to be present when it causes disease. This is Koch’s first postulate for identifying a causative pathogen, which states that the presumed causative agent must be present in all cases of the disease. However, HIV can only be isolated in 50% of AIDS cases. Although there are unpublished observations that the figure can be pushed up to 100%, this is not consistent with the fact that pro-viral DNA cannot be detected in a substantial proportion of AIDS cases. Gallo could only detect pro-viral DNA in 15% of AIDS cases. A recent article in Science reported being unable to detect pro-viral DNA in a significant number of AIDS cases, even using the most sensitive techniques.
Duesberg posed the question, why is the “AIDS virus” hypothesis so popular, in the face of so many paradoxes? He suggested that this was due to two problems in the field:
One: Progress in biological thought has not kept up with the rapid progress in technology. Only ten years ago, scientists would never have detected a latent virus that is only active in one out of every 100,000 T-cells. With their limited tools, Koch or Pasteur or Enders or Sabin were forced to look for microbes at clinically relevant titers. Indeed, Koch’s first postulate needs to be amended now, in light of the technology of the present, to state that pathogens must not only be detectable, by the most sensitive techniques available, but must also be biochemically active in more cells than the host can spare or regenerate.
Two: AIDS is a syndrome, not a single infectious disease. The spectrum of diseases is truly impressive… yet such things as lymphoma and Kaposi’s sarcoma cannot be attributed to immune deficiency, as is shown by the example of the nude mice. Nor does immune deficiency explain dementia.
In short, the one-virus, one-disease concept is hard to reconcile with the AIDS situation, although people would like to see it that way. AIDS propaganda has transformed a latent, non-cytocidal retrovirus, a “Sleeping Beauty”, into a vicious killer virus. AIDS propaganda has reduced a complex syndrome to a single disease entity with a single cause. What we need to do is look at “risk behavior”, which may hold the keys to the many diseases of AIDS.
Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), has become the most publicly prominent member of the “AIDS establishment”, often quoted in the press and featured on television shows. His presentation, while aspiring to be a point-by-point rebuttal to Duesberg, consisted mainly of disconnected assertions, delivered in a tone of petulant indignation. Epidemiological studies conducted in San Francisco and unpublished laboratory reports seemed to be the basis of most of his statements. So far as I could tell, he understood virtually none of Duesberg’s arguments; whatever else Fauci may be, he is not a philosopher.
It is not true, Fauci said, that HIV is inactive; sometimes there are “bursts of activity”. It is false to say that nothing is happening: HIV is “insidiously destroying the immune system” in asymptomatic but infected people.
The AIDS virus is unique in that its major target is the immune system itself. The disease is not HIV infection; “it is the opportunistic infections and neoplasms that kill the individual.” Auto-immune phenomena, etc. can also be taken into account, in addition to the direct cytocidal effect, which is clearly demonstrated in vitro. The macrophages can serve as a reservoir, where the virus can hide out without being detected by the immune system.
According to Duesberg, if you’re infected this means, “hurrah, your body has won!” This flies negatively in the face of the data, that within five years, 90% of seropositive individuals will have deleterious effects on their immune system [based on an unpublished San Francisco study].
Fauci countered Duesberg’s point on “discrimination” by saying that the point was the mechanism of transmission. Risk behavior simply meant coming into contact with the virus. He then asked a series of abusively rhetorical questions: “What kind of risk behavior”, he demanded, “does the infant born of an infected mother have?” “And what about the 50-year-old woman who received a blood transfusion from an infected donor?” (The answer to the first question is: 1) in the decade of the AIDS epidemic, there have been only a few hundred reported cases of infants with AIDS, 2) infants are not yet immunocompetent, and 3) virtually all infants with AIDS were born to mothers who were drug abusers — as everyone ought to know, drugs cause birth defects. The answer to the second question is that a 50-year old woman who requires a blood transfusion is already at risk, and that blood transfusions involve massive exposure to microbes and toxins of all kinds.)
Fauci addressed the question of Koch’s first postulate by asserting that “good labs” could find the virus in 90-95% of the cases — that it was too much to expect 100%, because any technique has a limitation. He concluded by saying, “The data strongly, if not overwhelming, indicates [sic] that HIV is the cause of AIDS.” (This is a step backward — only a few weeks ago, Fauci found the evidence “overwhelming”.)
In the question period, Beluda asked if the evidence were sufficient that HIV is necessary for the development of AIDS. Fauci replied that he hoped the epidemiologists would answer that question.
William Haseltine, Chief of the Laboratory of Biochemical Pharmacology at the Dana Farber Cancer Center of Harvard Medical School, appeared to be an angry man. His presentation was devoted largely to personal attacks on Duesberg, in a manner which two of my colleagues described as “brutal” and “vicious”. Haseltine’s anger can probably be attributed to Celia Farber’s interview with Duesberg in SPIN (January 1988), in which Duesberg stated:
William Haseltine and Max Essex, who are two of the top five AIDS researchers in the country, have millions in stocks in a company they founded that has developed and will sell AIDS kits that test for HIV. How could they be objective?
When Celia Farber contacted Haseltine, he confirmed his and Essex’s business arrangement with Cambridge Bio-Science, a company that sells HIV testing kits. Said Haseltine: “I deeply resent the implication that my business investments have affected my work.” 5
Haseltine accused Duesberg of “serious confusion and misrepresentation of fact”. He said that when rational arguments don’t hold up, Duesberg “has resorted to personal attack; he has impugned the motivations of individuals and institutions.”
Haseltine asserted that “HIV is demonstrably cytopathic”, though he didn’t say how.
He quoted Duesberg as having said that antibodies were “good news”. Not so, said Haseltine, to be antibody positive is very bad news for the health of the individual.
Haseltine said it was not true that there was no detectable viremia in AIDS patients, and said he would show a slide “with the current perception with regard to viremia…during the later course of infection, one sees rising antigenemia in most persons infected.”
He attacked Duesberg’s “paradox”, that the AIDS virus seemed to be able to discriminate between boys and girls, by saying that this was not true outside the U.S. — in Africa, about equal numbers of men and women develop AIDS. (He seemed oblivious to the paradox that a microbe should be able to discriminate in one country, but not in another.)
According to Haseltine, Rubin and Duesberg were confused about nude mice, which in certain classes were capable of “mounting a vigorous immune response”.
The most dramatic moment in the forum came when Haseltine began showing his slides; it deserves a separate section:
Haseltine’s Fake Slide
In presenting his first slide, Haseltine said:
This gives us a summary of the virology. Dr. Duesberg asserts that during the later phases of the disease one does not see free virus in circulation. That is not generally reflected in the patients. During the latter phase of the disease, the black line represents either virus titer or viral antigens directly detectable in the circulation. It rises later in the disease. That rise is concomitant with the period when T-cells fall. So it is not the case, the central assertion he has made in his arguments, that one does not have viremia.
At this point Duesberg asked, “Why are there no units on that slide?” Haseltine’s response was, “Don’t interrupt me; I didn’t interrupt you.” Duesberg replied, “I merely asked why the slide has no units on it.” Haseltine angrily refused to answer the question, and the chairman intervened, saying that questions would have to wait until the presentation was finished.
Perhaps Duesberg ought to have waited, but one can understand his impatience. Witnessing a fast-flowing stream of propaganda, he spotted something that was obviously wrong, and wanted to confront it before the moment was lost. That his suspicions were more than justified became clear later.
In the question period following Haseltine’s presentation, Harry Rubin asked Haseltine if he could provide a reference for his statement that nude mice were capable of mounting a vigorous immune response. Haseltine said that there was a large literature on nude mice: “If you haven’t read it, how can I discuss it with you?”. Rubin gently replied that perhaps he had, but that he had only asked for a reference.
Duesberg then requested that the slide be shown on the screen again, and asked if it were an accident that the slide had no units on it. (See photograph of slide. The vertical axes have no units, and the chronological notations on the horizontal axis are gibberish.) Haseltine was unable to answer the question himself, and asked Dr. Robert Redfield of the Walter Reed Army Research Institute, sitting in the audience, to explain how the slide was prepared. Redfield said something to the effect that “different measurements were used”, a grossly inadequate explanation. When Duesberg persisted, Haseltine became truculent, and said that Duesberg should read the literature, because there were
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