[Capitalised paragraphs by Johnson]
Good morning fellow Mensans. My name is Timothy Jay Garland and today I will be talking about HIV and AIDS. I will speak from a personal perspective as I was diagnosed HIV positive in 2007 and a year later, after having chosen not to take anti-retroviral medications, I developed fungal pneumonia, lost 20kg, was hospitalised, placed in an induced coma and my family and friends were told that I would die. At this point I was diagnosed with AIDS. When I survived the coma and lived, I was told that I’d require assisted living and be unable to work again. Reluctantly, I started taking anti-retroviral medications.
Today I want to share my journey and the research I have engaged in as a result of my health challenges. I then want to elaborate on how I believe this research will take our approach to AIDS in a new direction and how it has the potential to impact on not just people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, but also people with auto-immune diseases and potentially people with other conditions such as cancer and neurocognitive disorders. One of my strengths is numbers and patterns, so I began making graphs of the surrogate markers used to track HIV progression: namely, CD4+ t-helper cells and HIV viral load. The patterns that I saw didn’t make sense to me and when I queried this with my doctors they told me not to worry about these minor fluctuations. I saw a different pattern underlying the data and the doctors dismissed my observations. In my quest to understand this pattern, I started studying statistics, HIV and AIDS. This lead to calculus, epigenetics (the coding that sits atop DNA and alters gene expression) and many other subjects including biology, immunology and virology. Before I discuss the outcome of my research, it’s important to clarify some terminology, namely: CD4+ t-helper cells, HIV viral load, HIV itself and AIDS.
CD4+ t-helper cells, often referred to as CD4 cells, are a component of the immune system that is considered the target of HIV. After a HIV positive diagnosis, some people will experience a decline in the number of CD4+ t-helper cells in their peripheral blood. Untreated, this may lead to immune deficiency and a diagnosis of AIDS. Opportunistic infections are common with a CD4 count below 200 cells per cubic millimetre.
HIV viral load refers to HIV RNA copies per millilitre in plasma. It is calculated by taking a blood sample and running it through a process known as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR. Basically, this process takes a short sequence of DNA attributed to HIV and amplifies it, doubling and redoubling the sequence until it’s readily measurable. It is important to note that the viral load is not the actual amount of virus present in the blood, it is the number of copies of a specific DNA sequence present after amplification via PCR.
Now turning to HIV. How does a person know that they’ve been infected with HIV? Simple! They take a HIV test which returns a positive test result. In most countries, a HIV test consists of two parts. An initial ELISA test (short for Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay) which is an optical density test that measures HIV antibody levels followed by a confirmatory Western Blot (or protein immuno-blot) test that measures antibodies against specific HIV proteins. What most people don’t realise is that the criteria for a HIV positive test result differs from country to country. This means that the same sample of blood can return a HIV negative result in one country, with the patient being advised they don’t have HIV and to continue to practise safer sex; and a HIV positive result in another country, with the patient being advised that they’ll eventually need to go on a life-time course of anti-retroviral medications else they will develop AIDS and die. In 1992, England chose to discontinue the use of the Western Blot confirmatory test and rely solely on ELISA tests, creating yet another model in the world for HIV testing. Note that when a country changes the criteria used to define what it means to be HIV positive, people that were previously diagnosed HIV positive under the old model are not retested. Once you are HIV positive you are always HIV positive. It’s interesting to note that in first world countries, men who have sex with men bear the brunt of HIV infection, whereas in third world countries it’s heterosexual women.
THIS IS A COMMON MISTAKE, BUT WHAT REALLY HAPPENS IS THAT A POSITIVE IN ONE COUNTRY COULD BE READ AS INDETERMINATE IN ANOTHER COUNTRY, NOT NEGATIVE. NEGATIVE MEANS THERE ARE NO BANDS AT ALL. A POSITIVE TEST ALWAYS HAS SOME BANDS, SO EVEN USING OTHER CRITERIA, IT WOULD NEVER BE NEGATIVE (NO BANDS).
POSITIVE = ENOUGH BANDS
INDETERMINATE = SOME BANDS, BUT NOT ENOUGH TO BE POSITIVE
NEGATIVE = NO BANDS
THE GOOD THING ABOUT INDETERMINATE IS THAT IF IT STAYS THAT WAY FOR SIX MONTHS, IT’S AS GOOD AS NEGATIVE!
Maybe just say something like, “Many samples that would never be considered positive by Australian criteria would be positive in the US, and many samples not considered positive in the US would be positive in Africa!”
Finally, AIDS: Acquired Immunity Deficiency Syndrome. The current dogma states that when untreated, HIV will progress to AIDS and result in death. So what is AIDS? In Australia, you are diagnosed with AIDS when you test positive for HIV and are diagnosed with one of around 25 AIDS-defining illnesses. This label of AIDS stays with you for life and is not removed even after the AIDS-defining illness has been successfully treated. However, like the HIV test, this criteria is not universal. In America, you are given an AIDS label when your CD4 cell count falls below 200 cells per cubic millilitre and/or your CD4 count is less than 14% of your total lymphocytes and/or you are diagnosed with any of 24-25 AIDS-defining illnesses. It should be noted that these definitions change so what I’ve referenced may already be out-of-date. To clearly distinguish these two definitions, Australia requires an AIDS-defining illness to be present, whereas in America this is not necessarily the case. As far as I’m aware, America is the only country that uses a low CD4 count in the absence of illness to define AIDS. Although my research has been predominantly focussed on first world AIDS, my colleagues have imparted to me information about third world AIDS. For example, some parts of Africa that don’t have ready access to testing, use a different definition of AIDS, based on what is termed the Bangui definition. This allows AIDS to be defined on the basis of three generic symptoms such as fever, cough, diarrhoea or an itchy rash; in effect, a check-list for AIDS. It’s interesting to note that the AIDS-defining illnesses common in first world countries are fungal pneumonia, encephalitis and toxoplasmosis (usually of the brain though in my case it was my right eye) whereas in third world countries it’s tuberculosis and various other diseases common in third world countries.
CDC SAYS AND/OR YOU ARE DIAGNOSED WITH AN OPPORTUNISTIC INFECTION. (“WHEN THE IMMUNE SYSTEM OF A PERSON INFECTED WITH HIV BECOMES SEVERELY COMPROMISED [MEASURED BY CD4 CELL COUNT] AND⁄OR THE PERSON BECOMES ILL WITH AN OPPORTUNISTIC INFECTION”). NOT ALL AIDS-DEFINING ILLNESSES ARE OPPORTUNISTIC INFECTIONS.
My research led me to fellow Mensan, Christine Johnson, who lives in America and does research on the HIV tests. She has documented over 110 different causes for what are termed false-positives in the scientific literature. These factors all involve generation of antibodies that cross-react with test kit proteins. This gives ample reason to question any positive result, especially in a person outside an AIDS risk group. Non-drug-using heterosexuals may potentially test positive due to autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis or lupus, various vaccinations, prior pregnancy, renal failure, alcoholic hepatitis, and more. Her observation was that if the HIV test is not sufficiently robust, then the whole HIV/AIDS paradigm begins to collapse. RESEARCHES THE LITERATURE ON HIV TESTS.
Since I had already tested positive and had almost died of fungal pneumonia, I was more interested in why I had become so ill rather than in the technicalities of the HIV test. I started by studying the CD4+ t-helper cell which is considered the target of HIV. It seems there are many other reasons that this lymphocyte population can decline in the peripheral blood and some of the reasons include depression (which goes hand-in-glove with a HIV positive test result), sulphur deficiency, use of crystal methamphetamine and/or nitrate inhalers (also known as poppers) and candida overgrowth. These CD4+ t-helper cells, as well as being found in the peripheral blood, inhabit the mucosal layer which is the inner skin that starts at the nose and mouth and ends at the anus. With aberrations in the population of CD4+ t-helper cells, mucosal immunity becomes compromised and pathogens are more readily able to invade the body. Of all these points, I found the role of sulphur most intriguing. According to research, when you are deficient in sulphur, your cell-mediated immunity, the arm of your immune system that targets obligate intracellular pathogens, becomes compromised. Interestingly, many of the AIDS-defining illnesses can manifest when the body has low reserves of sulphur. This line of research is further explored in Heinrich Kremer’s book The Silent Revolution in Cancer and AIDS Medicine.
I pooled all of my research together and developed a fifty-two week protocol which I named The Centurion Protocol for HIV that involves nutrition, amino acids, life-style changes and supplements. It also involves reducing anti-retroviral medications over this twelve month period. I commenced the protocol at the close of the 2014 AIDS conference here in Melbourne and today marks the start of week seventeen: the week where I reduce my anti-retroviral medications from six days per week to five days per week. While I have focussed my research on AIDS as it appears in the first world, my research suggests that AIDS in the third world stems from lack of clean drinking water, undernourishment and poor sanitation. SEWAGE CONTAMINATED DRINKING WATER, STARVATION, AND RAMPANT ENDEMIC DISEASES SUCH AS MALARIA AND TUBERCULOSIS. (If anyone wonders, protein calorie malnutrition was a very well-documented cause of PCP well before AIDS came along!)
Since AIDS as a definition requires the existence of HIV and precludes other acquired immune deficiencies, I propose to rename what is currently known as AIDS to viral-AIDS and to create a new definition of acquired immune deficiency called the biochemical-imbalance-model-of-AIDS or, more succinctly Über-AIDS. Thus we now have two models: viral-AIDS that requires treatment with anti-retroviral medications and Über-AIDS that in the first world requires treatment with nutrition, amino acids, life-style changes and supplements and in the third world demands treatment in the form of clean drinking water, proper nourishment and sanitation AND MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR COMMON DISEASES LIKE TB.* (*Half of AIDS cases in Africa have TB as the indicator disease, so treat the TB!)
I’m passionate about this topic and Christine and myself have formed a Mensa group with the intention of presenting a new paradigm of acquired immune deficiency to the world: Über-AIDS. Anyone that would like to know more about my research and/or support me in any way, please make contact with me during the course of this conference.