How do you react when hearing someone express an opinion that strikes you as ridiculous, outrageous, utterly unbelievable? If it’s someone you don’t know, perhaps you merely dismiss them with contemptuous terms like “crazy conspiracy theorist”, or “[fill-in-the-blank]-denier” and move on. If it’s someone you do know, perhaps you get into an argument or simply steer clear of the topic when interacting with them. Or perhaps your curiosity is piqued, and you begin to ask, why does this person think like that?—opening a path to dialogue and exploration.
Examples abound, but today I will focus on proclaimed public health crises, past and present, the need to distinguish useful information from propaganda, and why it matters.
Last month, right after the WHO, in a “split vote,” declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, San Francisco became the first city of many places to declare a state of emergency over monkeypox. As alarming stories about this heretofore barely noticed, mild disease proliferate in major media, I invite you to pause before swallowing all the coverage offered as gospel truth, or denouncing a priori anyone who questions the mainstream narrative about it.
The last major scare about a frightful disease appearing to affect gay men occurred when AIDS burst on the scene in 1981. Amid much media frenzy, a frantic search for the culpable infectious agent ensued. In April 1984 a high-profile press conference in Washington DC declared HIV to be the probable cause of AIDS.
The late Nobel Prize winning chemist Kary Mullis, inventor of polymerase chain reaction (PCR), was once writing a grant proposal with the opening statement, “HIV is the probable cause of AIDS.” Curious and conscientious scientist that he was, he sought a reference in scientific literature to back up this assertion. In this brief video Mullis explains how he searched in vain. Even Luc Montagnier, discoverer of HIV, couldn’t answer his simple question: How do we know HIV is the probable cause of AIDS?
I asked a similar question in the 1980’s while a clerical worker in the Epidemiology Program at the University of California at Berkeley. Several professors, postdocs and graduate students I worked for were doing cutting edge research on HIV transmission, based on the widely accepted premise that HIV causes AIDS. When I asked how the detected presence of antibodies to HIV can years later afflict someone with lethal conditions referred to as AIDS, I got evasive answers like, “well, we don’t yet know much about the biological mechanisms…”
In 1987 my attention was drawn to a UC Berkeley professor of molecular biology who not only asked the question but went on to refute the premise. In the Epidemiology Program office, elevated voices reverberated with Duesberg this and Duesberg that—spitting out his name with disgust—he’s insane, a charlatan, dangerous, people will die because of him.
Peter Duesberg, one of the youngest researchers elected into the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, had been regarded as a brilliant and celebrated virologist until he had the temerity to publish a scientific paper in the journal Cancer Research examining the evidence and concluding that the retrovirus HIV cannot cause AIDS. For this cardinal sin, he was declared a pariah, lost all his research grants and graduate students, and was ostracized from the establishment scientific community.
I left the Epidemiology Program long ago, and didn’t give him another thought until early in the covid crisis, when by chance I encountered Celia Farber’s compelling 2006 Harper’s Magazine article, “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science.” In it, she describes some of the rampant fraud in clinical trials for HIV drugs, with heartwrenching stories of pregnant women in the US and Uganda paying a heavy price. She summarizes the controversy around Peter Duesberg, offering an entirely different assessment of the researcher vilified by my former colleagues.
Next I read Duesberg’s well-referenced and detailed 1995 book Inventing the AIDS Virus, presenting extensive evidence to demolish not only the reigning HIV/AIDS hypothesis, but multiple other falsely characterized public health crises in history. He concludes that HIV is a harmless passenger virus with no proof of the biochemical activity needed to cause acute immune dysfunction and the serious manifestations of AIDS. He names numerous other researchers who have examined the issue and concurred with him about the need to re-visit the dominant HIV/AIDS paradigm, all of whom have been largely side-lined or ignored by the mainstream.
Duesberg points out the circular reasoning inherent in the definition of AIDS, namely testing positive for HIV and having any of a changing list of 20-30 opportunistic infections that fall under the AIDS umbrella (infections which have all been known well before 1981). Thus, if you manifest one of those diseases (e.g. pneumocystis pneumonia, tuberculosis, etc.) but test negative for HIV, you have that disease but not AIDS.
If HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, what does? Duesberg mounts a credible case for suggesting most AIDS cases are the result of immune system damage by toxic exposures rather than an infectious pathogen. Exposures include drugs like heroin, cocaine and crack as well as nitrite inhalants (poppers), and a whole array of other recreational drugs prevalent in the gay party scene of ‘70’s and ‘80’s to enhance sexual experiences with multiple partners. Continuous intake of antibiotics and antifungals to treat frequent sexually transmitted diseases also play a role. My epidemiologist colleagues at UC Berkeley accused Duesberg of “blaming the victim” by suggesting drug use could cause AIDS. But do we call it “blaming the victim” when we acknowledge the role cigarette smoking plays in causing lung disease?
Ironically and tragically, another culprit was found in the very medications developed to combat AIDS. Both Duesberg and the late investigative journalist John Lauritsen expose the fraud and dangers surrounding highly toxic AZT, one of the first drugs approved for prevention and treatment of AIDS, pointing fingers at the drug’s manufacturer Burroughs Wellcome for tampering with clinical trials as well as funding AIDS activist groups to demand access to improperly tested drugs. “I don’t think ‘murder’ is too strong a word to use when you have a drug like AZT, approved on the basis of fraudulent research,” Lauritsen said in an interview. In their books, Duesberg and Lauritsen document countless cases of otherwise healthy HIV+ individuals (including children) who, after taking AZT, suffered grievously from AIDS-like afflictions and died (as happened to a 42-year old friend of mine in 1990). Conversely, they also point to many who heeded the dissenters, refused to view a positive HIV test as a death sentence, took no medications at all and have lived live long healthy lives.
To prove conclusively whether Duesberg is right or wrong about HIV/AIDS, multiple exhaustive and rigorous studies would have to be undertaken to test his assertions. Such studies would be very expensive, risking outcomes that could jeopardize pharmaceutical industry profits, so who will pay for them?
If you doubt claims that the pharmaceutical industry unduly influences how tax dollars in the US are apportioned for medical research, read Marcia Angell’s 2004 book The Truth about the Drug Companies. The former 20-year editor of the New England Journal of Medicine explains how big pharma has captured not only granting institutes like NIH, but also public health agencies, regulatory agencies, scientific journals, medical schools, professional organizations and the media. When evaluating uniform pronouncements emanating from all of these entities, consider that pharma maximizes financial gains only when people are constantly either sick or fear getting sick. Achieving widespread health and well-being would not serve their pecuniary interests.
In his book, Duesberg laments that modern science has become more about careers and building powerful research empires than following your curiosity and probing important questions with rigorous experimental methods. He notes a long-standing bias in the scientific community for prioritizing germ theory over terrain theory, with overzealous microbe-hungers seeking an infectious agent as the first response to any perceived disease cluster. He cites scurvy, beriberi and pellagra as plagues of malnutrition that were initially blamed on microbes with much money and effort put into proving that and developing faulty treatments. Ailments stemming from toxic exposures or nutritional deficiencies would be easy to prevent if given the will, but pharma can’t profit from cleaning up the environment, reducing dangerous drug exposures or improving diets.
Why does it matter whether the dominant HIV/AIDS paradigm is correct or not? After all AIDS faded from the headlines long ago. Health officials tell us that a whole laundry list of medications has improved outcomes. But have they–other than improving pharma’s bottom line? Again, rigorous studies on all possible mitigating factors are missing. AZT has given way to numerous other questionable and perhaps less toxic HIV drugs that continue being seductively marketed today.
But isn’t AIDS still a major problem in Africa? Here, too, Duesberg sheds light on how reality has been hyped. He ascertains that thirteen years into the “AIDS epidemic”, only 0.5 percent of HIV+ Africans developed AIDS-like diseases. Several studies showed only half of thousands of randomly selected Africans with AIDS were HIV+. All of these AIDS diseases had been prevalent in Africa long before 1981. Statistics are inflated by people motivated to erroneously list AIDS as the cause of death, as it brings in dollars. HIV/AIDS generates millions of dollars to NGO’s for dubious prevention and treatment programs, but couldn’t that money be much more effectively used to improve living conditions, nutrition and sanitation in poor areas?
In his 2021 best-selling and thoroughly referenced book, The Real Anthony Fauci, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. devotes three of twelve chapters to the HIV question, including extensive coverage of Duesberg’s work. He takes no position on whether HIV causes AIDS, but says:
I include this history because it provides an important case study illustrating how—some four hundred years after Galileo—politics and power continue to dictate “scientific consensus,” rather than empiricism, critical thinking, or the established steps of the scientific method.
Why these questions have mattered in the past two and a half years of the covid calamity is evident from numerous studies and analyses offered by dissident scientists and medical practitioners who have been marginalized and censored, as recounted in Kennedy’s book and elsewhere. Compelling evidence from international consortia of physicians has shown that hundreds of thousands of lives could have been saved since early 2020 by treating covid patients early with certain repurposed, no longer patented medicines. Because powerful health agencies neglect to investigate the alarmingly high rate of reported adverse events following covid vaccines, we don’t know how many lives were needlessly lost from receiving injections that even the CDC acknowledges do not prevent infection and transmission of covid. Would the billions of dollars spent on covid tests, lockdowns and vaccines have been better used to promote rather than deny early treatment, and reduce known risk factors of diabetes, stress, obesity, heart disease, immune weakness?
Why these questions matter today is evident from the nascent monkeypox fear-mongering, still in its early stages. Where it goes from here depends on how people react to the waves of media attention, discerning fact from hype. For starters, I recommend another well-credentialed medical researcher, Meryl Nass, MD. She and others have exposed the fake shortage and harmful side effects of smallpox vaccines for monkeypox, which have not been rigorously tested for safety and efficacy due to the rarity of both diseases. Stay alert and ask yourself whether this latest scare over monkeypox, or “moneypox” as skeptics call it, could be a pre-planned boondoggle for pharma in its quest to make repeated injections of the world’s population with questionable products a growth industry.
Why write about the manipulation of health crises in an outlet dedicated to peace journalism? As Lauritsen noted,
The terrible suffering, loss of life, propaganda, censorship, rumors, hysteria, profiteering, espionage and sabotage …. I maintain that AIDS reporters should be regarded as war correspondents … and that the salient characteristics of war coverage are also those of AIDS coverage.
Just as we must be wary of propaganda and explore underlying circumstances to prevent wars between nations, we should do the same to remove barriers to peaceful realization of true health and well-being.
For further reading, in addition to items linked in the text above:
Angell, Marcia: The Truth About the Drug Companies: How They Deceive Us and What to Do About It, Random House, 2004 (also available as audiobook from Random House Audio 2007)
Bialy, Harvey: Oncogenes, Aneuploidy and AIDS: A Scientific Life and Times of Peter H. Duesberg, Institute of Biotechnology, Autonomous National University of Mexico, Guernavaca, Mexico 2004 (Bialy is Duesberg’s official biographer and notes he was able to continue to do significant research in Germany on causes of cancer after being denied funding in the US).
Duesberg, Peter: Inventing the AIDS Virus, Regnery Publishing, Inc., Washington DC, 1995 (also available as audiobook from Audible Studios 2013)
Duesberg, Peter: links to his CV and scientific papers can be found on his website http://duesberg.com
Farber, Celia: Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS, Melville House 2006 (currently out of print, but Chapter 1 was posted on her Substack on 1/1/22: https://celiafarber.substack.com/p/the-passion-of-peter-duesberg )
Kennedy, Robert F. Jr.: The Real Anthony Fauci: Bill Gates, Big Pharma, and the Global War on Democracy and Public Health, Skyhorse Publishing, New York, 2021 (also available as audiobook from Skyhorse Publishing 2021)
Lauritsen, John: Poison by Prescription: The AZT Story, Asklepios, New York 1990 (available as PDF http://whale.to/c/Poison-by-prescription-The-AZT-story.pdf )
Lauritsen, John: The AIDS War: Propaganda, Profiteering and Genocide from the Medical-Industrial Complex, Asklepios, New York 1993
Washington, Harriet A.: Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present, Doubleday, 2007 (also available as audiobook from Tantor Audio 2016)
Marilyn Langlois is a member of TRANSCEND USA West Coast. She is a volunteer community organizer and international solidarity activist based in Richmond, California. A co-founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, member of Haiti Action Committee and Board member of Task Force on the Americas, she is retired from previous employment as a teacher, secretary, administrator, mediator and community advocate.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 22 Aug 2022.