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February 27, 2006

Farber Feedback

What are your thoughts about Celia Farber’s story in the March issue of Harper’s magazine? Here’s some of the feedback so far:


> from K.L.L.:

Can't you see that we have it all backwards? HIV+ individuals are not even sick (assuming they are not on any meds). AIDS patients are just more "Chronic Fatigue Syndrome" (CFS) patients, who only by coincidence, have a questionably harmless virus, HIV. So, the question remains, since we know it's not HIV: what is the cause of CFS (and it's most progressive stage, HIV-Negative AIDS, idiopathic CD4 lymphocytopenia)?
 

> an anonymous email to POZ:

I'm somewhat disturbed at what I'm reading. I'm basing my statement, of course, on my own personal experience. I've even read "harmless retrovirus" in one statement. Harmless?!!

I was someone that took care of himself and did nothing out of the ordinary in terms of how I took care of myself (went to the gym, meditated, yoga, ate fairly well).

I contracted HIV in a relationship from someone who "didn't know" he was positive. Just months before final test results, I was negative. My doctor insisted I didn't need to get a test because I was negative. I didn't give him a full explanation but asked to do another test. He did. While waiting 2 weeks for results, I had an anonymous test done elsewhere. They both came back positive. My doctor repeated. Positive. My viral load went from 200,000 to off the charts within several months; my t-cells went from 500-270. I watched this happen on paper. But before all of the testing, etc., I felt the sero-conversion, I felt the effects and they weren't comfortable. I watched and felt the subtle (some not so subtle) changes in my body.

Although I tried to stave off the meds, my doctor informed me this was beyond an initial spike and that I wasn't one of the lucky folk that could go without meds. I didn't want to hear that so I switched doctors... to a friend of the family! I was given similar information (after re-testing). When my t-cells hit 220, I started meds. My viral load was extremely high and I was breaking out everywhere and losing weight (not just stress, kids, sorry! I was eating like crazy to stop the losses).

I agreed to start meds and over the months watched everything return to, well, not normal, but much better. Within a year, I was excellent and as normal feeling as I was before. I remained undetectable...UNTIL... I asked my doctor if I could break from meds to stop a side effect. He said, "sure" (my doctor is great, by the way).

Over the 5 months following, I watched my viral load return. It shot up to 275,000 and my t-cells went from about 960 down to 680 (and then, lower, even after meds restarted before climbing back up again). I'm now waiting for my next round of results but I've watched the viral load drop to 1,800 and my t-cells begin climbing again since returning to a regimen.

I have no doubt that everyone's bodies handle HIV differently. I have friends (one goes to the same doctor), that need no meds at all and remain fine. But in my own experience, I've watched this happen, I've felt it happen and I can only say that I would not be writing this right now if it hadn't been for the drugs available.

I suppose, if going off meds works for someone, it's easy for them to say, "oh, drugs are bullshit." But I'm here to tell you that they worked for me and they prevented me from getting AIDS.

Whether or not you want to say HIV leads to AIDS or not. I also believe that longterm nonprogressors have that "magic protien" in their genes.

I am not someone who trusts the government and I think the pharmaceutical companies are blackballing all of us ($30 a pill? COME ON!). But I do believe there is a virus called HIV that does lead to AIDS and I've watched it kill countless friends (gay, straight and children) over the past 25 years.

If you've got evidence to back up otherwise, please put it on the table. Maybe you can come up with your own personal, drugless regimen that can stop this "harmless retrovirus" from taking such an emotional and physical toll on all of us. When your research results come in, give a holler. Until then, naysayers, I can only say what I told my former chiropractor that told me to stop taking my meds: "Shut the f**k up!"


> from Frank Stoppenbach:

Science advances by asking questions. AIDS science, however, is frozen in 1984, unwilling to ask questions that are not based on Dr. Robert Gallo’s original idea.

Since AIDS is defined as one of some 30 or so diseases plus a positive HIV test (otherwise one is just an ordinary pneumonia or cancer or other disease patient), the entire AIDS edifice rests on Gallo’s patented 1984 HIV test.

However, those HIV antibody tests form a very shaky foundation. Gallo did not bother to produce an electron micrograph of HIV, making it difficult to be sure just what he had found. Nor did he perform the rigorous isolation and purification of the supposed infectious agent from patients (the “gold standard” for a valid test) to validate positive test status.

Many conditions can give false positive results, and antibodies are not necessarily specific to a given microbe in any case. Tests of those at low risk for illness produce a surprisingly large number of positive results, with a high proportion of positive female results that is at odds with statistics showing AIDS to be a largely male condition.

Further, HIV test criteria differ widely across countries, so those testing positive in Africa may get a different result if tested in New York. And few Africans are tested due to the expense, so most African AIDS cases are diagnosed just using symptoms, which can be common to many indigenous conditions.

Strangely, babies who test positive after all antibodies from the mother have disappeared (at around nine months) mostly lose their positive status by eighteen months. The implication is that the babies are either curing themselves, or that the test is picking up something other than the supposedly incurable HIV.

A presentation by an actual physician and scientist explaining these problems can be found at www.aidspetition.org/motherchildhivtests

Those who question current AIDS dogma are ready for open debate. Why are their critics, who loudly make assertions like “discredited”, so reluctant to debate or offer evidence on such basic questions? 


> from Peter Barber, Scotland:

This is what I would ask Celia Farber:

"Do you deny the existence of approximately 179,000 peer-reviewed articles published about HIV and/or AIDS (excluding letters!), as  retrieved by the universally-used PubMed search engine?

"Assuming you do not, how do you explain away all the supporting evidence for HIV's existence and causative role in AIDS detailed in these papers, built up through millions of research-years of work and documented for anyone for check their accuracy?"

I don't hold out much hope of a convincing reply, though!


> from Jim Allegretti-Davis, Hawaii:
 
My 79 year old lover and I will have been off of all anti-retroviral meds for 2 years in June. Our health is stable and our numbers are completely acceptable. Most importantly, we feel fine. Recovering from the side effects is close to complete.
 
It is really mind blowing to realize I never needed antiviral medication at all. I started in 1991 and AZT almost killed me by 96. Switched off the AZT and onto the cocktail in time to recover from that horrible AZT poison. I had seven T Cells when I was taken off AZT.
 
Celia Farber and Harper’s are to be commended for their guts and smart, detailed reporting.
 
This controversy will only be put to bed when all the facts are put on the table by both sides and the B.S. is screened out leaving only the actual facts.
 
For myself: HIV is not the cause of AIDS. It may very well be a co-factor, but it is not the sole cause. I am certainly willing to be wrong, but only by being shown the actual facts.
 
Also—and very importantly—both sides of this controversy are HEROS. Both sides, you hear? We all want the right path. But we also always want to look back and say we made good choices. That has no place in boiling down the Facts of this matter.
 
I was wrong to listen to my physicians, and it's my-bad.
 
 
> from Tony Glover:
 
I must ask what is the motivation of Celia Farber in writing the article, "Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science," especially without revealing her own biases on the subject as a well-known HIV/AIDS denialist.
 
I happen to believe that those who believe in promoting the “AIDS Myth” are dangerous.  Some, even, are racist in that, calculatedly, they spread the myth of the AIDS myth, predominantly, amongst people of color.
 
I have seen such intent amongst prominent HIV denialists—who do, almost exclusively, promote the myth of "The AIDS Myth" in and amongst Black communities.
 
My experience is that, to a large degree, HIV/AIDS denialists play a dangerous game of trying to convince people—predominantly people of color—that denial of HIV's role in causing AIDS makes good science.  Questioning HIV's role in causing AIDS is, of course, a valid and necessary endeavor as a counterpoint to HIV scientists who, in my estimation, have excellent evidence as to HIV being a necessary component to the many components that lead to an AIDS diagnosis.
 
However, reckless denialist of the weight of evidence that leads to the reality of AIDS is irresponsible, and, racist, when people focus on spreading denial predominantly amongst people of color, especially on the continent of Africa.
 
Farber has written an article filled with misstatements, outright lies, and provides little opportunity for any science that speaks to the reality of HIV-AIDS amongst either amongst Africans or African Americans.
 
Today, HIV, and its associated disease AIDS, is a virus that wreaks disproportionate havoc on African-descendant communities (including Latino communities with African heritages) and Asian communities.  While, it, of course, exists amongst Europeans, more and more, the disease is epidemic predominantly in and amongst people of color communities.
 
Fully aware that promoting denialist agendas in those communities has the consequence that millions, in ignorance, become infected and/or  die from the disease, pseudo scientists and irresponsible journalists who promote denialist agendas via articles that repeatedly misstate facts (i.e., lie), who obscure the truth, and, who, generally, obfuscate, know exactly what they do.  If Farber were credible in her approach, she would have balanced the views and reportage of HIV denialists with irrefutable evidence about the truth about HIV and AIDS—namely that people infected by HIV and show signs of deteriorating immune health who do not utilize anti-retroviral treatments die at rates far exceeding those who do.
 
When all is said and done, HIV denialists—by convincing people that HIV is not implicated in AIDS—help contribute, I believe, to the death and destruction that AIDS has meant for my relatives, my family, Black people, my own.
 
For me, biased by my own experiences with HIV and AIDS in African-descendant America, denialists are part of the problem, and they will never be part of my solution: a solution that begins with having Black people, particularly those in Africa and the Americas, embrace AIDS not as a myth but as a reality that has meant that in the late 1990s, over 50% of Black gay men who died before they were 40, died from this disease.
 
That is the reality of my circle of friends.
 
I must ask, provocatively, what is the reality of Ms. Farber?  For, as a well-known HIV denialist, she, like so many, has her head buried in the sand.  For what reason, or what motive, I do not know.
 
Simply, put such denial is not good science and is predicated on a number of falsehoods.
 
Why?
 
Firstly, the Myth of the AIDS Myth is, often, predicated on the fact that two of the tests used to identify people with HIV—the Western Blot and the ELISA test—are completed by scientists who test for antibodies to HIV. The argument goes something like this:  Since scientists test only for the antibodies to HIV and not for the virus itself, HIV has not been proven to exist in the bodies of those who have been determined to have antibodies to the HIV retrovirus.
 
However, scientists can test today, and for years have been able to test, and, in fact do test, often for the HIV antigen—the HIV retrovirus itself.
 
Another argument is that because the processes of testing for HIV often involves looking for fragments of the RNA code that comprise HIV rather than for the entire virus itself, that these tests are somehow invalid.
 
However, those who question the process that identified HIV, refuse to question, also, the very same processes—PCR (polymerase chain reaction) that have correctly and accurately identified many other viruses or which, accurately, provide genetic identification in cases of rape or murder, or accurately, provide specific diagnoses in cases of pregnancy (many early pregnancy tests use the same technology).
 
Indeed, in terms of the specificity and accuracy of the tests used to identify HIV, it, truly, is impressive. NO—and I mean no scientific testing method is 100% accurate. In statistical theory (I am a biostatistician by profession), 100% accuracy is, theoretically possible, but practically never heard of.
 
Human beings are fallible, and so are their testing methods.  This means that --assuming a two-test protocol that confirms the first test (which is customary for those who test positive)—an HIV test protocol that is 99% accurate, will, in 1,000,000 cases be wrong 100 times (for example, a false positive or false negative result).  1% of 1,000,000 if a test is done twice means the number of false positive or false negative tests would be 100.  1% of 1,000,000 is 10,000.  Those 10,000 are re-tested to confirm the result and then 1% of that number is 100.  It is amongst these 100 cases of false positives or false negatives that HIV denialists find their hope.  Such grasping for straws would be funny, if the consequences were not so serious.  
 
With a given that humans and their scientific methods can be fallible, denialists look to the fact that one half of one percent to one percent of those who test get inconclusive results, and, from that they discern that HIV cannot be the cause of AIDS.  In the meantime, some of these same denialists believe in the existence of things that cannot be otherwise proven to exist, like God.  It truly, for me, is the sublime bordering on the ridiculous.
 
In other words, from where I sit both as a scientist, and as someone who has buried or otherwise witnessed hundreds of people dead from HIV and AIDS, the evidence is overwhelming that those scientific processes used to identify HIV, accurately, identify not only retroviruses but also other human viruses .
 
Still, denialists seem content to question the science that has identified the virus and the treatments that have, clearly, prolonged the lives, thankfully, of hundreds of others I know who live with the disease.
 
I, as a writer, and a scientist, necessarily question the motives of HIV denialists.
 
Being so selective in where one questions the accuracy of the science behind HIV and AIDS is suspect; in my book, such selectivity breeds my mistrust and leads to my conclusion that such denialists are, simply put, just not credible.
 
Mostly, HIV denialists, have their father figure in one Dr. Peter H. Duesberg, whom I have interviewed. Dr. Duesberg considers himself to be a pioneer in retroviral research whose scientific work, he believes, was co-opted by Dr. Robert Gallo. Gallo, as you may know is a U.S.-based scientist, who, is said to have discovered HIV.  Gallo is pre-dated by many scientists, like Duesberg, who researched the retrovirus class of viruses to which HIV belongs.  To make a longer story, short, Duesberg has, for years now, had a vendetta against U.S. government researchers.  Duesberg—forever and a day it seems—has staked his claim that he was the true discoverer of HIV and its associated class of virus, the retrovirus.
 
While Robert Gallo may not have discovered HIV, Duesberg has made a career of being Gallo’s thorn in the side.  Spurned as the discoverer of HIV, Duesberg has made a life, a career even, out of discrediting the very real role HIV, as a retrovirus, plays in the syndrome—the collection of illnesses—most people have come to know as AIDS, acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
 
Duesberg has, effectively, been discredited, from my perspective, as a scientist with an ax to grind.  This happened on a radio show I helped produce and co-host in New York City on 99.5FM WBAI. The show was entitled “AIDS is Over...Not!”  and it included a debate by scientists and doctors on both sides of the issue.
 
In addition to producing this show, over the 25 years I have been an AIDS activist and human rights worker,  I have read, so, so, so much about HIV and AIDS.  My knowledge is not only scientific, but also comes as a human rights worker for the NYC Human Rights Commission’s AIDS Discrimination Division and as a cultural artist (a published nonfiction writer on HIV/AIDS).
 
Duesberg, pissed that he was not named a discoverer of HIV—and, thereby, made rich by having been so recognized—has, instead, made a career of being an HIV denialist.
 
I have come to distrust such scientists.
 
I have, in my journalistic and scientific career, had enough of bigoted scientists who, with their own axes to grind, push their own denialist agendas on people of color, many of whom wish not to confront the reality of AIDS in their communities.
 
Dr. Duesberg I believe is a bigot who is happy to see HIV and AIDS proliferate unchecked in African-descendant communities.  And so it is that I call him out as a bigot.  Regarding he and/or those who support his inane approach to the topic of whether HIV causes AIDS—I, comfortably, call their spade a spade.
 
They are bigots for the evidence is that such HIV denialist theorists tend to hawk their wares in people of color communities and third world nations, because, by and large, nations founded by Europeans have moved on to curtailing HIV and AIDS in predominantly white communities throughout the world.
 
Here's an example.
 
As he hawked his denialist writings, Duesberg’s theories found a ready reader in South African President Thabo Mbeki (President of South Africa after Nelson Mandela).  Mbeki had already made clear, rabidly, his homophobic tendencies, for, he had seen AIDS as a disease associated with, predominantly, American and European homosexual men and with government scientists in the U.S. and Europe, whom he believed, “possibly,” had created the virus.
 
Mbeki, was, and is, one of many African leaders, who used, smartly, his own peoples’ willingness to view AIDS as something created by imperialists to destroy Africa.  In other words, already wanting nothing to do with AIDS in Africa, he played a deadly game.  He took the mistrust that Africans already had of whites— be they in Europe or America—and, knowing the consequences, he associated AIDS with white imperialists and said it, in effect, did not exist in Africa, and that Africans had been duped by American and European scientists.
 
Today, in sub-Saharan Africa, someone under 40 dies of AIDS every minute. Nearly 6.6 million in this nation of 45 million are infected.
 
The kicker is this:  during the transformation of the government from apartheid to democracy, whereas his fellow comrades, including Mandela supported gay rights to be codified in a new constitution, at first Mbeki vehemently opposed it.  Thankfully, however, Mbeki’s small-mindedness did not win out when it came to a new constitution in South Africa, and gay rights are codified in that new constitution. 
 
However, Mbeki did win out when it came to HIV/AIDS.  His denialist tendencies meant for years that South Africa, as a nation, would not allow HIV medications to be distributed under government authority and government financial support.
 
Mbeki, content to allow his own homophobia to color his view on AIDS, allowed that the denialist theories of Deusberg be given incredible weight even against the mounting stench of the corpses in his own nation.
 
Mbeki’s denial should be considered a crime against humanity, against his own people, for his willingness to institutionalize such denialist policies in the South African government’s response to deaths meant that he murdered his own people.  Why do I say this?  Was it not for his willful misleading of his own people, tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Africans would be alive in his country today.
 
Today, denying the existence of AIDS has deadly consequences not for Europeans and white Americans, but for Asians, Africans and African-descendants throughout the world—like those living in America who are Black, like me.
 
Mbeki first became President of South Africa near the turn of the 21st century, in June 1999.  Today, after years of refusal to allow AIDS medications in his nation -- a policy that has been reversed, thankfully, under the weight of the millions of corpses buried due to his ignorance -- South Africa has embarked on a new course, mostly due to the work of Nelson Mandela, who is not an AIDS denialist.
 
However, the damage had already been done, at least in South Africa. 
 
HIV denialists, like Duesberg, hawked their pseudo science in South Africa and other nations -- predominantly in Africa and Asia.  These were nations steeped in homophobia and AIDS phobia by presidents and dictators who did not want a disease associated with homosexuals to become associated with death and disease in their nations.
 
The historical record is clear on this.  Many leaders in Africa and Asia, in particular, did not want to confront an AIDS crisis that had already killed millions and that was too closely aligned with those they deemed pariahs—gay men.
 
Thabo Mbeki and the lesson of denial in South Africa leading to the death— literally -- of hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) who could have been saved is but one example of the legacy what HIV denialists have wrought.
 
In effect, Mbeki used the plausibility of HIV denialists and their scientific cheerleaders as a way to support what his bigotry had already determined. That AIDS was something that could be denied. Mbeki had already made up his mind that HIV could not be the cause of AIDS, and he did so because he was already in denial that AIDS could be behind the deaths of millions of his countrymen.
 
There are many more Mbekis in Africa and, unfortunately, in African-descendant communities in the United States of America.  For example, where I live, in Harlem, such denialists abound.
 
However, they do not deny HIV’s existence for scientific reasons.  They deny it, largely, because of their inability to embrace a disease so much still associated, in their minds, with homosexuals.  The inertia represented by their inability to move past a paradigm that still has this disease associated with “faggots,” has meant that entire sub-populations in Harlem still die, so often, from AIDS.
 
That, however you parse it, is fact.
 
I have written about these bigots in African-descendant America. While many in African American communities (there are more than just one African American community in the United States) still do support such denialist theories, I refuse to be party to their denial. Why? Because of this fact: Africans and African Americans, ironically, are most susceptible to denialists’ mishigosh because of despicable reasons -- reasons that have much to do with their own homophobia and their willingness to deny compassion to Black gays living with the disease even as thousands more Black gays in the United States, in the nearly 30-years existence of this epidemic, have been buried in untold numbers.
 
So, I must ask Farber a question: Whom does she believe benefits from factually suspect, misleading articles such as the one she wrote? Who is hurt by spreading the gospel of HIV/AIDS denialists?  She would claim to be only reporting a different point of view, but it is one which has largely proven to be a point of view that is steeped in misinformation. Why report what is obviously a lie?  Whom, does she hope, hears this information, and what does she suspect will be their reactions?
 
I am an African American gay male who has buried relatives, friends, gay and straight.
 
I am also a research scientist who knows that HIV infection leads to AIDS, a disease which is decimating African and African-descendant communities throughout the world.
 
I am convinced that denialists are content to let this happen by spreading misinformation to communities still too content to have HIV and AIDS be the pink elephant in the room that everyone says exists but that few do anything to combat.
 
Sadly, Ms. Farber, a journalist who knows exactly how to balance a story and then refuses to do it, becomes part of the problem. She intently spreads misinformation.  Her motivation, only she knows.


> an analysis by Robert Gallo, MD, Nathan Geffen, Gregg Gonsalves, Richard Jefferys, Daniel R. Kuritzkes, MD, Bruce Mirken, John P. Moore, PhD, Jeffrey T. Safrit, PhD:

download the pdf


> from Michael Ellner, Health Education AIDS Liaison-NYC:

Sooner or later the public and people with AIDS fears and conditions will realize that public-health officials, "AIDS" doctors, "science" journalists, the major news outlets, Big Pharma, "mainstream" gay AIDS activists and publications like POZ have intentionally misled them about who gets AIDS and why. They will finally see HIV/AIDS "treatments" for what they are and you will have no one to blame but yourselves.

This murderous fraud not only discourages sex, maintains inner-conflicts, promotes medical dependency, and generates and wastes tens of billions of dollars --it conceals the murder of gay men, drug users and millions of the poorest people on the planet.

One can only hope that the urgent issues raised by Celia Farber and published in HARPERS continue to be investigated and reported.


> from Patrick Riviere:

While more and more of the scientific community (including renowned Nobel Laureates) begin to uncover research that HIV does not and can not cause AIDS, it is irresponsible to ignore the obvious - AIDS is the modern-day term for malnutrition in Africa and drug abuse and unhealthy behavior elsewhere. I have been "positive" for over 5 years and never started these medications which initially were the cause of so many hundred's of thousands of deaths.  I have never been sick and am now among a growing number of people who have come into contact with a harmless retro-virus that does not cause AIDS. And by the way, people have been dying of AIDS for hundreds of years, we just called it other things, including as I previously mentioned, malnutrition.  Most in Africa have never been tested - it is assumed that they are positive because of their syptoms which lead to death as those same symptoms did for millions of other Africans for decades.  Forgive me for being redundant, but we called it "malnutrition." As intelligent beings we should ask ourselves that question - why did the word malnutrition suddenly stop being used in our vocabulary in terms of Africa when AIDS came along?  Did we suddenly start feeding all the hungry in Africa?  Did we suddenly clean all of their water supplies?  The answer is no.  We replaced one cause of death that wasn't treatable by drugs from powerful pharmaceuticals with one that needed medications to prevent a terrible death.  Give me a break - have you forgotten, that Dr. Gallo, who supposedly discovered the connection of HIV to AIDS was censured by the NIH and the CDC and admitted to using a contaminated culture in his research that was the basis for his hypothesis?  The French were UNABLE to replicate his research successfully and yet the entire world community has followed a blind man into the abyss.  Have you not researched other world diseases?  The original cause of Polio was also thought to be a virus and the original medications killed thousands.  The Government apologized and everyone forgot. This time, millions have died because of overly powerful medications that do just as much harm as good and no one is willing to step up to the plate and stop the madness. And now that "the cocktail" has less side effects, there is such a feeling of victory in the medical community.  But would all the people on these meds be doing just as well, or just as poorly off of them?  Dr. Deusberg, (haralded by Gallo a month before he called him a nut), DISCOVERED retro-viruses and was the first of many descenting voices over the HIV=AIDS hypothesis.  In Science, unlike any other area of study, if there is just one naysayer, then hypothesis must be proven fact or it is just that...a hypothesis.  In this case their were many naysayers and yet facts did not prevail because of the desparation to link a virus to something major.  Viroligists were all losing their funding.  Now the true scientific community is being squelched and threatened by big money - their research will be shut down on other projects if they object to the HIV=AIDS hypothesis and so it is taking longer than it should for the truth to be revealed.  But it will come out in the end.  In the meantime, you should be more diligent at seeking the entire truth and not just what is fed to you by the mainstream media and the NIH and CDC which is the pawn of the US Government. Read Joan Shenton's book Positively False as a start and wake up!


> an anonymous email:

Shame on you, ATAC and POZ. I have been labeled HIV + for over a year now, and tagged as full blown aids by the medical community. (T-cells 101 - 15% viral load just under 65,000). Now my Dr. tells me that the viral load needs to be over 100,00 for AIDS and or T-cells under 200 - but my 15% is the same as 250 T-cells. I am also told that the tests are NOT accurate - nor does the FDA approve them for determining infection - that the Dr. must see other indications of infections, but to date, the only problems I have had were drug induced - AFTER diagnosis!

I now take Truvada and Sustiva, no longer take Septra. To date, my group of Doctors still do not know which med caused the almost fatal Steven Johnson's Syndrome rash. To date the drug companies can not tell me why they have Sodium Laurel Sulfate (SLS) in their Sustiva - as an "inactive ingredient" - when it is know to cause skin irritations! If it is inactive, take it out - along with the useless food dyes that are known to cause cancer!

I agree with Mark Biernbaum PhD - it is time to question the HIV to AIDS theory - lets prove one or the other side as correct - and stop this us vs. them BS for the sake of those of us needing honest answers, not marketing hype. Our lives depend on it. Perhaps more funds would come in to your magazine if it had more naturalistic/holistic suggestions for immune restoration, such as www.keephopealive.com, along with your massive array of drug ads!


> an anonymous email:

When did the AIDS death rate start dropping? 1996. When did combo therapy become widely available? 1996. You get the picture.

In 1995, there were over 500,000 people with HIV in the US and 62% of them died of AIDS. Now there are over 1 million HIVers in the US, and the AIDS death rate has dropped to about 18,000 a year. Some countries do better (Britain), some a lot worse (South Africa).

From all the evidence that I've read on the net, the reason 62% were dying was because they were taking toxic drugs and the reason the death rate has dropped is because so many now are not—hence the increasing numbers of long term survivors. It's a heck of a lot easier to believe than putting something like AZT into your body is going to help more than it hurts. Are you so willing to ignore the fact that AIDS cases exist where the patient is HIV negative and that Dr. Gallo himself is now saying that there has to be more causing AIDS than HIV alone. You seem to be implying that the over 1 million HIVers in the US are on drug cocktails but as AIDS expert Dr. James Curran laments, "fewer than 10% of US AIDS patients have access to and are on the new wonder drugs." That right there tells a person that any increase in survivors percentagewise is because there is a larger percentage NOT taking drugs these days.


> from Marshall Sandefur:

When are we going to wake up. The fact is that it has never been shown that HIV causes AIDS. As a matter of fact what we call AIDS now is not even an immune deficiency condition at all. There are over 60 conditions that will cause a person to test HIV positive by the so called “AIDS tests.” None of these tests are specific to HIV. The "Gold Standard" that was adopted in 1973 at the Pasteur Institute has been ignored and replaced by the PCR method. This technique finds gene fragments not viruses. The sicknesses that we see are due to the side effects of drugs in the form of medications used to treat people who are HIV positive or the result of illegal drug use which we have known for a long time can severely damage the immune system and have cross reactions with other drugs, proteins etc. and give a positive test result too. In third world countries, famine and starvation and unclean water causes people to be sick and we call it AIDS. No one can remain strong if they are suffering from malnutrition for a long period of time. We need to really wake up. Even the statistics we get about third world countries are really just computer projections based on flawed beliefs. There is so much to tell. But only if you open your mind and go back to the beginning will you be able to see our mistakes.


> from Harry Wingfield, Birmingham, AL:

As a person who has lived with AIDS since 1990, my personal experience is that I was extremely ill until I got on the right regimen of HIV medications. I was too ill to work, and was on disability for 12 years. In 2002, thanks to antiretroviral medications, I was well enough to return to full time work again, and continue to work full time and stay healthy today.
 
Good diet and nutrition have also contributed to my health, but I give the major credit to finding the right combination of HIV medications. Some that I tried proved to be too toxic for my system, but with plenty of choices available, my doctors and I have found the right "cocktail" to keep me in good health. On the one occasion that I did go off medication, my health began to plummet again until I started the medicines back again.
 
I'll leave it to the scientists to debate what causes HIV and AIDS.  My experience, however,  has been that the medicines that fight the HIV virus are responsible for my current good health. Simple logic tells me that the virus must be what has caused me to be sick.


> from Mark Edwards:

I read the story in Harpers and I guess I am madder at myself than Harpers or Celia Farber. I am mad at myself for wasting $7.52 to read a total piece of crap. I didn’t know at the time that Celia Farber is a member of the group in San Francisco that stole the name Act Up and is well known for going into meetings and throwing dirty kitty litter on people with AIDS and yelling things like die faggot die. This is the group that threatened people and who several of their members were charged with felony crimes because of their actions. The article that Celia Farber writes is a story that starts out about Joyce Ann Hafford enrollment in a drug trial and quickly turns into a rehash of the 80’s denialist theories. She offers nothing new and the story is so full of inaccuracies that she would have done better to have just copy and pasted things from the internet. She quotes Peter Duesberg and makes it clear that AIDS Activists and gay people are to blame for the anti retrovirals not only being on the market but killing people that wouldn’t have died if they hadn’t believed the lie that HIV causes AIDS. I wished that I had never read the article because I became angry and I don’t have time for that nor is it good for my immune system. I wish I could simply wish my diagnoses away and I also wish I could bring back my friends and everyone else who has died of this terrible disease, but I can’t and denying it won’t change a thing. I hope Celia Farber never has to face a life threatening illness like AIDS, or has to see friends die from a disease like AIDS. I only wish she would go away and let me and the rest of us get on with our lives.
 

> from Tom B, Washington, DC

Celia Farber's article is nothing new if you are a seasoned reader of HIV dissident research. Farber has been documenting the holes in HIV science for years.

I was diagnosed with AIDS ten years ago because I had a low t-cell count, which I believe was brought on by severe depression and traumatic self-abuse. I have never had an AIDS test, which I would discourage anyone from taking given the true nature of these tests. 

I have only been on HIV meds three of the ten years and will never go back on them.  The only health issues I have faced was related to the meds. I lasted a week on AZT and ultimately felt it was the most politically incorrect thing I could do to dishonor the lives of so many friends who died from it. Dapsone, to prevent PCP, created PCP-like symptoms and almost killed me. 

Despite only 50-150 t-cells I have never had an opportunistic infection.

I know how I created my disease and my lifestyle fits perfectly with that outlined in the work of dissident scientists like Duesberg. I have the courage to look at what I created and how I created it and have taken immune-enhancing steps to find balance and healing. To me, HIV is a symptom, not the cause of immune collapse.

There is a more important article than Farber's which is set for publication in Ecology magazine called "HIV Gate". This article is as disturbing as it is enlightening to the true nature of HIV/AIDS and its scientific and political history. I urgently suggest every poz person read this, and then decide for yourself by listening to your heart and finding your own way back to health, independant of medical and pharmaceutical manipulation and the fear caused by epidemic hysteria.


> to Harper's from Thomas Gegeny, Center for AIDS Information & Advocacy

Celia Farber’s article “Out of Control: AIDS and the corruption of medical science” (March issue) left me absolutely numb. While Farber’s report justifiably exposed an undeniable case of medical negligence in the care of Joyce Ann Hafford, the author manipulates that heart-wrenching story into a launch-pad for communicating unfathomable inaccuracies with a blatant disregard of substantial medical and scientific data. To call Farber’s blend of fact with fiction a “report” (as you listed it) surely is as much a disservice to your readership as it is an insult to the field of journalism. For Farber, and a small but vocal group of others, the controversy is whether Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and their underdog is Dr. Peter Duesberg.

Much of Duesberg’s rationale argues that numerous people have been identified to have AIDS but without having HIV. Is it possible for conditions of human immunodeficiency to have causes other than HIV? Most certainly. Still, Duesbergian followers like Farber somehow see this as proof that HIV is not the cause of AIDS.

In actuality, they’d be better served if they abandoned the concept of “AIDS” all together. The idea of AIDS is in many ways a vague designation from the 1980s when the cause of this advanced disease stage was not well understood and yet the condition was commonly documented, especially although not exclusively among gay men. Almost a quarter century later, we now know that a person’s course of HIV disease may vary depending on host immune and genetic factors, viral genetics, nutrition, treatment, and other factors. In fact, with proper care and treatment, progression to AIDS is no longer an inevitability of HIV infection.

Farber quotes “Koch’s postulates” as one line of reasoning for why HIV does not cause AIDS. Koch’s postulates were written in the late 1890s and have proven useful in establishing a cause-and-effect relationship between bacteria (or other microorganisms) and infectious diseases. But viruses are not cellular organisms (often being referred to as “complicated molecules” or “infectious particles”) and rely on “taking over” host cells to reproduce. To use Koch’s postulates as a litmus test for assessing HIV as a causal agent for developing AIDS is shortsighted and misleading. HIV infection is characterized by a complicated viral pathogenesis resulting in immune dysfunction and chronic inflammation. Over time, the host immune system gradually wears out, resulting in compromised immunity. Science has really just begun to characterize how complex the interactions and balance mechanisms of the immune system really are.

Duesberg’s theories state that “AIDS is a chemical syndrome” caused by heavy drug use or HIV medications themselves—except in developing nations, where it is caused by malnutrition and endemic diseases. This position is utterly disconnected from (and perhaps purposefully ignorant of) the last 2 decades of HIV research and scientific discovery. While drug use, malnutrition, and coinfection with other diseases can affect the progression of HIV disease, they do not substitute for the immune effects observed in the setting of HIV infection. Twelve million orphans in Africa can attest that their parents are dead, leaving grandparents or others to care for the children. How can malnutrition and “endemic diseases” be so selective for the sexually active generations in society, leaving behind the elderly and the young?

But in the Harper’s article, Farber’s well-crafted storytelling takes Duesberg’s arguments to a new level. Reading Farber’s recounts of the first AZT studies (where much-too-high doses were tested in the sickest of patients) is like reading history completely out of context. Her sweeping generalizations (“The failure of . . . researchers to properly control their study with a placebo group . . . . is perhaps the outstanding characteristic of AIDS research in general.”) show a lack of understanding of modern-day clinical trial design, now quite commonplace in fields such as Duesberg’s own area, cancer. Blanket statements such as “With all other viral diseases, by the way, the presence of antibodies signals immunity from the disease” are simply untrue, especially in the context of chronic infections (for example, various herpesvirus infections).

Farber points out how another Duesberg theory (that a genetic condition known as aneuploidy may play an important role in cancer) has begun to attract the attention of his peers, as if this is a sure signal that everything Duesberg must now be legitimate. But history is filled with important scientists, doctors, philosophers, and others whose work was marked as much by their strokes of genius as their incorrect conclusions. Farber also mentions a petition from the “Group for Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis,” which has been signed by 2,300 people (“mostly scientists and doctors”). Of course knowledge about HIV infection and AIDS is still incomplete, and doctors and scientists may have specific reasons for signing such a petition based on gaps in the knowledge to date. I suppose a similar argument could be made for those 514 individuals who have signed a petition of dissent from Darwin’s theory of evolution (as reported in The New York Times on February 21, 2006).

Certainly, a great deal of the article covers the HIVNET 012 study and employment problems between the National Institutes of Health and Jonathan Fishbein (who does believe that HIV causes AIDS). The HIVNET 012 study was beset with data-collection problems at several research centers (in infrastructure-poor, developing countries desperate to participate in research that could save lives). In her effort to move beyond the now-stale credo of “AZT kills” that uses examples almost 20 years old, Farber fervorously latches onto the HIVNET story as a more modern example of the dangers of HIV research today. The truth couldn’t be further from her grasp, as many thousands of patients have benefited from clinical HIV research and continue to do so. Dismissing these benefits, while implying that the many thousands of intelligent and dedicated scientific and clinical researchers worldwide are somehow all either in collusion on a lie or too simpleminded to know the “real truth” is perhaps Farber’s greatest trick of all.


> to POZ from Derek Chalcraft:

I have been immensely interested to observe the explosion of anti-Harper's and anti-Celia Farber rhetoric in the wake of the article published in Harper's March edition.
 
Since my HIV+ diagnosis nearly 4 years ago I have attempted to educate myself as thoroughly as possible about all aspects of the 'virus'. Simultaneously I have endeavoured to maintain good health and succeeded in boosting my CD4 count considerably, all without recourse to AIDS medications.
 
I have tried to remain unbiased and clinical in my approach. However, in light of my research so far, my greatest fear is the prospect of my excellent doctor telling me it is time to start taking AIDS meds.
 
Surely there can be no question about the extreme toxiticity of AIDS medications. Your magazine, like just about all papers, websites etc, not to mention the actual pill bottles, dealing with the topic, repeatedly alert their readers to the potentially horrendous side effects which may result from taking the meds. Those of us who must make a choice can be forgiven for hesitating.
 
Obviously there is a huge disparity between the opposing beliefs about HIV/AIDS. What I find so alarming is an apparent unwillingness to scientifically disprove the arguments of the opposition, by those so ardently spreading the good news on behalf of the big, mega buck pharmaceutical companies. Instead of keep telling us the medical industry has it right, why not prove it scientifically. Or is that perhaps too difficult?
 
My suspicions, miniscule at the time of my seroconversion, have simply increased to a hardened distrust, or at the least a healthy scepticism of any claims now being churned out by the medical industry. It seems hardly a month passes without yet another disclosure of invalidated or even  fraudulent medical research and doctors/scientists being exposed as get rich crooks reaping vast profits/prestige from their unchecked and often 'swept under the carpet', antics. True, not all are specific to HIV/AIDS issues but it is a sorry fact that we live in a world where monetary reward is all too often the biggest motivator sweeping aside the ethical integrity once assumed to be second nature to men of science.
 
In conclusion, I am delighted Harper's chose to publish Celia Farber's article and commend their courage. One hopes perhaps it will alert more people to the dark side of medicine and encourage a proper agenda for establishing the facts about AIDS/HIV rather than the fictions. Currently I feel I am little more than a sacrificial lab rat in the avaricious eyes of pharma business, whose raison d'etre, let us not forget, is to make money for its shareholders.


> to POZ from David Stearns:

It seems to me that the main point of Celia Farber's Harper's article was not to prove that HIV does not cause AIDS, but that the nexus between corporate profits and politics have resulted in science being kicked to the curb. According to her story, standard scientific standards have not and are not being applied in the research to identify the ultimate cause/cure of the disease. I'm disapppointed, but I guess not so surprised, that the reaction to the story on your website, with few exceptions, consists of ad hominem attacks, impugning Ms. Farber's professionalism or demonizing her as the moral equivalent of Charles Davenport or Lyndon LaRouche. 

There seems to be no reasoned, articulate or rational response to the debatable points raised in her story, which I found to be meticulously researched and documented. And I'm not even sure I agree with anything she wrote. But I do agree with this: Scientists are obligated to take theories to task, and to determine whether the empirical data support a given hypothesis. 

If the dogmatic supporters of the current HIV=AIDS theory are so confident in their position, why don't they engage the Celia Farber's and Peter Duesberg's of the world and prove them wrong once and for all? What are they afraid of?

The very nature of science and academia demands rigorous debate. Is logical positivism to be the next victim of AIDS?


>to POZ from Mark A. Biernbaum, PhD:

I ask you this, who exactly should HIV+ people trust—your magazine and website, when it is obvious that you would be unable to publish without the money provided by pharmaceutical firms for advertising,  or an award-winning investigative journalist who has uncovered extremely serious scientific flaws in several studies of HIV meds? Celia Farber is not dependent on advertising income from Astra Zeneca and others to support her work—you are. Your knee-jerk reaction to her exceptional essay is not only typical, but exceptionally damaging. Did you even read the article?  Did you even note that 2300 scientists support a re-evaluation of the HIV=AIDS hypothesis? Don't you think your readers deserve such a reevaluation? All Celia Farber is doing is trying to save lives. As a talented journalist, do you think she's won kudos for bucking the establishment? Hardly. She could have, a long time ago when she began reporting on AIDS in Spin, abandoned this work and moved on to something that might have proven less controversial.  She didn't move on exactly because she and 2300 scientists and others have more than adequate reason to demand a reevaluation of the HIV=AIDS hypothesis. Before you cast her off as a "yellow" journalist, why not try doing what journalists are supposed to do, and vet her sources? I dare you to, and feel safe in doing so, because I know you won't sacrifice the big money pharmaceutical firms provide for your publication. Anyone looking at an issue of POZ could easily tell that there is no way you would still be publishing if it weren't for advertising revenues from big Pharma.  It's very sad, but you've completely forgotten why you exist. I'm grateful to Celia Farber, Peter Duesberg, and the 2300 other scientists who have demanded the HIV=AIDS hypothesis be reevaluated. You might also want to ask yourself, regarding friends and lovers who have died in the last 5 years, what they died of.  In my case, every friend I've lost in the last 5 years has died of liver failure due to med toxicity. I suppose it would be ridiculous to expect real journalism from a magazine owned by the pharmaceutical industry.


> to Harper's from the AIDS Treatment Activists Coalition (ATAC):

Despite the plethora of evidence to the contrary, the notion that HIV does not cause AIDS continues to find a wide audience—thanks, in part, to the writing of Celia Farber—with potential negative impact on HIV-infected individuals and on public health efforts to control the epidemic. For years, Ms. Farber has been spinning yarn of half-truths, bent on proving that antiretroviral therapy is a big, fat, greed-driven lie that has needlessly left people living with this phantom disease victimized and brutalized. What she consistently fails to report are the reams of data indicating that such treatment has not only had a profound effect on the length and quality of HIV-positive people’s lives, but has also greatly reduced mother-to-child transmission rates throughout the world. 

We do not overlook the side effects some people face. Those in clinical trials willingly offered up the last remnants of their precious health and lives—the ultimate sacrifice—in pursuit of therapies to save themselves and others. The commitment of these brave study volunteers, including those participating in the HIVNET 012 trial, has prolonged the lives of many and continues to bear fruit, albeit sometimes bitter.

The end result of Ms. Farber’s agenda couldn’t be clearer. People may be dissuaded from being tested for HIV, or they may discount the threat of HIV and continue to engage in risky sexual behavior and needle sharing. If public health messages on HIV prevention are diluted by the misconception that HIV is not responsible for AIDS, otherwise preventable cases of HIV infection and AIDS may occur, adding to the global tragedy of the epidemic.
 
Decades of research concludes that AIDS is characterized by the progressive loss of the CD4+ cells—a subset of disease-fighting white blood cells—leading to severe immunosuppression and opportunistic complications that rarely occur in persons with intact immune function. Although the precise mechanisms leading to the destruction of the immune system have not been fully delineated, abundant epidemiologic, virologic, and immunologic data support the conclusion that infection with HIV is the underlying cause of AIDS.

HIV and AIDS have been repeatedly linked in time, place and population group; the appearance of HIV in the blood supply has preceded or coincided with the occurrence of AIDS cases in every country and region where AIDS has been noted.  Individuals as different as gay/bisexual men, elderly transfusion recipients, married women, injection drug-users, and infants have all developed AIDS with only one common denominator: infection with HIV. Laboratory workers accidentally exposed to highly concentrated HIV and health care workers exposed to HIV-infected blood have developed immunosuppression and AIDS with no other risk factor for immune dysfunction (which, evidently, permitted the conclusion that HIV was the cause of AIDS in accordance with Koch’s postulates).  Researchers also have demonstrated a correlation between the amount of HIV in the body and progression of the aberrant immunologic processes seen in people with AIDS.  

ATAC is a national coalition of AIDS activists, many living with HIV/AIDS, working together to end the AIDS epidemic by advancing research on HIV/AIDS.


> from Howard Grossman, executive director of the American Academy of HIV Medicine, in an email newsletter to AAHIVM members:

* WARNING: The March issue of Harper's Magazine Contains A Troubling Article *

Once again, Celia Farber, one of the chief mouthpieces of the HIV Denialist cabal, rehashes old information about HIVNET 012 and the NIH flap over Jonathan Fishbein. In her typical hyperbolic, inflammatory prose she demonizes doctors, researchers, the FDA, the NIH and everyone else as a way of reiterating the tired HIV Denialist creed. In a self-referential circle, whose experts include everyone from Peter Duesberg to the AP's John Solomon, all the usual claims are made about HIV medications causing mayhem and death, while everyone except her heroes is a pawn of big pharma.

No need to read this example of yellow journalism at its worst, of which Harper's should be ashamed, but we thought you should have a heads-up that it's on the stands and guaranteed to scare patients who have not seen it before.



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