Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

I am Richard Feynman and I approve of this blog

Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

HONOR ROLL OF SCIENTIFIC TRUTHSEEKERS

Henry Bauer, Peter Breggin , Harvey Bialy, Giordano Bruno, Erwin Chargaff, Nicolaus Copernicus, Francis Crick, Paul Crutzen, Marie Curie, Rebecca Culshaw, Freeman Dyson, Peter Duesberg, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, John Fewster, Galileo Galilei, Alec Gordon, James Hansen, Edward Jenner, Benjamin Jesty, Michio Kaku, Adrian Kent, Ernst Krebs, Thomas Kuhn, Serge Lang, John Lauritsen, Mark Leggett, Richard Lindzen, Lynn Margulis, Barbara McClintock, George Miklos, Marco Mamone Capria, Peter Medawar, Kary Mullis, Linus Pauling, Eric Penrose, Max Planck, Rainer Plaga, David Rasnick, Sherwood Rowland, Carl Sagan, Otto Rossler, Fred Singer, Thomas Szasz, Alfred Wegener, Edward O. Wilson, James Watson.
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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

(Click for more Unusual Quotations on Science and Belief)

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Galileo said it, Durban proved it: science is no democracy

The Durban Declaration was a farcical episode in the history of AIDS politics which spoke volumes about the mediocrity and political nature of the defenders of the AIDS paradigm

A reminder, of a principle that seems largely lost in paradigm debate these days, from Galileo Galilei tonight (in the well scripted PBS documentary Galileo’s Battle for the Heavens, based on Galileo’s Daughter : A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love, Dava Sobel’s excellent book.

The number of people that can reason well is much smaller than those that can reason badly.
If reasoning were like hauling rocks, then several reasoners might be better than one. But reasoning isn’t like hauling rocks, it’s like racing, where a single, galloping Barbary steed easily outruns a hundred wagon-pulling horses.

And as the same script has him saying soon afterwards,

A good philosopher flies alone, like an eagle, not in a flock, like starlings.

Why is this relevant to scientific disputes today? Because it seems that we have a new breed of scientist rampant that has entirely forgotten that science, being based on reason and evidence, is not a democracy either.

One of the most absurd moments in the two decade saga of AIDS as a science, which early on established the self-satirical style of a Rowlandson cartoon, was the appearance of a one page ad in the New York Times at the time of the AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa.

President Thabo Mbeki had arranged a review panel, that met before the conference opened, to debate the justification for assuming that HIV caused AIDS, since he had been alerted to material on the Web, including Peter Duesberg’s peer reviewed articles in the top literature, that entirely rejected this notion. Qualified scientists on both sides of the isue would exchange reason and evidence.

Here is what he said as the panel began. Anyone who believes that Thabo Mbeki is a fool who has fallen into cheap suspicion of the racism of the white man should read this statement, which shows how an independent minded politician reasonably concluded that we need to review the science of AIDS in Africa.

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VIRUSMYTH HOMEPAGE

FIRST MEETING OF PRESIDENTIAL ADVISORY PANEL ON AIDS

Opening Speech by President Thabo Mbeki

Pretoria 6 May 2000

I am indeed, very, very pleased that we have arrived at this moment and would like to welcome Stephen Owen and other distinguished people from outside our country, as well as the scientists from within our own country who are here. Welcome to what for us is a very important initiative.

I am going to read a few lines from a poem by an Irish poet, Patrick Pearce. It will indicate some of what has been going through my mind over the last few months. The poem is entitled, ‘The Fool’ and it says:

“Since the wise men have not spoken, I speak but I’m only a fool; A fool that hath loved his folly, Yea, more than the wise men their books or their counting houses or their quiet homes, Or their fame in men’s mouths; A fool that in all his days hath never done a prudent thing, … I have squandered the splendid years that the Lord God gave to my youth In attempting impossible things, deeming them alone worth the toil. Was it folly or grace?”

I have asked myself that question many times over the last few months: whether the matters that were raised were as a result of folly or grace.

You will remember the letter we sent inviting you to this meeting. It included a quotation from a report by the WHO on the global situation of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. It said that of the 5.6 million people infected with HIV in 1999, 3.8 million lived in Sub-Saharan Africa, the hardest hit region. There were an estimated 2.2 million HIV/AIDS deaths in the region during 1999, being 85% of the global total, even though only one-tenth of the world population lives in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition, the report said there are now more women than men among the 22.3 million adults and one million children estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa.

It was this situation, communicated to us by organisations such as the WHO and UN AIDS, which clearly said that here we have a problem to which we have to respond with the greatest seriousness.

And, of course, among the Sub-Saharan Africans are the South African Africans, with millions of people said also to be HIV positive and also many people dying from AIDS. The Minister has indicated our response to this, so I won’t go over that ground. But it is important, I think, to bear it in mind because some have put out the notion that our asking certain questions in order to understand better and therefore be able to respond better, constituted an abandonment of the fight against AIDS.

What the Minister has said indicates what we have indeed done. There are other things she didn’t mention including the allocation of dedicated funds in our annual budget specifically to address this issue. That is from the point of view of the national government, in addition to what other layers of government are doing. We believe that that response is important, and it is being carried out in an aggressive way, in a sustained way, and in a comprehensive way so that we do indeed respond to the picture that is painted by these figures.

It was because it seemed that the problem was so big, if these reports were correct, that I personally wanted to understand this matter better. Now as I’ve said, I’m only a fool and I faced this difficult problem of reading all these complicated things that you scientists write about, in this language I don’t understand. So I ploughed through lots and lots of documentation, with dictionaries all around me in case there were words that seemed difficult to understand. I would phone the Minister of Health and say, ‘Minister, what does this word mean?’ And she would explain.

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that I discovered that there had been a controversy around these matters for quite some time. I honestly didn’t know. I was a bit comforted later when I checked with a number of our Ministers and found that they were as ignorant as I, so I wasn’t quite alone.

What we knew was that there is a virus, HIV. The virus causes AIDS. AIDS causes death and there’s no vaccine against AIDS. So once you are HIV positive, you are going to develop AIDS, and you are bound to die. We responded with that part of the response the Minister was talking about – public awareness campaigns, encouraging safe sex, use of condoms, all of those things.

But as one read on, one noted that we had never said anything in all of this public awareness campaign, that people need to practice safe sex and use condoms in order to stop the other sexually transmitted diseases – syphilis, gonorrhoea and so on – as though these did not really matter. What mattered was this virus.

As one read all of these things, one discovered what, as far as I know, was the first report published in our medical journals in this country about the incidence of HIV among our people in this part of the world. It was published in the South African Medical Journal in 1985. Among other things, that article said that groups at high risk of developing the acquired immune deficiency syndrome – AIDS – in the United States and Europe include homosexual and bi-sexual males; those who abuse intravenous drugs and haemophiliacs.

The article further says that AIDS has been reported in Central Africa. However, homosexuality, drug addiction or blood transfusion have not been reported as risk factors in these patients. It has therefore been suggested that the agent causing AIDS is endemic in Central Africa. However, our preliminary data show that although individuals with antibodies directed against HIV are to be found in South Africa, these positive individuals only come from a high-risk group comprising male homosexuals. Individuals who did not belong to any of the known high risks groups did not have HIV antibodies. Our data, says the article, therefore suggests that the agent implicated in the causation is not endemic in Southern Africa.

That was in 1985. And of course all of the other documentation that I’ve seen suggests that what was reported here in 1985 to be the risk group in this part of the world, remained the risk group in the United States and Western Europe with a preponderance of these infections being among homosexuals and therefore by homosexual transmission, as it is said, of the virus.

But according to these reports, clearly something changed here. In a period of maybe five, six, seven years after 1985, when it was said that such transmission in this region was not endemic in Southern Africa, there were high rates of heterosexual transmission. Now as I was saying, being a fool I couldn’t answer this question about what happened between 1985 and the early 1990s. The situation has not changed in the United States up to today, nor in Western Europe with regard to homosexual transmission. But here it changed very radically in a short period of time and increased very radically in a short period of time. Why?

This is obviously not an idle question for us because it bears very directly on this question: How should we respond? There has been this change, for reasons I can’t explain but you, as scientists, surely would be able to explain. Why this change? What therefore is our most appropriate response? And so we started communicating with some of the people in this room, to ask what is the cause?

There is a whole variety of issues that the Minister of Health has just said she will not comment upon, which also I will not comment upon because they are very much part of the subject of your discussions. We were looking for answers because all of the information that has been communicated points to the reality that we are faced with a catastrophe, and you can’t respond to a catastrophe merely by saying I will do what is routine. You have to respond to a catastrophe in a way that recognises that you are facing a catastrophe. And here we are talking about people – it is not death of animal stock or something like that, but people. Millions and millions of people.

Somewhat of a storm broke out around this question, which in truth took me by surprise. There is an approach which asks why is this President of South Africa trying to give legitimacy to discredited scientists, because after all, all the questions of science concerning this matter had been resolved by the year 1984. I don’t know of any science that gets resolved in that manner with a cut-off year beyond which science does not develop any further. It sounds like a biblical absolute truth and I do not imagine that science consists of biblical absolute truths.

There was this very strong response saying: don’t do this. I have seen even in the last few days, a scientist who I’m quite certain is eminent who said that perhaps the best thing to do is that we should lock up some of these dissidents in jail and that would shut them up. It is a very peculiar response but it seemed to me to suggest that it must surely be because people are exceedingly worried by the fact that large numbers of people are dying. In that context any suggestion whatsoever that dealing with this is being postponed because somebody is busy looking at some obscure scientific theory, is seen as a betrayal of people. Perhaps that is why you had that kind of response which sought to say: let us freeze scientific discourse at a particular point; and let those who do not agree with the mainstream be isolated and not spoken to. Indeed it seems to be implied that one of the important measures to judge whether a scientific view is correct is to count numbers: how many scientists are on this side of the issue and how many are on the other – if the majority are on this side, then this must be correct.

In the end, what I’m saying is that as Africans we want to respond to HIV/AIDS in a manner that is effective, a manner that does indeed address the fact of these millions of lives that are threatened.

As I noted, the WHO says that in Sub-Saharan Africa, 2 million people died in 1999 alone.

It is truly our hope that this process will help us to get to some of the answers, so that as public representatives we are able to elaborate and help implement policies that are properly focused, and that actually have an effect. I’m quite certain that given the people who are participating in this panel, we will get to these answers.

And so you see why I’ve been thinking over this matter over the last few months that perhaps I should have allowed the wise men to speak. Indeed when eminent scientists said: “You have spoken out of turn,” it was difficult not to think that one was indeed a fool. But I am no longer so sure about that, given that so many eminent people responded to the invitation of a fool to come to this important meeting.

Welcome and best wishes.

Thank you very much.

Thabo Mbeki, President of South Africa

The home team apparently were somewhat nervous of the outcome of the panel’s deliberations (they were right, it turned out) and arranged a counter move in the always active game of AIDS politics. Email was sent far and wide begging lab heads and academic faculty to gather the signatures of any persons in their vicinity of any scientific qualifications at all at the graduate level or above, regardless of field and regardless of their knowledge of AIDS or lack of it.

Many of you will say that HIV/AIDS is not your area. However, over the years you have heard enough of the arguments to understand the association. Furthermore, many of you know well infectious diseases and understand Koch’s postulates. If you have colleagues in the laboratory or in the clinic who you feel would like to sign, please ask them. The more the better. However, please note that in order to be authoritative we feel it necessary to restrict the list to those with major university qualifications.

The names were added to what amounted to a “believe us” petition to the public, a profession of faith of 5,000 people of varying qualifications from leadership of the field to none at all save a science degree of some kind. Nobel prize winners were included, though none in AIDS, where due to either the obtuseness or the canny worldliness of the Stockholm committee no Nobel has yet been awarded (possibly they are awaiting a genuine cure or even vaccine).

The message of the ad was simple: we all believe that HIV is the cause of AIDS. Therefore you should, too.

To all those who contemplate the sorry state that some of science has fallen into in the last half century, this document was without doubt the most blatant and disturbing evidence that something was wrong in Denmark. With hundred of billions of dollars of AIDS health work governed by this scientific belief, what on earth did it mean that it had to be bolstered by numbers, and vouched for by a crowd? Since when was a scientific hypothesis of any importance a religious matter, founded on faith and decided by ballot? And if the faith was justified, why did it need an ad in the New York Times? Wasn’t the scientific literature good enough?

For many surprised readers of the Times, it must have seemed rather like opening their daily guide to the world to find a one page ad from 5,000 astronomers professing their fervent belief that the sun was the center of the solar system.

Here is the text of this AIDS tablet if you wish to read it. Notice that the belief in the HIV=AIDS scheme (“HIV-1, the retrovirus that is responsible for the AIDS pandemic”) as “clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous” (“The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous. This evidence meets the highest standards of science.”) pushes aside the plain fact that the reviews which unambiguously reject HIV as the cause survived intense and hostile expert peer review at the highest level in the leading science journals of the US.

And notice that the theme which emerges at the end is one of social solidarity,

Science will one day triumph over AIDS, just as it did over smallpox. Curbing the spread of HIV will be the first step. Until then, reason, solidarity, political will and courage must be our partners.”

which nicely betrays the fact that the motivation of the paradigm defenders was as far from scientific truthseeking as it is possible to go.

A Declaration by Scientists and Physicians Affirming HIV is the Cause of AIDS

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A Declaration by Scientists and Physicians Affirming HIV is the Cause of AIDS

“Seventeen years after the discovery of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), thousands of people from around the world are gathered in Durban, South Africa to attend the XIII International AIDS Conference. At the turn of the millennium, an estimated 34 million people worldwide are living with HIV or AIDS, 24 million of them in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year alone, 2.6 million people died of AIDS, the highest rate since the start of the epidemic. If current trends continue, Southern and South-East Asia, South America and regions of the former Soviet Union will also bear a heavy burden in the next two decades.

Like many other diseases, such as tuberculosis and malaria that cause illness and death in underprivileged and impoverished communities, AIDS spreads by infection. HIV-1, the retrovirus that is responsible for the AIDS pandemic, is closely related to a simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) which infects chimpanzees. HIV-2, which is prevalent in West Africa and has spread to Europe and India, is almost indistinguishable from an SIV that infects sooty mangabey monkeys. Although HIV-1 and HIV-2 first arose as infections transmitted from animals to humans, or zoonoses, both are now spread among humans through sexual contact, from mother to infant and via contaminated blood.

An animal source for a new infection is not unique to HIV. The plague came from rodents. Influenza and the new Nipah virus in South-East Asia reached humans via pigs. Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United Kingdom came from ‘mad cows’. Once HIV became established in humans, it soon followed human habits and movements. Like other viruses, HIV recognizes no social, political or geographic boundaries.

The evidence that AIDS is caused by HIV-1 or HIV-2 is clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous. This evidence meets the highest standards of science. The data fulfill exactly the same criteria as for other viral diseases, such as poliomyelitis, measles and smallpox:

* Patients with acquired immune deficiency syndrome, regardless of where they live, are infected with HIV.

* If not treated, most people with HIV infection show signs of AIDS within 5-10 years. HIV infection is identified in blood by detecting antibodies, gene sequences or viral isolation. These tests are as reliable as any used for detecting other virus infections.

* Persons who received HIV-contaminated blood or blood products develop AIDS, whereas those who received untainted or screened blood do not.

* Most children who develop AIDS are born to HIV-infected mothers. The higher the viral load in the mother the greater the risk of the child becoming infected.

* In the laboratory HIV infects the exact type of white blood cell (CD4 lymphocytes) that becomes depleted in persons with AIDS.

* Drugs that block HIV replication in the test tube also reduce viral load and delay progression to AIDS. Where available, treatment has reduced AIDS mortality by more than 80%.

* Monkeys inoculated with cloned SIV DNA become infected and develop AIDS.

Further compelling data are available. HIV causes AIDS. It is unfortunate that a few vocal people continue to deny the evidence. This position will cost countless lives.

In different regions of the world HIV/AIDS shows altered patterns of spread and symptoms. In Africa, for example, HIV-infected persons are 11 times more likely to die within 5 years, and over 100 times more likely than uninfected persons to develop Kaposi’s sarcoma, a cancer linked to yet another virus.

As with any other chronic infection, various co-factors play a role in determining the risk of disease. Persons who are malnourished, who already suffer other infections or who are older, tend to be more susceptible to the rapid development of AIDS following HIV infection. However, none of these factors weaken the scientific evidence that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS.

In this global emergency, prevention of HIV infection must be our greatest worldwide public health priority. The knowledge and tools to prevent infection exist. The sexual spread of HIV can be prevented by monogamy, abstinence or by using condoms. Blood transmission can be stopped by screening blood products and by not re-using needles. Mother-to-child transmission can be reduced by half or more by short courses of antiviral drugs.

Limited resources and the crushing burden of poverty in many parts of the world constitute formidable challenges to the control of HIV infection. People already infected can be helped by treatment with life-saving drugs, but high cost puts these treatments out of reach for most. It is crucial to develop new antiviral drugs that are easier to take, have fewer side effects and are much less expensive, so that millions more can benefit from them.

There are many ways to communicate the vital information about HIV/AIDS. What works best in one country may not be appropriate in another. But to tackle the disease, everyone must first understand that HIV is the enemy. Research, not myths, will lead to the development of more effective and cheaper treatments, and hopefully a vaccine. But for now, emphasis must be placed on preventing sexual transmission.

There is no end in sight to the AIDS pandemic. By working together, we have the power to reverse the tide of this epidemic. Science will one day triumph over AIDS, just as it did over smallpox. Curbing the spread of HIV will be the first step. Until then, reason, solidarity, political will and courage must be our partners.”

Anyone overly impressed with this document, whcih to put it politely somewhat exaggerates the perfection of its case, should read the rebuttals copiously available from the AIDS disbelievers on VirusMyth.com.

Here is the letter that the most prominent skeptics immediately sent to Nature after Nature published the Durban Declaration in its pages, which John Maddox was good enough to publish, unlike many of their offerings.

Compare the quality of both documents in scientific reasoning and references and it is hard not to be staggered by the intellectual mediocrity of the Declaration, and the fact that this is the sum total of the justification used to threaten the peace of mind, health and even lives of millions around the world:

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Letter published by Nature. Vol. 407 / 21 Sept 2000 / www.nature.com

The Durban Declaration is not accepted by all

By Gordon Stewart et al.

Sir

In response to recent action by President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and in advance of the International Conference on HIV/AIDS held in Durban on 9-14 July, the Durban Declaration (1) was prepared by a committee representing a consensus of “181 scientists and front line physicians” Before publication in Nature, it was circulated: “To get as many names of scientists and doctors to sign on. Names of signatories will appear on the Nature website. If you would like to sign on, we would be delighted. Send me an e-mail confirming this. To economize space on the website, we have to name people in a single line. Many of you will say that HIV/AIDS is not your area. However, over the years you have heard enough of the arguments to understand the association. Furthermore, many of you know well infectious diseases and understand Koch’s postulates. If you have colleagues in the laboratory or in the clinic who you feel would like to sign, please ask them. The more the better. However, please note that in order to be authoritative we feel it necessary to restrict the list to those with major university qualifications.” This is an extract from the circular distributed on behalf of the organizing committee which included Luc Montagnier, Catherine Wilfert, David Baltimore, Sir Aaron Klug (as President of the UK Royal Society), and many other well-known names and organi-zations from developing countries as well as from the West.

Briefly, the authors of the declaration state that AIDS/HIV is spreading as a pandemic now affecting 34 million people, of whom 24 million are in sub-Saharan Africa. They say the disease began there as a viral infection of chimpanzees and monkeys conveyed somehow to humans, and is now spreading worldwide by heterosexual and mother-to–infant transmission. The authors consider that their evidence supporting this hypothe-sis is “clear-cut, exhaustive and unambiguous”; that most people with these infections will develop AIDS within 5-10 years unless treated; and that “there is no end in sight” until research based on their hypothesis leads to a vaccine to supplement safe sex, health education and other, simpler approaches to avoidance and prevention.

With no end in sight after 17 or more years of intensive research, priorities and incentives, one might think that this consensus would be open to alternative approaches, but the authors of the declara-tion are emphatic that this is not needed because the evidence that HIV is the cause of AIDS has met or exceeded the “highest standards of science” By implication, any other evidence is therefore a deception, even less likely to lead to a successful vaccine, curative drug or hypothesis.

Our objection to the Durban Declaration is factual and verifiable from data published in the early 1980s (2-4). We believe that World Health Organization (WHO) figures produced since then (5) can be interpreted to say that AIDS first appeared and spread, not in Africa but in US urban clusters of mainly white, affluent, promis-cuous homosexual men and drug addicts, and then spread, on a lesser scale, in Europe and Australasia but hardly at all in Asia. Disastrous epidemics due to heterosexual transmission of HIV were confidently predicted in general populations of developed countries (6) but they never happened. AIDS has diminished in incidence and severity though it is continuing in female partners of bisexual men and some other communities engaging in or subjected to behaviours which carry high risks of infections, various assaults and misuse of drugs.

In sub-Saharan Africa, AIDS was reported later (7-8), with an alarming frequency in mothers and infants not seen in the United States or Europe. Sentinel surveillance by the WHO shows correlation between this frequency and the seroprevalence of HIV, but there are unmeasured overlaps with other major diseases and deprivations which, anomalies in classification, distribution, transmission and country-specific pathogenesis, and especially cross-reactions in serological tests (6-9), raise questions about the accuracy of diagnosis and approaches to control.

In the absence of satisfactory answers, or of any, answers from the consensus to his specific questions on this matter, President Mbeki invited us to join other experts with differing viewpoints in a panel to explore the way forward to control AIDS in Africa. Unlike the signatories to the Durban Declaration, we claim no exhaustive and unambiguous unanimity. There are differences between ourselves and with other panellists, and we are happy to acknowledge possible convergence with certain priorities favoured by the declaration’s authors. But we reject as outrageous their attempt to outlaw open discussion of alternative viewpoints, because this reveals an intolerance, which has no place in any branch of science. Our viewpoints could also explain the failure to prevent the spread of AIDS in high-risk populations in the West, amounting, in the United States now, to almost 700,000 registrations – an unbeaten score in the global tally of this disease.

Gordon T. Stewart, MD

3 Lexden Terrace, Tenby, Pembrokeshire SA70 7BJ, UK

(Emeritus Professor of Public Health, University of Glasgow)

E-mail:

Other signatories to this letter; full addresses available from G.T.S.

Sam Mhlongo, MB, BS Professor of Medicine, MEDUNSA, Johannesburg South Africa

Etienne de Harven, MD Emeritus Professor of Pathology, University of Toronto, Canada

Christian Fiala, MD Obstetrician, Vienna, Austria

Claus Kohnlein, MD Physician, Stadisches Krankenhaus, Kiel, Germany

Herxheimer, MD Pharmacologist, London, UK

Peter Duesberg, PhD Professor of Molecular Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA

David Rasnick, PhD Research Fellow, Dept of Molecular Biology, University of California at Berkeley, USA

Roberto Giraldo, MD Physician, New York City

Manu Kothari, MD Pathologist, Seth GS Medical College, Bombay, India

Harvey Bialy, PhD Research Scholar, National University, Mexico City, Mexico

Charles Geshekter, Professor of African Studies, California State University, Chico, California.

References:

1. Durban Declaration, Nature 406, 15-16 (2000).

2. Morbidity Mortality Weekly Reports 30, 250 (US CDC, Atlanta, 1981).

3. Morbidity Mortality Weekly Reports Update on Acquired Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), USA 3 1, 507-5 1 4 (1981).

4. Gottlieb, M. S. et al N Eng Med J. 305,1425-31(1982).

5. Weekly Epidemiological Records (WHO, Geneva, 1981-2000).

6. Cox, D., Anderson, R. M., Hillier, H. C. (eds.) Phil. Trans R. Soc 325, 37-1 87 (1989).

7. International Classification of Diseases, I0th revision (WHO, Geneva, 1992).

8. Root-Bernstein, R. Rethinking AIDS (MacMillan, New York, 1993).

9. Kashala, O., et al J Inf. Dis. 109, 296-304 (1994).

The signatories were the panelists convened by Mbeki, and as they correctly put it in their last paragraph, the attempt to stifle their scientific voices was an outrage by the standards of good science.

Sentinel surveillance by the WHO shows correlation between this frequency and the seroprevalence of HIV, but there are unmeasured overlaps with other major diseases and deprivations which, anomalies in classification, distribution, transmission and country-specific pathogenesis, and especially cross-reactions in serological tests (6-9), raise questions about the accuracy of diagnosis and approaches to control.

In the absence of satisfactory answers, or of any, answers from the consensus to his specific questions on this matter, President Mbeki invited us to join other experts with differing viewpoints in a panel to explore the way forward to control AIDS in Africa. Unlike the signatories to the Durban Declaration, we claim no exhaustive and unambiguous unanimity. There are differences between ourselves and with other panellists, and we are happy to acknowledge possible convergence with certain priorities favoured by the declaration’s authors. But we reject as outrageous their attempt to outlaw open discussion of alternative viewpoints, because this reveals an intolerance, which has no place in any branch of science.

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