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

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NY Press shows who are the true “denialists”

This week a crack in the wall of mainstream media neglect of the AIDS dissidents appeared at the New York Press (Jun 22 Wed-28 2005 Vol 18 – Issue 25). This “alternative paper” with its independent politics is a frank and feisty weekly in New York City which, since it appeared some years ago, has become more interesting and relevant than the once dominant gay-mainstream weekly Village Voice, which it has largely replaced and thrown into hard times.

A while ago the New York Press devoted considerable space to a discussion of whether HIV really caused AIDS, and eventually followed this unprecedented break from the high stepping media AIDS chorus line with “Orphans on Trial”, a notable article last year by Liam Scheff, an investigative AIDS reporter (a rare species) who exposed the fact that experimental AIDS antiretroviral drugs had been tested on orphaned black children in the foster care of the city without reference to anyone acting in the interests of the children.

As noted in the post below New York researchers did abuse children this highhandedness doubly outrages AIDS skeptics since they are familiar with the peer-reviewed literature, and the NIH field studies, which demonstrate that these drugs are not “life saving” but in fact, after some temporary improvement due apparently to their killing effect on infections suffered by the AIDS patients (other than HIV, which is not much seen in AIDS patients) eventually cause groteque fat buildup and kidney aand liver damage annd death. No only that but the whole theory underlying their use is condemned by the most intensely peer-reviewed review literature in the field as utterly without scientifc or even common sense.

What the New York Press now offers readers is a “debate” between two proponents of the two sides, with the title�emblazoned on the front page and displayed from thousands of street bins in Manhattan�”Drugs�worse than the Disease? An AIDS debate”. In fact there is no debate as such but a blind exchange. The two opponents have each written an article without even being able to see in advance what their rival is saying.

Like virtually any AIDS debate on this level the discussion is incomplete, rife with error and evasion and on the HIV defenders’ side loaded with political, emotional and religious attitudes disparaging the motivations of the critics.

Nonetheless the exchange offers not only a chance to see how the two styles differ in this way, but also to make one serious point which conclusively establishes which side has to be talen seriously according to our scientific measure.

The editors introduce the clash as follows:

DRUGS, DISEASE, DENIAL

Last July, New York Press published an article by Liam Scheff entitled �Orphans on Trial.� The piece sparked a slow-building wave of media interest in the children of Incarnation Children�s Center in Washington Heights, who have since become a lightning rod for a larger debate on HIV/AIDS drugs. A small but increasingly influential faction, commonly known as AIDS denialists, claims that HIV does not cause AIDS, and that the drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS are worse than the disease. We have invited longtime human-rights activist Jeanne Bergman and Celia Farber, a journalist and self-described �AIDS dissident,� to discuss the positions of their respective camps. We hope the heat generates some light.

—The editors

It is unfortunate that the editors repeat the wretchedly illiterate and politically loaded formulation “denialist”, a usage aimed at identifying HIV-AIDS questioners with holocaust deniers. The words we prefer are “doubter” or “questioner”, since lay HIV critics make no claims to scientific expertise. Scientists, science journalists and others who do understand the science very well and emerge HIV critics are, however, invariably “dissident” to the point of denying HIV any functional relevance, and denying that HIV=AIDS has any basis in fact, so “denier” would not be inappropriate, if it were not subject to the same Holocaust-denier overtones.

But the “debate” forms a prize specimen of the different styles of argument adopted by a typical mainstream believer and an experienced doubter of the medications flowing from a prima facie grossly anomalous paradigm, HIV=AIDS. Both are typical, and telling.

On the mainstream side we have Jeanne Bergman, a “human rights activist” whose article is replete with ad hominem insults, general scorn, I-know-better smugness and the chanting of dogma with little supporting fact. Bergman knows without study that HIV dissidents are “HIV denialists, the dangerously deluded people who have “been around for years” though “every wingnut claim” they make has been “thoroughly and completely demolished”. But their “lies” continue, “destructive” and “cynical” “misinformation”, and now they are in this case “a sensationalist stew of lies, partial truths and innuendo”.

Her maligning of those who question the gospel has a lynch mob spirit, an appeal to shared political-religious feeling rather than any evidence of desire to deal with the problems the HIV=AIDS paradigm presents. The issue in play is the tangled rationale for admittedly dangerous and eventually lethal medications, but the problems are simply dismissed as if they didn’t exist.

But then, given the modus operandi of such adamant supporters as Bergman, objections do vanish. This is because every difficulty (for example, the eventual death of patients) is reinterpreted as a success (their lives were prolonged beyond immediate death, it is claimed). Meanwhile, supporting evidence is barely visible. Where it appears it consists of flat statements such as “almost all HIV+ infants are ill by the time they are three” which are inherently problematical (almost all? how ill? and in what way? were they medicated? if so, what with?) and without any reference.

This is not science but politics, of course, and it smacks of a shared religion in that we see tribal anger and outrage directed against doubters, rather than a genuine discussion of the science. Often, it seems, the most conviction is shown by those with the least science in hand. Yet Bergman has the effrontery to say that “creationism and HIV denial have a common enemy in science”,

Why the best science supports HIV critics

All this would be trivial except that it raises the only important point that can and must be made in answer to reflex defenders of the status quo in AIDS on any occasion at any time, which is this: Contrary to Bergman, it is the HIV doubters who have the most thoroughly examined science on their side.

This is easily established, as follows. Thousands upon thousands of HIV-AIDS papers have been published in scientific journals, but the peer review they have recieved has been of only the kindest, most collegial sort. For the peer reviewers chosen by major science journals are invariably orthodox, and have no reason to challenge the basic premises of HIV-AIDS,. and every reason to oppose it. Authors of mainstream AIDS papers and their peer reviewers are family, and as suggested by the telling dissident criticism of published orthodox papers over the years, the gatekeepers (like all of us) overrate work in line with their own view, and overlook the flaws.

The few very large and substantial articles written at the top level reviewing the theory that HIV is causing what is now labeled “AIDS” have also all been peer reviewed ie scientifically validated by orthodox peer reviewers. In their case, however, the gatekeeprs are not kindly disposed towards the articles because all of them have consistently rejected the HIV theory as unlikely, unsubstantiated, and unscientific, and in the end, plainly wrong. The reviewers naturally are all either very hostile to such papers which undermine the ground they themselves stand on, or at the very least are very, very anxious and careful not to allow any wrong claims or arguments along these lines pass into print, simply to protect their own rear ends with their colleagues.

Yet, and this is the key to the whole scientific debate over HIV as the cause of AIDS, in each case they ran out of objections which they could sustain, and the articles were published. Over the last twenty years, these damning review articles, rejecting HIV as the cause of AIDS, have met no answering articles in the same journals, although these have been requested and in one important case promised, but never delivered.

The last major review article condemning HIV-AIDS theory was published in 2003, and like the rest stands unrefuted by the peers that reviewed it and any peers that read it. It was published in the Journal of Biosciences of the Indian Academy of Sciences, as serious and scholarly a journal as any you can name. (Of course, the reasons why the article was not even considered by the editors of the Western equivalent journals are relevant and worth investigating, but whatever they are they are political and not scientific. Any article which is not rejected by peer reviewers but by the editors before peer review is by definition rejected for political reasons, unless it is completely incompetent, and the Indian Academy of Science does not, of course, publish completely incompetent papers.)

As things stand, then, the plain fact of the matter the best, most rigorously tested scientific literature condemns the HIV-AIDS hypothesis as having nothing to it, scientifically speaking—groundless in theory and evidence.

The best science is on the side of the HIV-AIDS questioners, and not as the unread Bergman fondly believes, on the side of the global congregation amassed by the conventional wisdom. Amongst these faaithful, even the scientists in the field are not well acquainted with the arguments, we have found, so she need not be ashamed of her own evident ignorance of them.

Here is the Bergman article in full:

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WWW.NYPRESS.COM | JUNE 22, 2005

JEANNE BERGMAN

NEWS & COLUMNS

For the last year and a half, Incarnation Children’s Center, a small skilled nursing facility in Washington Heights for children with AIDS, has been the target of a concerted attack by HIV denialists, the dangerously deluded people who believe that HIV is not the cause of AIDS and that people with HIV should not receive treatment.

The denialists accused ICC of abusing the foster children who live there as “guinea pigs” for deadly medical experiments, and these charges have elicited interest and some support within the Black community in northern Manhattan, which is acutely aware of both the racist history of American medicine and the routine incompetence and hostility of the Administration of Children’s Services (ACS), New York City’s troubled foster care agency.

HIV denialists have been around for years. Scientists, AIDS activists, clinicians and service providers ignore them when they can. Every wingnut claim they make�that HIV does not exist, that AIDS does not exist, that HIV medicines are the cause of the disease�has been thoroughly and completely demolished. But the lies spread by the denialists are beginning to have a destructive effect, hampering prevention efforts and obstructing access to treatment for people with HIV, in the U.S. and globally. By selecting ICC as a target, the HIV denialists are cynically exploiting the African-American community’s deep and legitimate concerns about medical racism, pharmaceutical profiteering and ACS’s abuses of government power in order to spread disinformation about HIV and AIDS in communities of color.

The attacks on Incarnation Children’s Center began with a sensationalist stew of lies, partial truths and innuendo cooked up by an AIDS denialist and free-lance writer named Liam Scheff and circulated on the Internet in early 2004. The New York Post picked up the story in March of that year, eliciting a spasm of misinformed grandstanding by a couple of City Council members. Scheff got New York Press to print his story that July [vol. 17, issue 28]. But his claim that children at ICC were being tortured in hideous experiments by a cabal of plotters including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Catholic Archdiocese, GlaxoSmithKline, Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center, and the Administration of Children’s Services wasn’t taken seriously until the story was rendered by people with British accents on BBC Two in November 2004. Regrettably, the HIV denialists driving this hoax have since been joined by African-American activists affiliated with small groups like the December 12th Movement, whose rage is directed primarily at ACS. They started organizing protests outside ICC, thus outing the residents as children with AIDS and characterizing their home as a “slaughterhouse.”

The HIV denialists have also effectively worked the independent media networks. Over the last six months several programs on WBAI, NYC’s Pacifica radio station, have repeatedly and thoughtlessly reiterated the charges against ICC and the deadly lie that anti-HIV treatment, not HIV itself, is the cause of AIDS. Last month, the New York City Council’s General Welfare Committee convened a hearing showcasing the HIV denialists’ claims. Christian right-wing extremists have also joined the call for a criminal investigation of the National Institutes of Health for supporting foster children’s inclusion in clinical trials. The Executive Director of the Traditional Values Coalition, Mrs. Andrea Lafferty, parroted the denialists’ attack on medicine and ICC when she declared, “Powerless and parentless children � are being scrutinized by the ‘scientists’ of the NIH. But using HIV-infected foster children, some as young as infants, for their AIDS experiments is beyond despicable. � these voiceless little ones have no rights and no one to speak for them when the NIH is in charge.”

Creationism and HIV denial have a common enemy in science.

When Incarnation Children’s Center was founded in 1988, children with HIV/AIDS who were in foster care in New York City were not allowed to participate in clinical trials. As new medications were developed, including those for AIDS-defining opportunistic infections and eventually antiretrovirals, they were tested on, and approved for, adult populations first, and only then considered for children. Clinical trials are the first point of access to new and effective treatments; in addition, HIV+ children in clinical trials receive the best available medical care.

Children perinatally infected with HIV develop symptoms much more rapidly than adults: almost all HIV+ infants are ill by the time they are three, while adults are commonly symptom-free for a decade or more after infection. Children also do not live long without treatment. Before the advent of antiretroviral medications used in combination therapy, HIV infected newborns had a median survival rate of six months after diagnosis. In the 1980s, HIV+ children lucky enough to live with their birthparents could be enrolled in clinical trials and get both the newest drugs and the best available care. But a 1992 study reported that over 50 percent of the HIV-infected children in New York City lived with relatives or in foster care, and these children could not participate in the trials. That is, more than half of the kids with HIV�and they were overwhelmingly Black and Latino�were denied access to life-saving drugs simply because they were in foster care. That is the story of racial discrimination in health care and the foster care system that needs to be told.

ICC and other advocates for children with HIV successfully fought to have the policy that discriminated against foster kids changed. Almost all of the children from the ICC clinical trials period, children who would otherwise have died, are alive and well today because of what they accomplished. Not a single child at ICC died as a result of clinical trials they participated in there. Those kids were not “guinea pigs.” They were children with a deadly infection receiving state-of-the-art medical care and drugs already proven effective in adults.

ICC’s participation in clinical trials ended in 2002 because, as a result of the successful treatment of children in the clinical trials, those drugs were approved as safe and effective for pediatric populations. But the denialists spin even this as sinister: now, Scheff has charged, foster kids with HIV are being given anti-viral medications not just experimentally but as�gasp�routine treatment. That’s true. And that’s good.

The denialists emphasize the limitations and the side effects of antiretroviral medications; some, ignorant of the history of the epidemic, assert that these treatments are themselves the cause of AIDS. There is, of course, no cure yet for HIV, and the antiretroviral drugs are at best nasty to take and difficult to tolerate. (In his NY Press article last year, Scheff boldly revealed that ICC’s Medical Director admitted, “The drugs have a ‘significant, lingering, bitter taste.’ So they mix the pills or powders in chocolate or strawberry syrup.” Perhaps Scheff’s next expos� will tell the truth about cherry-flavored NyQuil.)

No one familiar with HIV and AIDS treatment has ever suggested that being on combination therapy is pleasant for anyone, and both immediate allergic reactions and long term side effects can be very serious, and even, in rare cases, fatal. HIV disease sucks, and the drugs so far available for it suck, too. Generally, however, the side effects are greatly outweighed by the benefits of treatment. The children at ICC had the advantage of living in a structured, supportive setting that ensured that they could adhere to complex regimens with stringent dietary requirements, and on-site health care that enabled rapid identification of, and response to, any side effects.

The HIV denialists say that the young children at ICC could not refuse the drugs or fight off the “researchers” who gave them their medications. Should children of two or even 12 years get to decide if they will or will not take their medicine? Of course not, particularly when irregular dosing may result in drug-resistant HIV. All responsible parents and caregivers understand that children can’t make crucial life-and-death decisions for themselves, and the law recognizes this fact too: that’s why legally children can neither give nor withhold medical consent. ICC, with its loving, expert and compassionate staff, cared for the children; parents or other guardians signed informed consent forms. The clinical trials�the only way the kids could get the drugs that kept them alive�were closely monitored by the National Institutes of Health, collaborating hospitals, and the Administration of Children’s Services. The HIV denialists see a conspiracy where there were in fact multiple levels of oversight.

Were the children at ICC stolen from their parents to be used for experiments? Absolutely not. The parents of many children at ICC had died from AIDS; others were incapacitated by HIV-related illness, drugs, or homelessness and unable to care for very sick children: that’s why the kids were in the foster care system. Until ICC was founded, orphaned and unparented HIV+ kids at Harlem Hospital were stuck there as “boarder babies”�too sick for regular foster care, they had nowhere to live but the hospital. The denialists assert that the Administration of Children’s Services as not merely neglectful, but complicit in a “full blown criminal conspiracy” when it placed HIV+ kids in ICC. ACS is always (and often justifiably) an easy target: the agency often abuses its power over parents while failing to protect children. But what ACS did in this instance was, for once, really wonderful: it put kids with HIV/AIDS who had no other home into a cozy, first-rate specialized care facility where they had access to state-of-the-art combination anti-viral therapy under the expert supervision of a brilliant and compassionate staff. That’s not a crime to be prosecuted, but an incredible accomplishment to be celebrated.

Thanks to other clinical trials proving the efficacy of AZT and Nevirapine in preventing perinatal transmission, and in particular to the amazing community education and care provided to pregnant women by Harlem Hospital, the incidence of perinatal HIV transmission in Washington Heights and Harlem has fallen dramatically. Almost no new HIV-infected babies are born in northern Manhattan now, and the AIDS babies of ICC are nearing adulthood.

It’s not hard to understand why some people don’t believe in the reality of HIV and AIDS. They may be in genuine psychological denial: they don’t want to be infected, and they don’t want this terrifying pandemic to decimate their families, their world. Others resist changing the behaviors that put themselves and others at risk of HIV infection, so they persuade themselves it doesn’t matter. More broadly, the history of racism in American medicine, the pharmaceutical giants’ single-minded pursuit of profit, and the frustration that more than 20 years into the AIDS epidemic there is no cure, have prepared fertile ground for denial and disinformation.

It’s more difficult to discern the motives of people who urge others to reject the overwhelming scientific evidence and medical consensus that HIV causes AIDS by destroying the immune system, allowing the opportunistic infections that would otherwise be easily fought off to turn deadly.

A closer look at the denialist who evidently instigated the hoax about ICC explains a lot. Christine Maggiore, one of the most visible HIV denialists, introduced Liam Scheff to the guardian of two children who lived at ICC. Maggiore has built a profitable career by combining a gift for self-promotion with a couple of false-positive HIV test results. The story she tells begins in 1992, when, despite the complete absence of risk factors, a routine HIV antibody test came back inconclusive. The retest was positive, and Maggiore threw herself into the whirlwind life of an AIDS poster girl, “booked for a year’s worth of engagements before I’d even finished [a speaker’s] training course. I made the audiences, laugh, cry, and scared.” When a year or so later her doctor suspected she wasn’t really infected with HIV, she “finally found the courage to retest,” and in a series of tests received results that were inconclusive, she reports, then positive, negative and positive again.

False-negative HIV tests are extremely rare, while false positives are much more common, though infrequent. This fact and all the other available evidence strongly indicate that Maggiore was never infected with HIV, and she herself emphasizes the term “positive” and avoids saying she is infected or has the virus, allowing others to draw that erroneous conclusion. Most people would be thrilled to learn they were uninfected, but Maggiore was unwilling to give up the spotlight. This HIV pretender twisted her good health and the marginal incidence of false positives into a lucrative new racket�selling HIV denialism and bragging about her good life “without pharmaceutical treatments or fear of AIDS.” But of course Maggiore has no “fear of AIDS”�she doesn’t have HIV. She has since had two children, now three and seven years old, whom she boasted to Scheff “have never been tested. � They don’t take AIDS drugs. And they’re not in the least bit sick.” But of course Maggiore didn’t want them to be tested: she knows that they are not at risk and that their being uninfected would lead people to question her own status. And of course they don’t take “AIDS drugs”�they don’t have HIV or AIDS.

Christine Maggiore isn’t living proof that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS; she’s just another lying AIDS profiteer, exploiting the real fears of those who actually are infected with HIV and the real suffering of those living with AIDS to get public attention, sell books and pick up well-paid speaking gigs. This might matter less if she wasn’t telling parents and caregivers of children who really are HIV-infected to take the kids off difficult but life-saving antivirals. Maggiore has never had to make agonizing treatment decisions for herself or for her children.

This month, the Centers for Disease Control reported that about 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV. (Of these, fully half are African-American.) This is the largest number of infected Americans since the start of the epidemic, reflects the good news that people with HIV are living longer because of antiretroviral therapy and the sad fact that HIV prevention messages are not effective enough, so the virus is continuing to spread. Because HIV denialists actively discourage people with the virus from taking antiretroviral drugs, and because disinformation about HIV allows people to ignore advice about safer sex and clean needles, the rates of both deaths and new infections will rise if their campaign is successful. The communities most at risk�African-Americans, Latinos, and gay men of all ethnicities�will suffer the greatest losses. Not believing in the virus offers no protection from it.

The small clutches of protesters who gather occasionally outside Incarnation Children’s Center vow “No More Tuskegee Experiments.” But remember: The essence of the Tuskegee atrocity was that poor African-Americans who were known by doctors to have a devastating, usually fatal infection were lied to about their condition and intentionally denied lifesaving medication that was available to others. That is exactly what the denialists are perpetrating right now. Denialism is the new Tuskegee. In Washington Heights, the heroes who fought the government to get treatment to the powerless children of color who were infected, sick and dying were the brave little group at Incarnation Children’s Center.

Volume 18, Issue 25

� 2005 New York Press

As usual, the lay debate rapidly deteriorates into an ad hominem discussion of motives, but Bergman’s is particularly egregious. For a human rights activist to invest in such calumny as suggesting the notorious HIV questioner Christine Maggiore is in it for “self-promotion” seems unconscionable. With the social pressure all on the side of orthodoxy�and there is probably no current social issue where greater pressure is at work�the penalties for being an AIDS dissident are great. No self-promotion would be worth the price which the Maggiores of the world pay for their dissent, which always includes widespread vilification of this kind.

Surely it is the wave of social pressure that buoys her that leads Bergman to triumphantly conclude that “In Washington Heights, the heroes who fought the government to get treatment to the powerless children of color who were infected, sick and dying were the brave little group at Incarnation Children’s Center.” Even the HHS has agreed that their behavior was against the code. And the lack of sense in this statement is stunning, if the studies were designed to test the effects of the drugs.

On the other side of the “debate”, we have the exemplary attitude of political humility and modestly inexpert enquiry assumed by Celia Farber, one of the longest running reporter-enquirers in AIDS, of which there are barely a handful in the media, few of them in the top mainstream yet. (Insiders expect a change in this shortly, for a stunningly well written piece is in the works at a major magazine which seems destined to gain the dissident view new respect and attention.)

Farber’s slightly mournful earnestness is charming and effective, quickly winning over readers by enlisting them as fellow travelers in her enquiry, by persuading them gently to join her in her incessant wondering at the inconsistencies of “AIDS”. That is to say, her incredulity at the disconnect between the theoretical fantasy of AIDS and the plain facts of experience, and wonder at the unscientific, often irrational, self-serving and socially irresponsible behavior of the people who are influential in the field, are both more persuasive in the public arena than direct attack.

Here (below) is Farber’s “denialism”, which is nothing more than “denying” that HIV-AIDS ideology makes sense. It denies any sense in accepting the current story of HIV-AIDS when it is rife with inconsistencies, irresponsible behavior, questionable claims, corrupt studies and statistics, concealment and dismissal of problems, and all the other earmarks of a boondoogle which has nothing to do with good science and everything to do with superstition, slow wittedness and self-interest.

In other words, she prefers to ask for answers, rather than accept unlikely claims.

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WWW.NYPRESS.COM | JUNE 22, 2005

CELIA FARBER

NEWS & COLUMNS

The hysteria-laden question of whether anti-HIV drugs are �life-saving,� as the AIDS orthodoxy holds, or �deadly,� as the HIV dissidents claim, is unanswerable in the currently available language, which was blunted and rendered incoherent by political forces as early as 1981. Language is the only interface between phenomena and our comprehension of them, and I have grown weary of being forced to use AIDS language that is itself inaccurate and loaded. First of all, lives can�t really be �saved��they can only be extended. To prove that a life has indeed been extended one must first know, with absolute certainty, that without intervention, the life would have ended. In order to know that, one must know the natural history of the disease, and then one must examine the fate of the untreated population.

The unified voice of the AIDS establishment has claimed thunderous victory for the post-1996 drug regimens that came to be known as �cocktails,� which came into vogue about three years after death rates began declining, but nonetheless got full-trumpet credit for turning the tide.

Let me say, first, that I have been told and have reported and have imprinted upon my soul that for some people, at some stages of immune collapse, these drugs have helped, and maybe even prevented a slide into death. Roberto Giraldo, a doctor and expert in infectious and tropical diseases who crosses the world treating AIDS, tells me this is probably due to their anti-oxidant, anti-viral and anti-microbial properties. He also tells me that in his experience, severe immune deficiency�which may be a more useful term than �AIDS��occurs only where severe depletion of vital nutrients has occurred; reversing the illness starts with restoring those nutrients.

“Biochemically speaking, people who are malnourished, whether because they are poor, or because they are drug addicts, suffer from oxidization, and lack vitamins A, B, E, zinc and selenium. This is true of all AIDS patients I have ever seen,” he said via telephone. “We cannot say that protease inhibitors are useless. In 1996 when they started to use protease inhibitors, there is no doubt that there was a change. Before 1996, all the people who used AZT, they were killed. There was no benefit there. Protease inhibitors, they are also very toxic but they have benefits, they are antioxidants. No doubt they are poison and in the long run they kill the person, but you need proteases in the process of oxidation. Besides that, these drugs are also antibiotics.” Giraldo believes that AIDS is a disease �of poverty,� primarily, meaning of extreme depletion of the cells, and that those who have been middle- or upper-class, who have gotten sick, depleted their bodies through drug use and prolonged exposure to toxins. “HIV by itself causes nothing,” he says.

Giraldo has written and published voluminously on how to reverse the condition of severe immune suppression through intensive nutritional supplementation and orthomolecular medicine, combined with modified antibiotic and other targeted drug regimens. I am well aware of how scorned these ideas are among those who feel that they and they alone know what AIDS is, and how to �fight� it, i.e., the orthodoxy and the pro-drug activists. Since 1986, when I began reporting on AIDS, I have compensated for this scorn, ridicule and censure by quoting the Roberto Giraldos of this world, not because I know these voices are ‘right,’ but because I feel they must be represented against the relentless chorus of the new-and-better-drugs-into-all-bodies-in-all-nations crowd. I am not a doctor and have never treated an AIDS patient. I’ve known dozens if not hundreds of people though, in my 20 years studying this and listening to people, who have been HIV-antibody positive and stayed healthy for up to 20 years and probably more. I wish somebody was counting them, listening to them, logging them in the official history. Nobody is; they are not supposed to exist.

Each of the 26 anti-HIV drugs currently on the market, combined in infinite combinations, or ‘cocktails,’ is, by admission of the manufacturers, potentially lethal. One of the unexpected effects of Protease Inhibitors, or so-called HAART therapy (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) seen in recent years was a disruption of the body�s fat-distribution mechanisms. This in turn (in addition to the fatty deposits on the upper neck and various parts of the body) has caused strokes and heart attacks in many patients, at the very moment when the drugs were theoretically �working,� meaning so-called surrogate markers (cd4 cells and viral load) were going the right way. The other significant danger of HAART proved to be liver and kidney failure, which, according to a study done at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, �surpassed deaths due to advanced HIV,� in 2002. In 2005 the Wall Street Journal reported that, according to a Danish study, AIDS drug cocktails �may double the risk of heart attacks.� In 2004, the journal AIDS reported, with characteristic lack of alarm, �All 4 classes of antiretrovirals (ARVs) and all 19 FDA approved ARVs have been directly or indirectly associated with life-threatening events and death.� The paper was titled �Grade 4 Events Are as Important as AIDS Events in the Era of HAART,� and �grade 4 events� referred to �serious or life-threatening events.�

The conclusion: More than twice as many people (675) had a drug-related (grade 4) life-threatening event as an �AIDS event� (332). The most common causes of grade 4 events (drug toxicities) were �liver related.� The greatest risk of death was not an AIDS �event� but a drug event�heart attacks (�cardiovascular events�). The authors wrote: �Our finding is that the rate of grade 4 events is greater than the rate of AIDS events, and that the risk of death associated with these grade 4 events was very high for many events. Thus the incidence of AIDS fails to capture most of the morbidity experienced by patients with HIV infection prescribed HAART.� (Italics mine) In plain English, AIDS drugs cause AIDS and death far more effectively than �AIDS� itself.

Any triumph or victory claimed by the AIDS lobby for these drugs must be measured against a phenomenon they continue to deny exists, namely the untold number of people who are, to use their language, �living with HIV.� This includes those invisible, uncounted, unloved people who are HIV-antibody positive, taking no drugs, not getting sick, not dying at a faster rate than HIV negatives. This begs the question of whether HIV causes AIDS. Currently, we have one camp�which I will call the �orthodoxy��that argues that although current HIV drugs have frightful side effects and are difficult to take, they have nonetheless reversed a tide of death, which was seen throughout the 1980s and into the mid 1990s in people who were diagnosed with severe immune dysfunction. This camp, since it views AIDS as �HIV disease,� meaning caused singularly by HIV, concentrates its efforts to �fight AIDS,� on high tech drugs that in various ways are meant to disable HIV in the blood. They are extremely mechanistic in their view of the human body and the immune system. It�s all numbers.

The much-maligned contraries camp, which I will call the �dissidents,� have argued since the early 1980s that AIDS has multiple causes, and that its resolution should be rooted in a direct address to all these root causes. These include a cessation of recreational drug use, avoidance (when possible) of the most toxic anti-HIV drugs, a strong focus on reversing malnutrition, (particularly in Africa) and a treatment approach that treats the specific opportunistic infection a person manifests, with the state of the art treatment for that infection.

PCP pneumonia, for example, is utterly treatable, yet thousands of people died in the 1980s of it. Why? Because fighting AIDS meant �attacking� HIV, period. Never the specific diseases; never the underlying causes�only the virus. David Ho, Time�s Person of the Year, sported a button at a conference that summed up this ideology. The button said, �It�s the virus, stupid.�

How that came to be the dominant scientific religion is a subject of infinite complexity and tragedy. The virus (which is actually a retrovirus, of a class that was never thought to be pathogenic prior to 1984, and which we all harbor shards of in our germline) provided an absolute measure, a clear delineation, a battleground, and above all, a focus for a gigantic industry, as well as an international corporation called AIDS Inc. The natural and true history of AIDS is only beginning to be told, or rather, retold. When AIDS Began: San Francisco and The Making of An Epidemic (Routledge) by Michelle Cochrane traces the earliest intersection between what was being observed, those who were doing the observing, and how the �truth� fared in the process. Cochrane weaves a rigorously detailed semantic, medical, and sociological examination of the first cases as they were charted and described by the San Francisco Department of Public Health in 1981. She explodes the myth of the first cases of AIDS having appeared, as the New York Times famously phrased it, in �previously healthy,� and even upwardly mobile, gay men, and shows that quite the contrary, the first nine cases were in men who had a range of immune assaults. All were recreational drug users, many were IV drug users, and some were even homeless. They suffered from diseases that had been seen in IV drug users since the 1930s, primarily fungal infections and lung diseases. That they were �gay,� was perhaps the least significant detail. Because the federal research effort ($36 billion so far) has been 100 percent HIV-centric, and because AIDS was presumed to be sexually transmitted as opposed to �acquired,� we are essentially 20 years behind in our intelligence gathering on AIDS. One of the most astonishing things about the politics of AIDS is the way in which the left repudiated any explanations of disease causation that could be predicted by poverty and social marginalization.

One of the hallmarks of the AIDS orthodoxy�s language is that coiled within each word and phrase is the answer, as well as the shaming of the question itself. George Orwell (in 1984) described the orthodox style as, ��at once military and pedantic,� characterized by a trick of ��asking questions and then promptly answering them.� Anti-HIV drugs, for example, are always called �life-saving drugs.� Why not just call them �drugs� and allow their merits to be debated? Because at the root of the AIDS orthodoxy is a relentless urge to control all thought on AIDS.

All people who question any facet of orthodox AIDS theory are �murderously irresponsible,� and dripping with the psychic blood of millions. In this gladiatorial atmosphere, it is a wonder anybody speaks out at all. If only we could agree that most people are not, by nature, homicidal, and that dissenting views are productive to a search for truth, we might get somewhere. But I know, as surely as I know anything, that my opponent in these pages will have characterized my position as �denialist.� I am not denying anything. People have died of AIDS and the matter at hand is what they died from. A retroviral infection? A host of immuno-compromising factors? An absence of AIDS drugs�or indeed, the AIDS drugs themselves?

In 1984, when the US government announced at a press conference that one of its scientists�Robert Gallo�had found the �probable cause of AIDS,� the official theory held that HIV caused AIDS by eating CD4 cells at a rapid clip. HIV was said to cause AIDS in a year or two, at best. Today, this theory has morphed into a range of possibilities; HIV causes AIDS in 10 to 15 years, in most people, but a small minority, so-called �long-term non-progressors,� might be spared due to a genetic fluke.

To my mind, if we are to stick to the orthodoxy�s own measure, one cannot begin to speak of �saving� life until one has surpassed these ten or fifteen years. In the 1980s, AZT was claimed, with the same high dudgeon by the same orthodoxy, to �save� lives, yet few survived for more than a year on the earliest AZT regimens. The word �denial� comes to mind.

When people make dramatic claims for current drug regimens, the death rates they are actually comparing are not drugs vs. no drugs, but rather extremely toxic drugs of the early years compared to less toxic drugs of today. The earliest AIDS cases, marked by Kaposi�s Sarcoma, were treated with chemotherapy (1981 to 1986) followed by AZT monotherapy in doses ranging from 1800 milligrams to 500 milligrams (1986 to 1989) followed by combinations of AZT, ddi, ddc and d4t (1989 to 1996) followed by protease inhibitors in various combinations, from 1996 to the present day. The one era I have no question resulted in deaths from the treatment itself, is the early AZT era, (circa 1986 to 1989) particularly when the common dosage was 1200 to 1800 milligrams. A German AIDS physician named Klaus Koehnlein told me in 2000, �We killed a whole generation of AIDS patients with AZT.�

My friend Richard Berkowitz, author of Stayin Alive: The Invention of Safe Sex, A Personal History (Westview), said: �Every friend I had that went on AZT in those early years is dead.� He says that they lasted on average nine months on the drug. HIV positive since the early 1980s, Berkowitz credits his survival to two things: 1) having avoided AZT, and 2) safe sex.

What he means by �safe sex,� a concept and term he himself developed and coined, together with the late activist Michael Callen, is far more complex than mere condom use. Drawing on the pioneering observations and warnings of Dr. Joseph Sonnabend, it involves an avoidance of many STDs and parasitic infections, coupled with a belief in life rather than a belief in the death sentence of HIV. Berkowitz has also mitigated my repudiation of cocktail therapy by stressing that a moderate regimen pulled him back from the brink of death a few years ago.

Paul King, a Brit who runs a dissident website called Dissident Action Group in the U.S., counters the establishment�s claim that dissenting views on AIDS, HIV and drug regimens are still �fringe.�

�From the very beginning in the 1980s, the AIDS dissident movement faced a level of censorship unrivaled since the anti birth control information Comstock Law of the early 20th century,� he said in an email. �Every day,� King claims, �almost without exception, we attract another PhD or doctor and now have well over 4,000 doctors and scientists endorsing our views.�

�The public has had enough of exaggerated stories of epidemics that never materialize and [that diminish] personal freedom.�

Volume 18, Issue 25

� 2005 New York Press

Here then we see that a seasoned HIV doubter answers a virulent, hysterical, verbal lynching with world weary logic and citing of evidence of harm, the harm, for example, that the HAART drug regimen does to the livers of patients, often culminating in a transplant. As a staff member of Mt Sinai’s group handling liver transplants told us the other day, “Oh yes we see lots of AIDS patients!”

Why are the AIDS drugs initially beneficial?

The central issue in many people’s minds on the question of HIV and AIDS, as we have pointed out before, is that if the drugs result in what is widely reported to be immediate improvment, surely this strongly indicates that the mainstream theory is essentially correct, and that HIV causes AIDS.

Farber takes the opportunity to anwer this question, which (as far as we can check) has been left unanswered by the HIV reviewers in the peer-reviewed literature, by quoting Roberto Giraldo, an impassioned foe of HIV=AIDS ideology who works in the Laboratories of Clinical Immunology and Molecular diagnosis at the New York Presbyterian Hospital, Weill Cornell Medical Center, in New York City, and who travels widely researching tropical diseases (see his web site Roberto Giraldo).

“Biochemically speaking, people who are malnourished, whether because they are poor, or because they are drug addicts, suffer from oxidization, and lack vitamins A, B, E, zinc and selenium. This is true of all AIDS patients I have ever seen,” he said via telephone. “We cannot say that protease inhibitors are useless. In 1996 when they started to use protease inhibitors, there is no doubt that there was a change. Before 1996, all the people who used AZT, they were killed. There was no benefit there. Protease inhibitors, they are also very toxic but they have benefits, they are antioxidants. No doubt they are poison and in the long run they kill the person, but you need proteases in the process of oxidation. Besides that, these drugs are also antibiotics.” Giraldo believes that AIDS is a disease “of poverty,” primarily, meaning of extreme depletion of the cells, and that those who have been middle- or upper-class, who have gotten sick, depleted their bodies through drug use and prolonged exposure to toxins. “HIV by itself causes nothing,” he says.

Short of a peer reviewed paper on the topic, which is what the world needs, this will have to do.

One briefly wonders if Farber’s civil, encompassing tone is wasted and if she should be as decisive and belligerent as Bergman to catch the eye of casual readers. But the imbalance of politesse seems to us to indicate that all the social pressure is on the side of the current wisdom most readers share with Bergman, and against any doubters, who simply cannot afford to be adamant as the believers.

This fiercely one-sided social pressure twists the lay AIDS debate into a pretzel of bad logic and bad behavior, where rationalization of nonsense and rejection of sense is the order of the day for HIV defenders. It also places a burden on challengers which is hard for them to survive. All the platforms are occupied by the mainstream, and they must be on their best behavior even to gain a hearing.

Meanwhile, HIV defenders can behave as badly as they wish.

For exposing this distortion so clearly by running these pieces, and for bringing the dicussion back into the mainstream arena, the New York Press deserves credit.

2 Responses to “NY Press shows who are the true “denialists””

  1. Darin Brown Says:

    Good grief,Bergman’s article would be FUNNY, if the consequences of her ill-informed vitriol weren’t so SERIOUS.

  2. Darin Brown Says:

    Hey,If Bergman thinks Christine isn’t really HIV positive after all, how on earth does she explain the whole Eliza Jane mess?? Where did Eliza Jane supposedly get HIV? Did a Martian come down and magically infect her??

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