A Dissenting View on AIDS Policy
South African President Thabo Mbeki
deserves praise for questioning `official’ beliefs about cause of disease
Michael P. Wright, Wednesday, May 24,
AS A FORMER AIDS research grant recipient, I wish to praise South African President
Thabo Mbeki for his courage in having publicly declared his willingness to listen
to scientists who challenge AIDS orthodoxy. Mbeki arrives today in San Francisco,
where he will address a joint meeting of the Commonwealth Club and the World Affairs
Council, as part of his first state visit to the United States since succeeding Nelson
Mandela as president last year.
The 33-member AIDS panel that Mbeki appointed includes researchers who have postulated
that HIV does not cause the disease. This is in conflict with the official viewpoint
established within South African governmental health agencies. For nine years beginning
in 1987, I was involved professionally in AIDS/HIV research. During the 1990s, I
was awarded two federal grants for this work by the Small Business Innovation Research
program of the U.S. National Cancer Institute. By the end of this period, I had become
skeptical about official beliefs concerning AIDS.
My project was to design computer software that assessed risk for current HIV infection.
After computing the probability of infection by incorporating the anonymous user’s
answers into a detailed history interview conducted in privacy, the software makes
a recommendation about whether the indi vidual should have an HIV-antibody test.
In order to win these grants, I had to review the epidemiologic literature to arrive
at plausible measures of HIV transmission risk for different kinds of sexual conduct
and at reasonable estimates of HIV-infection prevalence within various U.S. population
From this research, I concluded that there was absolutely no reason to fear a heterosexual
HIV epidemic sustained by the practice of vaginal sex in the United States.
Although numerous studies have demonstrated the enormously low possibility of a heterosexual
HIV epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control chose to ignore them and launched a
fraudulent campaign of fear to convince the majority of the American public that
sexually active people are at significant risk of contracting HIV.
The scare campaign was initiated in the late 1980s, and was nothing more than a political
strategy to stir up popular support for elevated government spending for various
AIDS programs, including pursuit of the elusive dream of miracle cures. Pharmaceutical
companies have enjoyed handsome benefits from this endeavor, and now seek to expand
their enterprises in South Africa and other Third World nations. There is a large
body of literature which supports the conclusion that the possibility of a heterosexual
HIV epidemic is enormously low. For brevity’s sake, I shall offer only a few examples:
• In December 1987, the CDC issued a publication which recognized that those at high
risk for HIV infection are mostly gay and bisexual males, intravenous drug users,
and their sex partners. Members of the U.S. population not belonging to any of the
listed groups were classified by the CDC as ``heterosexuals without specific identified
risk,’’ and the CDC estimated the size of this population to be 142 million. The
agency estimated the HIV infection rate for this group
• the vast majority of American adults and adolescents – to be 2 in 10,000 (.02 percent)
compared to 20 to 25 percent for homosexual males. Thus, for gay males the infection
rate was 1,000 times greater compared to heterosexuals outside of specific risk groups
(Source: CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Dec. 18, 1987, Vol. 36/No. S-6,
• The infection rate for this same heterosexual population has declined from the
1987 level and was estimated to be 1.5 per 10,000 (.015 percent) in 1992 (Source:
CDC, National Serosurveillance Summary, Vol. 3 (HIV/NCID/11- 93)).
• At a 1987 AIDS conference, epidemiologist Nancy Padian and colleagues presented
a paper in which they demonstrated that the odds were 1,000 to 1 against transmitting
HIV in a single act of unprotected vaginal sex between an infected male and an uninfected
female (Source: Abstract THP.3-48: 171, presented at the Third International AIDS
Conference, Washington, D.C., June 1987).
• In a 1988 publication, researchers demonstrated that the odds were 5 million to
1 against a new HIV infection taking place in a single act of unprotected vaginal
sex between members of that population which the CDC had earlier recognized and labeled
as ``heterosexuals without specific identified risk’’ (Source: Journal of the American
Medical Association, April 22/29, 1988, Vol. 259/No. 16, pages 2428-2432).
In one of the more honest moments of reporting by the mainstream American press,
the Wall Street Journal exposed the political nature of the scare campaign in a long
article published May 1, 1996. The Journal described the creation of the CDC’s ``marketing
campaign’’ to spread the belief in universality of risk for AIDS. The article reported
that federal funding for AIDS-related medical research grew to $1.65 billion in 1996
from $341 million in 1987 while the CDC’s prevention dollars grew to $584 million
from $136 million.
Interestingly, as shown by the CDC’s own published numbers, the HIV prevalence within
the vast population they were intending to frighten was actually declining as the
scare propaganda was escalated.
As I observed the growing credibility gap between the perception manufactured by
the scare campaigners and the reality described in the scientific press, I became
open to arguments attacking other elements in the officially promoted belief system
about AIDS. In plain terms, one might ask: If they would lie as shamelessly as they
have about heterosexual risk, could they be trusted to be honest about other aspects
of AIDS? Robert Root-Bernstein, a Michigan State physiologist and author of ``Rethinking
AIDS’’(Free Press, 1993) was the first skeptical writer to influence me to begin
questioning the view that HIV is the sole cause of AIDS.
In a Wall Street Journal guest editorial (March 17, 1993), he pointed out that AIDS
had remained within specific risk groups: gay men and ``an ever-growing population
of urban, drug-addicted, poverty-ridden, malnourished, hopeless and medically deprived
Root-Bernstein further emphasized that those who suffer from AIDS ``have many additional
immune-suppressive factors at work for them that predispose them to disease.’’ His
list of examples included semen-induced autoimmunity following unprotected anal sex,
blood transfusions, multiple concurrent infections, both recreational and pharmaceutical
drug use, malnutrition and anemia. His opinion was that HIV does not explain AIDS
in the absence of a co-factor. It follows that eliminating the other risk factors
is the plausible strategy for combatting AIDS, instead of treatment with toxic antiviral
In the forward to ``Inventing the AIDS Virus’’ (Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1997) by
prominent AIDS dissenter Peter M. Duesberg, Nobel laureate Kary Mullis reports his
failure to discover a single scientific publication demonstrating that HIV is the
cause of AIDS. I suggest that the very hypothesis that HIV causes ``AIDS’’ is scientifically
nonsensical. It makes no sense to attempt to explain something which has not been
adequately defined for scientific discourse.
The official definition of ``AIDS’’ has been an evolving political drama whose script
has been written by bureaucratic operatives scheming on maximizing advantage for
their agencies. In the United States, there have been four official AIDS definitions
since 1983. Duesberg says, ``Every time the CDC needs higher rates of new AIDS cases,
it expands that definition once again, and more diseases are reclassified into the
In Africa, an altogether different definition is used. Created by the World Health
Organization, it does not even require that presence of HIV be detected in order
to diagnose an ``AIDS’’ case.
Given this state of affairs, a more plausible statement of a tenable scientific hypothesis
would be: what factors explain serious illness and mortality in those who have been
labeled ``AIDS’’ patients? Are there, on published record, any cases of such patients
for whom all proposed causes of immunosuppression, other than HIV infection, have
been contradicted by evidence?
Before giving Western pharmaceutical companies a free hand to peddle their toxic
products in his country, President Mbeki should demand that defenders of HIV orthodoxy
answer this question.
Michael P. Wright is an independent researcher and writer living in Norman, Okla.
AIDS dissent information is available at these Web sites: duesberg.com, sumeria.net,
aliveandwell.org, and rethinkingaids.com.
©2000 San Francisco Chronicle: A Dissenting View on AIDS Policy