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, 2000

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 groups.

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, Table 14).

• 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 people.’’

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 drugs.

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 syndrome.’’

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:,,, and

©2000 San Francisco Chronicle: A Dissenting View on AIDS Policy

Back to Top

Back to Health Directory