Myths vs. Medicine
On the Edge with Burton Goldberg

While Western medicine has spent $50 billion in research futilely focusing on a virus that by itself does not cause the disease, alternative physicians have quietly made tremendous progress in treating AIDS.

A little more than two years ago, the leader of an African nation was universally attacked in the world press for being an “enemy of the people,” espousing a policy of “genocide” and letting “babies die in pain.” Was this a monster supporting terrorists, experimenting with weapons of mass destruction or waging war on minorities in his country? No, it was Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa. His “crime” was suggesting that his country review the safety of AIDS drugs.

Then, adding fuel to the controversy, in March 2000, President Mbeki invited about 30 HIV-AIDS researchers to his presidential AIDS panel in Pretoria, including two American biochemists, Peter Duesberg and David Rasnick. These two Ph.D.s from the University of California at Berkeley are vocal dissidents of conventional thinking about HIV and AIDS. It is obvious that Mbeki is no monster, but is he misinformed and misguided to question the safety of AIDS drugs and the absolute equation HIV = AIDS?

It was April 23, 1984, when Robert Gallo, M.D., of the National Cancer Institute, announced that he had found the “probable cause of AIDS.” It was, he said, a new retrovirus that he named HTLV-III (human T-cell lymphotropic virus III), which was later renamed HIV. Gallo’s evidence for this claim was not the actual isolation of a virus, but the detection of antibodies in most but not all AIDS patients that he and his colleagues had analyzed. (It turned out that Luc Montagnier, M.D., of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, had provided Gallo with sample virus evidence the previous year, and is now given credit as the “co-discoverer of HIV.”)

So great was the horror and hysteria surrounding AIDS that this announcement was immediately greeted not as a probable hypothesis but as fact by the media and public. There were protests from the very outset over this leap of faith, however, voiced by some very prominent researchers. One of them was Kary Mullis, Ph.D., who recieved the 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry for the invention of the Polymerase Chain Reaction test, a mainstay of AIDS research technology.

In 1992 he stated, “Nobody in their right mind would jump into this thing like [Gallo et al.] did. It had nothing to do with any well-considered science. There were some people who had AIDS and some of them had HIV not even all of them. So they had a correlation. So what?” Actually, scientists from prestigious institutions all over the world pointed out many inconsistencies and contradictions in the “HIV = AIDS” theory.

But, as Mbeki himself stated in a letter he wrote to then-President Clinton, there was a “campaign of intellectual intimidation and terrorism” akin to “medieval book-burning” to keep alternative theories about the causes of the disease from being heard. There are two so-called AIDS tests the ELISA (enzyme linked immunosorbant assay) and the Western Blot test. Neither of these tests detect the virus; they detect antibodies that the body can produce in response to a number of stimuli.

False HIV positives have been caused by at least 66 documented unrelated health conditions, medications and other factors, including food allergies, vaccinations, blood transfusions, proteins on test filter paper and a host of other viruses, bacteria and parasites. Note also that antibodies are not a sign of an active infection or disease they are only a sign that at one time our body produced an immune response to an antigen. There were and are other cogent technical arguments against the HIV = AIDS theory, coming from internationally renowned pathologists and virologists.

There are, for example, human populations who test HIV positive but never develop any symptoms of AIDS. Dr. Mullis references a United Nations study: “The World Health Organization studied prostitutes in a little coastal African country above Liberia. They found that 75% of the prostitutes were HIV-positive and predicted that five years later half of them would be dead. In five years they came back and there were no bodies to count. Still the positives are HIV positive, according to their tests.” Further, in animal studies, there are more than 125 chimpanzees that were inoculated with the AIDS virus more than 15 years ago who have never developed AIDS.

The HIV = AIDS theory violates the fundamental standards used to determine whether a particular organism causes a specific disease. These rules are called “Koch’s Postulates,” and were established over 100 years ago by German bacteriologist Robert Koch (pronounced “Koke”), who determined the causes of tuberculosis, anthrax and other diseases. These rules are 1) The suspected organism has to be present in each and every case of the disease, and in sufficient quantities to cause disease; 2) The agent cannot be found in other diseases and 3) After isolation and propagation, the agent can induce the disease when transmitted to another host.

HIV fails all three postulates: It is not present in every AIDS-like disease; it is not found in one but in 30 distinct diseases; and chimpanzees inoculated with HIV have consistently failed to develop AIDS, even after as long as 15 years. What this points to is that there are cofactors other than HIV that are necessary to cause AIDS that HIV by itself does not cause AIDS. Even Dr. Montagnier, the co-discoverer of HIV, stated at the Sixth International Conference on AIDS in 1990 that he no longer believed HIV by itself could cause AIDS without the help of one or several cofactors.

Yet all conventional medical research has focused on killing or preventing the replication of HIV. And, as President Mbeki observed, no vaccine has been developed and no cure has been found, nor is one even in sight. Some may argue that with highly active combination antiretroviral therapy (HAART) the famous AIDS cocktail of protease-inhibiting drugs that suppress the replication of HIV life expectancies have dramatically increased. Isn’t this proof that HIV causes AIDS? One must ask, however, is the general delay in the onset of AIDS symptoms following HIV infection due to these drugs, or are other factors at work? In fact, some alternative physicians who have success treating AIDS use anti-HIV drugs extremely judiciously both to minimize toxicity and to avoid creating resistance and use drugs not as the primary modality but as an adjunct to other therapies.

Jon D. Kaiser, M.D., of Marin County, California, is one such physician. He has treated HIV infections and AIDS patients in his private practice for 15 years. Dr. Kaiser’s latest book, published in 1999, is Healing HIV: How to Rebuild Your Immune System. Dr. Kaiser does believe that HIV is substantially involved in AIDS, but he uses antiviral drugs with the lightest touch possible. He practices what he calls a comprehensive healing program, which consists of customized recommendations from each of seven categories:

1) diet;
2) vitamins and nutritional supplements;
3) herbs and acupuncture;
4) individualized exercise programs;
5) stress reduction;
6) hormone balancing, and
7) medical therapies (including antiviral and anti-HIV drugs).

How successful is Kaiser’s program? Kaiser boldly states that “the progression of HIV disease in my practice is an extremely rare event.” During the past five years, he says, caring for 500 HIV-positive patients, not one patient who came to see him with a CD4 (T cell) count of greater than 300 cells per cubic millimeter of blood has progressed to below that level, and not one patient who came to him with a CD4 count of greater than 50 has become seriously ill or died from an HIV-related illness. Dr. Kaiser says that many of his patients “feel better now than they ever have during their entire lives. This holds true whether they are taking antiviral drugs or not.” Most people with HIV, he says, can now hope to live normal, healthy lives for what amounts to a normal lifespan.

How is this possible? One important thing to remember is that people don’t die of AIDS: They die of any of 30-odd conditions to which AIDS makes them susceptible by degrading their immune systems. All these diseases existed before the term AIDS was coined and HIV was discovered. If someone dies who has one or more of these conditions and is HIV positive, their death is called an AIDS fatality. However, if someone with one or more of these conditions dies who is not HIV positive, then that death is ascribed simply to the condition itself. Among HIV-positive people, the onset of AIDS and the manifestations of the disease vary enormously but do show distinct patterns that correlate strongly with lifestyle.

Drs. Duesberg and Rasnick, for example, claim that recreational and pharmaceutical drug use is a common denominator for more than 95% of all American and European AIDS patients. Further, their data shows that different drugs seem to cause distinct AIDS-related diseases. For instance, they claim that nitrite inhalants (“poppers,” extensively used by gay men in the ‘70s and ‘80s) cause Kaposi’s sarcoma (cancerous skin lesions only rarely seen in heterosexuals); cocaine causes weight loss; and AZT causes immunodeficiency, lymphoma, muscle atrophy and dementia.

There are doctors and researchers who believe that antiretroviral drugs can also do more harm than good. “I have a large population of people who have chosen not to take any antiretrovirals,” says Donald Abrams, M.D., director of the AIDS program at San Francisco General Hospital. “They’ve watched all their friends go on the antiviral bandwagon and die.” A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1995 showed that one of the things that long-term AIDS survivors had in common was that they didn’t take antiretroviral drugs. Leanna Standish, N.D., Ph.D., coeditor of AIDS and Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Current Science and Practice, disputes this, citing improvements in antiviral therapies since 1996. While definitely an alternative-minded physician, she emphatically states, “Highly active combination antiretroviral therapy has made it possible for many desperately ill men and women with AIDS who are also HIV-seropositive [feel] well enough to get up from their wheelchairs and sickbeds.”

Whether alternative doctors use antiretroviral drugs as part of their therapy or not, addressing drug use and the immune system damage it causes is as important or even more important than addressing the HIV itself. This is a fundamental difference between conventional and alternative medicine. Conventional medicine treats the symptoms of disease, while alternative medicine treats the patient. The disease syndrome we now call AIDS first came to our attention as an epidemic in the gay community. It was, in fact, originally called GRID Gay-Related Immune Deficiency. The HIV virus was spread through sexual contact (and also among intravenous drug users who shared needles). Many gay men in the ‘70s and ‘80s practiced a lifestyle that included frequent recreational drug use and multiple sex partners with the concomitant sexually transmitted diseases and use of antibiotics. (Semen itself is antigenic [provoking an immune-response], and when received in quantity is immunosuppressive.) All of these factors severely compromise the immune system, leaving individuals with few natural resources to control infections.

AIDS in Africa, however, is an entirely different story. There, HIV is epidemic throughout the entire population. The immunosuppressive agents for Africans are not drugs or promiscuity but malnutrition and the presence of bacteria and parasites, widespread because of a lack of public health sanitary measures. Thus, HIV-positive Africans develop AIDS at a different rate than Americans or Europeans. Duesberg states that in Africa, one AIDS case is diagnosed for every 300 HIV positives, while in the United States the ratio is one AIDS case for every 20 HIV positives. He ascribes American HIV positives’ 15-fold greater AIDS risk to Western’s medicine’s reliance on toxic anti-HIV drugs. Neither do Africans usually die of the same AIDS-related illnesses as Americans and Europeans do, such as pneumocystis pneumonia. In Africa, AIDS usually manifests as a wasting disease, consistent with the diarrheal infections and malnutrition present there.

Thus it was that President Mbeki was not inclined to combat his country’s AIDS epidemic by meekly purchasing millions of dollars’ worth of AZT. Instead, he insisted that the basic issue for South Africa was one of poverty, which caused malnutrition and sanitation problems. In a meeting with President Bush in June 2001, Mbeki repeated his assertion that “in many instances, these are diseases which are not only caused by poverty, some of them, but also cause poverty.”

I have been aware of these facts for many years. In 1994 I published a book with Leon Chaitow, N.D., D.O., You Don’t Have to Die: Unraveling the AIDS Myth. In its preface we stated, “We do not believe, based on the evidence we have seen and which we will outline, that HIV is a sufficient single cause of AIDS. Nor do we believe that being HIV-positive leads inevitably to AIDS, or that AIDS is necessarily irreversible. We do believe that enhancement and modulation of immune function presents an opportunity for recovery of health. We sincerely believe that this approach will be increasingly adopted as the HIV myth is discredited, and that we will look back and wonder why billions of dollars have been wasted in HIV-oriented research.”

Currently, approximately 7,000 people worldwide die of AIDS every day. At least their deaths are attributed to AIDS. In reality, they had tested positive for HIV and died of any of 30 AIDS-related diseases. Given the acknowledged unreliability of HIV testing, however, this number could be wildly off. Nevertheless, 7,000 people die each day of something that conventional medical treatment couldn’t help or quite possibly helped bring on. We do have the knowledge and techniques to prevent this from happening, but not if we stay with the bankrupt thinking that AIDS is one disease with one cause that will be cured with one drug. In looking for the origin of AIDS in Africa, researchers found that large populations of apes and wild cats were infected with “AIDS-like” viruses that had the potential to destroy their immune systems. The animals’ blood was full of these viruses, killing significant numbers of blood cells, but they never manifested any disease symptoms. What does this tell us about the nature of these retroviruses, which many researchers claim could never wreak all the damage that is ascribed to them?

HIV is simply a virus, like hundreds of other viruses we’ve lived with for as long as humanity has been on the planet. Most people have been exposed to influenza viruses, cytomegalovirus, herpes and Epstein-Barr. It is all but impossible to eradicate these infections; they can only be controlled. They do their damage when our immune systems are not up to the task. Trying to cure diseases by focusing on the development of toxic pharmaceutical drugs aimed at killing the viruses associated with them will ultimately make us all more vulnerable to new diseases. President Bush recently pledged an additional $200 million in AIDS funding over the next two years. Global activists think that the U.S. should contribute $2.5 billion. Without a paradigm shift in the way we approach AIDS, however, this money will not only be wasted, but could do more harm than good.

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