Notes on AIDS

Notes by Dr Alan McManus on Prof Sir Andrew McMichael’s talk on 15th January 2012 to Glasgow Skeptics: Does HIV Cause AIDS? Available HERE (accessed 4th January 2018)

Disclaimer I am not a medical doctor, nor a scientist or statistician. No medical decisions should be taken on the basis of these notes, which are simply a layman’s response to the words of a competent authority in the field of HIV/AIDS made in the light of the words of other competent authorities in this field. I am working from an online video not a transcription, so please do not take the following as official quotes as they may be slightly paraphrased (as I can’t run back the clip). Some quotes are taken from bulletpoints on the PowerPoint used in the video clip. I do not comment on the illustrative graphs shown in the video clip which have no figures on the X-axis, nor references for their data, as no methodological information is given for any of them – including whether the years shown on the y-axis are based on extrapolated data (speculation). Therefore they have as much scientific credibility as doodles (this does not mean they are therefore wrong, but it does mean they cannot function as scientific supporting evidence).

“It’s fine to be skeptical, as long as you are prepared to change your mind. If you’re not prepared to change your mind, you’re really denying it.”

  • Questioning a controversial hypothesis is not being in denial. Especially as Dr Montagnier & Dr Gallo (official ‘co-discoverers of HIV’) take different hypothetical positions. SOURCE

“There are three prominent denialists.”

  • There are many prominent scientists who dispute the official hypothesis of HIV/AIDS. SOURCE

“This is Professor Peter Duesberg, who’s a Professor of Chemistry at Berkeley.”

  • Peter Duesberg is Professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at UC Berkeley. SOURCE

“He was first skeptical then became a denialist. So, bucking the trend, painting himself as a kind of Galileo.”

  • As far as I can tell, this has been said about Professor Duesberg, not by him. SOURCE

[Speaking also of Dr Kary Mullis, whom he describes as ‘a crackpot’] “These guys are chemists, and I don’t have anything against chemists but they don’t know much about medicine.”

  • Dr Mullis is a Biochemist and Nobel Prizewinner. SOURCE

[Speaking of the position of President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa on AIDS] “He was surfing the internet one night and came across AIDS denialism […] He refused to believe that HIV was the root of it.”

  • President Mbeki has never stated this belief. He was concerned at the insistence of global pharmaceutical companies to push AZT monotherapy (now known to be toxic and withdrawn elsewhere) on the people of South Africa and set up a conference of international experts (most of the establishment opinion) to ask for advice. SOURCE

“AIDS is caused by, or is a myth created by, the CIA [etc.]”

  • Prof McMichael (who makes several, unsubstantiated and sarcastic ad hominem attacks during this talk) is here appearing to be speaking of these three ‘prominent denialists’ but, as far as I know, none of them have ever espoused such conspiracy theories. They are not to blame for those who have.

[Speaking of a report in a Ugandan newspaper] “Men were accused of sleeping with fish, as this disease wreaked havoc among Ugandans […] So there were some really wild notions out there.”

  • This report has nothing to do with the debate. Why chose an example of African AIDS hysteria when there are so many European ones? Conflating the reasoned concerns of top scientists and a caring president with such media hysteria is both nasty and illogical.

“They a see circular argument in that we define the disease as having HIV […] but the fact remains that every case has the virus.”

  • This is false. SOURCE
  • There is also the huge problem of different and changing classifications of AIDS. SOURCE

“The next slide shows the virus budding from the particles. So the virus exists and Duesberg doesn’t deny that the virus exists.”

  • This is true, but the Perth Group of scientists (whom Prof McMichael studiously ignore) have maintained for over 30 years that there has never been any convincing proof of the existence of the Virus and that electron micrographs supposedly showing the virus have various inconsistencies with the establishment theory of HIV/AIDS. SOURCE

[Speaking of Koch’s 4 Postulates] “There were two lab incidents in the USA, were people were accidentally infected with HIV and went on to develop the symptoms of AIDS and they were treated in time to save their lives. […] I guess the virus could be isolated from these people.”

  • Anecdotal evidence. No controls. This is not a double-blinded scientific study nor anywhere near it. Gossip doesn’t prove a point. There are many examples (e.g. of spouses staying HIV negative after decades of unprotected sex with an HIV positive partner) to the contrary. SOURCE

[Speaking of Koch’s 4 Postulates] “At least in one animal, AIDS has been caused, so it fulfils 3 and 4.”

  • On the screen, the bulletpoint refers to SIV (Simian [monkey] Immunodeficiency Virus) not AIDS. SOURCE (about 9:56 on the video clip)

“HIV positivity precedes development of AIDS”

  • This is only true if AIDS is defined as having at least one of a list of conditions plus HIV, and if the cases of AIDS in HIV- people are ignored. SOURCE
  • Also there is no control of anti-retroviral drugs as a causative factor for symptoms of AIDS, which they are officially admitted to cause. SOURCE

“HIV appears in population before deaths from AIDS.”

  • HIV doesn’t ‘appear’. Whatever the source of the phenomenon that HIV tests are recording, it does not follow the classic bell curve of a new epidemic. If this is an existing virus, it’s an old one. SOURCE (The author does not say this clearly, although Professor Duesberg does, SOURCE although it is admitted that the data support this conclusion. The author declares ‘no conflicting interests’ even though the research is sponsored by a foundation that is a spin-off of a large pharmaceutical company SOURCE and published by another)

[Referring to Neville Hodgkinson (writer) and Andrew Neal (editor)] “a pretty scurrilous series of articles that appeared in the Sunday Times”.

  • The writer apparently was persuaded by the reasonableness of the ‘dissident’ arguments and the published debate shut down by very unreasonable complaints. SOURCE
  • The writer appears quite reasonable in this interview: SOURCE

[Speaking of the strange absence of HIV in cells in the body] “only 1/10,000 to 1/1,000 cells affected” but “Recent evidence that 20% of gut CD4+ T cells infected in acute infection.”

  • The competing hypothesis of oxidative stress focuses on the rectum and can explain this apparent result without recourse to HIV. SOURCE (a very erudite article from the leading light of the Perth Group, see also the short article by Joan Shenton at the end)

“80% of CD4+ T cells in gut die in acute infection.”

  • This ‘virus like no other’ (Perth Group) is said to kill T cells yet it is grown in them! Researchers advise each other on the best T cell lines to use: SOURCE. Incidentally, this is why it makes no sense to use chemotherapy drugs (which targets the overgrowth of T cells) for HIV (which is supposed to kill T cells). SOURCE

[Speaking of AZT] “It does have side-effects. It was originally made as a cancer drug, to stop cancer cells growing.” “It can stop other cells growing.”

  • AZT was never approved as a cancer drug, because of the results in animal test there were no tests on humans. SOURCE

[Speaking of AZT] “It reduced the transmission from mother to baby by about half. […] So this has been one of the great success stories that can, has been applied in Africa. Not universally. […] Mbeki didn’t help that because he said you didn’t need it and he had a crazy health minister who said you should use extracts of beetroot instead of these drugs and of course they’re useless.”

  • In among the convoluted presentation of the data here is the fact that treatment with AZT is associated with swift increase in mortality. SOURCE So the health minister was not so crazy!
  • Although AZT kills off infection as it kills life (DNA synthesis) even the establishment admits its terrible toxicity. SOURCE

“Anti-HIV drugs have reduced death rate in western countries dramatically”

  • The illustrative graph (which does have numbers on the x-axis and a CDC logo) shows a dramatic decrease in mortality from AIDS mirrored [but not identical as the ‘with AIDS’ figure is far higher] by that of deaths ‘due to HIV’, from around 50/1,000 [‘with AIDS’] & 45/1,000 [‘due to HIV’] in 1995 to around 20/1,000 & 15/1,000 in 1997. This decline is preceded (in 1994) by a lessening of the steep rate of increase (from 1987).
  • What Prof McMichael fails to mention in what he calls this “single most conclusive piece of evidence” is that the toxic drug AZT was licensed in 1986 and replaced in 1996 by ‘combination therapy’ (HAART), which everyone admits is less lethal. SOURCE
  • This odd graph shows this dramatic decrease flattening out from 1997. So what was happening in the years 1994, 1995 and 1996? In April 1994 the results of the infamous Concorde Trial were published in the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. AZT monotherapy was over. SOURCE
  • The difference in the lines of deaths ‘with AIDS’ but not ‘due to HIV’ is that any disease (such as liver failure) caused by ART or HAART (anti-HIV treatment drug regimes) but not listed as ‘AIDS related’ would be included in the higher figure.

Chart at 25:04 shows falling then plummeting life expectancy in 1980s & ‘90s in 5 African countries (Zimbabwe, South-Africa, Botswana, Uganda & Zambia) with some recovery in 2 of them:

Zimbabwe (fall aprox. ’83, plummet aprox. ’87, plateau at new low aprox. ‘97)

South-Africa (fall aprox. ’92, plummet aprox. ’97)

Botswana (fall aprox. ’87, plummet aprox. ’92)

Uganda (fall aprox. ’83, slight recovery aprox. ’92, better recovery aprox. ’96)

Zambia (fall aprox. ’82, plummet aprox. ’87, slight recovery aprox. ’92)

Chart at 26:00 shows maps of Africa with changing percentages of HIV diagnosis (or assumption/ projection from test) for the years 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, with no correlation given between these two charts other than “while this was happening, this was happening […] you have to go through some incredible metal acrobatics to say the two weren’t connected in any way”.

  • Prof McMichael appears to be relying here on a 2008 article by Chigwedere et al., ‘‘Estimating the lost benefits of antiretroviral drug use in South Africa”. A detailed rebuttal of this article, “HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS – A new perspective”, demonstrates on epidemiological and immunological grounds that ‘mental acrobatics’ are intimately involved in the production of both charts and that the figures of both mortality and incidence of HIV in Africa published by global concerns linked with pharmaceutical companies differ considerably from those recorded by the government of these African countries – as well as differing from the anecdotal evidence of observation of the undertaking industry! SOURCE
  • President Mbeki complained officially about this kind of manipulation of statistics affecting South Africa. SOURCE

“The virus was isolated in 1983, in Paris and then in the USA.”

Not according to Dr Montagnier of the Institute Pasteur, Paris, credited as its co-discoverer. SOURCE

19:58 is all about clades and subtypes of HIV and the “phylogenetic tree” and coloured map of the world, both helpfully labelled with the letters A-J (as well as the word ‘consensus’ and 1959 – referring to the supposed origin found in frozen blood samples taken in Kinshasa, Tanzania).

  • As usual, no reference is provided but the tree diagram (if not manufactured by the advertised software) appears to have been altered from one on Wikipedia, which boasts varied (and varying) examples. SOURCE
  • All very convincing until we get to a now-familiar circular reasoning. HIV-clades are identified by testing with HIV test kits primed with local HIV-clade proteins (which are presumed to occur locally). SOURCE (see paragraph just before ‘Results’). So, as these proteins are non-specific, even to HIV, SOURCE they may react with the antibodies in the blood samples as would those of any other clades.
  • One can’t go wrong in identifying clades as any unfamiliar genotypes can be assumed to be mutations or ‘recombinant’ mash-ups (and more aggressive). SOURCE (also has an interesting twist to the story, ‘co-receptors’, as apparently CD4 sites aren’t the point of entry after all! Who knew?)

[Speaking of SIV, which is harmless to both monkeys and humans] “When you take it out of an African monkey and put it in an Asian monkey, they develop AIDS, exactly like AIDS.”

  • Not unless the poor monkeys are so weakened that they have very poor immune systems in the first place. SOURCE & SOURCE

“SIVsm [sooty mangabees] very close to HIV-2 in West Africa.”

  • Actually it’s genetically identical. SOURCE Which raises the question of why all of a sudden this millennia-old harmless monkey virus should jump to humans and “cause havoc”. SOURCE

35:22 another Wikipedia-type phylogenetic tree (unreferenced, again). This time of HIV-1.

  • What’s interesting is that of the 18 varieties of genotypes (clades or subtypes) the 7 varieties of SIV are no nearer to the root of the ‘tree’ (as one might expect of supposed ancestors). SOURCE (see for yourself among such trees on Wiki)

“It’s suspected that there’s some unlucky gene, in the virus, that enabled it to grow in humans, and that’s an extremely rare event that happened sometime in the 1950’s”

  • A rare event that appears to have occurred hundreds of times since then?
  • This SOURCE lists 63 varieties of HIV-2 and states there are even more for HIV-1. That’s a lot of bad luck!

38:13 [Speaking of another colourful world map but this time with a reference (UNIAIDS December 2001) and the prevalence of AIDS] “Which begs the question of why it is more prevalent in Africa.”

  • HIV testing in Africa is not only poorly done (this recent SOURCE is from the comparatively wealthy country of South Africa) but false positives abound – as even the WHO admit SOURCE in their damage control comment on the damning report of Médecins Sans Frontières. SOURCE

“It may be to do with social and cultural factors of how people interact.”

  • What on earth could the good Professor be referring to? Is he descending into racist European stereotypes of African sexuality?

[Speaking of the dissident claim that the immune system rids the body of HIV, after citing cold sores etc. as evidence of the opposite situation] “Every immune response the virus has thrown up, the virus escapes it.”

  • Yet it lies dormant for years, until the immune system is compromised.
  • This is an odd claim to make. “In other words, HIV is really just an opportunistic infection sometimes unleashed after the immune system has been suppressed.” (quote from SOURCE)

“Most patients in Africa, if they become infected, they actually present in the hospital with TB.”

  • So, given the non-specific nature of the HIV test and the fact that it’s badly administered in Africa, and that a known toxic drug was deployed on the population (and still is) why on earth do we need to be enquiring into the sex lives of the African people? There is a horrible sentence in this SOURCE that sums up the situation in Africa: “In Europe, when ARVs came along, the hospital wards emptied of people who were severely ill,” says Gilles van Cutsem, medical coordinator for MSF in South Africa. “When we started our HIV programme in Khayelitsha, the waiting room was full of sick people in wheelbarrows. There is less of that now, but people are still coming in very sick.”
  • Unfortunately, the toxicity of AZT also became quickly apparent in Europe & the USA. SOURCE

[Summing up] “The denialists seem to have closed minds. They may be religious extremists, they may be driven by fear or ignorance or want publicity or just be plain malignant […] it’s more to do with psychology which I don’t know anything about.”

  • The only response to this is to quote the good professor’s own words: “It’s fine to be skeptical, as long as you are prepared to change your mind. If you’re not prepared to change your mind, you’re really denying it.”
  • So, it seems that the true skeptics are those questioning the establishment hypothesis (which is not one but two and they disagree!) and the true ‘denialists’ are those that in the face of the multitude of obvious and concealed flaws in this hypothesis persist in their adherence to an unfounded belief rather than proven facts.

(Please see Disclaimer at the beginning of my post)

Silence and Dissent

More information from my book, Silence and Dissent: Expert Doubt in the AIDS Debate.