Darby Debunked

Pro-HIV hemophiliac study actually points towards non-contagious AIDS

by Paul Philpott

The September 7, 1995 issue of Nature presented an article that remains often-cited by those promoting AIDS as a contagious syndrome and caused by HIV. The study was authored by a team of Oxford cancer epidemiologists and hemophiliac researchers headed by Sarah Darby. Darby's team attempted to test the noncontagious AIDS theory proposed by Cal-Berkeley biologist Peter Duesberg. They collected mortality data among Britain's hemophiliac population from 1977 through 1992, and documented a startling climb in mortality beginning sometime between the years 1984 and 1986 that exclusively effected subjects testing HIV-positive (see accompanying Charts 1 and 2). At first glance, Darby seems justified in concluding that her data does "demonstrate particularly clearly the enormity and specificity of the effect of HIV-1 infection on mortality in this population." But like all conclusions favoring the HIV-AIDS theory, this one collapses when carefully considered.

Duesberg's View
Duesberg proposes that the original (pre-1985) outbreak of AIDS mortality did not include hemophiliacs, and represented the long-term consequence of the injection- and gay-drug cultures that had only grown to appreciable numbers a few years before. Duesberg points out that of the original AIDS patients, approximately 12% turned out to be HIV-negative when testing was finally introduced in 1985, and 66% harbored no active HIV infections (Gallo, Science , May 4, 1984). Meanwhile, positiveness for a variety of other germs was even more prevalent than for HIV [Fauci, JAMA 257:19, May 15, 1987, p2617-2621]. Early on, professional "virus hunters" had proposed an infectious AIDS model. Inspired doctors sought out such generally-unhealthy populations as hemophiliacs, transfusion patients, and residents of developing nations. They found immune suppression and other AIDS conditions at levels that were long-established and probably caused by the health factors--including the medical treatments--that defined these groups. They also found high rates of positiveness for many of the same germs found in injection and gay drug users, including, when testing became available, HIV. That compelled them to coincidentally predict outbreaks of AIDS mortality in these groups, and, ironically, to introduce a novel brand of medicine that unintentionally made this prediction come true. [Duesberg, "Inventing the AIDS Virus", and "Infectious AIDS: Have We Been Misled?"]

Darby's Data
Darby's group recorded annual mortality rates every two years for 4,043 British hemophiliacs who "received potentially [HIV] infected treatments" between the years 1977 and 1992. Their data (presented here in Charts 1 and 2) revealed that between the years 1977 and 1984, annual mortality was stable and low, at about 4 deaths per 1,000 for patients with mild-to-severe hemophilia, and twice as high for patients with severe hemophilia, at about 8 per 1,000. HIV testing was introduced in 1985, and administered to most of Darby's subjects by the end of that year. When annual mortality was next calculated, at the end of 1986, it was found to have tripled to about 24 per 1,000 for severe hemophiliacs, and to have increased by about five times to 20 per 1,000 for mild-to-severe hemophiliacs who had tested HIV-positive. No increased mortality was observed for those who tested HIV-negative. Both trends continued through the course of the study. When annual mortality rates were recorded for the last time, at the end of 1992, both severe and mild-to-moderate hemophiliacs who tested HIV-positive showed nearly the same mortality: about 80 per 1,000, which represented roughly a ten-fold increase for severe hemophiliacs and roughly a 20-fold increase for mild-to-severe hemophiliacs over their pre-1986 rates. Meanwhile annual mortality rates for both severe and mild-to-moderate hemophiliacs who tested HIV-negative remained at their low pre-1986 levels .

"During 1985-'92," Darby writes, "there were 403 deaths in HIV seropositive patients, whereas 60 would have been predicted from rates in seronegatives, suggesting that...[the 343 excess] deaths in seropositive patients were due to HIV infections." Darby was able to reach this conclusion only by ignoring one obvious feature of her data: there was no detectable mortality increase prior to the introduction of HIV testing in 1985. Charts 1 and 2, constructed from data presented in Darby's paper, particularly her Table 2, shows that the explosion in HIV-positive mortality occurred as if cued to do so by the massive HIV screening that immediately proceeded it.

Chart 1

Chart 2

If Not HIV, What?
Duesberg's risk-AIDS theory states that HIV is too harmless to cause any of the AIDS conditions (low T4 counts, various opportunistic infections, three specific cancers, dementia, and wasting). Among hemophiliacs, Duesberg asserts that AIDS conditions, above their background incidences within the general population, result from two factors:

(1) Chronic immunological exposure to foreign blood proteins that contaminate un-purified Factor VIII injections. This can ultimately result in general immune suppression, including low T4 counts and opportunistic infections. A number of academic papers document those symptoms even in HIV-negative hemophiliacs, and also correlate immune dysfunction with doses of unpurified--but not contaminant-free--Factor VIII, even among HIV-positive subjects [Duesberg, ibid.].

(2) "HIV medicine", which is administered to even the healthiest symptom-free people who test positive for the harmless virus HIV. HIV medicine has a chemical and a psychological component.

Chemically, HIV medicine consists of aggressive prophylactic, therapeutic, and often experimental treatments with powerful antibiotics, antifungals, and even cancer chemotherapies such as AZT and ddI. Nearly every one of the AIDS conditions are to be found among the multitudinous "side effects" of these many drugs. The most famous of these drugs is AZT, which was originally proposed as a leukemia treatment because of its ability to kill all replicating human cells, particularly those comprising the immune system. AZT also kills intestinal cells, damages brain, nerve, and muscle cells, and is even a good theoretical candidate for causing lymphoma, one of the three official AIDS cancers. For this reason, the 1994 Physician' Desk Reference (p.742-746) entry for AZT states: "It is often difficult to distinguish adverse effects possibly associated with AZT administration from underlying signs of [so-called] HIV disease."

Perhaps one-third [Ascher, Science, Feb 24, 1995, p.1080] to one-half [British Medical Journal, July 15, 1995] of all AIDS patients begin AZT treatment prior to developing their first symptoms. Although AZT was not introduced until 1987, a year after British hemophiliac mortality began its steep climb, AZT is far from the only harsh drug administered even to symptom-free people who test HIV-positive. Anti-fungal drugs against PCP, one of the AIDS pneumonias, are even more likely to be administered prophylactically than AZT [BMJ, ibid]. Symptom-free HIV-positives are the first group of healthy humans to ever be administered such medications indefinitely, and in such combinations. That these people would display ever-growing mortality should surprise no honest observer.

While some healthy people labeled HIV-positive may be spared aggressive prophylaxis, few escape the psychological aspect of HIV medicine, which consists of intense anxiety from receiving a fatal and profoundly-stigmatized diagnosis. The terror can be intense indeed. The Australian mathematician Mark Craddock has publicized the following startling fact: of 1,300 deaths among HIV-positive Australians over a recent two-year period, 500 (more than one-third) were medically-assisted suicides ["Doctors Admit Helping in AIDS Deaths", Sydney Morning Herald, November 17, 1995, p.3]. This does not necessarily mean that many or even some of the deaths among Darby's HIV-positive subjects resulted from suicide. But it does offer direct support for the contention that HIV terror is biologically relevant.

Reappraising Darby
Darby's study must address the following points if it is to judge the two competing theories of AIDS:

(1) Hemophiliac mortality increased only after the introduction of HIV medicine in 1985. Since about half of Darby's 2,037 severe hemophiliacs were already HIV-positive by this time, surely HIV-caused mortality should have exerted a detectable influence prior to 1985 in this group. Only Duesberg's theory can explain why the explosion of hemophiliac mortality should occur only on the heels of HIV testing: the increased mortality was caused by the pharmaceutical drugs and terror that invariably accompany a positive HIV test.

(2) Of the 403 HIV-positive deaths recorded by Darby during the course of her study, 235 were attributed to AIDS. How many of these cases developed only after the patients received their HIV-positive diagnoses? Darby does not provide the data needed to answer this question directly, but the data she does present points in Duesberg's favor: no increased mortality could be detected until after most of the HIV-positive subjects had been identified. This is consistent with Duesberg's prediction that AIDS conditions which develop in hemophiliacs mostly do so in those who are first labeled as HIV-positive and consequently subjected to HIV terror and anti-AIDS prophylaxis. However, Duesberg also expects a few hemophiliacs will develop AIDS symptoms (in the form of immune suppression from Factor VIII contaminants) prior to HIV screening. Of these, Duesberg predicts, those who subsequently test negative should usually recover since they would not be subjected to HIV medicine, whereas those who subsequently test positive should usually deteriorate to "full-blown AIDS" as a consequence of HIV medicine. Too bad Darby didn't understand Duesberg's theory well enough to collect the data that would have tested this very obvious aspect of it.

(3) Darby calculates that 343 more deaths occurred in her HIV-positive subjects than "would have been predicted from rates in seronegatives." She concludes then that all of these excess deaths "were due to HIV infections." Yet her Table 3, which itemizes the causes of deaths in this study, lists only 279 HIV-positive deaths as resulting from AIDS (235), and AIDS conditions (44 cases of dementia, non-hepatitis infections, pneumonia, and lymphoma) which, for some unknown reason, were not diagnosed as AIDS. But 279 is still 64 short of 343. The HIV theory can not explain why there should be excessive non-AIDS deaths among HIV-positive hemophiliacs. Duesberg's theory can. Since HIV is a rare contaminant of Factor VIII, it takes many injections to finally become positive for it. Thus hemophiliacs who have become HIV-positive tend to be those who have acquired the most Factor VIII (and Factor VIII contaminants), which is to say they tend to have the most severe hemophilia. That is why 56% of Darby's severe hemophiliacs were HIV-positive, as compared to only 14% (a fourth as much) of her mild-to-severe hemophiliacs. Duesberg's theory correctly predicts both more AIDS conditions (from excess amounts of Factor VIII contaminants and from HIV medicine) and more hemophilia-related illnesses (due to the predominance of severe hemophilia) in groups of HIV-positive hemophiliacs. Indeed, the proportion of severe hemophiliacs in Darby's HIV-positive population (about 80%) was roughly twice as high as the proportion in her HIV-negative population (about 40%). Table 3 confirms Duesberg's view by listing nearly twice as many hemophilia-related deaths among the HIV-positive patients (93 as compared to 56).

(4) Then there is the fascinating question inspired by the news report of suicides committed by HIV-positive hemophiliacs in Australia: How many of the deaths among Darby's HIV-positive patients were actually suicides resulting from HIV anxiety? She records only five deaths due to "injury, poisoning, [or] suicide", the same as recorded for HIV-negative subjects. But it is important here to realize that Darby obtained her cause of death information by examining death certificates. And according to the press report from Australia, the suicides there uncovered in HIV-positive hemophiliacs were not listed as such in the death certificates. Rather, the attending physicians tended to record the deaths simply as "AIDS related." If Darby were a thorough researcher, she would know about this news report and would have considered its implications in any study of HIV-positive mortality .

HIV Acquitted: Searching For the Real Killers

Over 100,000 papers have been published in the medical literature about HIV. We know enough about this virus to dismiss it as a dud incapable of causing any of the AIDS conditions. It can not kill the cells that it infects, and even if it could, it typically infects only a few cells (and sometimes none at all) and is usually present only at trace concentrations (and sometimes not at all) in patients diagnosed has having AIDS [Duesberg]. Meanwhile all such patients are subjected to health factors that, unlike HIV, are biologically significant. Such factors include recreational drugs, immunological exposure to foreign proteins (from un-purified Factor VIII injections and other sources), anti-AIDS medicines, HIV terror, and impoverished living conditions in developing nations [Duesberg].

AIDS in hemophiliacs is remarkably different than AIDS in some other risk groups. Whereas increased mortality from AIDS diseases among hemophiliacs occurred only after the introduction of HIV medicine in 1985, other groups demonstrated increased mortality from AIDS conditions even before HIV-positiveness could be identified. For example, the alarming increase in AIDS conditions among young gay men led to the establishment of this syndrome. But gays who were developing deadly AIDS before 1985 were exclusively those who participated in the new recreational drug culture that began in the 1970s. HIV medicine represented the second new biologically significant phenomenon introduced into this group. But for hemophiliacs, HIV medicine was the first biologically significant factor recently introduced to them prior to the increased mortality observed by Darby.

Darby's study suggests that, at least for hemophiliacs, HIV medicine is the deadliest factor affecting those diagnosed as having AIDS.

Paul Philpott is a former Florida State University biology student fired from his lab assistant position and denied an assured admission to the graduate program expressly as a result of advocating in public his dissident AIDS position. Today he works in Detroit as a mechanical engineer.