My name is Rob Hodson, and I am an Assistant Professor
of Anesthesiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School
of Medicine. UA-B is the number-one funded AIDS research center
in the country, and is the home of George Shaw, Michael Saag, and
other big-name AIDS researchers. (Who can keep up with them all?)
They are currently trying to recruit healthy people into their vaccine
trial. I donÕt think IÕll be participating.
Before January 1998, my knowledge of AIDS was typical
for that of a physician. As an anesthesiologist, the management
of AIDS was outside my specialty, so I wasnÕt especially informed
or interested in the subject. I knew that HIV caused AIDS, because
that was what the textbooks said. I had no reason to think otherwise.
I never knew or cared that anybody thought differently. The name
Peter Duesberg meant nothing to me.
Then one day I received an anonymous junk e-mail.
The e-mail claimed that for $7.95 I would learn something new and
controversial about AIDS from a book called, What If Everything
You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong by Christine Maggiore.
I thought, what the heck, IÕve got eight bucks laying around, so
I ordered it. A week or so later, it arrived. I didn't start reading
it immediately, but once I started, I didnÕt stop until I hit the
back cover. I was hooked. That is not to say I was convinced immediately,
but I knew I was going to seek more information.
I ordered some of the HEAL information packs. After
perusing them, I ordered DuesbergÕs Inventing the AIDS Virus. About
half way through that I knew my life had changed. I like my current
job, and enjoy the specialty of anesthesiology, but these days IÕve
really become more interested in AIDS education.
I have a one hour lecture that I have given about
five times now, mostly to nurses and once to the anesthesia department.
It has been very well received, and has definitely converted some
people. I am scheduled to give it four more times, including once
to medical students as part of a lunch time lecture series. This
could get me in trouble, or at least noticed.
I tell the story of AIDS, from virus hunting to
buffalo humps, to anyone who will listen. Reaction varies. Nurses
are generally receptive, as are other anesthesiologists. Surgeons
tend to be very dogmatic, and internists as well. IÕve had some
luck with a few of the ob-gyn residents. Certainly IÕve taken some
abuse for expressing my position.
As a physician, I feel betrayed and used by the
scientific community, the government, pharmaceutical companies,
and the FDA. I used to think that that medical research wasnÕt politically
directed and financially motivated, and that pharmaceutical companies
wouldnÕt compromise patient well-being for a profit. I even used
to think that the FDA was there to protect the American public.
Now I know better.
Since rejecting the notion of infectious AIDS, I've
taken special notice of one of its apparent consequences: the increase
of latex allergies among health care workers. Although only about
0.8% of the general US population shows some signs of latex sensitization,
the figure is about 10% for health care workers (Brown RH; Anesthesiology
89: 292-9.1998). The principal reason: frequent use of latex gloves.
Symptoms of latex allergy can be local or general,
and can vary from mild to deadly. The most dreaded manifestation
is anaphylactic shock, which has a very high mortality if not quickly
and aggressively treated. Some health care workers have to avoid
latex altogether, even if it means giving up surgery or delivering
babies.When these health care workers need surgery themselves, they
are at risk for anaphylactic shock and death during the procedure.
Despite the legitimate reasons for wearing latex
gloves, they were not very popular prior to the infectious AIDS
hysteria that began in the early 1980s. Before that, many health
care workers would routinely draw blood or start IV lines without
gloves, and not be too concerned if some blood from a patient got
on their hands. This is despite the fact that hepatitis B was a
major threat to health care workers.
It took AIDS for latex gloves to become Òrequired
equipmentÓ for health care workers. During the early AIDS years,
demand for gloves increased so rapidly that there were often latex
glove shortages. These days, latex glove use has become so routine
that sometimes people forget to remove them. They are worn while
pushing stretchers, writing in the chart, and even talking on the
telephone. Anesthesia personnel can be seen wearing gloves for the
entire duration of a several hour case, even though they might touch
the patient only once or twice the entire time. This change in behavior
has come about largely due to the fear of infectious AIDS. I find
this fear to be unjustified, even if AIDS were caused by HIV.
As of 1996, the CDC reported a cumulative total
of just 52 health care workers over 15 years whose HIV serostatus
switched from negative to positive after occupational exposure (CDC
Year-End Report, 1998).
In the past, I did my part to contribute to the
AIDS fiasco. I unquestioningly believed what I heard, and treated
HIV-positive patients differently. Now I want to do my part to correct
the problem. Wandering the halls of UA-B with a HEAL Òno red ribbonsÓbutton
on my name tag is at least a start.
Hodson graduated from Tulane University Medical
School in 1992, and before that from the University of Texas at
Austin in 1988 with a BS in psychology. You can contact him at:
The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Department of Anesthesiology,
619 South 19th Street, Birmingham, Alabama, 35233 <firstname.lastname@example.org>.