Manufacturing AIDS hysteria
A friend vaguely aware of my AIDS
views called to inform me that I was wrong about AIDS being a rare
disease in the US. "Did you know that last year 555,048 men
came down with AIDS?" she said. That must be a cumulative number,
I explained. Only about 40,000 men received an AIDS diagnosis last
What was she looking at? A flyer for "National
Men's Health Week, 1999," distributed at her job by the National
Men's Health Foundation. She reviewed her information, and spotted
that the figure was indeed cumulative. "I thought it was for
1998 because all the other figures were for 1998."
She faxed the flyer to me, and I understood why
she misread the statistic. The page listed several diagnoses, first
AIDS, then others, such as mouth cancer, lung cancer, bladder cancer,
kidney cancer, tuberculosis, etc. For every one of the non-AIDS
conditions, a caption read "cases in 1998."
But for AIDS, the caption read, "cases through
Naturally, I called the number at the bottom of
the page (610-967-8620) to ask about this deception. The person
who answered the phone was very knowledgeable about the figures,
though she did not construct the page. She admitted that it was
misleading, and that all the figures should have been annual.
So why did her group use the cumulative figure for
"I don't know," she said. "I assume
that's just the information the researcher received."
Received, no doubt, from some government agency
with an interest in promoting the myth that AIDS affects lots of
More obits for academic freedom
"The Einstein College of Medicine is in an embarrassing
fix," begins a brief "Below the Fold" editorial in
the May 14 Lancet .
"The rumpus concerns that irrepressible scourge
of the HIV community, Peter Duesberg." Although the editor
declined to opine about how Einstein professors pressured their
students to withdraw their invitation to Duesberg to speak on their
campus, he did accurately recount the events (described in the April
RA ), and revealed that he learned of the incident
from a letter submitted by Yale math professor and RA member Serge
The incident also received accurate -- and sympathetic
-- treatment in "The Academic Path to Pariah Status,"
a long article on the subject of academic freedom published in the
July 2 Chronicle of Higher Education . The piece begins
and concludes with the story of how Duesberg's heavy funding and
international plaudits were stripped when he proposed that the HIV-AIDS
model, though it attracted billions of tax dollars, was a scientific
flop. The article describes many other incidents of professors having
their careers shut down for expressing unpopular ideas.
Professors in the article reveal how this shut-down
process -- as effective as a formal blacklist -- involves sly methods
that leave no one culpable. One of them says only a few professors
need to be punished in order to make the message plain to all --
practice "self-censorship" or expect to forsake your career.
Even the Associated Press recently covered the censorship
of Duesberg (March 18), with a brief, sympathetic article devoted
to the scandal, titled, "AIDS researcher is ostracized."
Evidence mounts that Duesberg's experience is typical.
Florida AIDS official Pierpont resignation
The Tampa Tribune finally covered
the resignation of Manatee County "HIV/AIDS Prevention"
Coordinator Mark Pierpont ( RA July). But it did so
with a highly inaccurate column that failed to describe or evaluate
the RA perspective that compelled Pierpont's action. The July 31
edition included a substantial rebuttal by Pierpont himself (and
included his new email address, email@example.com). But
the Tribune declined to print the following rebuttal
that I submitted:
Mike Stobbe's article about Mark Pierpoint's resignation
from his position as an area Health Department HIV/AIDS Prevention
Coordinator greatly disappointed me ("Official challenges findings
on HIV," July 12). Pierpont resigned because he has become
convinced by the medical scientists who reject the HIV explanation
of AIDS and who conclude that the real causes of AIDS include non-infectious
factors such as narcotics, blood transfusions, hemophilia treatment,
malnutrition, and anti-HIV drugs.
Rather than consider Pierpont's unconventional view,
Stobbe wasted valuable print space disparaging it for non-scientific
reasons, such as Pierpoint failing to show up for scheduled interviews
with Stobbe and the chief of Florida's Bureau of HIV/AIDS, Tom Liberti,
finding the episode "a little confusing."
Stobbe then discredited the AIDS reappraisal view
in general with two paragraphs devoted to irrelevant personal information
about the kookiness of an AIDS reappraiser who lives in Tampa, and
with quotations from Liberti and a University of Miami medical school
scientist, Margaret Fischl, agreeing that "the debate was pretty
much settled" -- HIV does indeed explain AIDS. Stobbe accepted
Liberti and Fischl's comments as the final words on the subject,
but offered no scientific reason for doing so.
Stobbe mentioned only one scientist who advances
the AIDS reappraisal view, UC-Berkeley retrovirologist Peter Duesberg.
But Stobbe quoted neither Duesberg nor any of the other qualified
scientists who agree with him, including two UM Medical School scientists
-- Dr. Rudolf Werner, a professor, and Dr. Todd Miller, a researcher
-- who work in the same building as Fischl.
A proper, useful treatment of this subject would
have addressed the obvious questions: Why -- scientifically -- do
Pierpont and many credentialed, professional scientists, such as
two of Fischl's colleagues, reject the HIV explanation of AIDS?
Why -- scientifically -- do Liberti and Fischl accept the HIV explanation
for AIDS? And what -- exactly -- did Liberti find confusing about
I assume that when Stobbe covers other topics, he
produces journalistically sound articles. But when covering AIDS,
he, like most reporters, forgets to apply skepticism to consensus
views advanced by government officials and university professors.
Imagine if I wrote an article rejecting the HIV explanation of AIDS
because one of its supporters is kooky, another one is rude, a government
official finds it "confusing" and agrees with a university
professor that everybody else has rejected it. Stobbe would certainly
recognize that such an article fails to meet requisite standards
The Tribune could make amends by publishing
an article that seriously considers the scientific reasons why some
scientists regard AIDS as infectious and caused by HIV, and why
other scientists regard AIDS as neither. With thousands of lives
and billions of tax dollars annually at stake, Tampa residents should
expect nothing less from their daily paper of record.