February 2007


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Mitchel Cohen <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Science for the People Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 16 Feb 2007 12:21:17 -0500
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I really had no intention of posting any of the 
thousands of articles critical of the prevailing
HIV causes AIDS paradigm, when we began arguing
over Marxists and the Environment. I've only
posted a couple of them now to show how and why
doubt over that paradigm is not irrational and,
often, well-founded. Which is why I wrote that I
don't know if HIV is the Cause of AIDS, a
statement that Michael Balter could not accept.
Mocking someone and trying to impose one's view
on them is guaranteed to prevent any real
discussion of or movement on these issues.

I appreciated Mandi's post and learn from it. I
note that no one on this listserve has yet
condemned her for her acknowledgment that AZT was
indeed very dangerous (at least that's how I
interpret her statement that no one there is
using it anymore), and for her willingness to
hold out some hope for innovative acupuncture and
homeopathy treatments. They leave that for their
attacks on Jonathan and myself, when we raise
acupuncture and homeopathy as valid treatments
with very long pedigrees involving large numbers
of people. I note that Michael Balter, on the
other hand, was very much a proponent of AZT --
especially for pregnant women -- and used the
same arguments to advocate its widespread use in
Africa in the 1990s, including denunciation of
those who disagreed with him (and who were proven
correct, in my view), that he is using today for
the new drugs (but same methodology).

The only reason that the question, Does HIV cause
AIDS? even matter any more, except for the
historical record, is because U.S. technologists
are putting almost all their funds into devising
pharmaceutical approaches for attacking the virus
and its methods of reproduction and transmission
as a means of thwarting AIDS, and almost no money
into nutritional, environmental and other factors
and are thus contributing to so many unnecessary deaths.

Mitchel Cohen

At 06:40 AM 2/16/2007, you wrote:
>By the way, many here many be familiar with
>NIAID's detailed fact sheet on the evidence that
>HIV is the cause of AIDS, but just in case I am
>posting it here. I think it does the job nicely.
>I am sure that Mitchel, and Jonathan when he
>returns, will continue to trot out every bit of
>AIDS-related nonsense they can find. I hope that
>I have not joined a list devoted to discussing
>fringe ideas, because there are a lot of
>legitimate issues relating to science and
>society that could and should be discussed. Eg,
>getting AIDS drugs to impoverished parts of the
>world is a critically important issue given the
>death rates in Africa and elsewhere, as is
>preventing the spread of the epidemic, and there
>the pharmaceutical companies and the Bush
>administration have a lot to answer for.
> There do seem to be some sane voices here, so perhaps there is hope.
>On 2/16/07, Mitchel Cohen
><<mailto:[log in to unmask]>[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>The leading cause of death in HIV-positives in the U.S. in
>the last few years has been liver failure, not an
>AIDS-defining disease in any way, but rather an
>acknowledged side effect of protease inhibitors,
>which asymptomatic individuals take in massive daily doses, for years.
>Why I Quit HIV
>by Rebecca V. Culshaw
>rebeccavculshaw (at) <>
>As I write this, in the late winter of 2006, we
>are more than twenty years into the AIDS era.
>Like many, a large part of my life has been
>irreversibly affected by AIDS. My entire
>adolescence and adult life as well as the lives
>of many of my peers has been overshadowed by
>the belief in a deadly, sexually transmittable
>pathogen and the attendant fear of intimacy and
>lack of trust that belief engenders.
>To add to this impact, my chosen career has
>developed around the HIV model of AIDS. I
>received my Ph.D. in 2002 for my work
>constructing mathematical models of HIV
>infection, a field of study I entered in 1996.
>Just ten years later, it might seem early for me
>to be looking back on and seriously reconsidering
>my chosen field, yet here I am.
>My work as a mathematical biologist has been
>built in large part on the paradigm that HIV
>causes AIDS, and I have since come to realize
>that there is good evidence that the entire basis
>for this theory is wrong. AIDS, it seems, is not
>a disease so much as a sociopolitical construct
>that few people understand and even fewer
>question. The issue of causation, in particular,
>has become beyond question even to bring it up is deemed irresponsible.
>Why have we as a society been so quick to accept
>a theory for which so little solid evidence
>exists? Why do we take proclamations by
>government institutions like the NIH and the CDC,
>via newscasters and talk show hosts, entirely on
>faith? The average citizen has no idea how weak
>the connection really is between HIV and AIDS,
>and this is the manner in which scientifically
>insupportable phrases like "the AIDS virus" or
>"an AIDS test" have become part of the common
>vernacular despite no evidence for their accuracy.
>When it was announced in 1984 that the cause of
>AIDS had been found in a retrovirus that came to
>be known as HIV, there was a palpable panic. My
>own family was immediately affected by this
>panic, since my mother had had several blood
>transfusions in the early 1980s as a result of
>three late miscarriages she had experienced. In
>the early days, we feared mosquito bites,
>kissing, and public toilet seats. I can still
>recall the panic I felt after looking up in a
>public restroom and seeing some graffiti that
>read "Do you have AIDS yet? If not, sit on this toilet seat."
>But I was only ten years old then, and over time
>the panic subsided to more of a dull roar as it
>became clear that AIDS was not as easy to "catch"
>as we had initially believed. Fear of going to
>the bathroom or the dentist was replaced with a
>more realistic wariness of having sex with anyone
>we didn't know really, really well. As a teenager
>who was in no way promiscuous, I didn't have much to worry about.
>That all changed or so I thought when I was
>twenty-one. Due to circumstances in my personal
>life and a bit of paranoia that (as it turned
>out, falsely and completely groundlessly) led me
>to believe I had somehow contracted "AIDS," I got
>an HIV test. I spent two weeks waiting for the
>results, convinced that I would soon die, and
>that it would be "all my fault." This was despite
>the fact that I was perfectly healthy, didn't use
>drugs, and wasn't promiscuous low-risk by any
>definition. As it happened, the test was
>negative, and, having felt I had been granted a
>reprieve, I vowed not to take more risks, and to quit worrying so much.
>Over the past ten years, my attitude toward HIV
>and AIDS has undergone a dramatic shift. This
>shift was catalyzed by the work I did as a
>graduate student, analyzing mathematical models
>of HIV and the immune system. As a mathematician,
>I found virtually every model I studied to be
>unrealistic. The biological assumptions on which
>the models were based varied from author to
>author, and this made no sense to me. It was
>around this time, too, that I became increasingly
>perplexed by the stories I heard about long-term
>survivors. From my admittedly inexpert viewpoint,
>the major thing they all had in common other
>than HIV was that they lived extremely healthy
>lifestyles. Part of me was becoming suspicious
>that being HIV-positive didn't necessarily mean you would ever get AIDS.
>By a rather curious twist of fate, it was on my
>way to a conference to present the results of a
>model of HIV that I had proposed together with my
>advisor, that I came across an article by Dr.
>David Rasnick about AIDS and the corruption of
>modern science. As I sat on the airplane reading
>this story, in which he said "the more I examined
>HIV, the less it made sense that this largely
>inactive, barely detectable virus could cause
>such devastation," everything he wrote started
>making sense to me in a way that the currently
>accepted model did not. I didn't have anywhere
>near all the information, but my instincts told
>me that what he said seemed to fit.
>Over the past ten years, I nevertheless continued
>my research into mathematical models of HIV
>infection, all the while keeping an ear open for
>dissenting voices. By now, I have read hundreds
>of articles on HIV and AIDS, many from the
>dissident point of view but far, far more from
>that of the establishment, which unequivocally
>promotes the idea that HIV causes AIDS and that
>the case is closed. In that time, I even
>published four papers on HIV (from a modeling
>perspective). I justified my contributions to a
>theory I wasn't convinced of by telling myself
>these were purely theoretical, mathematical
>constructs, never to be applied in the real
>world. I suppose, in some sense also, I wanted to keep an open mind.
>So why is it that only now have I decided that
>enough is enough, and I can no longer in any
>capacity continue to support the paradigm on
>which my entire career has been built?
>As a mathematician, I was taught early on about
>the importance of clear definitions. AIDS, if you
>consider its definition, is far from clear, and
>is in fact not even a consistent entity. The
>classification "AIDS" was introduced in the early
>1980s not as a disease but as a surveillance tool
>to help doctors and public health officials
>understand and control a strange "new" syndrome
>affecting mostly young gay men. In the two
>decades intervening, it has evolved into
>something quite different. AIDS today bears
>little or no resemblance to the syndrome for
>which it was named. For one thing, the definition
>has actually been changed by the CDC several
>times, continually expanding to include ever more
>diseases (all of which existed for decades prior
>to AIDS), and sometimes, no disease whatsoever.
>More than half of all AIDS diagnoses in the past
>several years in the United States have been made
>on the basis of a T-cell count and a "confirmed"
>positive antibody test in other words, a deadly
>disease has been diagnosed over and over again on
>the basis of no clinical disease at all. And the
>leading cause of death in HIV-positives in the
>last few years has been liver failure, not an
>AIDS-defining disease in any way, but rather an
>acknowledged side effect of protease inhibitors,
>which asymptomatic individuals take in massive daily doses, for years.
>The epidemiology of HIV and AIDS is puzzling and
>unclear as well. In spite of the fact that AIDS
>cases increased rapidly from their initial
>observation in the early 1980s and reached a peak
>in 1993 before declining rapidly, the number of
>HIV-positive individuals in the U.S. has remained
>constant at one million since the advent of
>widespread HIV antibody testing. This cannot be
>due to anti-HIV therapy, since the annual
>mortality rate of North American HIV-positives
>who are treated with anti-HIV drugs is much
>higher between 6.7 and 8.8% than would be the
>approximately 12% global mortality rate of
>HIV-positives if all AIDS cases were fatal in a given year.
>Even more strangely, HIV has been present
>everywhere in the U.S., in every population
>tested including repeat blood donors and military
>recruits, at a virtually constant rate since
>testing began in 1985. It is deeply confusing
>that a virus thought to have been brought to the
>AIDS epicenters of New York, San Francisco and
>Los Angeles in the early 1970s could possibly
>have spread so rapidly at first, yet have stopped
>spreading completely as soon as testing began.
>Returning for a moment to the mathematical
>modeling, one aspect that had always puzzled me
>was the lack of agreement on how to accurately
>represent the actual biological mechanism of
>immune impairment. AIDS is said to be caused by a
>dramatic loss of the immune system's T-cells,
>said loss being presumably caused by HIV. Why
>then could no one agree on how to mathematically
>model the dynamics of the fundamental disease
>process that is, how are T-cells actually
>killed by HIV? Early models assumed that HIV
>killed T-cells directly, by what is referred to
>as lysis. An infected cell lyses, or bursts, when
>the internal viral burden is so high that it can
>no longer be contained, just like your grocery
>bag breaks when it's too full. This is in fact
>the accepted mechanism of pathogenesis for
>virtually all other viruses. But it became clear
>that HIV did not in fact kill T-cells in this
>manner, and this concept was abandoned, to be
>replaced by various other ones, each of which
>resulted in very different models and, therefore,
>different predictions. Which model was "correct" never was clear.
>As it turns out, the reason there was no
>consensus mathematically as to how HIV killed
>T-cells was because there was no biological
>consensus. There still isn't. HIV is possibly the
>most studied microbe in history certainly it is
>the best-funded yet there is still no
>agreed-upon mechanism of pathogenesis. Worse than
>that, there are no data to support the hypothesis
>that HIV kills T-cells at all. It doesn't in the
>test tube. It mostly just sits there, as it does
>in people if it can be found at all. In Robert
>Gallo's seminal 1984 paper in which he claims
>"proof" that HIV causes AIDS, actual HIV could be
>found in only 26 out of 72 AIDS patients. To
>date, actual HIV remains an elusive target in
>those with AIDS or simply HIV-positive.
>This is starkly illustrated by the continued use
>of antibody tests to diagnose HIV infection.
>Antibody tests are fairly standard to test for
>certain microbes, but for anything other than
>HIV, the main reason they are used in place of
>direct tests (that is, actually looking for the
>bacteria or virus itself) is because they are
>generally much easier and cheaper than direct
>testing. Most importantly, such antibody tests
>have been rigorously verified against the gold
>standard of microbial isolation. This stands in
>vivid contrast to HIV, for which antibody tests
>are used because there exists no test for the
>actual virus. As to so-called "viral load," most
>people are not aware that tests for viral load
>are neither licensed nor recommended by the FDA
>to diagnose HIV infection. This is why an "AIDS
>test" is still an antibody test. Viral load,
>however, is used to estimate the health status of
>those already diagnosed HIV-positive. But there
>are very good reasons to believe it does not work
>at all. Viral load uses either PCR or a technique
>called branched-chained DNA amplification (bDNA).
>PCR is the same technique used for "DNA
>fingerprinting" at crime scenes where only trace
>amounts of materials can be found. PCR
>essentially mass-produces DNA or RNA so that it
>can be seen. If something has to be mass-produced
>to even be seen, and the result of that
>mass-production is used to estimate how much of a
>pathogen there is, it might lead a person to
>wonder how relevant the pathogen was in the first
>place. Specifically, how could something so hard
>to find, even using the most sensitive and
>sophisticated technology, completely decimate the
>immune system? bDNA, while not magnifying
>anything directly, nevertheless looks only for
>fragments of DNA believed, but not proven, to be
>components of the genome of HIV but there is no
>evidence to say that these fragments don't exist
>in other genetic sequences unrelated to HIV or to
>any virus. It is worth noting at this point that
>viral load, like antibody tests, has never been
>verified against the gold standard of HIV
>isolation. bDNA uses PCR as a gold standard, PCR
>uses antibody tests as a gold standard, and
>antibody tests use each other. None use HIV itself.
>There is good reason to believe the antibody
>tests are flawed as well. The two types of tests
>routinely used are the ELISA and the Western Blot
>(WB). The current testing protocol is to "verify"
>a positive ELISA with the "more specific" WB
>(which has actually been banned from diagnostic
>use in the UK because it is so unreliable). But
>few people know that the criteria for a positive
>WB vary from country to country and even from lab
>to lab. Put bluntly, a person's HIV status could
>well change depending on the testing venue. It is
>also possible to test "WB indeterminate," which
>translates to any one of "uninfected," "possibly
>infected," or even, absurdly, "partly infected"
>under the current interpretation. This conundrum
>is confounded by the fact that the proteins
>comprising the different reactive "bands" on the
>WB test are all claimed to be specific to HIV,
>raising the question of how a truly uninfected
>individual could possess antibodies to even one "HIV-specific" protein.
>I have come to sincerely believe that these HIV
>tests do immeasurably more harm than good, due to
>their astounding lack of specificity and
>standardization. I can buy the idea that
>anonymous screening of the blood supply for some
>nonspecific marker of ill health (which, due to
>cross reactivity with many known pathogens, a
>positive HIV antibody test often seems to be) is
>useful. I cannot buy the idea that any individual
>needs to have a diagnostic HIV test. A negative
>test may not be accurate (whatever that means),
>but a positive one can create utter havoc and
>destruction in a person's life all for a virus
>that most likely does absolutely nothing. I do
>not feel it is going too far to say that these
>tests ought to be banned for diagnostic purposes.
>The real victims in this mess are those whose
>lives are turned upside-down by the stigma of an
>HIV diagnosis. These people, most of whom are
>perfectly healthy, are encouraged to avoid
>intimacy and are further branded with the
>implication that they were somehow dreadfully
>foolish and careless. Worse, they are encouraged
>to take massive daily doses of some of the most
>toxic drugs ever manufactured. HIV, for many
>years, has fulfilled the role of a microscopic
>terrorist. People have lost their jobs, been
>denied entry into the Armed Forces, been refused
>residency in and even entry into some countries,
>even been charged with assault or murder for
>having consensual sex; babies have been taken
>from their mothers and had toxic medications
>forced down their throats. There is no precedent
>for this type of behavior, as it is all in the
>name of a completely unproven, fundamentally
>flawed hypothesis, on the basis of highly
>suspect, indirect tests for supposed infection
>with an allegedly deadly virus a virus that has
>never been observed to do much of anything.
>As to the question of what does cause AIDS, if it
>is not HIV, there are many plausible explanations
>given by people known to be experts. Before the
>discovery of HIV, AIDS was assumed to be a
>lifestyle syndrome caused mostly by
>indiscriminate use of recreational drugs.
>Immunosuppression has multiple causes, from an
>overload of microbes to malnutrition. Probably
>all of these are true causes of AIDS. Immune
>deficiency has many manifestations, and a
>syndrome with many manifestations is likely
>multicausal as well. Suffice it to say that the
>HIV hypothesis of AIDS has offered nothing but
>predictions of its spread, of the availability
>of a vaccine, of a forthcoming animal model, and
>so on that have not materialized, and it has not saved a single life.
>After ten years involved in the academic side of
>HIV research, as well as in the academic world at
>large, I truly believe that the blame for the
>universal, unconditional, faith-based acceptance
>of such a flawed theory falls squarely on the
>shoulders of those among us who have actively
>endorsed a completely unproven hypothesis in the
>interests of furthering our careers. Of course,
>hypotheses in science deserve to be studied, but
>no hypothesis should be accepted as fact before
>it is proven, particularly one whose blind
>acceptance has such dire consequences.
>For over twenty years, the general public has
>been greatly misled and ill-informed. As someone
>who has been raised by parents who taught me from
>a young age never to believe anything just
>because "everyone else accepts it to be true," I
>can no longer just sit by and do nothing, thereby
>contributing to this craziness. And the craziness
>has gone on long enough. As humans as honest
>academics and scientists the only thing we can
>do is allow the truth to come to light.
>March 3, 2006
>Rebecca V. Culshaw, Ph.D., is a mathematical
>biologist who has been working on mathematical
>models of HIV infection for the past ten years.
>She received her Ph.D. (mathematics with a
>specialization in mathematical biology) from
>Dalhousie University in Canada in 2002 and is
>currently employed as an Assistant Professor of
>Mathematics at a university in Texas.
>Michael Balter
>Contributing Correspondent, Science
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