WAINBERG’S HAMMER: HIV IS ALWAYS THE CULPRIT
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2007/12/05
“To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail”
and to Mark Wainberg, everything that goes wrong for an HIV-positive person is owing to the evil actions of HIV. So in writing about “Living with HIV, dying of cancer” (Washington Post, 4 December),
he attributes to the evil virus the deaths from cancer of HIV-positive people, ignoring the possibility that the antiretroviral drugs might themselves be cancer-inducing. Those drugs, according to Wainberg, “now enable many individuals who have HIV to survive indefinitely with good quality of life, instead of suffering a rapid disease progression and certain early death”. Perhaps his view of “good quality of life” includes side effects so unpleasant that something like half the treated people stop taking the drugs?
According to Wainberg, HIV-positive people are now living so long that they are experiencing “in high numbers” “lymphomas, carcinomas and lung cancers (in smokers and non-smokers)”, “an underreported and unforeseen consequence of HIV infection”; he presumes this is happening because the antiretroviral drugs could not completely repair the immunological damage done by HIV.
Wainberg is certainly right that carcinomas and lung cancers are underreported and unforeseen consequences of HIV infection. Indeed, up to 1997 no such cases had been reported at all.
In 1982, CDC reported 593 cases of AIDS, 88% of them some combination of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), the remainder “other opportunistic infections”. “However, this case definition may not include the full spectrum of AIDS manifestations, which may . . . . [include] malignant neoplasms that cause, as well as result from, immunodeficiency” (MMWR, 24 September 1982).
That statement was a clear invitation that cancers possibly associated with AIDS should be reported to CDC. Yet by the end of 1987 (Surveillance Report of 28 December 1987), CDC was still showing 70% of the more than 20,000 AIDS cases as KS/PCP and the remainder as other opportunistic infections. The 1987 revised definition of AIDS, expanded to include “HIV wasting syndrome” and “HIV encephalopathy”, still mentioned only lymphomas and KS as AIDS-defining cancers (MMWR, 14 August 1987, supplement 1). In 1997, the last year in which such detailed information appears in the CDC Surveillance Reports, among 60,000 cases of AIDS, apart from KS (1500) and lymphomas (850) the only cancer listed was invasive cervical cancer (<150).
These data offer no historical basis for ascribing lung cancers and other carcinomas to the action of HIV. Surely the diseases HIV could cause would have been apparent in the earliest years, before the advent of antiretroviral treatment. And, if antiretroviral drugs cannot restore immunological function, so that HIV continues some of its dirty work, would it not be bringing about the same conditions as it had in untreated sufferers?
Clearly there is something about antiretroviral drugs that favors cancers over opportunistic fungal infections like PCP and candidiasis. The most obvious possibility is that the cytotoxic antiretroviral drugs cause the cancers.
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Wainberg explains everything from his own blinkered viewpoint. That AIDS has “virtually nil” “everyday impact on middle-class North Americans” he attributes to medical advances, not to the fact that this purportedly sexually transmitted infection never left the original high-risk groups, in contrast to gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes, which do not discriminate in this magical fashion in favor of exclusively heterosexual middle-class North Americans.
As already pointed out, cancers never caused by HIV before the advent of antiretroviral drugs, Wainberg nevertheless attributes to HIV. His “major concern” is that these cancers are showing up in people who have been HIV-positive for between 5 and 15 years. But there is supposed to be a latent period of an average of 10 years before untreated HIV-positive people show symptoms of opportunistic infections, so these cancers in treated patients are coming just as rapidly as the original AIDS diseases did in untreated HIV-positive people.
Wainberg’s suggestion that antiretroviral drugs do not properly restore the immune system is also at odds with the treatment guidelines, where the criteria for successful treatment are a reduction in viral load and an increase in CD4-cell counts. Is Wainberg now conceding that those surrogate markers are defective, as HIV skeptics (and a number of peer-reviewed mainstream articles) have been saying for decades?
Is Wainberg being consciously and deliberately disingenuous when he says that “Many people have forgotten that certain rare cancers, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, were recorded in HIV-infected individuals with relatively high frequency in the 1980s, before antiretroviral drugs were available”? Is he really unaware of the fact that KS as a proportion of AIDS cases declined sharply even before AZT monotherapy began in 1987, and that the annual number of new KS patients began to decline several years before HAART was introduced? Evidently it was neither of those medical treatments that overcame KS; probably the decisive factor was that enough gay men had learned from John Lauritsen, Michael Callen, Josef Sonnabend and others that they might avoid KS, and indeed AIDS itself, if they stopped using poppers and living a madly unhealthy life.
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The National Institutes of Health are not as sanguine as Wainberg about the benefits of antiretroviral drugs: “the use of antiretroviral therapy is now associated with a series of serious side effects and long-term complications that may have a negative impact on mortality rates. More deaths occurring from liver failure, kidney disease, and cardiovascular complications are being observed in this patient population” (NIH HIV/AIDS Fact Sheet, updated October 2006).
Furthermore, the largest study to date, of more than 22,000 HIV-positive people in Europe as well as America (Lancet, 368: 451-8), hardly makes a case for antiretroviral medication: “Virological response after starting HAART improved over calendar years, but such improvement has not translated into a decrease in mortality”–the virus is being defeated, in other words, but the patients are dying just as fast; or, as the hoary saying goes, the operations are succeeding, even though the patients are dying.
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I don’t exclude myself, of course, from those who see everything from their own viewpoint. The data have told me that HIV is an entirely unspecific sign that something or other has stimulated the immune system to react. That something or other might be temporary and harmless, or potentially harmful but not very, or a real cause for concern–but certainly not signifying a fatal attack on and pending destruction of the immune system. I have been able so far to explain everything about the incidence of HIV in this way. Try it for yourself, on whatever you see reported about “HIV”. Remember that the incidence of “HIV” in any group varies predictably with age, sex, and race, and that it is typically high among people who are demonstrably ill–from TB, from abusing drugs, from mental or emotional stresses–and typically lowest among the fittest and healthiest–blood donors, Marines, sailors and soldiers. For this evidence of non-specificity, see the diagram in HIV TESTS, 16 November; for the variation with age and sex, see the diagram in TO AVOID HIV…, 18 November, or in HIV-POSITIVE CHILDREN, 25 November); for the whole story, have a look at my book, The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory.
This entry was posted on 2007/12/05 at 9:20 pm and is filed under antiretroviral drugs, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV transmission, sexual transmission. Tagged: anti-HIV drugs harmful, antiretroviral drugs harmful, HIV latent period, Kaposi’s sarcoma, Wainberg. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.