HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

HISTORY OF AZT

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/01/01

In FIRST: DO NO HARM! (19 December), I wrote, “The toxicity of AZT was known long before its introduction as an antiretroviral drug: it had been found too toxic to be used in cancer chemotherapy”. A knowledgeable correspondent informed me that AZT failed to qualify for cancer chemotherapy not because it was too toxic but because it wasn’t effective.

As always, I’m grateful for the comment; I do wish to be as accurate as possible, and can’t check everything that I’ve absorbed from a lot of reading, not all of which I can recall in any detail. A very positive benefit of being set straight is that when I try to learn more in order to correct errors, it sometimes leads to unsuspected new grist for the dissident mill; for instance, Sharon Stone’s assertion about AIDS deaths among women (WORLD AIDS DAY, 22 December) caused me to look at the official statistics for AIDS deaths and to discover the category of death-causing “HIV DISEASE” (28 December). Those death statistics will be featured again in later posts, for the way they vary with age is yet another illustration of the vacuity of HIV/AIDS theory.

Back to AZT and toxicity and cancer. Looking further into it, there seems to be some doubt about the matter. AIDS WIKI says this:
“AZT was originally intended to treat cancer, but failed to show efficacy and had an unacceptably high toxicity profile. (Note: There is some dispute over whether a high toxicity profile contributed to the shelving of AZT. Horwitz himself appears to have given conflicting testimony in various interviews.)”

I came across a confirmation that AZT had been found useless against leukemia in mice by Horwitz in 1964, but had shown possible promise against breast cancer (Science News, 28 June 1997, 151 #26, p. 397, citing a June 15 article in Cancer Research).

At any rate, AZT was known to be highly toxic at the time it was tried against AIDS. For a very readable account of the intrigues and machinations that led to its approval, read Bruce Nussbaum’s “Good Intentions: How Big Business and the Medical Establishment Are Corrupting the Fight Against AIDS” (1990, Atlantic Monthly Press).

Nothing about that book’s title and sub-title has become obsolete in the nearly two decades since it was written. Nussbaum is hardly a radical, and he isn’t a dissident who questions whether HIV causes AIDS. He was an investigative reporter and is now a senior editor at Business Week. His book describes “the puppet master, the brilliant Dr. David Barry, Burroughs Wellcome’s chief strategist; Dr. Tony Fauci, who grabbed control of the government’s AIDS research program only to squander $1 billion without developing a single new drug. . . . An old-boy network of powerful medical researchers dominates in every disease field . . . . They control the major committees, they run the most important trials. They are accountable to no one. despite the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that go to them every year, there is no public oversight. Medical scientists have convinced society that only they can police themselves” (from the jacket blurb).

That’s a pretty good summary of what dissidents are still up against today.

It’s not just that there’s a powerful medical establishment, it’s also that HIV/AIDS theory has tentacles reaching not only into medical practice but also into several different fields of research—epidemiology, immunology, virology. The epidemiologists have recognized that the observed rates of apparent sexual transmission of HIV are far too low to cause epidemics; but they don’t dare stand up and tell the immunologists and virologists and physicians that they are wrong, because they imagine that those people know what they are doing within their own areas of expertise. So the epidemiologists leave their observations as anomalies to be cleared up at some future time and speculate about special circumstances that might somehow make transmission more efficient—when it’s not being observed, of course. The immunologists are happy to have as an excuse for getting nowhere with vaccines, the virologists’ assertions that HIV mutates in an unprecedented fashion. Physicians can only treat their patients with what they are told to try by those whom they must trust to have carried out proper studies. There’s nothing unusual about this general state of affairs: scientists in closely related fields tend not to question what their colleagues in those other fields tell them, and apparently unexplainable anomalies are shoved aside in the belief that later on they will become explicable. That’s what Thomas Kuhn described in his much cited and little understood “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, and it fits the realities much better than Karl Popper’s suggestion that contradictory evidence at once falsifies a theory; as Imre Lakatos pointed out, the mainstream belief is continually propped up by subsidiary ad hoc hypotheses made up more or less on the spur of each bit of contradictory evidence. If science really is self-correcting, it often takes its own good time about it—like 4 decades over the laws of heredity.

At any rate, that so many different specialties are involved in HIV/AIDS underscores why I’m so grateful when others check what I write, because one can hardly say much about HIV/AIDS without touching on questions of immunology, epidemiology, virology, and more.

Just now, what I would very much like to understand is, what criteria are used in the trials of potential vaccines? I know there’s been controversy over whether “HIV antibodies” represent a successful or potentially successful reaction against a retrovirus. I’ve learned that there are several different sorts of antibodies. I’ve learned that vaccinology often makes use of “adjuvants”, which stimulate the immune system in a non-specific fashion. What I’m curious about is this: The standard way of detecting infection by HIV is via tests for antibodies; but aren’t vaccines designed to stimulate the generation of antibodies?

That’s a genuine plea for explanation, not a rhetorical question.

16 Responses to “HISTORY OF AZT”

  1. Steve said

    Yes, this is true as you have described it. So the first problem with a “successful” “HIV” vaccine (I put both those words in quotes because neither one is very well defined in their respective fields) is that it will immediately cause one to test HIV antibody-positive, i.e. “HIV infected”. I’m sure the medical establishment will come up with some way to spin this, though – almost certainly involving yet more highly profitable antiretroviral drugs.

    The second problem with any attempt to create an “HIV” vaccine is that if HIV does in fact exist as a unique endogenous retrovirus, which I don’t think has been demonstrated, it will be impossible to construct a vaccine that will stimulate an antibody response that will attack it – since retroviruses live in host cell DNA. At best an “infection” will be kept at bay by a vaccine-induced immune response, but that can never eliminate DNA-integrated retroviruses. Of course the normal human immune system already does this very effectively, according to the mainstream literature, and given the usual questionable assumptions about the entity called “HIV” and the tests used to detect antibodies to it. So why they are still trying to come up with a vaccine to poorly replicate what a normal immune system already does very well is beyond me, other than as another way to make a living off the AIDS gravy train, which it certainly is.

    Then there are all the problems associated with vaccines against regular non-retroviral diseases, almost all of which problems would also apply to “HIV” vaccines, but we probably don’t need to get into those here…

  2. hhbauer said

    Thanks, Steve. I think “endogenous” is a central point that needs more exploring.

    The mainstream view currently is that HIV exists as infectious particles—capable of existing outside the body long enough to contaminate needles, for example—which are transmissible via blood and sperm-associated fluids. But if HIV exists as one of the huge number of ENDOGENOUS proto-viruses in the human genome (HERVs), it would explain a great deal: why HIV particles can sometimes be generated in cell cultures; why “HIV” is sometimes transferred from mother to child; why there are such clear racial disparities in tendency to test HIV-positive; and, of course, why harboring the endogenous proto-virus is not in itself a CAUSE of illness, but may show up when some disturbance causes cells to reproduce in such a way as to make these endogenous bits of genome generate the sort of substances that produce a positive HIV-test.

  3. Steve said

    Oops, I was actually trying to type “exogenous”, but my fingers slipped. The mainstream view as you say is that HIV is exogenous, which is the point I was trying unsuccessfully to make, while it could just as easily be endogenous, and that would, as you say, explain a lot. This is an interesting question for sure—the mainstream position appears to be that HIV cannot be endogenous since “the” human genome (whose, exactly?) has been sequenced, and if you search for any of the preserved (non-varying) HIV sequences (still not entirely clear on how they came up with those, either) within the human DNA database, you won’t find any substantial hits. The best you’ll find is small matching fragments, too small to make proteins out of, and they are no longer than what you’d expect to find by sheer chance. Is there a convincing counterargument to this? Has anyone found HIV sequences, such as the ones from the HIV databank, in human DNA, in a way that is unambiguously endogenous? Or does it even make sense to ask this kind of question if HIV has never been properly isolated? And how would you distinguish between endogenous and exogenous retroviruses in the first place? If you do find HIV DNA in a human’s genome, it could have been there all along, or it could have reverse transcribed itself in from outside, and you’d never know the difference, I would think.

  4. Jo said

    Germany’s top vaccination critic, Hans Tolzin, wrote in a comment about Merck’s latest failure to create an AIDS vaccine:
    (Translation)
    “AIDS is the only infectious disease in which a positive antibody test is not seen as a sign of immunity but as a death sentence. Therefore the attempt to create a vaccine that makes somone HIV negative (not-HIV-positive) is the squaring of the circle” (“die Quadratur des Kreises”).
    http://www.impfkritik.de/pressespiegel/2007120201.htm

    Prof. Kurth, former president of the Robert-Koch-Institute (Germany’s authority on infectious diseases), wondered about the disastrous vaccine trial:
    (Translation)
    “There was a good immune response but no protection.”

    In 2004, Tolzin had asked the Robert-Koch-Institute whether the antibody titer is the only criteria for immunity. The answer was:
    (Translation)
    “(…) Neither the RKI nor the STIKO (Ständige Impfkommission = administration which recommends vaccines in Germany) regard the level of the antibody concentration as the sole criteria for immunity and we do not define it like this. (…) Antibody titers often serve just as surrogate markers for immunity. (…) Antibody titers that cannot be detected as well as low antibody titers are no evidence for non-immunity.”
    http://www.impfkritik.de/antikoerpertiter/

    Best regards,
    Jo

  5. hhbauer said

    I’d still like to have explained to me in layman’s terms, what the vaccine researchers actually do and did, so far as identifying “infection” is concerned.

  6. hhbauer said

    Steve: Yes, I didn’t catch it as a typo because it all makes sense in terms of “endogenous”.

    Harvey Bialy in his biography of Duesberg says there are large numbers of “fossils” of former retroviruses in the human genome. Interesting reviews about HERVs include “Endogenous retroviruses in the human genome sequence” by David Griffiths, Genome Biology 2001, 2(6):reviews1017.1–1017.5 and “The pathogenic potential of endogenous retroviruses: facts and fantasies” by Roswitha Löwer, Trends in Microbiology 7 (1999) 350-6.

    Somewhere within the last year or so—but I can’t now remember when or where—I saw a research article suggesting that incorporation of exogenous retroviruses into the human genome over the eons was one means of protecting against them.

    Seems to me that something like this could explain how “HIV” particles can sometimes be created in cell cultures and why normal turnover of cells could generate bits of DNA, RNA, or proteins that could be ascribed to “HIV”. But I need to learn much more about this and would welcome information.

  7. Cyril Sader said

    Henry: I believe the article that you don’t remember could be this one, , written by Michael Specter, the infamous HIV=AIDS defender.

    You may remember reading it on the Science Guardian/New AIDS Review, , which provides an opinion/perspective regarding the article.

    As for HIV being an endogenous retrovirus, I know of Cal Crilly’s article here: .

    Also this is informative:

    If you read all three articles, you will get a nice picture regarding endogenous retroviruses.

    Thanks for the great site!

  8. hhbauer said

    Yes, many thanks, that’s what I was looking for

  9. Cyril Sader said

    You’re welcome🙂
    I noticed my links were all jumbled up. Let me retype them:

    New Yorker article: Annals of Science: Darwin’s Surprise – Why are evolutionary biologists bringing back extinct deadly viruses?

    Science Guardian/New AIDS Review commentary on article: Misguided Guide May Solve AIDS’s Biggest Problem.

    Cal Crilly’s article: Why Retroviruses Appear in AIDS, Cancer and Autoimmune Diseases.

    Also informative: AIDS – Retrovirus Expression Regulated by Methylation?

  10. CathyVM said

    Gallo has stated that the HIV vaccine trials have failed because the virus keeps mutating and the antibodies are so specific that they can’t keep up with these ‘viral mutations’. Does a mutated HIV have the same env, gag and pol proteins as mummy and daddy virus? Don’t antibodies recognise proteins in/on the virus (in which case we all have antibodies to spinach and salmon sperm)? They say viruses mutate by swapping genes around so how do genetic mutations in the virus affect protein expression? And if they do in fact do so, surely ELISA and Western Blot would have to be redesigned every 5 minutes to keep up with the changes in protein expression due to ‘viral mutation’. If an antibody binds with a p24 in a test wouldn’t it bind with a p24 in vivo whatever the configuration? I might be very thick, but this just doesn’t make any sense to me. Feel free to give me a lecture in Immunology 101.

  11. hhbauer said

    Cathy: The mutating they talk about only affects portions of genes and therefore proteins, and some claim to have found “conserved” portions of some of the proteins. So a thoroughgoing critique would have to get very technically detailed.
    Nevertheless, your points are important in bringing out that the orthodoxy talks of constant and rapid mutating when it suits them, yet at other times claims to be able to trace HIV from one person to another and even back to its speculated origin in chimps decades or longer ago.

  12. MacDonald said

    A common argument is that it’s the surface proteins, notably gp120, and notably the exposed parts (the parts turning outwards), that mutate, whereas the core proteins, among them p24, do not mutate at anywhere near the same rate.

    gp120 is one of the proteins looked for on the Western Blot. But this might be explained by the fact that it’s free gp120 with all binding sites, freely exposed.

    The idea is that it’s much harder for antibodies to bind to the HIV surface proteins when they’re part of a complete virion.

    Now don’t ask me for a picture of a complete HIV particle directly from fresh plasma (-:

  13. TonyBoy said

    I am a individual that has been living with AIDS for 30 years now. What puzzels me is how so many different entities seem so have appeared out of know where. All new fields of medicine have been created. New specialities that so many doctors seem to have lached on to. There was a doctor in New York City in 1983 that was put into prison because he was curing this disease. Why was the question that I had to ask myself. Then it became very clear to me when I found out that Burrough was on the firge of bankruptcy in 1984 and a new drug appeared out of no where. AZT were the initials which I think was very funny that they called it AZT. Why not call it for what it is

    [Henry Bauer says:
    I asked TonyBoy for clarification of several of these statements, and he sent me the following information as well. I know from other contacts that TonyBoy’s experiences will resonate with quite a number of others:]

    The test for HIV actually came about in the summer of 1984 and I had heard of a doctor in the town that I was living had access to it. In Oct of 1984 I went to him and was tested. It came back positive and at that time the doctor told me that I needed to go home and get my affairs in order and wait because there was not one thing that he could do for me. That there were no drugs at that time that would fight it and that I had 6 months to a year to live. How he knew that I still do not understand especially when this was such a new disease and that no one really knew what direction it was going to take but he sure was set that I would be dead in a short time.
    You asked me about the doctor in New York City that was put into jail for treating person with this new illness. In 1983 a friend of mine brought me an article that he was sent from a friend that he knew in New York City. The article was about a doctor that was doing his own research on this disease from his clinic. He was not sponsored by anyone just a lone doctor that was trying to find a cure the same way that all the important cures came from. He isolated the disease and found out that with enough Penicillin that it would killed the disease. He proceeded to start treating his patients with it and in less than 2 weeks those that were on the brink of death were totally cured. There were 3 people that he was not able to help even though he tried and these deaths were reported back to the CDC or someone like that and the authorities came in and arrested him and shut his clinic down. . . . I have tried and tried to find the article or even the doctors name and can not find either but my resources are very limited. . . .
    About Burroughs Welcome [being on the verge of bankruptcy] I am still looking for that information. The last time I viewed this information was 7 years ago. I will try to locate it again and send it to you.
    . . . .
    Now the reason why I can not give you my real name is because I went into hiding after I found out about my condition and stayed that way for 14 years. Can you imagine keeping a secret like this for 14 years. I became sick and almost died in 1998 and was forced out of the closet. I recovered from that and fought every doctor that I have seen ever since. I have gone back into hiding with just less than a handful of people that know about me.
    . . . . Pentamidine is a dirty word with the doctors that are trying to treat me even though it saved my life in 1998.
    . . . . It seems that when I tell people about myself they just call me a liar . . . . You can not imagine how many people back in the ’80s and ’90s that I tried to save their lives but the doctors had them so convinced about AZT that they would not listen to me. Of course they are all dead now . . . . I met a reporter quite a few years ago that wanted to do a story on me. When she submitted it to her editor they rejected it and told her to stay away from me and if she didn’t that they would fire her. I never approached her again nor anyone else for that matter.

  14. Nolan Barry said

    I will not pretend to know what all of you have gone thorugh. I do not have HIV or AIDS. I commend anyone battling this disease with their head held high.
    One problem that I do have is with this article [[a book, not an article]] written by Bruce Nussbaum.
    Dr. Dave Barry was my uncle. I was 19 when he died. He was the smartest and most compassionate man I have ever known. He was not a member of some “old boy network” as Mr. Nussbaun wrote. His mother was a secretary and his father was a welder (my grandfather) who would regularly work 16-hour days to feed his family.
    Dave worked very hard to get where he was. Every time I saw him he’d tell me about some new research that his company was working on. He would get very excited about it. All he cared about was helping people. He wasn’t in it for the supposed “billion dollar” payouts. He drove a Ford Ranger pickup and owned a little house in Chapel Hill, NC.
    I’m positive if he were alive right now he would again be on the forfront of AIDS research and do all he could to make this world a better place.
    All I’m saying is that Dave did everything he could with the power he had. Before he died he told me about another new drug that Triangle had developed that would change the face of AIDS research. Since he died, though, I haven’t heard anything about it. All he wanted to do was help people.
    Maybe AZT was too toxic for cancer patients (I am not a scientist). However at the time, there was no treatment for HIV. Maybe Dave saw the risks involved but also realized how many people may benefit from it as well. Every drug that comes out now has a grocery list of side effects. At the time this was pretty much all there was and doing something is always better than sitting back and watching people die. Yes, the pharmaceutical industry is messed up, but there are a few honest people out there trying to do good. if you have any questions or comments, lemme know.
    Nolan Barry
    nolanbarry@gmail.com

  15. hhbauer said

    Bruce Nussbaum is now an editor at Business Week, and you might want to take this up with him.

    There’s a pervasive problem of conflicts of interest in any situation where health care and profit-making intersect. The desire to do right by one’s employer can cause any of us subconsciously to weigh risks in a different way than outsiders might. Nussbaum identifies other players besides Barry whose decisions seem to have been compromised in this way, for example he claims that Sam Broder at NIH saw career and self-promotion opportunities in AZT.

    Since none of us is impervious to the influence of conflicts of interest, one cannot exaggerate the importance of proper procedures as safeguards against our shared human weaknesses. Clinical trials, for example, for reasons of validity of the statistical analysis should never deviate from the pre-set protocol—but that is rarely the case. With AZT, there never was done a proper clinical trial. The blame for that can surely be distributed quite widely, and indeed some authors have done so; for example, apportioning some of the blame to activists from the gay community who wanted a drug cure at once if not sooner, and who campaigned for the possibility of “accelerated approval” which has led to the marketing of quite a lot of drugs that have had to be withdrawn in short order because of side effects so common that they should have been noticed in any proper trial.

    Federal agencies are highly guilty in this respect for waiving rules against conflict of interest whenever they decide that the only qualified experts have conflicts of interest. Peruse the appendix to the HIV/AIDS Treatment Guidelines and note that the great majority of the advisory panel have commercial ties to the drug makers; and have a look at http://www.shillfactor.net/.

    For a more general discussion, try Andrew Stark, “Conflict of interest in American public life”.

  16. Andrea said

    I have a friend who tested positive for HIV 12 years ago when her first baby was born. She has denied all medications prescribed to her, including AZT. She and her daughter, and her new baby son are all healthy and enjoying life without AZT. She told me that she’s never returned to a doctor since they first tried to force AZT on her.
    She’s very healthy and leads an active lifestyle, she’s a brave intelligent woman –
    I think she’s doing the right thing, and I think Bruce Nussbaum is probably onto something.

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