HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

April 23 talk: How I became an HIV Skeptic

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/05/01

I’m exceedingly grateful to Brian Carter for arranging the meeting of Alive & Well in Los Angeles on 23 April. I’m also grateful to Brian for meeting me at the airport at very short notice after USAir had taken 2 days to get me from Virginia to LA.

I’ve never had a more attentive and rewarding audience. I benefited also from several people sharing what I had known  only in the abstract, what an excruciating dilemma it is to feel perfectly healthy and yet to be told to start taking drugs that, you’ve observed in others, have devastating “side” effects.

I hope to be able eventually to post some video of the discussions we had at the meeting, in the meantime here’s a rough transcript of my introductory remarks.


I came to deny that HIV causes AIDS in a different way, for different reasons, than perhaps anyone else. Most of you — most people in support groups like this one — probably become involved because of some personal experience — at first- or second-hand — of the confusion and the harm that’s done by the dogma that being “HIV-positive” means being infected by a deadly disease.

Some people became dissidents — AIDS Rethinkers, HIV Skeptics, what some of the extremists call “AIDS denialists” — because they work in virology or immunology or epidemiology or something like that, and they saw that the technical data don’t fit with HIV/AIDS dogma.

But I got into Rethinking because I’d long been interested in trying to understand how science works, especially how unorthodox views, minority views, contribute to the progress of science. That background gave me this tremendous advantage: I already knew, before I’d read anything about HIV or AIDS, that a long-standing scientific theory can be quite wrong, even when “everybody” accepts it. I knew that not only in general, in principle, but because I’d come across all sorts of examples, not just the story of Galileo that everyone has heard of but many more, right down to recent years when a Nobel Prize was given for the discovery that most ulcers are caused by bacteria, a discovery that the mainstream had pooh-poohed for a couple of decades. Or, perhaps most relevant to HIV/AIDS, I knew that a Nobel Prize had been given in the 1960s for the discovery of the virus — the very first lentivirus, with a long latent period — that caused mad cow disease and similar brain diseases; and I knew that 30 years later a Nobel Prize had been given for showing that these brain diseases are NOT caused by a virus at all, but by misshapen proteins called prions — an idea that had been laughed at and pooh-poohed by the mainstream consensus for a couple of decades.

For most people without this background knowledge of the history of science, very much including medical science, I think it’s just very difficult to believe that a mainstream consensus — what “everyone” believes — could be so wrong for so long as it has been about HIV/AIDS. I think that’s perhaps the greatest barrier to having AIDS Rethinking taken seriously.

I originally studied chemistry, and I did research for many years before I began to realize that science isn’t as straightforward and trustworthy as the simple stories about “scientific method” make it out to be. In particular, I’d been interested in a film that was supposed to be of a Loch Ness monster, and I looked in the scientific literature to find out what to think about the film, and I couldn’t find anything. Why couldn’t science enlighten me about something that so many people are interested in?

So I wanted to understand how science ticks, how it chooses what to look into, so I switched from doing chemistry to studying and later teaching and writing about what’s nowadays called science studies or science and technology studies, a sort of mixture of history of science, and sociology and philosophy of science, really everything about how science works and how it interacts with other academic fields and with society as a whole.

My interest in unusual cases, anomalies, brought me in touch with people who actually study things like cold nuclear fusion, acupuncture, psychic phenomena, UFOs, and so on. Around 1980, we set up the Society for Scientific Exploration as a forum for critical, intellectually rigorous discussion of topics like that, things that mainstream science ignores. Early on I became Book Review Editor of the Society’s Journal of Scientific Exploration, and so I was always on the lookout for new cases of ignored science. That’s how I read, in the mid-1990s, the book written by Bryan Ellison with initial cooperation of Peter Duesberg, which claimed HIV isn’t the cause of AIDS. I thought it made a very plausible case, but I didn’t understand the biology well enough to feel qualified to make up my mind about it.

So I continued to look for more books about it, and about 5 years ago read Harvey Bialy’s scientific biography of Duesberg. In one place it said something I knew couldn’t be true, that teenage men and women from all across the United States had tested HIV-positive about equally in the mid- 1980s. That was impossible. HIV was supposed to have gotten into the US some time in the 1970s, was supposed to spread mainly through sex, and years later supposedly produced noticeable numbers of AIDS cases among gay men in a few big cities. No way could a sexually transmitted disease have already been spread evenly among teenage girls and boys by 1985, if it entered the US in relatively isolated communities of gay men in the 1970s, and if AIDS had so far been seen only there.

After a while I decided to check the reference in case Bialy had misquoted in some way. He hadn’t. So I thought there’d be other, later, scientific articles that would show this claim to be wrong. Instead, I became utterly astonished, unbelieving, at what I found. Every new article I looked at reported the same relation between testing HIV-positive and age, race, sex, and geography (urban versus rural).

For months my mind was spinning, because the published data about HIV tests clearly prove that the tests don’t identify an infection. Why hadn’t anyone noticed this before? Or, rather, why hadn’t they followed up on some of the published statements in several early articles, that the data were not what the theory would have predicted?

I spent quite a bit of time in a sort of mental yo-yo: the data seemed unarguable — but if they are, others would have seen it, so I must be wrong somewhere; I just couldn’t see where. And then I was surprised over and over again when I tried to interest people in looking at my data collection to tell me where I was wrong: No one wanted to.

And then I began to realize that I was now experiencing for myself the sort of thing that I’d been studying for 20 or 30 years as an abstract academic exercise, what happens to people who see things that the mainstream consensus refuses to see.

I wrote to the Army HIV Research group, who had published a lot of the test data; and I asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Army never replied. The CDC told me I had the data right — but they could be explained in terms of an infection.

That floored me, and it still does. Many groups have been tested: military applicants and active military and Reserve personnel; pregnant women; newborns and their mothers; blood donors; members of the Job Corps; gay men; drug abusers. Except of course for the babies, in all of them the age for maximum rate of positive tests is around 35 to 45, nothing like what you find with sexually transmitted diseases in general. But perhaps the most astonishing thing of all is that black people — people of African ancestry — always test positive at far higher rates than others do, and Asians at much lower rates than others. Those differences are seen in every social group, in every country. If you believe HIV/AIDS theory, then you have to accept the racist notion that behavior, sexual behavior in particular, is genetically determined to such a degree that it overrides all social and cultural conditioning. I find that unbelievable.

Anyway, since no one wanted to listen, I decided to write a book, about what the tests show and about how the scientific mainstream and the big public media censor any questioning of HIV/AIDS dogma. Now if you’ve ever tried to get a book manuscript looked at, you’ll know what a hassle it is. Most every publisher will look only at manuscripts referred by a literary agent. If you’ve ever tried to get a literary agent — as I have a number of times over the years — you know it’s maybe even harder than finding a publisher. I searched the Internet and found two publishers who accept manuscripts direct from would-be authors. So I sent my manuscript off to both of them, with the required self-addressed stamped envelopes for reply. Within a week, I already had one of them back, and I said to myself a few choice bleepable words about getting rejected without even a careful reading. I didn’t even open the letter until the next day. It said, “We’re very interested … “.

Extraordinary luck. Ginny Tobiassen, the editor at McFarland publishers who got my MS to look at, had just read Celia Farber’s article in Harper’s magazine, about how a clinical trial of antiretroviral drugs killed a pregnant woman. The drug was known to be toxic, but they wanted to know how large a dose could be safely given.

However, Ginny didn’t like the second part of my book, a long complaint about censorship. She asked, did I have other material I could use; and by the way, the manuscript was too short, McFarland publishes chiefly reference works for libraries and need at least 75,000 words.

Well, I’d tried to keep my original MS short, because most trade publishers want to produce and sell cheap. But now I could write what I really wanted to: How the HIV/AIDS story isn’t unique, there are many others like it in the history of science and medicine. Part II of my book says a bit about how science really gets done, and gives examples of how medical science has gone wrong in the past including the very recent past. (You might have seen last Sunday on “60 Minutes” an acknowledgment that “cold fusion” has been acknowledged to be real, after 20 years of being called pseudo-science.) Part III of the book outlines how things went wrong specifically with HIV/AIDS, from the start, when it was said that the first AIDS cases were “young, previously healthy, gay men”. They weren’t. Their average age was in the mid-to-late 30s; I suppose that’s pretty young, but it isn’t what we think of when we’re told that something affects “young men”. And  as John Lauritsen had pointed out from the very beginning, what was significant about them was not that they were gay but that they did a lot of drugs. Lauritsen claimed he’d never met a gay AIDS patient who didn’t, at least eventually and in private, admit to some sort of drug use. As to “previously healthy”, to the contrary, these early victims had histories of all sorts of infections and many antibiotic treatments as well as some exposure to “recreational” drugs.

A number of people have told me they knew some of those who died of AIDS in the early days and that they were not drug addicts. After AZT was introduced, people were killed by that very effectively, even though dosages were gradually reduced over the years. For the unhealthy lifestyle that a small proportion of gay men practiced in the 1970s, read Larry Kramer’s novel, “Faggots”; watch the movie “Between Ocean and Sky”; and recall that Dr. Josef Sonnabend had warned his fellow gay men in New York in the 1970s that they would ruin their health if they didn’t stop getting infections and using antibiotics.

Back to how I got into this, and how the book was published. It might never have been, but for Ginny Tobiassen at McFarland who not only saw merit in my very inferior first attempt but then also helped me enormously at every step of writing and re-writing what became the final version.

16 Responses to “April 23 talk: How I became an HIV Skeptic”

  1. Dave said

    Very nice piece, Henry. You are a scholar and a gentleman.

    1. I have a blinded experiment. Find a sentient, reasonably intelligent, adult scientist in any field.

    2. Have him read your book, but conceal your name wherever it appears.

    3. Have him read Professor Kalichman’s book, but conceal his name wherever it appears.

    4. Have the reader give a factual neutral summary of each book.

    5. Have the reader give his opinion of the book’s thesis and supporting evidence.

    Having read both, for me it is like comparing a work of Leon Tolstoy with a work of Dr. Seuss.

  2. Matt said

    I am happy to at least see two posts in a row not about Kalichman. I would of course love the video, but the transcript gives me an idea, and having read your book, most everything in this speech is covered in it.

    • Henry Bauer said


      Sorry, I have to post quite a few more about Kalichman’s book. It’s full of errors, and I’m probably in the best position to document them. But I too am weary of this, and am glad that I have very little if any more writing to do on them, I prepared the whole bunch of posts before my trip, and am just actually publishing them at intervals.

  3. Henry,

    I, for one, cannot thank you enough for coming to Los Angeles and sharing with the Alive and Well members your experiences, time and valuable insight.

    Since the video is 3 hours in length, it’s currently being edited down to manageable segments and will be available fairly soon.

    I think the late Christine Maggiore would have been very impressed.

    Thanks ever so much!


  4. Henry, an interesting journey, but if I may just challenge one point: This business about ulcers being caused by bacteria. Firstly, you say that ‘most’ ulcers are caused by bacteria. But lots of people apparently have these bacteria without having an ulcer at the time. So, this alleged culprit is neither sufficient nor necessary to cause an ulcer by itself. And am I not correct in thinking that the guy who was awarded the Nobel prize for giving himself H. Pylori and getting an ulcer had a BURNING ambition to get an ulcer to prove his point? And was he not a statistical sample size of…

    Then when we have a look at tests for H. Pylori, we find — once again — that it’s an antibody test that is used to indicate you have it, and if you have the medication to allegedly get rid it of, they can’t use the antibody test anymore to check the bacteria have gone, because the bacteria might not be there even if the antibodies are. Well, might they not have been there in the first place when the original antibody test was done?

    When I read online that the Nobel Prize had been awarded for such a claim I told my surgeon friend, who flatly said, “Well, all I know is, I only get a stomach ulcer when I’m stressed”, an experience concurring with the only two other people I’ve known to have stomach ulcers. So H. Pylori may well be a red herring because of non-specific antibody testing. I’m afraid it’s déjà vu all over again.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Mike Hersee:
      You seem more knowledgeable about this than I am. I do recall, though, in the acceptance speech, that Marshall (or Warren) referred to observing the actual bacteria under the microscope, and that this species was found only in the presence of ulcers. But I ought to be one of the last to claim that Nobel Prizes are always given for authentic discoveries!
      I’m not sure that the claim is “necessary and sufficient”. Not “necessary” because not all ulcers are claimed to be owing to this. As to “sufficient”, most infectious diseases cause harm only because of the interaction of the infectious agent with the health-state of the challenged person. Perhaps stress is one of the things that can, in the presence of H. pylori, result in ulceration.

      • Right, so there’s clearly an imperfect relationship between ulcers and H. Pylori even if there’s some statistical correlation, in the same way there’s an imperfect relationship between a car indicating left and actually turning left – sometimes it doesn’t turn, sometimes it turns but doesn’t indicate, and sometimes it indicates left and turns right!

        But neither indicating causes the car to turn, nor does turning cause the car to indicate. The causal factor is the person, who causes both of those other ‘symptoms’ of indicating and turning in an imprecise co-incident relationship. We might say that as Driver plus unknown factor X causes Indicator, and Driver plus unknown factor Y causes Turning, which leaves Turning unable to influence Indicator, and Indicator unable to influence Turning. Using some kind of treatment on the indicator to make it flash or stop it indicating will have no effect on whether the car turns or not. The way to influence car-turning is to influence the driver, not the indicator.

        Similarly, as a reliable cause of stomach ulcers has not been identified yet because so many people apparently have the bacteria for ages before getting a stomach ulcer, it COULD be that stress alone is the sole and necessary factor whereas H. Pylori may be simply an opportunistic presence on some occasions.

        And if they ONLY found H. Pylori in the presence of ulcers, then what the heck are the antibody tests really detecting in people who do not have stomach ulcers, such as at least one family relative of mine, who was persuaded to have the antibiotic to get rid of ‘it’ to help prevent him getting an ulcer AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE? That clearly contradicts the notion of H. Pylori only being present when there is an actual ulcer going on.

        This raises further questions: My family relative has now taken this medication and they’ve done a different type of test to check the bacteria really has gone, because – remember – they can’t use the antibody test as it doesn’t necessarily indicate the presence of the bacteria, as it may already have gone due to the medication. So, if PRIOR to having the medication, the antibodies by themselves don’t indicate the bacteria has been dealt with, and we don’t know where he got the bacteria from (ASSUMING that if the test shows up positive it at least is 100% specific for HAVING been exposed to H. Pylori), then clearly they aren’t going to be sufficient to fight off another infection from H. Pylori AFTER he’s had the medication either, which would mean continuous testing to make sure he never gets it again. Oh, wait…the screening tests are antibody tests, which they say don’t work once you’ve had the medication, so…..

        But if the antibodies that made the test positive PRIOR to the medication are sufficient to fight off the bacteria he might catch again AFTER the medication, then are we sure that the bacteria had not already been fought off successully prior to the medication being taken? – indeed, if they only saw the bacteria in the presence of an ulcer, and my family relative did not have an ulcer, but had the (PRESUMED to be specific) antibodies, then it does indeed suggest he had fought off the bacteria successfully, which goes back to indicating that the bacteria is not sufficient by itself but requires some other condition or some sort of immune system suppression to be in place in order to be able to cause the ulcer – which again points to co-factors being pre-requisites.

        Also, don’t be fooled by the medical profession’s use of the term ‘stress’ as a general and non-specific contributory factor for a wide range of conditions, as if it was a scalar quantity that can simply be anywhere on a scale of – say – one to fifty. Anyone who has done any serious study and practice of NLP, Time Line Therapy and Hypnosis on people with physiological symptoms will have realised that there can be a highly symbolic and specific relationship between a physiological problem and the actual unresolved psychological issue. But medicine doesn’t want to acknowledge this because it implies giving power back to the patient! No conspiracy, just an emergent pattern.

        It doesn’t matter how fancy the statistics are, the meaning of mathematical proofs are only as good as the framework of logic in which they sit and robustness of the original numbers. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that medical science and logic, that should be inseparable – even conjoined – travelling companions, are in practice barely ships that pass each other in the night or at best nodding acquaintances. And we all know what happened to banking.

    • Gos said


      Actually it just so happens that I just recently researched Drs. Marshall and Warren’s claim of having proven that H. Pylori causes ulcers. As it turns out, Dr. Marshall never developed an ulcer of any sort as a result of his experiment. He developed gastritis and halitosis after a couple of weeks, but never an ulcer. In addition, when his wife found out what he’d done, she freaked out and made him take antibiotics to get rid of it, thus terminating the experiment (not to mention corrupting it.)

      There is also some question as to whether he successfully infected himself in the first place. All of the laboratory evidence indicates that he was never infected, and since he took the antibiotics so soon afterwards, we’ll never have any evidence that the infection actually took.

      This is probably one of the worst examples of bad science that ever garnered a Nobel Prize.

      — Gos
      “Nobody here but us heretics…”

  5. mo79uk said

    Kalichman’s book isn’t worth sitting in my hands if it only examines the assumed mindset of those who challenge the doctrine rather than looking at the evidence.
    It’s a bit of an own goal if he can’t lock horns with your findings, never mind turning up at conferences as ‘Newton’.

    In the British press Dr. Ben Goldacre (who as a personality I like) has given praise to Kalichman’s book which I think is a great shame, as being a ‘media doctor’ this is a local blow to your book in regards to mass awareness.

    • Henry Bauer said

      All I know about Goldacre is his column about Christine Maggiore, which apparently wasn’t his best foot forward. I really wonder whether those who praise Kalichman’s book have read it. Richard Wilson’s “review” of it on describes an entirely different book than the one I read, as do the blurbs on the book’s jacket. I’m aware that my view can hardly be unbiased, but what I’ve already posted on my blog about it, and half-a-dozen more entries to come about plain factual errors, can be checked by anyone who cares to, and I wager they’ll find I didn’t distort what Kalichman says.

  6. Martin said

    Dave said: Having read both, for me it is like comparing a work of Leon Tolstoy with a work of Dr. Seuss.

    Now wait a minute. Dr. Seuss was very fine at what he did and comparing him to Tolstoy is like comparing apples to oranges. Seth Kalichman on the other hand is a hack. So let’s see, who has been widely published but really can be considered a hack? I would rate Mary Shelley along with Kalichman because she tried to pass her dead husband’s (Percy Bysshe Shelley) famous work, Frankenstein, off as her own. (I take John Lauritsen’s word and research on the matter as a settled debate.)

  7. Cytotalker said

    Mike Hersee,

    The shocking thing is that just as bankers have been oblivious to realities gleaned by economists, doctors display frightening ignorance of the metabolic processes gleaned by biologists and biochemists. Even bodybuilders seem to have a superior grasp of physiological processes than doctors do.

  8. Dennis Gor said

    Dear Dr. Bauer

    I have enjoyed your writings for some time now, together with audio whenever I have had the chance to heatr them. In recent days, I find that I much prefer to hear audio because it conveys information that might not be obvious when such oral presentations are reduced to transcript form.

    I do not doubt your excellent technical writing and it is a critical tool for me together with references cited. But the people I have to convince on the need to take interest in your communication require delivery in words and pictures because they mostly lack my background in biological science and their eyes tend to glaze over when I go into the “whereas… therefore”s of HIV science!

    Remember most of us “know” what we know about HIV because of press release sound bites fdelivered by the extremely telegenic news anchors of the day.

    Congratulations and thank you. Now, AUDIO please.

    D. Gor Ph.D (Mol Bio & Immunology)

    Please post the AUDIO, please, please. And thank you.

    • Henry Bauer said

      Dennis Gor:
      Thank you!
      I’ve heard that the video-taper from April 23 is working to produce manageable segments from 3 hours of proceedings. I will definitely alert blog-readers when they are posted and where they can be accessed.

  9. pat said

    Now there is an idea that I like.
    My work entails many hours of menial tasks that require very little brainwaving. To overcome the boredom I did what most people do and I tuned into fm radio but that quickly got very irritating. I then discovered audio books and it has greatly improved my enthusiasm for work! (I feel like an editor: “reading” and earning money at the same time) One of my favorites is Carl Sagan. Hearing it from the author is definitely a different experience than reading it from paper …and more rewarding.

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