HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Matthias Rath’

The Social Psychology of “Denialist” Scientists — Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2, part 2

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/03/18

Scientists, we are instructed by Kalichman, are “by their nature and training systematic and objective” (p. 112; see “Kalichman’s Komical Kaper #2: The Social Psychology of Scientists”, 14 March 2009). That raises a seemingly obvious question:

How or why did some “systematic and objective” scientists become “AIDS denialists”?

I find no explanation for this in Kalichman’s book, even though he places quite a few of us in that category. For example, there’s Kelly Brennan-Jones, like Kalichman a psychologist and therefore also a scientist, and one for whom Kalichman had much respect and from whom he had solicited a book review: “I knew her work dating back to my years in graduate school. I knew Kelly Brennan-Jones was trained at a superlative university by some of the best social psychologists in the country” (p. xiii).

But, it turns out, Brennan-Jones differs with Kalichman about HIV/AIDS.
“My reaction was one of absolute outrage. I mean I was really angry. I was in an emotional upheaval. I surprised everyone around me, including myself, by my seemingly irrational reaction. How could someone I knew to be intelligent, well-trained as a scientist at a respectable university and in a position of influence over college students endorse a book that everyone surely knows is outdated, biased, and of little more value than that worthy of a doorstop?” (p. xiii).

Thus Kalichman describes how he himself lapsed from systemic objectivity and became irrational (though only “seemingly” so, whatever that means), but he doesn’t give a convincing explanation for why it happened. Surely that a fellow psychologist differs with him over a scientific issue can’t be the explanation — if it were, then psychologists would be in a continual state of irrational anger and outrage, given that there are disagreements over so many quite fundamental issues in psychology and psychotherapy. Nor does Kalichman suggest what might have pushed the respected Brennan-Jones, senior to Kalichman though perhaps no more distinguished, out of her customary systematic objectivity — if indeed that’s the case; Kalichman nowhere establishes that there’s anything non-objective about doubting HIV/AIDS theory, he just takes it for granted. He doesn’t even enlighten us about what convinced him personally of that. But consider the matter from Kalichman’s viewpoint for the moment; doesn’t that immediately raise the question, why did Brennan-Jones, an outstanding, systematic, objective scientist for many years, lose those attributes?

The same conundrum applies to others whom Kalichman takes to task as “denialists”. There’s Peter Duesberg, pioneer acclaimed retrovirologist, who isolated the first oncogene in 1970 and was elected to the National Academy in 1986 (p. 175) — yet who almost immediately thereafter lost the scientific attributes he had exemplified during a quarter century of highly distinguished research.

Then there’s David Rasnick (pp. 176-77), competent enough to have worked on proteases (albeit only in rats), who also apparently lost his scientific marbles in middle age or later.

Dr. Matthias Rath is not included among “denialist” scientists in Kalichman’s Appendix B, but he is referred to throughout the book as a German vitamin entrepreneur and “AIDS denialist”. It fails to be mentioned that Rath had worked closely with one of the 20th century’s leading scientists, Linus Pauling. Apparently Rath, a PhD scientist, also somehow lost his systematic objectivity in middle age or thereabouts.

Harvey Bialy had been systematically objective enough to garner a PhD in molecular biology from Berkeley. Kalichman (p. 177) appears to think he wasn’t that great a scientist, though, since he published only 27 articles and was merely an editor for a while at one the leading medical-scientific journals. At any rate, at some stage Bialy, too, apparently lost any remaining systematic objectivity and lapsed into denialism.

Then there’s the sad case of Kary Mullis (pp. 177-8), a Nobel Laureate who happens to be also an “AIDS denialist”, having evidently lost his Nobel-quality systematic objectivity at some time or other. One of the things responsible for that fall from grace, no doubt, was that Mullis persistently asked everyone he encountered to please give him citations to the specific publications that prove HIV to be the cause of AIDS; and he never received a responsive answer. Perhaps that’s enough to drive anyone out of systematic objectivity.

And so it continues. Charles Geshekter (pp. 178-9) had been a systematic, objective social scientist (historian) until he contracted denialism. Claus Koehnlein (p. 179) too — though he had been only a practicing physician, not a researcher, not a scientist, so perhaps he never had been systematically objective. The Perth Group (pp. 179-80) has several doctors and scientists who were infected with denialism around mid-career. There’s also Etienne de Harven (p. 180), formerly of the University of Toronto and the Sloan-Kettering Institute. Roberto Giraldo, who might never have been very systematically objective because his medical degree was only from South America and he had been merely a medical technologist in New York (p. 181). Mohammed Al-Bayati (p. 181), PhD from the University of California at Davis, somehow became unsystematic and unobjective at some time thereafter. Lynn Margulis (pp. 181-2), who was elected to the National Academy in 1983, is rightly famous for having discovered the mechanism of symbiosis by which evolution advances in leaps rather than by infinitesimally slow natural selection from genetic mutations; however, she too suffered a breakdown of systematic objectivity as the years went by.

And then (p. 182) there are a couple of mathematicians, Serge Lang and Rebecca Culshaw. Of course, the majority view is that mathematics isn’t a science, neither “hard” nor soft, and so maybe mathematicians lack systematic objectivity to begin with. On the other hand, it’s also a majority view that mathematics is the most rigorously logical enterprise of all — all of pure mathematics is the following of axioms to their logical conclusions.

We know, too, that the denialist scientists named in Kalichman’s book are the merest tip of a proverbial iceberg, because there are hundreds more PhDs and MDs among AIDS Rethinkers.

And yet, despite having all these examples to work with, Kalichman offers no explanation for how or why scientists morph from systematic objectivity into wacky denialism.

To fill this vacuum (vacuity?) left by Kalichman, I’ll venture a suggestion.

The clue, I think — as with HIV/AIDS itself — is the matter of age. One of the curiosities of “HIV” is that it “infects” chiefly individuals who are in the prime of adult life, 35-45 years. (And, curiously enough, as I’ve remarked in several blog posts, after a “latent period” of healthy life averaging 10 years, followed by many years of “living with HIV/AIDS” while being kept alive by antiretroviral drugs, they still die chiefly at ages 35-45).

We have a rather similarly curious situation with “AIDS denialism”: It strikes people at relatively advanced ages and typically after decades of healthy systematic objectivity.

However, if one looks more carefully into the histories of these sufferers from denialism, one can often detect some early warning signs of a tendency to deviate from the systematic objectivity of their colleagues and to strike out in new directions, to have different ideas, to be creative and innovative; but this only becomes extreme decades later, when it blossoms into full-blown AIDS denialism.

Evidently, AIDS denialism in scientists, like AIDS in people at large, is brought on by a very slow-working infection that becomes manifest and serious only a decade or more later. Obviously the cause of denialism is, as with AIDS, a lentivirus.

“HIV”, of course, is the type specimen of the species “pathogenic lentivirus”, since the earlier and very first lentivirus, which causes kuru, turned out to be a prion and not a virus at all. We know that one mode of transmission of “HIV” is from mother to child. We further know that there is a genetic predisposition to contract “HIV”, in particular, African genes predispose to contracting “HIV”.

By analogy, we can expect that the “denialist” lentivirus is also sometimes passed on from mother to child, or at least “within families” like HTLV-I and II (p. 114 in Gallo, Virus Hunting, 1991) — there is a correlation between the intellectual qualities of parents and children, after all. And there’s also a genetic predisposition to AIDS denialism: Germanic genes predispose to denialism, according to Kalichman (pp. 54, 145; there’ll be more about this in “The German Connection —Kalichman’s not-so-Komical Kaper #3”).

Kalichman has identified other characteristics of denialists as well. Most notably, they are suspicious people and conspiracy theorists (e.g., p. 13 ff. & chapter 4). But this raises the same problem as denialism itself: Why did so many now-denialist scientists contract these conditions only after decades of unexceptionable, even distinguished research?
Obviously, again, it’s that lentivirus. As “HIV” is capable of explaining every form of deviance from physical health, so the denialist lentivirus is capable of explaining every form of deviance from mental health.

AIDS scientists and AIDStruthers have had no success in protecting against the denialist lentivirus through education. Indeed, as the prominent AIDS scientists praising Kalichman’s work have testified, denialism has become a major threat to public health. Since we know that there’s a genetic predisposition to it, perhaps it will turn out that gene therapy (disabling or modifying Germanic genes) is the only really effective means of prevention — just as with HIV, where abstinence, condoms, microbicides, and vaccines have all failed miserably (“HIV gene therapy trial promising”).

Posted in experts, HIV and race, HIV in children, HIV transmission, HIV varies with age, vaccines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 19 Comments »

Mainstream pseudo-science good, alternative pseudo-science bad

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/02/25

HIV/AIDS vigilantes like to accuse promoters of alternative treatments of threatening lives. In South Africa they have campaigned against Matthias Rath for pointing out the considerable health benefits of vitamin supplements for malnourished people. President Thabo Mbeki has been charged with the needless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people for questioning  the worth of antiretroviral drugs, and his Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, was sarcastically referred to as “Dr. Beetroot” for suggesting the value of some natural remedies.

But when properly “scientific” Westerners discover that naturally occurring substances might make good medicine, of course that’s something else. So the discovery by UCLA’s AIDS Institute was reported reverently, that “the herb Astragalus root may help fight HIV” [UCLA’s AIDS (“Beetroot”) Institute discovers how HIV kills cells, 2 January 2009]. Not to be outdone, Houston researchers have identified an ingredient of green tea as active against “HIV” even at physiological concentrations:

“Thursday, February 5, 2009, 3:15pm CST
Houston researchers cite HIV breakthrough
A chemical that occurs naturally in green tea appears to prevent HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, from infecting cells in the immune system and could prove a valuable component of treatment for the disease, according to a report by researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital.
After further research, the study could move to human trials, the researchers said Thursday.
In previous studies, Dr. Christina Nance, assistant professor of pediatrics at BCM, and Dr. William Shearer, professor of pediatrics at BCM, had demonstrated that epigallocatechin gallate — EGCG — found in green tea, inhibited infection in a specific HIV-1 strain.
The latest discovery shows EGCG can inhibit infection in multiple HIV-1 strains.
‘This is paramount from a global aspect,’ Nance said. ‘Most initial studies with HIV-1 in the Americas are based on subtype B.’ However, she added, most of the world is infected with other strains.
‘EGCG may represent a potential low-cost inhibitor of global HIV-1 infection that could be used at least as adjunctive anti-HIV therapy,’ said Nance and Shearer in their report.
Previous drugs developed to block the entry of HIV-1 into cells proved ineffective because the virus mutated. Nance hopes that EGCG, derived from a natural product, will be less likely to generate such mutations.
BCM has received a grant from the National Institutes of Health to being a phase 1 trial to study the safety of the compound in HIV-1-infected people.
Funding for the research came from the National Institutes of Health and the Baylor Center for AIDS Research.
The report appears in the current issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology.”

In the true spirit of objective science, the researchers refrained from saying “breakthrough”, that was only the designation in the popular media; the researchers themselves merely titled their article “Preclinical development of the green tea catechin, epigallocatechin gallate, as an HIV-1 therapy” [by Christina L. Nance, Edward B. Siwak, & William T. Shearer, J Allergy Clin Immunol 2009;123:459-65] — though, come to think of it, that’s still making a pretty big claim, “development”, even if only pre-clinical as yet. And the Conclusions carry a tone of certainty: “We conclude that by preventing the attachment of HIV-1–glycoprotein 120 to the CD4 molecule, EGCG inhibits HIV-1 infectivity. Because this inhibition can be achieved at physiologic concentrations, the natural anti-HIVagent EGCG is a candidate as an alternative therapy in HIV-1 therapy.”

Perhaps this discovery explains why Asian-Americans, to whom we owe our introduction to green tea, have been so much less affected by HIV/AIDS than have Caucasian Americans?

At any rate, those of us who believed those unscientific peddlers of traditional remedies who have long touted green tea as health-promoting can feel vindicated as we continue with — indeed increase — our gullible guzzling of that beverage. And those intrepid researchers in Houston are being justly rewarded with continuing grant support from the National Institutes of Health.

Posted in Alternative AIDS treatments, uncritical media | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

SELENIUM: Mainstreamers again follow rethinkers as to dietary supplements

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/07/14

“Anecdotal” reports that “HIV-positive” people experience improved health from dietary supplements have long been pooh-poohed by the Pooh-Bahs of the HIV/AIDS Establishment. Periodically, however, mainstream journals publish “scientific” reports that “micronutrients” improve the health of “HIV-positive” people, see for instance WHAT’S IN A NAME? VITAMIN THERAPY BAD, MICRONUTRIENT THERAPY GOOD, 16 May 2008; David Rasnick, “The AIDS ribbon is a noose around the neck of Africa”, at www.dipmat.unipg.it/~mamone/sci-dem/sci&dem.htm, posted 9 May 2008.

This month, Dr. Barry Hurwitz of the University of Miami reported a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of selenium supplements stretching over 9 months and enrolling 262 HIV-positive people [“Selenium for HIV”, WFTV.com, 1 July 2008]. Selenium controlled or even lowered viral load, there was a positive dose-response correlation, and selenium also led to higher CD4 counts. According to Hurwitz, “I liken the effect of selenium to a lion tamer in a zoo. . . . What it tends to do is make viruses more docile and they are less likely to replicate. The effect of selenium appears to be acting directly on the virus”.

In April, a 5-year study from Tanzania reported that “micronutrient supplements appeared to decrease the risk of early tuberculosis recurrences among HIV-positive patients”; and there was “significantly decreased… incidence of peripheral neuropathy, regardless of HIV status”. Details are in articles by CS Benn et al. and by E Villamor et al. in Journal of Infectious Diseases, vol. 197 [2008], 1487-9 and 1499-1505 respectively (available free online).

Neither of the latter articles, nor the media reports, mentioned the name of Harold D. Foster, who has been amassing and disseminating information about the benefits of selenium supplements for AIDS patients (among others). In numerous articles and a book, “What really causes AIDS” (download available at Foster’s website), Foster brings together a wealth of sources that report a significant correlation of availability of selenium with a better prognosis for AIDS patients as well as with a lower frequency of positive HIV tests. A recent concise summary is in “Nutrients used in AIDS cases offer hope”, Well Being Journal, May/June 2008, 14-19.

Like Linus Pauling and Matthias Rath, Foster is an enthusiast for his cause who may lapse into over-enthusiasm. His website offers several other books, he considers selenium to offer benefits also in treating schizophrenia, and he seems in general an advocate of the orthomolecular approach to medicine. He is therefore readily found guilty by association with unorthodox views; but his claims are fully documented, often from mainstream sources; and, as noted above, mainstream researchers who happen to look in similar directions as Foster come to similar conclusions, albeit they fail to credit him for being there before them.

Foster makes a number of sound arguments against current standard practices in treatment of AIDS patients, but he accepts the theory that HIV is the cause of AIDS. However, all his data are equally compatible with the view that selenium is a necessary trace element, that its deficiency makes people more vulnerable to a range of illnesses and infections, and that remedying the deficiency makes for generally better health and ability to fight off infections.

Foster’s work is well worth attending to because it is so determinedly EMPIRICAL. One can learn from the evidence he cites and the sources he references, whether or not one ultimately draws the same conclusions as he does. Those of us who know that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS can still recognize the value of providing malnourished people with dietary supplements, and we can accept comfortably that “AIDS” patients benefit from such treatment, possibly even more than people who are less ill to begin with.

Posted in Alternative AIDS treatments, clinical trials | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

WHAT’S IN A NAME? VITAMIN THERAPY BAD, MICRONUTRIENT THERAPY GOOD

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/05/16

Linus Pauling created an astonishing number of significant advances in the chemical sciences, including the theory of chemical bonding and the physicochemical basis of biological activity, and he was the first to discover the molecular basis of a disease, the misshapen structure of hemoglobin in sickle-cell anemia.

Pauling’s political activism against the testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere made him something of a pariah in political circles, and his insistence on the dangers of the radioactive fallout produced in the tests was pooh-poohed by the expert white-coated gurus of the establishment. For a long time now, of course, his view on that has been the mainstream consensus, though I am not aware that there’s ever been a public acknowledgment that Pauling had been right and that the Government and its experts had been wrong.

For his chemical work, Pauling received a Nobel Prize. For his political activism, another Nobel Prize, for Peace. But when he began to stump for the desirability of large doses of vitamin C in particular, as well as the benefits of other supplements, he was labeled a crackpot who had lapsed into senility. Yet his argument for such “orthomolecular” practice was eminently reasonable: he pointed out that the “minimum daily requirements” established for vitamins and minerals were based only on clinical knowledge of the minimum amounts needed to avoid illness; it seems very likely that the optimum amounts for healthy functioning would be greater than those minimum amounts. As to vitamin C, he pointed out that our vegetarian primate cousins get far more of it from their diet than we do.

In dribs and drabs, here and there, consensus medicine has been catching up to Pauling; for instance, we are informed that senior citizens should take supplements of vitamin D, and ophthalmologists advise vitamin E, selenium, and zinc to stave off macular degeneration. At the same time, determined “crank busters” and representatives of consensus medicine continue to castigate anyone who recommends a mineral, vitamin, or other supplement that has not already been approved by the bureaucracies.

One result is that periodically a “breakthrough” is announced that comes as no news at all to people who know about these historical facts. For example, two recent articles report the discovery that for Africans seriously ill from TB, and sometimes even “HIV-positive”, “micronutrient supplements appeared to decrease the risk of early tuberculosis recurrences among HIV-positive patients”, and they “significantly decreased… incidence of peripheral neuropathy, regardless of HIV status.”

(Peripheral neuropathy is described as “a condition that can be caused by both HIV infection and key medication used to treat tuberculosis”. The second statement is correct, but the first is not; it is antiretroviral drugs, not “HIV infection”, that causes peripheral neuropathy. This is the same sleight-of-mouth as when there’s talk of “HIV-associated lipodystrophy”—the lipodystrophy comes from the drugs, chiefly the protease inhibitors. Lipodystrophy was not a widespread condition among AIDS victims or “HIV-positive” people before the advent of HAART.)

“Micronutrients”, then, offer benefits to Africans suffering from TB and also “HIV-positive”. Still, castigation and calumny are heaped upon Dr. Matthias Rath http://www.dr-rath-foundation.org.za/ for his research on the role of nutrition in various illnesses, including HIV/AIDS, and his advocacy of a variety of supplements. Rath had worked with Linus Pauling and had been Director of Cardiovascular Research at the Linus Pauling Institute in Palo Alto (CA). Rath is now vilified just as Pauling was; and just as with Pauling, some of Rath’s insights are likely to be accepted belatedly by consensus medicine. And just as with Pauling, Rath is unlikely to be then given his due credit. From the Pooh-Bah point of view, the misunderstanding needs to be preserved, that the mainstream consensus in medicine and in science is always right.

Posted in Alternative AIDS treatments, experts, HIV skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , | 5 Comments »