Sunday, July 29, 2007


Challenging the “Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory”


Copyright © 2007 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved

“Thanks to enormous funding for educational programs, the whole world ‘knows’ that HIV causes AIDS,” opens the press release announcing a recent book by retired Virginia Tech chemistry and science studies professor Henry H. Bauer, The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory. “But is what we know compatible with the facts?” Bauer, who has spent a good deal of his career exploring challenges to scientific orthodoxies and how to tell serious challengers from cranks, was struck by one particular anomaly in the conventional wisdom about “HIV/AIDS” — why, when 75 to 90 percent of all people diagnosed with AIDS in the U.S. were men, were HIV positive results from the U.S. military’s mandatory testing of new recruits equally frequent among men and women? — and did an in-depth statistical analysis of all public HIV antibody test data. That analysis convinced him that, whatever the HIV antibody test measures, it is not infection with a sexually transmitted virus.

Bauer’s statistical analysis makes up the first, longest and most technical part of his book. The remaining two sections attempt to explain why, if the HIV/AIDS model is so demonstrably false, it nonetheless retains its hold on the government’s purse strings and the public imagination. It’s one of the biggest and most nagging questions challengers to HIV/AIDS orthodoxy get; as John P. Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Cornell University and one of the most aggressive defenders of the HIV/AIDS model, told the Gay & Lesbian Times in their June 7 issue, the challenge “basically says that every scientist, every physician and every clinician out of the hundreds of thousands of professionals working worldwide on this is either some kind of malicious scumbag who will do anything for money, or we’re all stupid.”

According to Bauer, there’s a third explanation that has to do with the increasing politicization of science and the ability of small cadres of scientists to set the research agenda for an entire field — and enforce their agenda by denying research grants, important teaching positions and publication in prestigious journals to those who disagree. Bauer’s AIDS book is the product of a lifetime of research and thought into how we “know” what we know about the world, and whether science is the disinterested pursuit of “truth” we’re usually told it is or is run by individuals with the same virtues and flaws as the rest of us — virtues and flaws that sometime affect the validity of what they’re telling us.

To order The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, contact its publisher, McFarland, at 1-(800) 253-2187 or via the Web at The price is $35 — a bit steep but well worth it for what’s probably the best scientific book for a lay audience challenging the HIV/AIDS model since Peter Duesberg’s Inventing the AIDS Virus over a decade ago.

Zenger’s: I’d like to start by talking about your own history and background, what your expertise is and how you got interested in this subject.

Henry H. Bauer: My expertise was originally in chemistry, but about 30 years ago I got interested in the nature and philosophy of science. I became intrigued at the way that you can’t find useful discussions in mainstream science about all sorts of things that people are interested in, like Bigfoot, the Loch Ness monster, psychic phenomena and so on. I didn’t see why science wouldn’t be able to do something relatively rigorous and authoritative about them.

So for about 20 years I concentrated academically on unorthodoxies in science, and how you can tell good science from bad science. Through that, I got into the Society for Scientific Exploration, which was set up specifically to give a disciplined forum for discussing topics the mainstream doesn’t deal with.

Zenger’s: Could you tell me a little more about that organization: when it was founded, by whom, and what its purpose is?

Bauer: It was founded, I believe,in 1981. The leading light was Peter Sturrock, an astrophysicist at Stanford University. He had become intrigued because the Condon Report about UFO’s was very odd, in that the executive summary was at odds with the data in the report itself. Sturrock did a survey of members of members of the American Astronomical Society, and a large majority of them said that they thought that a proper study of these claimed UFO’s should be made. That gave him the idea that there was a forum needed that the mainstream periodicals did not provide.

He got an initial membership of 100 founding members, all of them well-established academics or the equivalent. Our membership criteria initially were that, while people would naturally be interested in off-beat subjects or unorthodox views on mainstream subjects, they all had to have decent professional credentials, like tenured positions, publications in their fields, and so on.

Eventually, the Society became a forum not just for things like UFO’s and Loch Ness monsters, but for topics right in the mainstream of science that for some reason are shunned by the mainstream. For example, there are competent, professional working geologists who have found that the continental drift/plate tectonics hypothesis doesn’t really explain a number of interesting phenomena.

In chemistry, electrochemistry, which was my specialty, there was the claim of cold fusion, which you may have heard of. In cosmology, if you don’t accept that everything started with a Big Bang, you don’t get grants and you don’t get published and so on. So the Society has broadened its forum to include all sorts of topics where the mainstream has taken a dogmatic conclusion, saying there’s no further doubt about this. Yet there are competent people in the field who say this isn’t so: there are other possibilities.

Sturrock thought it was important that we have a journal, which was founded a few years later. I started the book review section shortly after that, and it was through reviewing books on unorthodox views that I discovered, sometime in the early 1990’s, that there were people who didn’t believe that HIV causes AIDS. The first book I read was by Ellison and Duesberg. I looked for other books taking that point of view, and finally in 2004 Harvey Bialy’s scientific biography of Duesberg came out. In it there was this astonishing statement that simply couldn’t be true.

Bialy said when the Army started to test recruits in the middle 1980’s, they found that teenage women tested HIV positive as often as teenage men. Now, I knew that the orthodox view is that HIV entered the United States sometime in the 1970’s to produce the early AIDS outbreaks in the early 1980’s. I also knew that the victims early on were 90 to 95 percent male, and that they were primarily Gay men and injecting drug users.

I just could not see how in the space of 10 years or so, or even 15 years, a virus could spread from relatively closed communities in a few large metropolitan areas, so that by the mid-1980’s all across the country teenage women would be infected as frequently as teenage men. It just didn’t seem possible. What also didn’t seem possible was that this impossibility would have escaped the notice of the people who gathered the data. Why didn’t they realize this was contrary to the accepted view?

I checked the source to see whether it had been correctly quoted. It had been correctly quoted. The authors of the paper had also pointed out that there were aspects of their results that were strange, that were anomalous. They wrote down the rates of HIV positivity by county in large numbers of areas, and the counties where the rate of HIV infection was highest were not the counties in which the reported AIDS cases were highest. Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York were the areas where most, or a predominant majority, of the early AIDS cases were reported from, and you found the highest rates of HIV not only around New York but in Washington, D.C.; in the Southeast; in Florida; in some areas of Texas, and so on. The authors of the report actually noted those oddities.

Because this was still so confusing, I thought, “Well, maybe there is later work that has found flaws in this, or has corrected it, or modified it.” So I looked for other publications that reported HIV tests from the earliest times when testing began, the mid-1980’s. I looked for data particularly on low-risk groups. I don’t believe that I’ve ever experienced a period of time that I’ve found so emotionally exhausting, because I could not believe what the data were telling me.

Article after article was saying the same thing: that, in any group that you test, the rate of testing HIV positive increases regularly with age from the teens through middle age, and then goes down again. Most striking, in any group that you test, Black people test HIV positive far more often than others, on average five or six times more often than white Americans. White Americans test positive 50 percent more often than Asian-Americans, and Hispanic Americans are somewhere between white and Black Americans.

Now, to me it just seemed obvious that this was not reflecting a sexually transmitted disease. Syphilis and gonorrhea hop around from one region to another, and from one group of people to another. They don’t show those sorts of regularities. So I thought that the data were absolutely clear that what was being tested, what was being detected, could not be a sexually transmitted infection. I wondered what on earth to do about it, and I wrote some fairly overwrought, emotionally overwrought letters to some friends asking for advice, and eventually decided that a good thing to do would be to ask the opinion of the people who gathered these data.

I wrote to the Army Research Office with a summary of my analysis, and also to the Centers for Disease Control. I should have known what the reaction would be. I was treated as a crank. The Army did not respond at all, and the CDC sent me a letter which really made me laugh, because I have written letters like that myself to cranks who submit quite outlandish papers for publication in the journal I edit. So my attempt to get anybody who was in any sort of official position to take note of this didn’t get anywhere.

I was also advised by some of the people I already knew were dissidents, who told me I had absolutely no chance of getting a publication into any of the standard scientific journals. So I gave some talks at the Society for Scientific Exploration, and I wrote articles in which I documented the analysis quite fully. Then I realized that the only way to try to bring this to a wider audience was to put it into book form. So I did that, and I wrote a manuscript in which the first half was the analysis of the HIV data and the obvious conclusions from it. The second half of it was really a survey of how the mainstream periodicals and venues have kept any of this out of their forums.

I sent the manuscript to the only two publishers I located who were willing to look at actual manuscripts submitted by individuals, rather than agents. I’ve had a lot of experience with publishers in the past, a lot of rejections over the years. And with the manuscript, of course, I included self-addressed stamped envelopes where they could write. Within a week of when I sent the thing off, one of the envelopes was back, and I remembered just cursing silently how cavalier this rejection was. They would barely have had time to read the thing. So I didn’t open it for a while, but before tossing it away I did open it, and it said, “We are very interested in publishing your work.” This was from McFarland Publishers.

I had really lucked out. The person that had read my manuscript had not long before that read Celia Farber’s article [“Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science”] in the March 2006 Harper’s magazine, and so she was primed at least to admit the possibility that the orthodox view was wrong. But this person, Jeannie Tobiason, not only was primed for that, but she’s a marvelous editor. She pointed out to me that the second part of the book that I’d written was a crankish rant against the mainstream, and this is not the way to get attention.

So she said, “What can you offer that’s an alternative to that?” I’d already been thinking along the lines that a great barrier to anybody taking the dissident view seriously is that it seems totally inconceivable to most people that UNAIDS, WHO, CDC, the NIH and on and on and on could possibly be wrong about something like that. That’s where my background in science studies, in the philosophy and sociology of science, really turned out to be valuable, because I was familiar with the state of affairs, that actually science proceeds by trial and error. From my reading, I already knew of quite a number of specific instances of where science had changed its mind quite dramatically. From reviewing dissident books, I also had quite a good idea of some of the crucial steps by which the HIV/AIDS mainstream actually went wrong.

One of the crucial msitakes had been pointed out by John Lauritsen [statistician and reporter for the now-defunct New York Native] at the beginning: that the way the CDC classified AIDS cases prejudged that it had something to do with Gay sex, because they didn’t report the characteristics of all the AIDS victims in toto and do anything like a multivariate analysis. First of all, they said, “How many of the reported AIDS cases are Gay men?” Well, a very large number — I think it was 75 to 80 percent. Then they said, “Of the remainder, how many are drug users? How many are hemophilacs?” and so on.

What Lauritsen pointed out, which is confirmed by a number of the early publications, is if the CDC had made the first category people who used recreational drugs, the first category would have been 90 to 95 percent, or even more. Then of the remainder, only a few percent would have been Gay men. So that sent the thing off in the wrong direction.

I also had read Michelle Cochrane’s book When AIDS Began: San Francisco and the Making of an Epidemic. It’s based on a doctoral dissertation that she wrote. She re-examined the actual medical records in San Francisco of some of the early AIDS cases, and she found that the generally accepted shibboleth that AIDS hit young, “previously healthy” Gay men was not the case at all. They weren’t particularly young; the average age was 35. It’s not old, but it’s not what you would emphasize as “young.” And they were anything but “previously healthy.” They had experienced all sorts of infections over the years. So those were two of the dramatic decisions, or crucial decisions, that I think put things on the wrong track.

A very powerful one was that the Secretary of Health and Human Services put the U.S. government’s imprint on Dr. Robert Gallo’s claim to have discovered the virus that causes AIDS, because most people working in virology and related areas look for funds for their research from federal organizations. So that’s really a summary of how I came to look at the analysis, and then how I came to give the book the sort of format that it has.

Zenger’s: What has been the reaction so far?

Bauer: I’ve had some very nice comments from people who already shared my point of view. It’s really too early to have any full reviews of the book. There’s been a nice notice in the College and Research Libraries Newsletter, which I understand goes to many academic librarians all over the country. It describes the book as “credible,” which is very nice. I’ve had a couple of radio interviews, and I’ve been quoted in the San Diego Gay & Lesbian Times, and that has stirred up one of the fanatical defenders of the faith, a fellow called Kenneth Whitworth, who publishes stuff on, the site John Moore and others have set up.

Last Sunday night [June 17] I was on 21st Century Radio, which is a program out of a Baltimore station. Kenneth Whitworth immediately wrote an angry e-mail to the manager of the station about how could they give any air time to “views that represent such a gross public danger to public health.” So those are the main responses that I’ve had up to now.

Gordon Stewart, a British epidemiologist with whom I’ve been in touch, told the editor of the Lancet that they should review the book, so they’ve got a review copy. I sent e-mail information about it to quite a lot of people who I thought might take an interest in it, amongst them some mainstream people who have published articles stating that the extent of the African epidemic cannot be explained on the basis of sexual transmission of HIV. Their suggestion is that much of it is by needles: that the medical systems in Africa have to reuse needles so much that there is a great danger of infection.

I told some of these people about it, and one of them got the International Journal of STD’s and AIDS to request a review copy. So I am expecting that some mainstream journals are going to take notice of it at some time or other, and I don’t think I’m being unduly paranoid or pessimistic in expecting that they will take every chance to do a hatchet job on it. I mean, that’s been the case in the past. I remember in particular a New York Times review that a medico called June Osborne did of Peter Duesberg’s book. As I read that review, I thought that it was such a textbook example of someone who doesn’t let the reader know what the author of the book actually said, but instead just denigrates the author. But we’ll see.

Zenger’s: I remember that article quite well, because at one point she did offer an observation of what was actually in the book, but she got it wrong. She said that Peter Duesberg was questioning whether there was such a thing as terminal syphilis. In the book, Duesberg had pointed out — had used data to argue that the only times people actually died from symptoms associated with syphilis were between the 1840’s and the 1940’s, when the standard syphilis treatments were mercury and, later, arsenic. And Osborne said he ignores the fact that today syphilis is treated with penicillin, which is not toxic. In fact, Duesberg had argued in his book that the so-called “tertiary syphilis” stopped in the 1940’s because the mercury and arsenic treatments, which had been toxic, were replaced by penicillin. If you’re a reviewer, you can dislike a book, but you do have an obligation to report its contents accurately, I would think.

Bauer: Yes, absolutely.

Zenger’s: But when I saw from her credential that June Osborne was a member of the President’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, it was obvious where her animus was coming from.

Bauer: Yes. One of the things that intrigues me that I have no answer to is that, if and when the knowledge becomes public that the HIV/AIDS hypothesis is wrong, how on earth are all of the people who have been so invested in it going to accommodate it? It boggles the imagination.

Zenger’s: Which probably explains the phone call from Mr. Whitworth to the radio station, and much of the other politics of the issue: that they are bound and determined to make sure that the information that the HIV/AIDS model is wrong never gets to the general public, just as the government of the Soviet Union was very interested in making sure that anything contradicting Lysenko’s theories of genetics never got to other Soviet academia or the Soviet people generally.

Bauer: And, you know, they can be so smooth about it. A number of months ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci was on the Diane Rimes show. My daughter alerted me to that, and I sent in a query to him along the lines of how can we have an epidemic of sexual transmission when the transmission rate is so low. Fauci very smoothly said, “Yes, well, of course the rate is not one to one, but there is so much sexual activity going on in the world that there’s still a lot of transmission.” Well, Fauci must know that the data show about 1 in 1,000, not anything like 1 to 1. Surely he knows that.

But I try very hard not to ascribe deliberately malicious motives to these people. I think really that it’s very largely getting into a state of mind where you’re blinkered. You just cannot see anything that contradicts your point of view, in part because it would be too devastating. I think psychologists are quite clear about what excellent mechanisms human beings have for not noticing things that contradict their beliefs.

Zenger’s: There’s an interesting example in the work of Nancy Padian, whose studies have been among the key data showing that the rate of sexual transmission of HIV is 1 in 1,000. She has gone public, apparently at the urging of John Moore and the people at aidstruth, with a statement saying, “How dare you use my work to intimate that the heterosexual transmission of HIV is a problem? Of course it’s a problem. It’s the biggest source of HIV transmission in the world today.” It struck me that Nancy Padian is too good a scientist to fudge her data [so she fudges the interpretation instead].

Bauer: Well, that Padian paper featured also in the South Australian court case [where Andre Chad Parenzee unsuccessfully appealed his conviction for having had sex with three women without telling them he was HIV positive on the ground that HIV had not been proven to exist], and her paper actually says directly that during the course of their actual study, they observed zero transmission. Their calculation of 1 in 1,000 was based on the notion that they enrolled some couples who were discordant — one positive, the other not — but some of the couples they enrolled were concordant. Both of them were HIV positive.

The way in which Padian calculated the rate of transmission was by assuming that in those couples who entered the study already both positive, one must have infected the other. And then she estimated when that would have happened, based on what she calls the “risk histories” of the individuals involved. But when the defense in South Australia quite rightly said that no transmission was observed in the course of her study, she submitted a statement contradicting that, trying to contradict that. It is really extraordinary.

Zenger’s: In fact, one thing that has always amazed me, and that comes through from your last answer, is that you used the word “estimate.” So many of these statistics that we hear — 5.5 million HIV positives in South Africa, for example — are based on estimates. And I once got hold of and published a document from Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, the South African health minister, explaining how those estimates were derived. They were derived from annual tests of 15,000 pregnant women in prenatal clinics, and extrapolated through a whole series of mathematical formulas to determine the total number of South African women who were HIV positive, and then they multiplied it by 0.73 — and she didn’t explain where that number came from -— to reach an estimate of the number of South African men who were HIV positive.

So you’ve got all these incredible estimates floating around that make this seem like this enormous problem, and they’re based on very little hard data. And yet the mainstream media report them as if they are hard data.

Bauer: Right. There is a book that came out too late for me to mention it, by James Chin, called The AIDS Pandemic. Chin was state epidemiologist for California, and then he was in charge of data gathering for the World Health Organization. His book says that all of the numbers put out by UNAIDS are bogus and are gross overestimates. And some news items in the last week or two have said that the official figures for India are being revised drastically downwards.

Also, Rian Malan, a journalist in South Africa, wrote a couple of articles about how bogus the numbers were of South Africans who were supposed to have died of AIDS. He was living there, and he didn’t see any obvious signs of an increase in the death rate. So he had a very bright idea. He went around to coffin makers, and he found that there had been no increase in demand for coffins during the period of these few years when AIDS was supposedly ravaging hundreds of thousands of South Africans.

Zenger’s: Another point, which as I recall you make in your book, is that even though these countries are supposedly being ravaged by AIDS, their populations continue to increase.

Bauer: Yes. There’s been some very good stuff written about AIDS in Africa. I think Neville Hodgkinson’s book is first-rate on that, and some of Celia Farber’s and Charles Geshekter’s articles, point out that it is to the advantage of Africans that the myth persist that they are dying wholesale of “AIDS,” rather than of malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis and so on, because the developed world has been very stingy in sending them aid to help against poverty and malnutrition and so on. But “HIV/AIDS” has caught on and become such a fad that anyone and everyone is rushing to send some money and helpers and so on.

Charles Geshekter, by the way, made a very good point somewhere about AIDS in Africa. You know, the orthodox view is that of course it is heterosexually transmitted in Africa, because the rates of AIDS among men and women are about the same. The fact of the matter, though, is that sexually transmitted diseases do not hit men and women in equal proportions always. If you look at U.S. figures for syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and so forth, you find that they’re not — they don’t equally hit men and women. The diseases that do equally hit men and women are the common non-sexually transmitted ones, like flu and malaria and TB and all the rest of them.

Zenger’s: You have the bizarre claim that during the 1990’s the government of Uganda worked out such a beautiful HIV prevention strategy that the seroprevalence of HIV in Uganda fell from 30 percent to 10 percent — which, since HIV is supposed to be an infection that you carry for life, just begs the question of where the other 20 percent of HIV positive Ugandans went.

Bauer: Right, because you would have had to have had 20 percent of the population die, and you didn’t have that. It still puzzles me a bit how reporters, journalists, can look at statements like that and not realize that they’re absurd. Even if it wasn’t the matter that they would all have had to die out, think about accepting the view that government propaganda and programs can drastically change the sexual habits and practices of a large proportion of the population within a few years. I mean, it’s totally absurd. It’s very hard to change people’s behavior. It’s extraordinarily hard to change people’s behaviors relating to sexual practices. So it just makes no sense at all.

Zenger’s: If the HIV/AIDS model is not only wrong but in so many particulars patently absurd, why does it persist? Why does it seem stronger than ever, with people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffett — who obviously have brains or they couldn’t have made the money they have — buying into it, pouring in enormous amounts of their own private resources, believing that buying all these AIDS drugs is going to save all these otherwise doomed people in Africa?

Bauer: What incentive would they have to really try reading into the literature for themselves? I imagine they are people who have relied very much on choosing people to believe, and then giving them a certain amount of freedom to go ahead and do things. This is where it’s so pernicious that the media have sort of blotted out the fact that people like Duesberg are very respectable and raising genuinely important questions.

I mean, there would be no reason for Gates or Buffett or anyone of that sort to imagine that there could be something wrong with what “everybody knows.” I think it’s the same with celebrities. I imagine that there are many people there in Hollywood and so on who simply want to use their status to do some useful things. Why would they ever get the idea that what “everybody knows,” what all the authorities are saying, is wrong?

I think there’s also a sort of emotional barrier there, too, and that is that people who have had friends, lovers and relatives die would find it very, very difficult to contemplate the possibility that some of them were killed by the medications were taking; and that others in the very early years had died because they had done foolishly unhealthy things, even though at the time no one really knew or could know just how dangerously unhealthy those things were. So, you know, I think there are barriers even among relatively disinterested people to wanting to hear this sort of stuff.

Zenger’s: In fact, I’ve had that thought myself: talking to the surviving partner of a Gay couple and thinking, “He’s probably looking at me, and what’s running through his head is, ‘I woke up my partner in the middle of the night to make sure he took his drugs on time, and this twerp over here is telling me that that just killed him faster?’”

Bauer: I have an in-law relative who was an accountant in Hollywood, and when I told him about what was turning up in my research, he was horrified. But I haven’t met so many people who died. The human side of this thing is really horrifying. I’m very conscious of the fact that for me it’s just about exclusively an intellectual exercise. But I have heard from people who have made me realize just what an emotional strain this is for some people.

I’ve had some long conversations with a young Gay man in the West who has made me conscious of what it’s like if you’re a Gay man and you test HIV positive. On the one hand, you’ve heard all the people who say, “For God’s sake, don’t take all those medications.” On the other hand, you have all the medical advisors who say you must take them. So you start taking them, and then very often you feel deathly ill. So you stop taking them, and as soon as you feel better, you feel guilty that you’re not taking them.

More recently, I’ve had a conversation with a hemophiliac who’s now in his late 30’s. He was diagnosed HIV positive right at the beginning of this business 20 years ago, and he told me that his mother was a doctor who said, “But those tests are just for antibodies. You don’t need to take any medication.” So he’s alive now, and all of the people that he knew in those early days, who were all so eager for them and who took the medications, are all dead.

But he hasn’t survived to lead a relatively normal life. He pointed out to me that he lives a very solitary existence, because he feels that if he wants to get close to another person, he’s obliged to tell them about his HIV status. Then he’s going to worry all the time about will they keep this in confidence or not. So, although he’s lived these 20 years through avoiding the medications, in a sense this hysteria about HIV, this mistake about it, has also ruined his life to a very great extent.

Zenger’s: What do we do about this, and how, if ever, is the HIV/AIDS model going to end?

Bauer: It’s going to take somebody prominent in the media or in politics to take the issue up and to stick with it long enough that the defenders of the orthodox view will be forced to make substantive defenses of it in the public arena. I don’t see any other way that this is going to happen in the foreseeable future. A grim scenario, which I don’t particularly want to contemplate, is that in five, 10 or 15 years so many people will be dying from what are evidently drug toxicities that more and more physicians will actually begin to take notice and think there’s something wrong with these antiretroviral drugs.

I actually drafted, some time ago, a set of notes which I’ve shared with a few people, that asked how we could take any actions that might possibly have an effect. I think personal contact would be the crucial thing. If there were some prominent politician who was potentially open to looking at this, and if that person has on his staff someone who knows someone in the dissident community, and is relatively open to trusting them, so that one might have a chain of people who could present to somebody in politics or the media a knowledgeable dissident as somebody worth listening to. That’s about all I can think of, and I don’t know anyone who has those sorts of confidences.