Saturday, August 01, 2009
Canadian Activist Organizes Alternative AIDS Conference
interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
An unusual conference about AIDS is scheduled for November 6-8, 2009 at the Waterfront Plaza Hotel, 10 Washington Street in Oakland, California. What makes it unique is it will be the first conference on U.S. soil exclusively exploring alternatives to the conventional wisdom that AIDS is caused by a single virus, HIV, and that drugs designed to stop the virus from reproducing are the best way to treat AIDS no matter how much collateral damage they do to the body and its immune system. Among the speakers are alternative AIDS scientists Peter Duesberg, David Rasnick, Henry Bauer, Etienne de Harven and Claus Köhnlein and veteran AIDS journalists John Lauritsen and Joan Shenton. The topics for discussion will include whether HIV even exists, whether and to what extent anti-HIV drugs actually cause AIDS symptoms, the indeterminacy behind so-called “HIV tests” and the ways the HIV/AIDS dogma have hurt Gay and Bisexual men, Africans, all who test “HIV-positive” and other populations identified as “risk groups” by the AIDS mainstream.
Much of the burden of organizing the conference has been carried by David Crowe, a Canadian researcher and activist who heads Rethinking AIDS and the Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society. Though he’s garnered less publicity than the late Christine Maggiore and other heavyweights in the alternative AIDS movement, Crowe has been working behind the scenes for years, maintaining the www.rethinkingaids.com Web site and offering a wide variety of perspectives from scientists, journalists, activists and ordinary people who’ve been harmed by the mainstream view of “HIV/AIDS” and the legal sanctions increasingly imposed on “HIV-positive” people who refuse to medicate their children with anti-HIV drugs or insist on continuing to have active sex lives. Crowe has also targeted the suppression of alternative views of AIDS by the mainstream media and the aggressive attacks on alternative views on mainstream Web sites like the so-called “www.aidstruth.org.”
Crowe’s day job frequently brings him to San Diego, and on June 14 he sat with Zenger’s for an extended interview covering a wide range of topics regarding alternative views of AIDS. The interview was videotaped and shown at the meeting of the local alternative AIDS organization, H.E.A.L. [Health, Education, AIDS Liaison]-San Diego, on July 7. This is the first of a two-part publication of the interview; DVD copies of the video are available on request from H.E.A.L.-San Diego by calling (619) 688-1886.
Zenger’s: Can you start out by telling a little of your background and how you got involved in this issue?
Crowe: Certainly. I started out as a young person wanting to become a scientist, so I went to the university to study science and eventually got waylaid into the computer field. But while I was doing a thesis in a rather esoteric area of biology, I started to realize the areas where science could not answer questions; that there were limits to the power of science. I also started to understand how the power of science could be biased when the scientists wanted to achieve a certain goal. It became very difficult for the scientists who had a goal in mind not to try to achieve that through biased interpretations of their data.
I spent a few years in the computer field, and then one night I was just trying to put my young son to bed, and I happened to turn on that Canadian Broadcasting Corporation program called Ideas, which was talking about whether HIV really caused AIDS. It caught my attention and it seemed like an interesting subject. I didn’t really know anything about it at the time — this was about 1990, I think — but it was so fascinating that I actually ordered the transcript, the only time in my life I’ve ever done that. I got some of the books and papers that were listed in this, and then started my exploration, first as a scientific issue. Then I started to understand the human-rights aspects to AIDS as well, and I started to know people personally and see how their lives were being disrupted. That’s how I got brought into it in a really big way.
My interest in it was pretty casual until about 1996, when Dr. Peter Duesberg’s book Inventing the AIDS Virus came out. By the time I had read that book, which involved about three nights of staying up until 3 o’clock in the morning to make sure it was finished, I was completely hooked. And shortly after that I got involved with the case of Sophie Bressard in Montreal, an HIV-positive woman who at that time was healthy, had two healthy HIV-positive children. One of them got bronchitis. It was diagnosed as PCP [Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia] because the child was “HIV-positive,” and it became an utter nightmare which ended up with the forced drugging of her two children — including the one who was perfectly healthy, not even with bronchitis — and the death of Sophie Bressard. Then I realized this was a lot more than just a scientific dispute. It’s a scientific dispute that actively kills people.
Zenger’s: That’s a pretty strong term, “actively kills people.” How does that work? How does something that most people have been led to believe totally actually lead to people’s deaths? I mean, the scientists who are pushing this would say, “Oh, no, we’re saving lives.”
Crowe: Well, they think the anti-HIV drugs are somehow “life-saving,” even though in the literature there are many, many documented cases of death associated with them. they somehow call those drugs “life-saving.” They passionately believe in the drugs, and they will coerce or even force you to take those drugs. And that leads to the deaths of people. In the case of a woman who has a child, they will force the woman to give drugs to the child or she will lose her child, in which case the child will get drugs anyway. It puts women, mothers, and fathers in a very difficult situation. If you’re an ordinary adult who has control over your life, it usually manifests itself as coercion. The doctor will say, “You must do this. You’re going to die if you don’t do this.” I have talked to many HIV-positive people, and this is a common story: that doctors will berate them into taking the drugs. And many of them give up and do what they’re told, which is to take the drugs.
Zenger’s: Bottom-line, what’s the argument against HIV as the cause of AIDS?
Crowe: I think this is one of those rare cases where the entire [mainstream] edifice needs to be condemned. There’s not much that I can think of that can be saved from this construct. In essence, the construct is that there is an external retrovirus called HIV; that it’s transmitted sexually; that when you get it, you will eventually get a disease — maybe 10, 20 years down the road — that will kill you; that we can measure your progress by counting CD4 cells or viral loads; and the only thing that can slow it down is modern pharmaceuticals. All of those assertions are questionable.
It didn’t used to be common to question the very existence of HIV, but now that’s one of the most common arguments against HIV as the cause of AIDS. The virus has never been purified. There are no pictures of it under an electron microscope. Now, if they never actually purified the virus, how did they get the RNA to make the PCR [“viral load”] tests if they don’t have pure virus? They fished around in some impure materials, and got out some RNA, and we said, “That’s the virus.” But they did not get it from pure virus because they’ve never purified the virus. Therefore, the viral load test is unvalidated.
The issue of the CD4 counts: these are the immune cells that are supposed to monitor your progress towards AIDS. We know that HIV does not kill CD4 cells directly, because that’s admitted by even the mainstream. We also know that those nice graphs you see, where the CD4 counts go down dramatically, then they come up a little bit, then they plateau and then they go slowly down until you die, those graphs are fraudulent. That was first discovered in 1988 at a conference where John Lauritsen took a picture of one of these graphs, and Peter Duesberg said, “Why are there no numbers on this graph?”
Somebody, one of the dogmatists in the audience, said, “Well, it’s just what we think happens. It’s just our conception of how HIV causes AIDS.” But it was being used in the conference to say Peter Duesberg is wrong, because this is what happens. But what it turned out to be was this is what we think happens, and therefore Peter Duesberg is wrong. That doesn’t make much sense, so they “solved” the problem of not having numbers by putting numbers on the graph. And so if you go to the NIAID [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases] Web site right now, you’ll see a nice graph that looks very much the same, but now it’s got numbers. Over time, this original graph changed slightly. So as it got referenced from one paper to another, they would change the curve. But at no point was it ever contaminated with data.
The graph is completely divorced from that, and yet it is used as a powerful tool. A doctor can put it in front of a patient and say, “Here’s your CD4 count. It’s down from this a month ago. This is where you are, and if it keeps going like this, I estimate you’ve got three years left.” I got into a fight recently with two dogmatists. They did a YouTube video and they included a really similar graph, and I said, “I want the citation for this graph.” They chased me around, or I chased them around, with a whole bunch of irrelevant issues, but they would not tell me this. They pointed me to papers from the early 1990’s and said, “Well, we’ve known it for so long, it’s even in papers from the early 1990’s.” I said, “Well, the measurements from those papers in the early 1990’s were different. It was CD4 plus p24, not CD4 plus viral load.” Plus there was no graph in this paper they referenced me to.
So then they referenced me to a paper from 2009 and said, “Well, here’s something newer.” And the first thing it said is, “The time at which to start therapy based on CD4 counts is one of the central mysteries of AIDS.” And I’m going, “Wait a minute. First you’re telling me that in 1990, we knew it all; and now you reference a paper in 2009 that says we’ve never actually known the correlation between CD4 counts and disease.” This is the kind of shoddy science that goes on, but if you’re in a church, or you’re on the throne and you’re giving divine wisdom, you don’t have to worry about somebody down on the floor questioning you because, if they do, they’ll just get dragged off and silenced. Maybe not as brutally as in the 1600’s, with a sword to the neck, but they have ways to stop you talking.
Zenger’s: Tell me about the so-called “HIV tests,” the antibody tests, the way that people are labeled “HIV-positive” in the first place, with all that that means for them. What’s the central problem with them?
Crowe: An antibody test just has a lot of problems. You could get cross-reactions to related viruses, or even unrelated viruses that happen to share some proteins in common [with HIV]. According to [supposed HIV “discoverer”] Robert Gallo, HIV came from a family of three viruses, HTLV-1, -2 and –3. One and two supposedly caused cancer; HTLV-3, which is now known as HIV, supposedly caused immune deficiency. Well, at the very least maybe this test will sometimes say you’ve got HIV when you have HTLV-1. But HTLV-1 supposedly causes a cancer based on having too many CD4 cells. HIV is a disease of too few CD4 cells — or at least that’s what they say, based on the CD4 cells. So at the very least it could diagnose the wrong disease.
Secondly, the HIV antibody test has components in the test that you can react to. The test is made up of several chemicals that aren’t supposed to have anything to do with HIV, and if your blood reacts to one of those, it can cause the test to react positively. So you then have a “disease” based on antibodies to some other component of the test kit. In other words, it’s a meaningless diagnosis. But a bigger problem is that they took a very special population of people — people who were very sick with what they called “AIDS” — and they said a high percentage, 89 percent or something in Gallo’s research — were positive on this antibody test.
Zenger’s: Not 100 percent.
Crowe: Not 100 percent. So then they said. “We can then conclude from that that a person in the general population who tests positive will also suffer from the same diseases along the road.” Well, why would you make that leap of logic? You don’t know how many people 100 years ago would have tested positive on the HIV test. You can show that these antibodies are more common in a sick population, but they’re not 100 percent. You cannot conclude from that that healthy people with a positive HIV antibody test will be diseased. Yet they’re not only told that they will get sick, but they’re told, effectively, “You will die — and it will be a horrible death.”
Zenger’s: Isn’t one of the problems also that you don’t necessarily know that an antibody reaction means an active infection?
Crowe: That’s actually an important point. Normally, an antibody reaction means that your body has reacted to the infection and therefore it’s a good thing. We are supposed to get infected as children with measles, mumps, chicken pox, all of those things, and we develop antibodies that in many cases last our whole life.
Zenger’s: Isn’t that the whole premise behind vaccination? You give someone something that will help them develop antibodies, so that later, when they’re exposed to the virus, they will not get the disease.
Crowe: Right. So antibodies are supposed to be a good thing. But with AIDS — and a few other diseases, when they don’t have another test — all of a sudden they become a really bad thing. Now, the nice thing about an antibody test is that it’s very cheap, and it’s very quick. But those should not be considerations in a test around which your life revolves. “If it’s positive, you’re going to die; if you’re negative, you’re not.” Now, with a test of that importance, why would cost and speed come into play? Another test which is commonly used, which I think is also proof that it’s inaccurate, is the Western Blot.
Zenger’s: Now, this is the second phase of the antibody test. If you go down to your test site, they first run what is called an ELISA, which is simply a yes-or-no reaction: does the test react or not? And if that’s positive, they run a second ELISA. And then if that’s positive, they run the Western Blot. Now, what’s wrong with the Western Blot?
Crowe: Actually, the ELISA is not a black-and-white test. The ELISA is a color change. They make it black-and-white by having a color sample and saying, “Well, if it’s blue, this is the density; and if it’s darker than this, it’s positive; and if it’s lighter than this, it’s negative.” So you can still be blue — in other words, it’s reacted — but if it’s not quite blue enough, then it’s a negative. When they actually in some cases have a category called “borderline reactive.” And if you’re “borderline reactive” and you’re “at risk” — say you’re a Gay man, for example — then they do extra testing, just to help you get that diagnosis that you might have really wanted.
The Western Blot is, as you said, the second phase. They usually do two or three ELISA’s, and if they do three it’s usually two out of three. If two out of three are positive, they’ll go on to do the Western Blot. The Western Blot supposedly has separated the HIV proteins by molecular weight. So you see proteins like p24, gp120. The number is the molecular weight. So then they’re separated by weight, and then you see how many does your blood react with. So sometimes it will be two or three. There’s a couple of problems here. First of all, the Perth group [Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Valendar Turner and colleagues at the Royal Perth Hospital in Australia] has collected about 10 different interpretations of this test. Some need four proteins to be positive. Some need three. Some need two. The types of the proteins that you need are different.
Zenger’s: Aren’t these 10 “interpretations” basically different rules for which proteins need to light up on the band that separates them to be considered a “positive” reaction?
Crowe: Yes. You could be positive on one, indeterminate on another — and “indeterminate” usually is interpreted as negative —
Zenger’s: Unless you’re in one of the so-called “risk groups,” in which case it’s interpreted as positive.
Crowe: Yes, There are some interesting flow charts that show how these “borderline” results can be re-interpreted if you’re supposedly in a “risk group.” A “risk group” could mean that you’re a Gay man. It could be that you’ve been accused of a sexual crime; or that you’re the supposed victim of a sexual crime. An HIV-positive man sleeping with just about anybody else is considered a sex criminal these days. So you get special treatment. You get more tests. You are more likely to test positive. But it is very strange that somebody could walk into a lab in Africa, get a Western Blot — it would be unusual to have a Western Blot in Africa, but sometimes that would happen — and walk out “positive,” and the same man could give the same blood in New York or England and be “negative.” Or vice versa. How can this be if the tests are accurate?
Zenger’s: So this is why Peter Duesberg joked that if you’re HIV-positive and you want to be HIV-negative, move.
Crowe: One of the other interesting conundrums is that in the United States, the majority of new “AIDS” cases are in those with no disease, but a positive HIV test and a low CD4 count. And as far as I’ve been able tell, nowhere else in the world is this non-disease form of “AIDS” allowed. So about 75 percent of new American AIDS cases are in this category. The vast majority of people in America who are diagnosed with AIDS are not sick at the time of their diagnosis, which is ridiculous.
Zenger’s: My understanding was that as of 1997 that was about two-thirds. And after that, the CDC stopped releasing that information.
Crowe: Christine Maggiore found some more recent information, I think just for California. It indicated a higher percentage. Now, given that in 1992 that percentage was zero, because that was not part of the AIDS definition until 1993 — and by 1997 it had reached 65 percent, I think saying it’s about three-quarters is reasonable. But let’s be conservative and say it’s about two-thirds of new AIDS cases in America are in people who are not sick.
What will that do to the death rate? Well, if you start people on toxic drugs when they’re perfectly healthy, they’re going to last longer than if you start them on toxic drugs when they’re just about on their deathbeds. So consequently the death rate will go down if you start diagnosing people who don’t have any illness. They may last five or 10 years on these drugs, and you can say, “Well, the average person with AIDS in the 1980’s only lasted a year. Now they’re lasting five or 10 years. It’s gotta be the drugs.”
Zenger’s: We’ve already talked on this briefly, but what are some of the ways you can test “HIV-positive” if you don’t have a disease?
Crowe: Well, I think the most extensive summary of this was done in the 1990’s by Christine Johnson in L.A. She found around 70 different conditions, including pregnancy, certain types of vaccination and other infectious diseases, that can cause you to test positive on HIV tests. This is not universal. Not everybody who gets a flu shot will test HIV-positive. But that’s not really the point. If one percent of people who get a flu shot would test positive within the next month, that’s a lot of people who are going to get a false-positive diagnosis.
The doctors will rarely consider a false-positive diagnosis, although they may be more compelled to do this if you’re not in one of the “risk groups.” This, of course, increases the risk that a Gay man, an IV drug user, a hemophiliac, will get an HIV diagnosis, because with a single test they’ll say, “Oh, we’re sure. We know this is true.” If you’re a 35-year-old monogamous woman from a small town, they’ll probably say, “How could she possibly be ‘HIV-positive’? Let’s retest.” So the chances of getting a retest, or being advised to get a retest, are much higher if you’re not in one of these “risk groups.”
Zenger’s: One of the ironies that strikes me is that one of the reasons the Gay community so totally embraced HIV as the cause of AIDS is that it seemed to be, “O.K., this is something that doesn’t blame it on our lifestyle. It’s a virus. It’s something impersonal. It just happened to hit our community early.” Whereas what you’re saying is that a lot of these so-called “diagnoses” are being based on lifestyle.
Crowe: Yeah. In the book When AIDS Began: San Francisco and the Making of an Epidemic, about San Francisco in the early days of AIDS, Michel Cochrane, the author, talks about how the diagnosis of PCP would occur. If you were “HIV-positive,” if you were a Gay man, the chances of getting a PCP diagnosis were far, far higher than if you were any other patient in the hospital. This was just one example of the incredible bias. You It’s actually very difficult to diagnose PCP, so they just “knew” if you were Gay, and you had respiratory disease, it was PCP. That would be the bias early on, which I think really distorted things.
But I do dispute that Gay men said, “It’s not our lifestyle,” because they really had a choice. They could have said, “Some of us are doing a lot of drugs, and that’s damaging, and as a community we should tell those people that it’s dangerous and we should get them to stop or slow down.” The other choice was, “We’re too promiscuous,” because the belief was that Gay men were getting HIV-infected because of their numbers of sexual partners. It really was buying in to the feelings of the outside world that Gay men were out of control sexually.
Zenger’s: I think it also had to do with the feelings of Gay people themselves. Here’s a group that has been dumped on for centuries, that has been accused of all sorts of things — being in league with the devil, being witches, being psychologically sick. In fact, the word “homosexual” was originally coined in the 1860’s as a description of a mental illness. I don’t think the Gay community saw the choices in how to look at AIDS in the way you’ve just described them.
I think they saw it this way: “Here are people who are blaming it on drug use, on sex, on STD’s, on all these so-called ‘risk factors’ that are really condemnations of the way we live; and here’s this other group that is saying, ‘It’s a virus. It can infect anybody. It just happened to strike our community first. That lets us off the hook. We don’t have to look at our lifestyle. We don’t have to feel guilty about being Gay, or think that we brought this on ourselves.” And part of that was the belief that the disease would quickly spread out of the Gay community and infect the general population, which hasn’t happened.
Crowe: Well, according to some people it has happened in Africa. I was looking at a nationwide survey of South Africa whose samples were based on the sizes of the various census districts, so it was very evenly spread across the entire country of South Africa. And it found that 24 percent of young Black women were HIV-positive. Now, here’s the kicker, though: only about 6 percent of young Black men were positive.
Now, if you ever ask yourself who’s more promiscuous in Africa, the answer is the same as in America or Canada. It’s the men. The survey itself showed that. If you ask how many partners they had, any question about promiscuity, men will tend to give answers that indicate that they’re more promiscuous. And yet women have about three times the rate of HIV in Africa, at least in this survey in South Africa. So how can this possibly be? How can women be getting infected when they’re not as promiscuous as men? It makes no sense at all.
Zenger’s: So what you’re basically saying is instead of looking from the facts and then reasoning from the facts, they’re starting with the conclusion and cherry-picking the facts that support their conclusion, and ignoring or trying to rationalize away the facts that don’t.
Crowe: That’s right. When I was a science student my professor used the phrase “a priori reasoning” on me all the time, which is basically you decide something, you decide in your mind what’s true, and then you design an experiment to prove it — as opposed to saying, “Here’s an interesting question. I want to find out if the answer is A or B,” trying to be unbiased about it. I think most scientists don’t get that lecture enough times, and I really don’t think it sinks in.
Zenger’s: Right now I’d like to talk about one thing that’s been said in a number of the mainstream sources, that you can say what you want about how HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, but a lot of people in your camp have been dying. David Pasquarelli died. Christine Maggiore died. There’ve been a lot of people who have proclaimed themselves dissidents who’ve said, “Well, I’m HIV-positive but I’m not going to take any of the meds, I’m not going to follow the conventional treatment wisdom,” and they have died prematurely, just as people who have been following the mainstream have. So isn’t that an indication that there is something wrong with them associated with testing positive on this test, whatever it means and whether it is indeed an indication of a viral infection?
Crowe: What it really means is if you’re an HIV-positive dissident, you’re not allowed to die of anything else other than AIDS. You can get hit by a car and they’ll say, “Well, obviously you started across the street in the final throes of brain wasting, and you wouldn’t have got hit by a car if you hadn’t had such serious AIDS.” The last time I checked, I believe that there are a lot of people who follow their doctors’ orders and take AIDS drugs who die. And it’s an indication of bias that people like [John Moore’s] aidstruth Web site are looking only at dissidents who die, and they’re not looking at people who follow doctors’ orders who die.
Zenger’s: Actually, they can always say if someone dies, it’s the virus that killed them; and if someone lives, it’s the drugs that saved them.
Crowe: Right. But what if somebody took drugs and died? And they can’t hide that, because I read the scientific journals on a regular basis, and I see many case reports of people dying after taking AIDS drugs. And in many cases, it’s either overtly stated or clearly implied that the drugs caused their liver to fail. In one horrible case, the drugs depleted his bones so badly that his back broke from his own weight, which I think has got to be one of the most horrible things I’ve ever read. In another case, after starting AIDS drugs, a massive anal tumor occurred.
If you read these horrible things that happen to people — and these are far more horrible than what’s happening to the dissidents who died — they are not just dying. They are spending their last few days or months feeling like a total freak, feeling like their lives are being destroyed in total and utter pain and misery. And yet the establishment is not interested in those cases. They’re only interested in the dissidents who died.
They’re also not interested in people who correspond to a term which they invented, which is “long-term non-progressors.” “Long-term non-progressor” was not a term that the AIDS “denialists” invented. It’s a term that comes straight out of the mainstream. And what is a “long-term non-progressor”? Well, they have to be HIV-positive, obviously. They have to have remained healthy for a long time, usually 10 to 15 years. And they must not be taking AIDS drugs. Now, if the establishment has created this term, that’s an admission that some people are essentially ignoring their HIV diagnosis and going on to live several years afterwards without any health consequences.