Wednesday, September 02, 2009
DAVID CROWE, Part 2:
The Political Creation of the “HIV/AIDS” Myth
interview by MARK GABRISH CONLAN
Copyright © 2009 by Mark Gabrish Conlan for Zenger’s Newsmagazine • All rights reserved
In the August 2009 issue Zenger’s Newsmagazine ran the first part of an interview with Canadian alternative AIDS activist David Crowe, one of a growing number of people who don’t have advanced degrees in science or other official credentials of expertise but have read up on AIDS and come to the conclusion that the mainstream view — not only that AIDS is caused by a single virus, HIV, but that exposure to HIV invariably leads to active infection, AIDS symptoms and a premature death — does not fit the reality of the syndrome. In part one, Crowe talked about how he started researching and advocating alternative views of AIDS, HIV and the alleged link between them.
We also discussed the problems with the so-called “HIV test,” which supposedly measures an antibody response to the virus, rather than an active infection. It may not even do that, Crowe explained, because all the test measures is antibodies to nine proteins assumed to make up HIV. The virus itself may not even exist as a separate, reproducible biological entity, and even if it does, the likelihood that it could be responsible for all the different health problems and disease conditions known as “AIDS” is small. And we talked about why the Queer community has for the most part clung to HIV as the sole explanation for AIDS and has generally been hostile to alternative points of view.
In this portion, Crowe talks about the politics of AIDS: how the scientists who believe that HIV is its sole cause not only imposed their point of view as the only one other scientists are allowed to research but also how the convinced the general population that an “HIV-positive” test result denotes a fatal disease that needs immediate “medication” in the form of highly powerful — and highly toxic — “antiviral” drugs. He’s helping to organize in Oakland, California November 6-8, in which a wide variety of speakers on alternative points of view about AIDS will discuss not only the science — including the theory, controversial even within the alternative AIDS community, that HIV doesn’t even exist as a virus — but also the political and social implications of both believing in and challenging the HIV/AIDS model. To register for this conference, or for more information, visit the conference Web site, http://ra2009.org/
Though AIDS itself is no longer the overwhelming social concern it was in the mid-1990’s, the views expressed by Crowe and the scientists at the conference are still controversial. A letter to the editor in this month’s issue offers a stirring defense of the mainstream from the point of view of an “HIV-positive” person who credits the anti-HIV medications with his own survival and health. To read part one of Crowe’s interview, visit http://zengersmag.blogspot.com/2009/08/david-crowe-canadian-activist-organizes.html on the Zenger’s blog. The first part broke off with a discussion of what the HIV/AIDS mainstream calls “long-term non-progressors” — people who live for years, or even decades, with an “HIV-positive” diagnosis, don’t take anti-HIV drugs and have no symptoms of AIDS — and Crowe’s statement that, “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 for several years afterwards without any health consequences.”
Zenger’s: Yes, but don’t they usually say that those people are living because they have superior genes; that their families survived the Black Plague; that they’re genetically different; that maybe up to 5 percent of the population has been blessed with the genetic ability to neutralize HIV that the rest of us don’t have?
Crowe: Well, yes. But this is the decline of all bad scientific theories. When your theory doesn’t turn out so well, you grab something else and say, “It’s gotta be the genes. And maybe there are multiple genes that inter-react.” I’ve read quite a bit of the research on the CCR5 gene that supposedly protects people from HIV, and most of the papers say that they couldn’t find anything. But then you get to selective citations, so if you want to “prove” that it’s genes, you only select the CCR5 papers that did show a correlation between CCR5 and longer survival, and you just ignore the rest.
It’s like circumcision. I’ve seen papers that have shown that circumcision has no benefit [in preventing HIV infection] or it’s even negative, and yet those papers never get mentioned. They get published, and they disappear into the black hole of unreferenced scientific papers. If you publish a scientific paper that shows that those Black Africans who get circumcised are 5 percent less likely to be HIV-positive than those who don’t, that’ll be a New York Times headline.
Zenger’s: But isn’t the reason that people take AIDS medications the belief that HIV infection, or whatever the HIV antibody test is measuring, is invariably fatal?
Crowe: Yes, and it’s often stated that it’s fatal, even though it’s known that long-term non-progressors do exist. It’s known by the establishment, and nobody knows how many of these people there are, because how would you possibly do a survey of this?
Zenger’s: What’s the origin of the myth that HIV is invariably fatal?
Crowe: I’ve never really been able to follow that. But Luc Montagnier, who got the Nobel Prize [for discovering HIV], has consistently said that it’s not [invariably] fatal. He’s said that some people can suppress the virus, and he’s said that you can treat immune suppression with various herbal remedies, like fermented papaya. He’s a big proponent of that. So here you’ve got guy who won the Nobel Prize saying, “Well, it’s not always a fatal disease. It’s not always an infection that catches on, that if you’ve got a healthy immune system you might be able to control it.”
But he’s just ignored. Montagnier is just a figurehead. “He got the Nobel Prize. Please don’t listen to anything he has to say.” And you’ve got other people who’ve promoted the idea that it’s a fatal illness because people crave certainty. If you said it’s mostly fatal, then people would say, “Does that mean that sometimes, if I have an HIV-positive test, then nothing bad happens? And if that’s the case, wouldn’t I be better off waitig to see if I get sick before taking the drugs?” But the establishment is much better off if they can say, “No, no, no, it’s universally fatal. We can tell from your CD4 counts where you are, and we know that you must start medication now.”
Another interesting thing is around 2000 they recognized that they were killing a lot of people with drugs. So they lowered the level at which they started AIDS drugs from 350 CD4 cells to about 200, and they ended up with a lot fewer people on drugs. Now they’re realizing that that was a financial error, and so they’re trying to push it back up to 350 or even 500.
It’s very similar to what’s happened to things like cholesterol or blood pressure. An organization of doctors can have a meeting, they can change the number at which you are considered “diseased,” and then they can put you on drugs. I mean, that’s not self-serving at all. The fact is that they’re going to make themselves rich by saying 200, 350, whatever the number is. They have total control over that.
Zenger’s: So you’re saying that, not just in AIDS but in a lot of other things, what we think we know about our health is really being controlled by what doctors and hospitals and clinics and the health industry in general think is good for their bottom line.
Crowe: Yes. I wrote an article once which I called “Manufacturing Certainty,” which was based on Noam Chomsky’s title, Manufacturing Consent. My theory is that modern medicine only works when they can say, “We’re sure. We’re absolutely sure about this.” Author Steven Epstein traced what was said about HIV in the mid- to late-1980’s. In the first year, most of the papers said, “HIV is the probable cause of AIDS,” or something with some uncertainty. About two years later, 90 percent of the papers said, “HIV is the cause of AIDS.” Yet they were referencing the same original papers. They weren’t referencing newer research.
So that is an illustration of how certainty was manufactured. By repetition over a couple of years, scientists got brave. At first, it was brave to say, “HIV is the cause of AIDS.” But after everybody else was saying it, you realized that you too could stand up and shake your fist and say, “HIV is the cause of AIDS,” and feel really brave because now everybody else was saying it.
Zenger’s: They said, “HIV is the cause of AIDS, and everybody who gets HIV will get AIDS and will die prematurely,” despite the fact that that is not how most viral diseases work. In fact, as I understand it, the mainstream to this day admits, “We have no idea of the pathogenesis,” which means in plain English, “We’re sure HIV causes AIDS, but we don’t have a clue how.”
Crowe: Exactly, which is basically saying, “We don’t know that it causes AIDS,” if you can’t show a mechanism.
Zenger’s: Another question is that one of the tests of a scientific theory is that even if you can’t cure the disease, you should be able at least to predict where it’s going: how many people are going to get it, where it’s going to spread to, what its distribution patterns are going to be. How has the HIV/AIDS model done in that regard?
Crowe: One prediction, based on the HIV/AIDS theory, was that female prostitutes will be a huge risk group for HIV. How has that prediction turned out? In fact, female prostitutes are not a risk group. Canadian scientists and some American scientists go to Kenya every year to study prostitutes in Nairobi who are either not becoming HIV-positive or not becoming ill. The only groups of prostitutes who have been at high risk of AIDS are drug-using prostitutes, which are quite common in America.
I made a trip to India recently, in preparation to talk to some dissidents in India. I came across a newspaper article from the early 1990’s and it was talking about the emerging epidemic in Mumbai [Bombay], where I was going, about how this massive amount of prostitution in this city, and they’d discovered a small amount of HIV. There were going to be “dead bodies in the streets,” that article said. They used that very phrase. When I actually went there, a little more than 15 years later, where was this epidemic?
For the first time in the history of India, prostitutes were getting the right to get life insurance. This wasn’t because they’d been seen in the early 1990’s as at risk of dying from AIDS. It was just because they were such low-status citizens, insurance companies felt it was beneath their dignity to deal with them. But now, in 2008, insurance companies were saying, “Well, we’re going to insure the lives of prostitutes.” Well, wait a minute: if they’re all going to be dying of AIDS, why would an insurance company consider them a reasonable risk?
So clearly the insurance companies have looked at the life tables for prostitutes, and they’ve concluded that you can make money by insuring the life of a prostitute in India. How can this possibly be? They’ve had AIDS — pardon me, HIV — in India for almost 20 years, and there still is no epidemic of AIDS among prostitutes.
Zenger’s: Which basically segues into the next question, which is, if HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, what does?
Crowe: Which AIDS are you talking about? I think it’s most sensible to divide AIDS into three different definitions. Let’s start with the Canadian definition, which I believe is pretty much the same in England, Germany and most of Europe: 30 different cancers and infectious diseases, usually with a positive HIV test. With many of them, if you have a diagnosis — a clear diagnosis — of an AIDS-defining disorder, you don’t need a positive HIV test. And in fact, pardon me, even with a negative HIV test, you can be diagnosed with AIDS with certain defining diseases, like Kaposi’s sarcoma, for example. That’s sort of the classic definition of “AIDS.”
In America, they have that definition but they’ve added on to it the low CD4 count/positive HIV test diagnosis, which is responsible for two-thirds to three-quarters of diagnoses of AIDS in America. So by that definition, AIDS is not a disease. AIDS is two lab tests. People who are diagnosed with AIDS in America are generally healthy.
In Africa, the Bangui definition or some variant is used to diagnose “AIDS.” It basically says if you have three of the following four symptoms — persistent fever, persistent cough, weight loss over 10 percent of your body weight [within a two-month period], persistent diarrhea [for at least 30 days] — in the absence of an HIV test, you have AIDS.
Zenger’s: So it makes sense that AIDS in Africa would have a different pattern from AIDS in the U.S., Canada or Europe, because the definition is different. They’re saying, “Well, O.K., so in the Western world AIDS is overwhelmingly a disease of men, but in Africa it’s evenly split between the sexes.” You’re saying that’s because it’s a different disease.
Crowe: HIV is biased towards women. There are more women in Africa than men with positive HIV tests. But I don’t believe that AIDS is biased in that way. AIDS in Africa is basically malnutrition, malaria, tuberculosis, serious parasitic infections. Any of those things can cause you to show the symptoms that will be diagnosed as “AIDS.” It becomes a catch-all. If somebody is sick and there’s not an obvious reason, like a bullet hole to the chest or something blatantly obvious, you can just say, “It’s AIDS.”
Zenger’s: What causes AIDS in the West?
Crowe: I think I could justifiably say that that’s not a meaningful question, because if we just talk about the 30 different cancers and infectious diseases, if you don’t accept HIV as the cause of AIDS they are just 30 independent diseases with nothing in common. Now, some of them can be symptoms of drug use. They could be symptoms of not getting enough sleep, of not eating properly, of chemical exposures. There are many things that can cause those 30 different illnesses.
Zenger’s: I think the question is why were certain groups, particularly Gay men, afflicted with a large numbers of these diseases in the early 1980’s, that was defined as a syndrome and then blamed on a virus.
Crowe: I think drug use was a component, but I also think bias was a big component. In Michel Cochrane’s book When AIDS Began: San Francisco and the Making of an Epidemic, she showed how doctors would preferentially diagnose serious illnesses in Gay men, and would not diagnose them in straight men. What happens when you get a serious diagnosis? You go on serious medications. If those serious medications cause side effects, and you then end up even sicker than when you started, that magnifies the belief that there is this wave of disease sweeping through the community.
Zenger’s: I’d like to give you a chance to talk about what’s happening on this issue right now; where do you think this is going; and how, if anything, AIDS might ultimately end.
Crowe: My sense is the world is no longer as easily manipulated by AIDS because the fear of it has gone. It’s become like starving children in Africa. You see an emotional advertisement on television, you get a tear in your eye and a tug in your heart, you give some money and then you go on with your life. And until you are sitting down and see that advertisement again, or something that tugs at your heart, you’re not even going to think about it. I think AIDS is like that. Maybe you give to a charity once a year, whatever.
It’s not affecting people’s lives. There aren’t people dying in the streets of AIDS in most communities. With the fear gone, the obese funding that has occurred with AIDS, the billion-dollar a year increases that have just become routine — every year, just throw another billion into the U.S. AIDS research pot — are in danger, because people are saying, at the very least — they’re starting to say, if you measure the amount of money per AIDS victim compared to a cancer victim or a kidney disease victim, or a victim of anemia, why is AIDS 10 or 100 or 1,000 times more generously funded than these other serious illnesses? So that’s started. People are asking, are we giving too much credence to AIDS?
I think also, the victims themselves — the HIV-positive people whose lives are being destroyed by this — are finding alternative information a lot more quickly. And with a lot of them, it’s resonating very quickly. There are still a lot who just go with the drugs, who fear that the virus is destroying their lives. But I really think that this whole massive thing has peaked, and it’s impossible to gain more altitude. It’s slowly sinking. The air is coming out of it, and they don’t really know what to do.