"Scientists may be in the business of laughing at their predecessors, but owing to an array of human mental dispositions, few realize that someone will laugh at their beliefs in the (disappointingly near) future."
Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Black Swan
Almost 30 years ago, as a new decade dawned, Americans watched in morbid fascination as a small group of gay men in San Francisco began dying of a mysterious disease.
Did you catch my disingenuous use of the word "mysterious" in that sentence? There was nothing mysterious about these deaths, then or now. A bleeding-edge lifestyle, the harmonic convergence of three cultural revolutions, drug, sexual, and gay, took a heavy toll on its most sublime practitioners. They engaged in anonymous sex on an almost unheard of scale, self-administered antibiotics, thinking that this would keep them healthy (useless against viruses but deadly effective against friendly gut bacteria, vital to proper immune system function), and ingested recreational drugs like candy, especially "poppers" (carcinogenic nitrite inhalants, such as you might use to clean your VCR). The drug use, repeated bouts of STDs and parasites, and foreign antigens from thousands of other men floating around in the bloodstream took the inevitable toll on the human body. They literally blew out their own immune systems.
When Ronald Reagan took office in 1981, he had a mandate to downsize government, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was an obvious target. The "War on Cancer," declared by Nixon in 1971, had little to show for all the money spent. The CDC had been terribly embarrassed in 1976 when it tried to turn five soldiers having the flu into a potential national swine flu epidemic. A subchapter of this debacle was their attempt to seize on the completely coincidental outbreak of pneumonia among some old men at an American Legion convention in Philadelphia. The CDC used this as an excuse to rush out a vaccine that killed dozens of people, which is dozens more than did the flu itself. (As for “Legionnaire’s Disease," it later turned out to be caused by a known microorganism commonly found in building air handlers, and had nothing to do with swine flu. Thousands of people get infected with it every year).
So it was most fortuitous that in 1981, as potential budget cuts loomed on the horizon, the CDC received a report about five young homosexuals dying of immune deficiency disorders (coincidentally, this was exactly the same count as the initial outbreak of swine flu, so the number five seems to be the CDC's definition of the beginning of an epidemic). If a new deadly disease could be discovered, it would give the CDC new life. The deadlier and the scarier the better; ideally something with some more sticking power than the flu this time around.
The initial name for the new disease, Gay Related Immune Deficiency (GRID), was soon discarded, as besides being horribly politically incorrect, it hardly sounded threatening to the general population. So it was replaced with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). For the cause, French scientist Luc Montagnier "discovered" the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), with failed American cancer researcher Robert Gallo co-discovering it (if you can call finding it a year later co-discovering; Gallo was later investigated for misconduct on this matter). It is likely when the history books are written that Gallo will be portrayed more like the fictional doctor E. Henry Thripshaw from Monty Python’s Flying Circus than Louis Pasteur or Jonas Salk.
So AIDS was the disease, and HIV the cause. All it took was a press conference at the CDC to make this story canonical. The CDC was saved, and a new multi-billion dollar industry was born. God help us when a bureaucrat is threatened with losing his job. Even one who has taken the Hippocratic Oath.
In the years since the CDC pronouncement every single person who has tried to question the official story, rather than being lauded for taking the scientific method seriously, has instead been attacked and dismissed as a kook. Still, with nearly 30 years of history in the rear-view mirror, it is becoming more and more apparent that there is something very wrong with the official story.
Filmmaker Brent Leung takes us on a journey through the whole sorry episode, from the beginning to the present, in his riveting new documentary, House of Numbers. Born in 1980, Leung has lived his entire life under the shadow of the AIDS bogeyman. His generation, successors to Generation X, became Generation HIV.
He hits all the important way stations, though necessarily briefly at times, due to the time constraints of a film (but hang on — there are over 300 hours of footage, and the producers are in talks with a cable channel to do a series).
In what may be a real eye opener for many viewers, Leung totally debunks HIV testing. (Can you say "manufacturer's criteria"?) But who needs faulty HIV testing when the World Health Organization (WHO) has given us the Bangui definition for AIDS which provides a simple list of symptoms to using for diagnosing AIDS without testing? Though moderated nine years later with the admonition that testing should really be done, it did a wonderful job of kick-starting the supposed AIDS epidemic in Africa.
But even with testing, it is quite easy to say that there is more HIV in one place than another, as the tests are interpreted differently in different countries. At one point Leung steps across the Canadian border and cheekily comments, "No other disease behaves differently when you cross the border."
Leung visits South Africa to see the epidemic up close for himself. It's hard to say what's more shocking about Leung's visit to a poor township, the ignorance and superstition that people have about AIDS ("if I get thinner, I may have the disease"), or the flies that travel directly from the open latrines to their lunch plates. Gee, could it be the latter that is making some people sick?
Leung interviews many scientists and doctors in the course of the film. They fall into two groups. The skeptics include, among others, Kary Mullis, who shared a 1993 Nobel Prize in chemistry, Joseph Sonnabend, a physician who has been involved with AIDS research and treatment since the very beginning, and James Chin, an epidemiologist at WHO for five years, whose characterization of that agency's statistics on the AIDS epidemic in Africa gives the movie its name. And of course Peter Duesberg, who was a star cancer researcher – until he was ostracized for questioning the high priests on HIV.
Arguing for the defense are, among others, Robert Gallo, Luc Montagnier (who makes a stunning statement about HIV near the end of the film; but I won't spoil it for you), and Anthony Fauci. Doctor Fauci is probably a familiar face to many Americans, as he gets a lot of media exposure due to his position as director of The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). In fact, several days after I saw him interviewed in this film, I saw him again on the national news, helpfully informing us that our children will need not one, but two vaccinations this year against the swine flu. Plus two more for the regular flu. How can we believe anything this guy says? But we are expected to — because he works for the government.
I still remember 1976 when my father, who was an officer in the US Army at the time, received the swine flu vaccine. My dad, who had never missed a day of work in his life, spent the next three days in bed. Needless to say, I will not be vaccinating my kids against swine flu.
But back to the film…this group, speaking for the defense, range in attitude during their interviews from detached to mildly irritated, as they repeat their mantras: the virus exists, there are no co-factors, HIV causes AIDS, everybody is at risk, and anybody questioning this is (by implication) a fool. Occasionally, when pressed for details, they admit to gaps in knowledge about how HIV (the most studied virus ever) works, contradict each other, and in at least one case, the interviewee contradicts himself. None of them can define AIDS in a simple and permanent fashion (the CDC has expanded the definition over the years from the original two defining diseases to over two dozen), explain how HIV works, or will address head-on the problem of so many deaths attributed to AIDS that in fact were caused by the toxic drugs administered to cure it.
Leung (quite correctly) avoids taking one side or the other, and positions himself simply as the annoying gadfly that keeps asking questions. But the answers are painfully obvious to any thinking viewer.
One scientist in the film states bluntly Peter Duesberg's ideas are killing people. Meet Lindsey Nagel, and decide for yourself. Her story is told in the film.
Born in Romania, she was adopted as an infant by a couple from Minnesota, Steve and Cheryl Nagel. As was standard procedure, she was tested for HIV in Romania prior to the adoption being approved, and she tested negative. Upon arrival in America Lindsey was tested again; and this time, the result was positive. Did I mention that HIV tests are completely unreliable?
Steve and Cheryl Nagel with their daughter Lindsey, taken at the showing of House of Numbers at the Austin Gay & Lesbian International Film Festival on September 13, 2009, in Austin, Texas. Lindsey would not be alive today if her parents hadn't taken her off AZT and refused to treat her any more for her supposed HIV infection.
Not knowing any better at first, the Nagels followed their pediatrician's instructions to administer anti-retroviral drugs, which at the time meant high dosage AZT. For months the Nagels watched as their initially healthy daughter deteriorated, getting sicker and sicker. Among other things, her growth became stunted. Of course all symptoms were ascribed to her supposed HIV infection, and not the drugs.
After nearly two years of this, the Nagels were alerted to Peter Duesberg's dissenting view by a relative who read an article about him in National Review. The Nagels became intrigued and wrote to Duesberg. He responded immediately, telling them to take Lindsey off the antiretroviral drugs, or they would kill her. They did, and for that reason Lindsey is alive today.
As for the pediatrician, in 2005 she received an award for her leadership in treating HIV patients. In an interview about the award, she laments
We started on AZT (Retrovir) for a child who was adopted and the parents said it was a poison and they called Peter Duesberg, the man who wrote a book claiming that AIDS isn’t caused by HIV and they pulled the child from my care.
That child is Lindsey Nagel, who is alive today precisely because of Peter Duesberg's intervention. Others were not so fortunate:
There was nothing you could do years ago. Most children back then did not live past seven to 12 years old. And it was hard; these were children that you got attached to. It was really hard. All we could do was provide some supportive care and treat their opportunistic infections. We had many deaths, 10 to 12 in 1994.
The doctor goes on to say that children do better now. But that's only because the dosage of retroviral drugs has been lowered. These drugs are still nonspecific, toxic, and eventually kill those who take them. And some of them don't even take very long to kill. Wait until you see the movie and learn about the pregnant woman who was administered Nevarapine and lost her skin and her life in only 37 days.
Of course Lindsey Nagel is not the only one who gets better after getting off antiretrovirals, as I've written about before. Africans get better, too.
The treatment for HIV has always been non-specific, DNA destroying drugs. In a supreme irony, the prophecy of a destructive epidemic became, on a small scale, self-fulfilling, as tens of thousands died from the very drugs that were supposed to cure them. Of course, they officially died from the disease itself. All of the defenders of the HIV/AIDS orthodoxy are paid, directly or indirectly, by government (i.e., they work for the government, or a university that is subsidized by government, or a pharmaceutical company whose AIDS drug business depends on people believing what the government says about AIDS, and whose drugs are largely paid for by the government). Dissenters, like Peter Duesberg, are shut out. And people die.
Ignore the blistering attacks in the blogosphere on this movie by the establishment's designated attack dogs, some of whom even refuse to see the movie. Also ignore incompetent reviews in the mainstream media, such as this one in the New York Times, in which the reviewer compares Leung's quest to questioning gravity. Consider instead the outstanding work done by journalists such as Celia Farber, Rian Malan, and Liam Scheff, all of whom are interviewed in this film, and none of whom work for the New York Times.
See this film, do some reading, and decide for yourself.
Note: House Of Numbers is currently playing on the film festival circuit. It should get a more general release in the coming months. Be sure and check the film's website for updates.
James Foye [send him mail] is an independent software developer living in Austin, Texas.