AIDS and the Revival of the Duesberg Hypothesis

Last month I happened to read Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s new book The Real Anthony Fauci, which had almost immediately become a #1 Amazon bestseller.

I was quite impressed with a great deal of the material presented, which sharply criticized our pharmaceutical industry and its close allies in the public health bureaucracy. But what completely shocked me was that nearly half the text—some 200 pages—was devoted to presenting and promoting the astonishing claim that everything we have been told about HIV/AIDS for more than 35 years probably constituted a hoax. This latter issue became a central focus of my own review.

Yet according to the information provided in Kennedy’s #1 Amazon bestseller, this well-known and solidly-established picture, which I had never seriously questioned, is almost entirely false and fraudulent, essentially amounting to a medical media hoax. Instead of being responsible for AIDS, the HIV virus is probably harmless and had nothing to do with the disease. But when individuals were found to be infected with HIV, they were subjected to the early, extremely lucrative AIDS drugs, which were actually lethal and often killed them. The earliest AIDS cases had mostly been caused by very heavy use of particular illegal drugs, and the HIV virus had been misdiagnosed as being responsible. But since Fauci and the profit-hungry drug companies soon built enormous empires upon that misdiagnosis, for more than 35 years they have fought very hard to maintain and protect it, exerting all their influence to suppress the truth in the media while destroying the careers of any honest researchers who challenged that fraud. Meanwhile, AIDS in Africa was something entirely different, probably caused mostly by malnutrition or other local conditions.

I found Kennedy’s account as shocking as anything I have ever encountered.

Under normal circumstances, I would have been extremely reluctant to embrace such seemingly outlandish claims, but the credibility of some of the adherents was difficult to disregard.

However, the first endorsement on the back cover is from Prof. Luc Montagnier, the medical researcher who won a Nobel Prize for discovering the HIV virus in 1984, and he writes: “Tragically for humanity, there are many, many untruths emanating from Fauci and his minions. RFK Jr. exposes the decades of lies.” Moreover, we are told that as far back as the San Francisco International AIDS Conference of June 1990, Montagnier had publicly declared “the HIV virus is harmless and passive, a benign virus.”

Perhaps this Nobel Laureate endorsed the book for other reasons and perhaps the meaning of his striking 1990 statement has been misconstrued. But surely the opinion of the researcher who won a Nobel Prize for discovering the HIV virus should not be totally ignored in assessing its possible role.

As Kennedy explains, three additional science Nobel Laureates have also expressed similar public skepticism for the conventional HIV/AIDS narrative, one of them being Kary Mullis, the renowned creator of the revolutionary PCR test.

Despite the book’s tremendous success, it was initially ignored by the mainstream media. That silence was finally broken a month after publication, when the Associated Press released a 4,000 word hit-piece harshly attacking the author and his controversial bestseller.

Yet as I noted in my own response, that lengthy denunciation had entirely avoided the subject of HIV/AIDS, which surely constituted the most outrageous and explosive portion of Kennedy’s material. Six AP journalists and researchers had spent at least ten days producing the article, so their total silence on that topic struck me as extremely suspicious. If almost half of Kennedy’s book argued that HIV/AIDS was a medical media hoax and his harshest critics refused to challenge him on that score, any fair-minded reader must surely begin to suspect that at least some of the author’s remarkable claims were probably correct.

Prior to the recent Covid outbreak, AIDS had spent nearly four decades as the world’s highest-profile disease, and I began to wonder whether I might have been completely misled for all those years by my daily newspapers. I listened to Kennedy’s lengthy interviews with with Tucker CarlsonSteve Bannon, and Jimmy Dore, but none of those hosts ever touched on the AIDS issue, perhaps because they regarded it as a distraction from the more urgent topic of Covid vaccines and other controversial public health measures. Indeed, Kennedy himself had never previously been associated with the HIV/AIDS topic and he emphasized that his coverage was merely intended “to give air and daylight to dissenting voices” so I would need to consult other sources for additional information. Fortunately, his book clearly identified the most important figure in the debate.

One of the major scientific heroes in Kennedy’s account is Prof. Peter H. Duesberg of Berkeley. During the 1970s and 1980s, Duesberg had been widely regarded as among the world’s foremost virologists, elected to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences at age 50, making him one of its youngest members in history. As early as 1987 he began raising serious doubts about the HIV/AIDS hypothesis and highlighting the dangers of AZT, eventually publishing a series of journal articles on the subject that gradually won over many others, including Montagnier. In 1996 he published Inventing the AIDS Virus, a massive 712 page volume setting forth his case, with the Foreword provided by Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis, the renowned inventor of PCR technology and himself another leading public critic of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. Duesberg even underscored the confidence of his HIV skepticism by offering to be injected with HIV-tainted blood.

But rather than openly debate such a strong scientific opponent, Fauci and his allies blacklisted Duesberg from receiving any government funding, thereby wrecking his research career, while also vilifying him and pressuring others to do the same. According to fellow researchers quoted by Kennedy, Duesberg was destroyed as a warning and an example to others. Meanwhile, Fauci deployed his influence to have his critics banned from the major national media, ensuring that few outside a narrow segment of the scientific community ever even became aware of the continuing controversy.

So the theory I needed to investigate amounted to the Duesberg Hypothesis, the long-suppressed challenger to our reigning HIV/AIDS orthodoxy.

Fortunately for my purposes, scientific heresies starved of research funding and blacklisted from leading journals tend to produce a very manageable body of work. The annual billions spent on orthodox AIDS research has spawned well over 100,000 academic journal articles, more than a diligent reader could digest in a dozen lifetimes. But the most recent academic publication I could locate on the other side was a lengthy review article published eighteen years ago by Duesberg and two of his collaborators. Indeed, according to their Epilogue, the authors had spent several years struggling to get their article into print against the unremitting hostility of the reigning AIDS establishment, which had successfully pressured two previous journals into cancelling publication.

Although I have a strong scientific background, I lack the necessary expertise in medicine or microbiology to properly evaluate their paper. But reading it carefully as a layman, I found it solid and persuasive, certainly worthy of publication. And when I passed it along to someone with a professional medical background, he considered it extremely impressive, a convincing exposition of the authors’ revolutionary thesis.

One of Duesberg’s central claims was that the disease known as “AIDS” didn’t actually exist, but was merely the official label attached to a group of more than two dozen different illnesses, all of which had a variety of different causes, with only some of these being infectious agents. Indeed, most of these illnesses had been known and treated for many decades, but they were only designated “AIDS” if the victim was also found to test positive for the HIV virus, which probably had nothing to do with the condition.

In support of their contrary position, the authors noted that the various groups at high risk for “AIDS” only tended to get particular versions of the disease, with the “AIDS” suffered by hemophiliacs usually being very different from the “AIDS” of African villagers and only slightly overlapping with the diseases of gay men or intervenous drug addicts. Indeed, the pattern of “AIDS” in Africa seemed utterly divergent from that in the developed world. But if all these different illnesses were actually caused by a single HIV virus, such completely divergent syndromes would seem puzzling anomalies, difficult to explain from a scientific perspective.

In 2009, a half-dozen years after the publication of that lengthy article, an independent film-maker named Brent Leung produced a 90 minute documentary on AIDS, strongly sympathetic to Duesberg’s thesis, and someone recently brought it to my attention. There is a great paucity of pro-Duesberg material, so although I only rarely find videos useful sources of information, this case was an important exception. The film highlighted the tremendous inconsistencies of the orthodox scientific position, and also included important interviews with Duesberg, Mullis, Fauci, and numerous other key researchers and journalists on all sides of the debate. The entire documentary is conveniently available on Youtube, so those interested can watch it and decide for themselves.

Journalist John Lauritsen had been covering the HIV/AIDS controversy for decades, writing two books on the subject and serving as an important source for Kennedy’s own work. He recently joined one of the discussion-threads on our website, and suggested that I republish his 2018 conference talk, which usefully summarized the history and current state of the issue.

Although I found all this pro-Duesberg material helpful in fleshing out the arguments, most of it overlapped with the contents of the Kennedy book, and the analysis was necessarily one-sided. Under pressure of the medical establishment and its AIDS lobby, the mainstream media has almost entirely shut its doors to any dissent on the issue and refuses to engage the critics, instead seeming to rely upon the blacklist and the boycott. This suggested the relative weakness of the orthodox case, but lacking the give-and-take of argument and counter-argument, I could not easily weigh the strength of the two sides. Fortunately, I discovered that this situation had been quite different in the past.

I spent most of the early 2000s creating a content-archiving system that includes near-complete collections of a couple of hundred of our leading opinion magazines of the last 150 years, those influential publications that have shaped our understanding of the world. The project was nearly a total failure since very few people have ever used it, but it still comes in handy when I want to investigate something, and I easily located a long list of articles focused on the Duesberg Hypothesis, most of them from the 1990s. During that period, the iron wall of censorship had not yet come down, and the topic had been widely and respectfully treated in major publications.

I carefully read more than a dozen of the most substantial articles, all of which had appeared in fully mainstream and respectable liberal, conservative, and libertarian periodicals. One major surprise was how little the debate seemed to have changed. The evidence and arguments that Duesberg and his scientific allies had been making thirty years ago seemed remarkably similar to what was presented in Kennedy’s book published only just last month.

The Summer 1990 issue of Policy Review, one of America’s most sober and influential conservative policy journals, had offered Duesberg and a co-author a platform for the controversial theory, and their resulting piece ran nearly 9,000 words. According to the editor, this topic provoked more letters and responses—both positive and negative—than anything in the publication’s history, and became one of their most talked-about articles. As a result, the next issue of the quarterly featured some of those reactions as well as the replies of the two authors, with the entire exchange running almost 13,000 words.

Several years later, a similar development unfolded at Reason, the glossy flagship publication of America’s libertarian movement. The magazine ran a long cover story endorsing Duesberg’s claims and authored by three of his scientific allies, one of them a former Harvard Medical School professor and another a recent Nobel Laureate. Once again the result was a huge outpouring of both supportive and critical reactions, and the lengthy debate was published in a subsequent issue.

  • What Causes AIDS? (PDF)
    We still don’t know what causes AIDS
    Charles A. Thomas Jr., Kary B. Mullis, and Phillip E. Johnson • Reason • June 1994 • 4,600 Words

The Lancet is one of the world’s leading medical journals and in 1996, the year after he become its chief editor, Richard Horton took to the pages of the intellectually-prestigious New York Review of Books to produce a 10,000 word discussion of Duesberg’s theories, as propounded in three of the researcher’s recent books and collections. Horton was obviously among the most respectable of establishmentarian figures, but although he mostly came down in support of the orthodox HIV/AIDS consensus, he presented Duesberg’s entirely contrary perspective in a fair-minded manner, respectfully though not uncritically.

However, what struck me most about Horton’s account was how appalled he seemed at Duesberg’s treatment by America’s ruling medical-industrial complex, as suggested by his title “Truth and Heresy about AIDS.”

The very first sentence of his long review article mentioned the “vast academic and commercial industry built around…HIV” along with the fundamental challenge Duesberg posed to its scientific basis. As a consequence, the “brilliant virologist” had become “the most vilified scientist alive” and the subject of “excoriating attacks.” The leading professional science journals had displayed an “alarmingly uneven attitude,” and partly as a consequence, other potential dissidents had been dissuaded from pursuing their alternative theories.

According to Horton, financial considerations had become a central element of the scientific process, and he noted with horror that a press conference on research questioning the effectiveness of a particular anti-AIDS drug was actually packed with financial journalists, focused on the efforts of the corporate executives to destroy the credibility of a study that they themselves had helped to design but which had now gone against their own product.

Most importantly, although Horton was generally skeptical of Duesberg’s conclusions, he was absolutely scathing towards the opponents of the dissident virologist.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the dispute between Duesberg and the AIDS establishment is the way in which Duesberg has been denied the opportunity to test his hypothesis. In a discipline governed by empirical claims to truth, experimental evidence would seem the obvious way to confirm or refute Duesberg’s claims. But Duesberg has found the doors of the scientific establishment closed to his frequent calls for tests…

Duesberg deserves to be heard, and the ideological assassination that he has undergone will remain an embarrassing testament to the reactionary tendencies of modern science…At a time when fresh ideas and new paths of investigation are so desperately being sought, how can the AIDS community afford not to fund Duesberg’s research?”

That ringing last sentence closed the entire review, which appeared in a prestigious and influential publication over a quarter-century ago. But as near as I can tell, Horton’s heartfelt criticism fell entirely on deaf ears, and the AIDS establishment simply ignored the entire controversy while gradually pressuring the media to end any coverage. This seems to fully confirm the narrative history provided in Kennedy’s current bestseller.

Taken together, these five articles run more than 45,000 words, the length of a short book, and probably provide as good and even-handed a debate on the Duesberg Hypothesis as can be found anywhere. Individual readers may judge for themselves, but I thought the that Duesberg camp certainly got the better of all those exchanges.

According to the AP article, Kennedy’s book probably sold nearly 200,000 copies during the first couple of weeks after its November 16th release. The book has regained the #1 spot on Amazon and held that position during much of December, so aggregate sales may now be more than double that figure.

But even if total copies in print eventually reaches a million or more, such numbers represent merely a tiny sliver of the many tens of millions of Americans who are blanketed each day with the messages heavily promoted by our electronic and social media, media organs that are blacklisting or boycotting the important material that Kennedy presents. So unless the defensive wall of the media can be successfully breached, the message of Kennedy’s book may largely be restricted to that fraction of the entire population already attuned to it, perhaps strengthening their resolve but gaining relatively few new adherents.

Several years ago I analyzed exactly this issue, outlining the difficulties of overcoming such a media blockade and the possible strategy to pursue, and some of my suggestions are worth quoting at length:

The mainstream media exists as a seamless whole, so weakening or discrediting the media in any particular area automatically reduces its influence everywhere else as well.

The elements of the media narrative faced by a particular anti-establishment group may be too strong and well-defended to attack effectively, and any such attacks might also be discounted as ideologically motivated. Hence, the more productive strategy may sometimes be an indirect one, attacking the media narrative elsewhere, at points where it is much weaker and less well-defended. In addition, winning those easier battles may generate greater credibility and momentum, which can then be applied to later attacks on more difficult fronts.

Certain portions of that media wall may be solid and vigorously defended by powerful vested interests, rendering assaults difficult. But other portions, perhaps older and more obscure, may have grown decrepit over time, with their defenders having drifted away. Breaching the wall at these weaker locations may be much easier, and once the barrier has been broken at several points, defending it at others becomes much more difficult.

For example, consider the consequences of demonstrating that the established media narrative is completely false on some major individual event. Once this result has been widely recognized, the credibility of the media on all other matters, even totally unrelated ones, would be somewhat attenuated. Ordinary people would naturally conclude that if the media had been so wrong for so long on one important point, it might also be wrong on others as well, and the powerful suspension of disbelief that provides the media its influence would become less powerful. Even those individuals who collectively form the corpus of the media might begin to entertain serious self-doubts regarding their previous certainties.

The crucial point is that such breakthroughs may be easiest to achieve in topics that seem merely of historical significance, and are totally removed from any practical present-day consequences.

Under the usual parameters of public debate, challenges to established orthodoxy are treated as “extraordinary claims” that must be justified by extraordinary evidence. This requirement may be unfair, but it constitutes the reality in many public exchanges, based upon the framework provided by the allegedly impartial media.

Since most of these controversies involve a wide range of complex issues and ambiguous or disputed evidence, it is often extremely difficult to conclusively establish any unorthodox theory, say to a confidence level of 95% or 98%. Therefore, the media verdict is almost invariably “Case Not Proven” and the challengers are judged defeated and discredited, even if they actually appear to have the preponderance of evidence on their side. And if they vocally contest the unfairness of their situation, that exact response is then subsequently cited by the media as further proof of their fanaticism or paranoia.

However, suppose that an entirely different strategy were adopted. Instead of attempting to make a case “beyond any reasonable doubt,” proponents merely provide sufficient evidence and analysis to suggest that there is a 30% chance or a 50% chance or a 70% chance that the unorthodox theory is true. The very fact that no claim of near certainty is being advanced provides a powerful defense against any plausible accusations of fanaticism or delusional thinking. But if the issue is of enormous importance and—as is usually the case—the unorthodox theory has been almost totally ignored by the media, despite apparently having at least a reasonable chance of being true, then the media may be effectively attacked and ridiculed for its laziness and incompetence. These charges are very difficult to refute and since no claim is being made that the unorthodox theory has necessarily been proven correct, merely that it might possibly be correct, any counter-accusations of conspiratorial tendencies would fall flat.

Indeed, the only means the media might have of effectively rebutting those charges would be to explore all the complex details of the issue (thereby helping to bring various controversial facts themselves to much wider attention) and then argue that there is only a negligible chance that the theory might be correct, perhaps 10% or less. Thus, the usual presumptive burden is completely reversed. And since most members of the media are unlikely to have ever paid much serious attention to the subject, their ignorant presentation may be quite weak and vulnerable to a knowledgeable deconstruction. Indeed, the most likely scenario is that the media will just continue to totally ignore the entire dispute, thereby reinforcing those plausible accusations of laziness and incompetence.

The primary audience of Kennedy’s book is America’s large and mobilized anti-vaxxing community, and many of those individuals may ignore his long discussion of the HIV/AIDS controversy, or even dismiss it as a distraction. But I think this is a serious strategic mistake. Instead, a major focus upon the questionable HIV/AIDS narrative and the contrary Duesberg Hypothesis may constitute the best means of discrediting America’s dominant medical establishment, and thereby enabling a reassessment of our vaccination policy. As I explained near the end of my review:

As an outside observer with no special expertise in these areas of medicine, I was impressed by much of the material that Kennedy marshaled in support of his unorthodox views on vaccines and Covid treatments, but found that the evidence he provided on HIV and AIDS was vastly more comprehensive and persuasive, while being backed by far more authoritative experts. But if as he argues, the truth about HIV and AIDS has been successfully suppressed for decades by the entire medical industry, we must necessarily become very suspicious about other medical claims, including those regarding Covid and vaccinations.

I even wonder if this might not represent part of the hidden subtext of the bitter current battle over vaxxing and the almost paranoid reaction of so many opponents. Those who have challenged the official scientific dogma on AIDS have long since been driven out of the public square so that few who draw their information from the mainstream media are even aware of the dispute. But the sort of divergent theories presented by Kennedy have probably circulated for years within particular segments of the population, and these individuals have become firmly convinced that huge numbers of Americans died because the medical establishment inflicted the deadly AZT treatment to combat the harmless HIV virus. So they would now grow extremely suspicious when they learned that a low-mortality Covid virus was being treated by the widespread use of experimental new vaccines that had completely circumvented the usual testing process through a set of emergency waivers. After absorbing the remarkable contents of Kennedy’s important book, I think these are not unreasonable concerns to have.

Reprinted with permission from The Unz Review.