Reprinted from the proceedings of the conference Actes du Colloque,
5th International Colloquium on ‘THS’ held in Grasse,
France September 14, 2001, this is a translation of a lecture by
Professor Etienne de Harven, Emeritus Professor of Pathology, University
AIDS: Open Debate is Long
By Dr. Etienne de Harven
"All the catastrophic predictions for AIDS epidemics
have, with the passage of time, been proven wrong. Unbiased analysis
of epidemiological data demonstrates that an actual AIDS epidemic
has never been observed. Virtual epidemics have, however, been reported.
But they have all been ‘invented’ with several redefinitions
I wish, at the outset, to thank the organizers of this conference
for the invitation to participate in this important conference,
and for their courageous initiative in opening the debate
on controversial issues.
AIDS being a major problem of public health, one must recognize
the existence of a considerable controversy regarding the causes
of this syndrome.
However, before getting to the center of our topic, I wish to introduce
myself briefly to help you understand why I feel authorized to speak
on retroviruses. I spent almost all my professional career in the
US, at the Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute in New York, the main
area of my research being the isolation, purification and ultrastructural
characterization of retroviruses associated with certain types of
leukemia in mice, using the electron microscope.
We shall start with two points of history.
The first one concerns the publication by Gottlieb (1), in 1981,
at the CDC of Atlanta, in which the first 5 cases of AIDS were reported
in five male homosexual patients. All five were drug addicts. All
five used amyl nitrite ("Poppers"). They did not know
each other and could not, therefore, have contaminated one another.
Nonetheless, Gottlieb immediately suggested the contagious nature
of the disease and its transmission by sexual contacts, a hypothesis
that was, instantly, favorably received by the CDC. Still, there
was absolutely no justification, based on these first 5 cases, for
considering the possibility that AIDS could be a sexually transmitted
Let me clarify this with a parable:
Imagine you are medically in charge of about 100 workers, all working
in a poorly ventilated factory where lead salts are profusely used.
You soon diagnose 10 cases of lead poisoning. Are you going to conclude
that lead poisoning is a contagious disease transmitted sexually?
This is exactly what Gottlieb did!
How is it possible that such a highly unlikely hypothesis was received
with so much credibility? The answer is simple and tragic. Remember,
we were in the late 70s early 80s: morale was rather low at the
CDC where very few epidemics were detected since the days of polio,
and morale was also very low at the National Cancer Institute (NCI),
Bethesda, where gigantic efforts, developed over the past 20 years
and funded on monumental budgets primarily aimed at demonstrating
the hypothetical role of retroviruses in human cancer, were ending
in total failure. The CDC as well as the NCI therefore jumped with
considerable precipitation on this retrovirus related, hypothetical
AIDS epidemic, their precipitation resulting from considerations
of scientific policy, not from any rigorous analysis of virological
A second point of history is of a bibliographical nature. When one
states "AIDS is caused by HIV", such a statement should
be supported by at least one bibliographical reference. You will
be surprised to learn that such a reference has never existed, even
in the early 1980s. Karry Mullis, who won the Nobel prize in 1993
for the discovery of the PCR method, searched extensively for such
a reference without any success (2). All you will find is a reference
to a most celebrated press conference which took place in Washington,
DC, on April 23, 1984 and during which Margaret Heckler, Secretary
of Health and Human Services, proudly announced, in presence of
Robert Gallo, that a retrovirus had just been discovered that was
"the probable" cause of AIDS. The next morning, all newspapers
in the US and worldwide, flashed big headlines in which they omitted
only one word: "probable". The media carries an enormous
responsibility in misinforming the public in regards to AIDS causation.
As you can see from these two historic events, the hypothesis according
to which "HIV causes AIDS" began with a very shaky start.
In medical research, when an hypothesis is formulated suggesting
the possible viral etiology of a disease, and when 20 years later,
all the research based exclusively on that hypothesis still fails
to establish a curative therapeutic protocol, fails to lead to an
efficient vaccine, and alsofails to lead to verifiable epidemiological
predictions, don’t you think it is time to courageously ask
ourselves if the hypothesis was correct? I amconvinced that this
is an absolute necessity.
Please, don’t think that this radical opinion is that of an
isolated "dissident". The group of AIDS dissidents initially
led by Peter Duesberg in 1987 (3) counts thousands of members, including
two Nobel laureates. They can be found worldwide, in the US, in
Europe, in Australia, in South Africa, in India, etc. All of them
worry about the same fundamental questions (4), the most significant
of which can be summarized as follows:
1) HIV purification.
Nobody has ever succeeded in purifying HIV (5). Centrifugation in
sucrose gradients at the 1.16 gm/ml density is a classical approach
to the purification of all the well-known animal retroviruses. Unfortunately,
numerous cell debris settle at that very same density gradient.
Consequently, without a rigorous control by transmission electron
microscopy, identifying material sedimenting at that density as
"purified" retroviruses is a very dangerous scientific
mystification. The very same criticism must be addressed to Temin
(6) and Baltimore (7) who, independently, recognized reverse transcriptase
(RT) activity in "retroviral" samples, the purity of which
had not been verified, therefore making it impossible to exclude
RT activity originating from cell debris or from mycoplasma fragments.
2) Identification of HIV molecular "markers".
In absence of any HIV purification, numerous molecules are currently
used as surrogate "markers" supposedly demonstrating the
presence of HIV: protein (p24), enzyme (RT), or short sequences
of nucleic acid. But HIV should have been purified first in order
to demonstrate convincingly that these molecules, considered HIV
markers, were indeed specifically of retroviral origin. This purification
having never been achieved, it remains impossible to demonstrate
the retroviral specificity of these molecular markers because similar
molecules are abundantly present in cell debris which contaminate
all the samples falsely regarded as "purified" retroviruses,
simply because they originate from sucrosegradients at the 1.16
All "markers" being non-specific, it was no big surprise
to learn that tests for so-called seropositivity (Elisa and Western
Blot), based on the very same markers were not specific either.
The was clearly and originally demonstrated by Eleni Papadopulos,
Val Turner and the Australian group of researchers in Perth (8),
Australia, as early as 1993, in a paper published in Nature/Bio-Technology,
a paper which has been (most conveniently) ignored by the AIDS establishment.
3) The Elisa test being non-specific, it was no surprise to learn
that many medical conditions, without any connection with HIV/AIDS,
often give "HIV +" responses (9). This may occur, for
example, in cases of tuberculosis (10), malaria, leprosy (11), multiple
vaccinations, anti-flu vaccination, multiple blood transfusions,
various hepatitis, and pregnancy. Percentages are not negligible.
For example, more than 43 % of cases of systemic lupus erythematosus
(SLE) are seropositive. Obviously, the Elisa test is positive in
individuals who have a high level of circulating antibodies, but
these antibodies have probably nothing to do with HIV.
Even more confusing is the fact that in the Elisa test, a blood
sample has to be diluted 400 times. And, as demonstrated recently
in a New York laboratory (12), if samples are not diluted 400 times,
everybody tests sero-positive. This Elisa test is being sold at
great profit worldwide and the results continue to terrorize an
Testing for p24 is apparently not any more informative. In a study
of 77 cases of biliary cirrhosis, 35 % were found p24 +(13). Still,
p24 is currently regarded as highly HIV specific, so specific as
to be frequently used as evidence for successful HIV "isolation".
Are we prepared to accept that biliary cirrhosis is HIV induced?
Moreover, the discussion on cross-reactivity is made more complex
by the fact that 43 % of dogs have been found positive for p 24
4) For patients with a positive reaction to the Elisa test, a Western
Blot (WB) test is usually performed for "confirmation".
However, the WB uses the same antigens as Elisa, therefore a better
specificity could hardly be expected (15). Moreover, an international
agreement on the interpretation of WB results has never been reached,
and the same blood sample may give a positive result in Europe and
a negative one in the US! Incidentally, the WB test is not accepted
in England for reasons of inadequate specificity, but accepted in
Scotland and throughout Europe!
5) Viral load.
Measuring so-called "viral load" by Polymerase Chain Reaction
(PCR) technology represents a third test, extensively used in the
clinical follow-up of AIDS patients. The reliability of "viral
load" PCR results is raising many questions, however.
a) Karry Mullis, who invented the PCR method, strongly disagrees
on its use to measure the number of HIV particles in the peripheral
b) Moreover, measuring the so-called viral load implies a quantitative
estimation of the number of HIV particles in the peripheral blood.
To transmit the alleged HIV infection, intact HIV particles must
be present in the blood. The presence of alleged HIV molecular "markers"
(genomicor proteinic in nature) is unable to explain infectivity,
unless intact viral envelopes protect these retroviral molecules.
c) Intact enveloped retroviral particles can readily be identified
with the transmission electron microscope (TEM). Unfortunately,
nobody has ever succeeded in demonstrating one single HIV particle,
by TEM, in the blood of an AIDS patient, even when patients are
selected for having an alleged high viral load "measured"
by PCR (16).
d) Finally, using molecular probes allegedly hybridizing specifically
with an exogenous HIV provirus does not take into consideration
the presence of a sizable amount of endogenous retroviral sequences
in the human genome. Sequencing the human genome has indeed demonstrated
that an appreciable percentage of our genome consists of DNA sequences
having very close homology with the alleged HIV genome (17).
6) Many HIV pictures, taken with the electron microscope, are found
in magazines, newspapers, and scientific literature. All these pictures
originated from complex, laboratory cell cultures. They never originated
directly from one single AIDS patient. These mixed co-cultures included
frequently human lymphocytes isolated from umbilical cord blood.
And still, it is known since the early observations by Sandra Panem
in 1978 that human placenta (19), as well as some embryonic cells
(18) contain large numbers of endogenous retrovirus. It would be
most surprising if lymphocytes from umbilical cord blood were not,
similarly, carriers of endogenous retrovirus. This would provide
an explanation for the presence of retroviral particles, resembling
the alleged HIV, in some co-cultures highly stimulated by various
factors (PHA, IL2, etc) and observed with the electron microscope.
7) Alleged heterosexual transmission of AIDS.
In a prospective study started in California in 1990, Padian et
al. studied 175 serodiscordant couples (one partner seropositive,
the other negative) during a 6-year period (20). They did not observe
one single case of seroconversion of the negative partner. I am
not aware of a single publication that would contradict Padian’s
Moreover, the hypothetical heterosexual transmission of AIDS had
been predicted as the likely cause of a dramatic AIDS epidemic in
North America as well as in Europe. All these catastrophic predictions
have, with the passage of time, been proven wrong. Gordon Stewart,
from the University of Glasgow, initially analyzed epidemiological
data and demonstrated that an actual AIDS epidemic has never been
observed (21, 22). Virtual epidemics have, however, been reported.
But they have all been "invented" with several redefinitions
of AIDS; redefinitions imposed by the US Centers for Disease Control,
as well as by the World Health Organization.
The fact that there is no heterosexual transmission of AIDS should
not, however, be interpreted as justifying any tolerant attitude
about unprotected sex practices. On the contrary, safe sex remains
essential for the prevention of classic venereal diseases (STDs)
as well as for the avoidance of unwanted pregnancies.
8) Mortality of seropositive hemophiliacs in the UK.
The key reference is the paper by Darby et al., which appeared in
Nature in 1995 (23). The study covered more than 6.000 hemophiliacs,
between 1977 and 1991. The annual mortality rate was remarkably
stable until 1985, around 8/1000. However, starting in 1986, the
death toll rose sharply (x10), reaching 81/1000 in 91-92. Most importantly,
it is precisely in 86-87 that AZT started to be given to seropositive
patients at the extremely toxic dosage of 1.5, even 1.8 gm/day.
Surprisingly, the authors interpreted their observations solely
on the basis of deadly HIV infections, without ever alluding to
an alternative interpretation based on the extreme toxicity of AZT
9) The effects of triple therapy.
Two recent papers published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases
demonstrate remarkable effects of the protease inhibitors used in
HAART. The protease inhibitors are apparently highly active against
Candida albicans (25) as well as against Pneumocystis carinii (26),
two micro-organisms responsible for severe opportunistic infections
in the majority of progressing AIDS cases. Consequently, the sometimes
striking, transient clinical improvement observed in AIDS patients
treated with HAART could possibly have an alternative interpretation,
the improvements resulting from the effects of the drugs on Candida
and/or on Pneumocystis, and having nothing to do with possible anti-retroviral
effects against the alleged HIV.
In conclusion, it appears that the public at large, the patients,
and the practicing physicians are not well informed. When it comes
to HIV/AIDS, their information is neither complete nor objective.
Efforts towards better information, independent from any dogma,
independent from any unproven hypothesis, and independent from the
interference of profit-motivated pharmaceutical industries, should
receive the highest priority. This will imply opening up a large
international debate which is long overdue. This debate, based on
scientific facts and not on "consensus", should receive
the most objective media coverage, exempt from hysterical passion
and totally protected against any dogmatic censorship.
Engaging in such a debate will not require much money; it will require
a lot of courage.
This debate will offer a considerable opportunity to improve prevention
and treatment of AIDS worldwide. Its effectiveness will be far greater
than that offered by the accumulation of billions of dollars, wasted
in the purchase of highly toxic antiretroviral drugs, drugs prescribed
on the basis of a 20 year old hypothesis which has still never been
proven, and on the basis of serological tests which totally lack
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Correspondence: Prof. Etienne de Harven, « Le Mas Pitou »,
2879 Route de Grasse, 06530 Saint Cézaire sur Siagne, France