A few months ago I saw a PBS documentary on AIDS covering the South African experience. Regarding the debate between orthodox and “denialist” views on AIDS, an orthodox AIDS scientist said something like “If AIDS isn’t caused by a virus, then why do people get better when they start taking anti-HIV drugs?” It seems some doctors have seen patient’s health improve after starting AIDS drugs.
Do sick people get better when they take the AIDS drugs? And does this prove HIV causes AIDS.
This seems to be a powerful argument in favor of the mainstream position. I’d like to get your view on this idea.
The argument that HIV must cause AIDS if anti-HIV drugs make people get better is flawed for a number of reasons.
First, what does “get better” mean? In AIDS drug studies, it means changes in lab numbers--sometimes “viral load” measurements, sometimes T cell counts--among a percentage of patients, often a small percentage. These changes in lab numbers are interpreted to mean the patients got better in the absence of evidence showing improvements in their clinical (actual) health.
To date, there is still no published information validating the popular idea that changes in numbers equal beneficial changes in clinical health. And, to the best of my knowledge, there are no long term, controlled studies in the medical literature that use clinical health (actual health) or survival benefits as outcomes to measure the efficacy of anti-HIV meds, and none that do so comparing outcomes in HIV positives taking and not taking the meds.
Second, with their powerful, non-specific actions, “anti-HIV drugs” can inadvertently help resolve some non-HIV infections that may trouble people diagnosed with AIDS for reasons that have nothing to do with HIV. For example, drugs like AZT have potent antimicrobial effects, while the newer drugs inhibit many types of proteases that are part of disease causing microbes and also have anti-oxidant properties that may accidentally help improve health.
The problem with all the anti-HIV drugs is that while they may inadvertently help some truly ill individuals, the drugs are most often prescribed to healthy people, and their side effects (unwanted, adverse reactions) range from inconvenient and unattractive problems --nausea, diarrhea, sleep disorders, fatigue, facial deformities and muscle wasting, etc--to life threatening problems including heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, organ failure and an almost always fatal condition known as “lactic acidosis.”
According to the conclusions of a study conducted by Dr Amy Justice (University of Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh, 2004), the leading cause of death among HIV positive Americans today is liver failure from AIDS drugs. Please note her study controlled for liver damage from other factors such as alcohol and drug use.
The argument that HIV causes AIDS must be proved directly, beginning with the isolation of HIV from the uncultured blood or tissues of HIV positive testing individuals and followed by experiments that prove the isolated virus can infect and harm cells. These very basic experiments have not to date been conducted.
If you look at the fine print on HIV tests, it states that HIV tests cannot be used to identify HIV infection or even the presence of HIV antibodies:
“At present, there is no standard for establishing the presence or absence of HIV antibody in human blood.” Abbott HIV ELISA test
“Not intended to be used as a screening test for HIV or as a diagnostic to confirm the presence of HIV infection.” Amplicor HIV viral load test
Since the virus that the drugs are thought to treat is not identifiable through tests, the idea that anti-viral treatments can prove the existence and pathogenicity of the virus is not a scientific argument, but rather a leap of faith that is apparently acceptable in the upside down world of AIDS.
For another opinion on this topic, please feel free to contact David Crowe of the
Alberta Reappraising AIDS Society at
whose web site has a lot of information on AIDS drugs.