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Is AIDS a New Disease?

Contrary to popular belief, AIDS is not new and is not a disease. AIDS is a new name given by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to a collection of 29 familiar illnesses and conditions including yeast infection, herpes, diarrhea, some pneumonias, certain cancers, salmonella, and tuberculosis. (1) These illnesses are called AIDS only when they occur in a person who also has protective disease fighting proteins or antibodies that are thought to be associated with HIV.

A person is diagnosed with AIDS if they have one or more of the 29 official AIDS-defining conditions and if they also testpositive for antibodies associated with HIV. In other words, pneumonia in a person who tests HIV positive is AIDS, while the same pneumonia in a person testing HIV negative is pneumonia. The clinical manifestations and symptoms of the pneumonia may be identical, but one is called AIDS while the other is just called pneumonia.

None of the 29 AIDS illnesses are new, none appear exclusively in people who test positive for HIV antibodies, and all have documented causes and treatments that are unrelated to HIV. Prior to the CDC's creation of the AIDS category, these 29 old diseases and conditions were not thought to have a single, common cause.

Although most of us associate AIDS with severe illness, on January 1, 1993, the CDC expanded the definition of AIDS to include people with a T cell count of 200 or less who have no illness or symptoms. (2) This new definition caused the number of AIDS cases in America to double overnight. (3) Since 1993, more than half of all new AIDS cases diagnosed each year have been among people who have no clinical symptoms or disease. (4)

It is only through expansions of the AIDS definition that the number of new AIDS cases has grown. The definition of AIDS in America has been expanded three times since 1981. Although each addition to the definition has caused significant increases in the number of new AIDS cases, AIDS had leveled off in all risk groups by 1992 and has been declining steadily since the second quarter of 1993.

If the CDC had continued to use the first three definitions of AIDS, new American AIDS cases for 1997 would have totaled just over 10,000, making AIDS a relatively insignificant health problem. Using the 1993 definition, 21,000 new cases of AIDS were added to the year's total, and of these, more than 20,000 cases were counted among people with no symptoms or illness. (5)

In 1998, the CDC ceased providing information on what AIDS diseases or definitions qualify people for an AIDS diagnosis each year. This means that the public will no longer know how many new AIDS cases are diagnosed in people who are not ill. (6)

Another surprising fact is that you can receive a diagnosis of AIDS without ever having an HIV test. This is referred to as a "presumptive diagnosis." According to CDC records, more than 62,000 American AIDS cases have been diagnosed with no HIV test. (7) Even though the only difference between "pneumonia" and "AIDS" is a positive HIV test, the test is not required for a diagnosis of AIDS.

Since AIDS is not a disease, and there is no single, universally accepted definition for AIDS, the conditions that are called AIDS vary from country to country. For example, Canada's Laboratory Centre for Disease Control (LCDC) does not recognize the American T cell count criteria for AIDS. (8) This means that 182,200 American AIDS patients -- more than 25% of all people in the US ever diagnosed with AIDS -- would not have AIDS if they were in Canada.

The World Health Organization (WHO) employs two distinctly different definitions for AIDS in Africa, neither of which conform to the criteria for American AIDS or Canadian AIDS. The diagnostic definition most commonly used in Africa does not require an HIV test, only that a patient have at least one of three major clinical symptoms (weight loss, fever and/or cough), plus one "minor sign" such as generalized itching or swollen glands. (10)

Before bringing us AIDS, the CDC attempted to sound similar alarms over relatively insignificant health matters. In 1976, after five soldiers stationed at a military base in New Jersey contracted the flu, CDC officials announced an imminent influenza epidemic. Their news releases predicted an outbreak that could wipe out as many as 500,000 Americans within a year. Congress responded to the CDC warnings by diverting millions of federal dollars into an emergency vaccine program, and following appeals from US President Gerald Ford, multitudes of concerned Americans received Swine Flu shots. However, no epidemic ever materialized and no substantiation for the notion of a life-threatening pig virus was ever found. Instead, more than 600 people were left paralyzed by the vaccine which also caused nearly 100 deaths. (11)

The CDC raised public concern again the next year with harrowing predictions for Legionnaire's Disease. Following massive government research efforts and relentless media reports of a new contagious disease, the form of common pneumonia dubbed "Legionnaire's" ended up taking the lives of less than 30 people nationwide. It was later discovered that 20 to 30 percent of Americans are positive for the Legionella bacteria, a common microbe found in water systems throughout the country. (12) The CDC's preoccupation with contagious illness contrasts with the fact that all infectious diseases combined take the lives of less than 1% of modern day Americans. (13)

Defined Terms

AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
Antibodies: Proteins that are manufactured by lymphocytes (a type of white blood cell) to neutralize an antigen (foreign protein) in the body. Bacteria, viruses and other microorganisms commonly contain many antigens; antibodies formed against these antigens help the body neutralize or destroy the invading microbe. Antibodies may also be formed in response to vaccines.
HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus; the alleged cause of AIDS.
T cell: One of the two main classes of lymphocytes. T cells play an important role in the body's immune system.
Virus: An organism comprised mainly of genetic material within a protein coat. Depending on the type of virus, the nucleic acid may be either DNA or RNA; in retroviruses, the nucleic acid is RNA. Viruses are incapable of activities typical of life such as growth, respiration and metabolism. Outside living cells, viruses are wholly inert.
Microbe: A minute form of life; a microorganism, especially one that causes disease.


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