HIV; REALITY OR
ARTEFACT? By Stefan Lanka
Continuum April/May 1995
An error can never become true however many times you repeat
The truth can never be wrong, even if no one ever hears about
For the past 10 years or so it has been the accepted wisdom that the
human immuno-deficiency virus, HIV, causes AIDS. It supposedly occurs in
many body fluids, and its transmission especially in semen and blood to
a new host, triggers a slow but inexorable progression to AIDS and
ultimately death. To infect another cell, HIV must at some stage in its
life cycle exist as a separate and identifiable entity.
What has been ignored and kept from public awareness is, that there
has never been a workable HIV test and that the definition of 'positive'
has always changed according to the views of different organisations
dealing with it, changed also according to the kind of tests used and
changed from laboratory to laboratory performing the tests:
".. Its techniques have not been standardised, and the magnitude and
consequences of interlaboratory variations have not been measured. Its
results require interpretation, and the criteria for this interpretation
vary not only from laboratory to laboratory but also from month to month
The dispute over who discovered HIV (2), was a distraction from the
question of whether the virus actually exists at all. The public was
impressed that if a President and a Prime Minister (3) had to meet to
resolve attribution, then the thing they were negotiating about must be
In 1993 a research group from Perth, Australia succeeded in
publishing a paper on the HIV test.(4) Since then anybody could have
read for him or herself that no AIDS test could ever work, because HIV
has never been isolated nor even shown to exist. Since AIDS research and
the media have largely ignored any critique of HIV=AIDS, especially the
essential question of whether HIV really does exist, it is time to call
again for a reappraisal of the whole HIV/AIDS hypothesis. In going back
to the origins of HIV virology and telling the HIV story, a view will be
presented which will make clear that HIV itself, the very object of this
Manhattan Project of modern medicine, AIDS research, does not exist.(5)
A little virology
Viruses are essentially just packages of genetic information enclosed
in a coat which consists of proteins. They can reproduce themselves only
by infecting a suitable host cell and appropriating the chemical
machinery they find there. The proteins making up the viruses are
characteristic for each species of virus. Apart from enveloping and
transporting the genetic information intact, the composition of proteins
for a given virus results in a specific shape for the virus particle.
This much is generally known. Less well-known is the existence of
other particles which look like viruses but aren't, and are nonchalantly
referred to as "virus-like" particles. Such particles are far from rare,
found, for example, always in placentas, and very frequently in the
artificial environment of laboratory cell cultures. They have served to
muddy the waters considerably as far as AIDS research is concerned,
because particles just like these have been called HIV. To date, none of
these has been characterised and shown to exist as an entity which one
may justifiably call a virus.
One root of the belief in the AIDS virus
In classical theory DNA encodes the genetic material of heredity,
which is then transcribed into messenger RNA which in turn specifies the
assembly of amino-acids to construct the proteins of all living beings.
In 1970 an enzyme (biological catalyst) was discovered in extracts of
certain cells which was capable of converting a molecule of RNA into
DNA. This was a revolutionary discovery, because it overturned a
fundamental tenet of molecular genetics, namely, that the flow of
information was strictly one-way and never reversed. It had hitherto
always been thought that DNA was transcribed (converted) into messenger
RNA and that the reverse process from RNA to DNA was impossible. The
enzyme responsible became known as reverse transcriptase (6) and a lot
of new myths arose.
An error of the past: cancer caused by viruses.
It was believed that the new enzyme was a marker for a virus, because
the cells in which it was detected, and which were used to study cancer
(7), were thought to have become cancerous through being infected by a
virus. New to the idea of cancer viruses (8) was that nucleic acid, when
in the form of RNA could be converted into DNA by the enzyme, thus
providing a mechanism for viral nucleic acid to be inserted anywhere in
the chromosome of the cells.(9) These "new" viruses became known as
retroviruses.(10) The insertion of certain retroviral genes was thought
to trigger cancer.
The idea that these postulated viruses caused cancer quickly became
"hot news" the world over, but did not survive investigation (11) and
other explanations were sought.(12) The theory did not predict or
explain the dramatic increase in cancer cases, cancer could not be shown
to be transmissible, nor could it suggest any remedy in the form of a
vaccine.(13) Interestingly, the spread of cancer viruses was blamed on
homosexuals, prostitutes and black people, just as AIDS came to be 13
Whenever and wherever reverse transcriptase activity was detected it
was rashly assumed that retroviruses were at work. This turned out to be
a grave error, because it was later found that the enzyme occurred in
all living matter, proving that reverse transcriptase activity had
nothing to do with retroviruses per se.(15)
Further research showed that at least 10% of mammalian DNA was
composed of repetitive sequences which were referred to as "nonsense
genes", parts of which, nonetheless, were described as "retroviral
genes". They exist in their hundreds if not thousands. Some of them can
even replicate independently and jump within and between chromosomes,
and for this reason became known as retrotransposons.
In the laboratory they can be made to migrate, and when this happens
reverse transcriptase is invariably detected, which underlines the fact
that reverse transcriptase activity has nothing to do with retroviruses
LAV, HTLV-III, HIV and all that
Because all this was already well known in 1983 it is
incomprehensible that Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, a member of Montagnier's
group, as well as Gallo's group itself in 1984, claimed to have
discovered a new virus, when all they did was to demonstrate reverse
transcriptase activity, and to publish photographs of cellular particles
without proof that they were viruses. They could neither isolate them
nor show that they were responsible for creating the observed reverse
transcriptase activity nor the tissue abnormalities from which they were
obtained.(17) They concluded: "the role of the virus in the aetiology of
AIDS remains to be determined".(18)
What makes a virus new?
The isolation and purification of a real virus is a straightforward
matter, because unlike cells, viruses of one species are always of the
same size and shape, and can be readily separated from other cell
components by standard techniques. A control experiment is to try an
isolation with putative non-infected material in exactly the same way as
the supposedly infected material. Nothing should be isolated in this
To identify a virus definitively, a first and simple step is to
photograph isolated particles of it in an electron microscope, and they
must look like the viral particles observed in cells, body fluids or
cell cultures to distinguish them from other cellular particles which
look like viruses, but are not. Proteins making up the viral coat must
then be separated from each other and photographed. This produces a
pattern which is characteristic of the species of virus. A similar
separation and identification procedure must be gone through for the DNA
or RNA of the virus. Only after the viral proteins and nucleic acid
components have been properly identified, is it legitimate to speak of a
No evidence for the existence of HIV
Such evidence has up till now never been produced for HIV. No
photograph of an isolated HIV particle has ever been published nor of
any of its proteins or nucleic acids. No control experiments as
mentioned above have been published to date. What has been shown are
photographs of virus-like particles in cell cultures, but none of
isolated viruses, let alone of a structure within the human body having
the shape ascribed to HIV. What the whole world has seen are models
representing HIV with dish aerials, said to be receptors with which the
virus attaches itself to cells.
The existence of HIV is inferred from an antibody test, but how this
is supposed to work, when the virus has never been shown to exist and
obtained free of contaminants, remains a mystery.
The AIDS Test
Let us recall that the AIDS test is supposed to detect antibodies
produced by the immune system in response to infection by the virus.
This is routinely done by layering proteins ostensibly from the virus in
the wells of a plastic rack and adding blood serum to be tested to each.
If antibodies are present, they bind to the proteins, and when this
happens sophisticated staining procedures can make this visible. But,
because no proteins which are viral and free from contaminants, have
ever been obtained, one cannot be sure what the antibodies are that bind
to the proteins.
This is the crux of the problem facing all HIV (AIDS) tests. The
inability to isolate a viral entity, and to characterise its constituent
proteins unambiguously means that the evidence for the existence of HIV
using antibodies is just arguing in a circle. Antibodies that are
detected, are due to other causes.
Why no HIV test is ever able to work
It is consequently quite illogical to claim that a positive test
results from prior contact with the virus.(19) Because various
ill-characterised proteins are involved, every test kit manufacturer
applies his own arbitrary criteria, and no two kits ever give the same
result. It makes no difference that learned committees set standards to
decide which tests should be regarded as "positive" and which not,
because this merely skirts round the problem, namely, to what are
antibodies actually being detected in the AIDS test? It is of no help
that nowadays "second" and "third" generation tests exist using
synthetic proteins which give greater consistency and comparability,
because only by an unscientific stretch of the imagination are they
Neither fudging the true identity of the proteins, nor advocating two
kinds of test - reassuringly but mistakenly described as "search" and
"confirmatory" tests - resolves this difficulty.
The ELISA test is used to screen for antibodies, which is "confirmed"
by the more specific Western Blot. The dilemma cannot be stated more
poignantly than by quoting from the leaflet accompanying one such test
"The test for the existence of antibodies against AIDS-associated
virus is not diagnostic for AIDS and AIDS-like diseases. Negative test
results do not exclude the possibility of contact or infection with the
AIDS-associated virus. Positive test results do not prove that someone
has an AIDS or pre-AIDS disease status nor that he will acquire it".(20)
The direct proof of HIV
Some HIV researchers have tried to circumvent the problem by pointing
to something called "direct" evidence for the virus. All that this
meant, though, was arbitrarily selecting a protein of a certain size
which happened to coincide with that shown in HIV models. The delusion
of such "evidence" was illustrated when the protein later turned out to
be of human origin! (21)
How the genetic information of HIV was manufactured through
Despite this deplorable state of affairs the majority of AIDS
researchers still cling to the authenticity of HIV, because a genetic
sequence for it has been published. Moreover, genetic procedures now
exist, which, unlike antibody tests, attempt to identify the presence of
HIV more or less immediately, instead of only weeks later when
antibodies are formed. The fact that the genetic tests (PCR)(22) do not
give the same results as the antibody tests is simply ignored.
Since no virus has been isolated, it follows that no nucleic acid has
been isolated from it either. Complicated procedures are even so
described in the literature, at the end of which something is produced
which is called the nucleic acid of HIV.(23)
...a test tube
HIV and its DNA can allegedly be made by the "bucketful" (24), but
under very surprising conditions which, inter alia, entail the use of
extracts from plants and other oxidising chemicals, which could not
possibly exist in vivo. Immortalised cell lines devised (and later
patented) by the Montagnier and Gallo groups are co-cultured with
extracts from human cells or the cells themselves. At the end of it all
HIV itself is not actually obtained - only reverse transcriptase
activity is shown to occur - which is taken to imply that the DNA that
is found, must have been viral in origin.
The real explanation of what happens is as follows. In the mixture of
cell cultures and stressed human cells, RNA and reverse transcriptase
come to be produced in large amounts, because the cells have been
specially selected and treated to do this. The RNA is transcribed into
DNA by reverse transcriptase, and long pieces of DNA are produced which
are said to be viral DNA. In fact they are composed of unrelated pieces
of expressed cellular RNA, transcribed into DNA and linked together by a
process of "template switching" (a well-characterised property of
reverse transcriptase).(25) This misleads ordinary researchers into
believing that they have actually produced viral DNA.
It is said that this linear DNA is the free or the non-integrated
form of HIV, which furthermore is said to be a unique feature of HIV,
because a lot of detectable free linear DNA has not been suggested in
any other models of retroviruses.
...and a selecting process
The resulting pieces of DNA too, are necessarily both shorter and
longer than the "correct" length of HIV. Pieces corresponding to the
"correct" length of HIV must be selected for size, because otherwise the
purported DNA preparation would be a mixture of various lengths, which
would violate a cardinal rule of virology that all nucleic acid of a
particular virus be identical in size.
...and a detecting process
Having artificially prepared DNA pieces of uniform length, they are
still not ready for presentation, because they consist of a mixture of
all kinds of RNA fragments transcribed into DNA and thus cannot be shown
to represent unique viral DNA. Accordingly, the mixture is subjected to
a kind of lock-and-key detection process called hybridisation, whereby
pieces of DNA are detected which complement more or less a probe of that
which it is desired to be shown to have been prepared.
...and choosing a desired probe
Since no DNA from HIV existed to hybridise with the prepared DNA,
Gallo and Montagnier simply used stretches of DNA from what they said
was specific to HTLV-I, a retrovirus Gallo had earlier claimed to have
discovered, and which they deemed suitable for this purpose. The DNA
detected in this way was replicated and certain stretches of it cloned
and declared to be the DNA of HTLV-III (later to be called HIV).
To summarise, the purpose of the exercise is to grow HIV, but it
actually produces a mixture of different lengths of DNA, contrary to
theory which says they should all be identical, and no virus at all. It
is then claimed that the "correct" DNA has been prepared by finding
certain strands in this heterogeneous mix by hybridising them with an
HTLV-I DNA probe whose sequence is known and defined to be similar to
HIV. However, non-hybridising strands of DNA should not be there at all,
and the fact that they are, proves that a complete rag-bag of DNA has
been prepared, without any indication of what it is made up of.
It follows that "HIV" DNA must just be a laboratory artefact
constructed to a preconceived idea of what retroviral DNA should be, and
this assessment does not even raise the question why no virus can be
obtained, whatever the experimental conditions.
Gallo and Montagnier's cloned HIV DNA
One cannot help asking why no-one had not long ago spotted the flaw
in the techniques employed by the Gallo and Montagnier groups. After
defining some segments of DNA to be "HIV"-specific, every researcher in
the field worked exclusively with short, cloned sequences (never the
whole strand) on the reasonable assumption that the original
characterisation had been correctly performed. From the isolation and
identification procedure described above, it follows that the resultant
sequences vary widely from one preparation to the next, which sequence
analysts misinterpreted as the legendary capacity of HIV to mutate. A
computer simulated phylogenetic tree was constructed, which established
precisely what its designer sought to prove.(26)
(I) Perhaps one reason for this calamitous state of affairs is that
HTLV-III was presented to the world as the cause of AIDS at a historic
press conference on April 23, 1984 (a patent for an antibody test was
applied for on the same day!), instead of making the evidence for it
available beforehand, as correct science demands. The undue haste may be
explained by the fact that both the National Cancer Institute and the
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had actually one day earlier in a
lengthy front page article in The New York Times on April 22 come out in
favour of the French claim for priority.(27)
(II) Even so, one must admire Gallo's audacity, because using the
same technique he claimed in 1975 to have discovered the first human
retrovirus (HL23), but which turned out to be nothing more than pieces
of DNA from three different sources of contamination.(28) Nowadays, even
an undergraduate would know that if you added DNA to a cell culture,
part of the DNA would be incorporated into the cells without any virus
What does the AIDS test actually test for?
Since "HIV" has been shown to be a laboratory artefact it must be
assumed that, when not just cross-reacting with other known antibodies,
the "AIDS" test detects antibodies against proteins produced in the
procedure itself. They must be of human origin because the cells used
originated from leukaemic patients. Test positivity, logically, results
from immunological contact with them. However, since positivity actually
correlates with otherwise unrelated factors such as rheumatism and sun
bathing, no specificity can be ascribed to the test.(29) Whether
antibody positivity really correlates with disease as is commonly
supposed, remains to be determined by a critical re-evaluation of the
data. Condoms, therefore, serve only to protect against venereal
diseases and as contraceptives, and worse lull the user into a false
sense of security by ignoring real dangers he may be exposing himself
Re-direction of AIDS research
AIDS research is therefore back at square one and not at Basic
Science as suggested elsewhere.(30) The main players have since 1993
begun to slink off, arguing that the virus having mutated so much is now
no longer detectable. AIDS has therefore to be explained "in the absence
of further whole virus".(31) Apart from the shortcomings of the antibody
test, other misconceptions such as T-cell counting exist, which mean
that the whole concept of AIDS needs to be completely revised.(32) It
must be shown that there is any point in renaming a collection of known
diseases as AIDS, just because someone is positive in the antibody or
genetic (PCR) tests. Leaving HIV out of the picture explains why the
epidemiological projections, which years ago had forecast a world-wide
epidemic, have been a complete failure. Africa in 1986 was held up as a
dire warning of what would befall the Western world. There, AIDS was
diagnosed by a combination of clinical conditions (33) such as chronic
fevers, diarrhoeas, coughs and weight loss, all symptoms of the diseases
of poverty, without testing for HIV antibodies.(34) It should hardly
come as a surprise that an entirely different definition produced a
Finally, the effect of a positive test result on mental and physical
health needs to be considered and investigated.(35)
Whatever happens, the use of AZT and other "anti-virals" which are
supposed to target HIV replication, but actually kill cells
indiscriminately (and ultimately the whole body), must be stopped
immediately. It is especially distressing to note that AZT and its
analogues preferentially attack those cells which divide most rapidly,
namely, cells in the intestines causing diarrhoea and malabsorption of
food, and in bone marrow, ironically, the primary production site for
cells of the immune system.(36)
The people who need enlightenment
The most important and delicate task is to convince HIV positives
that their test result is not a death sentence, to be generally
supportive of them, to assuage their anxiety, and to help them
understand that with appropriate treatment of any specific disease, they
have a good chance to retain or regain their health. The large number of
long-term positives, whose condition cannot be explained by conventional
AIDS theory, as well as the phenomenon of sero-reversion (return to
negative test status), provide eloquent testimony to this. HIV/AIDS
researchers and health officials are herewith called upon to debate the
whole subject of HIV/AIDS openly and humanely, and to recognise the
mistake that immune deficiency was acquired by an infectious agent.
To be able to live a fuller life we have first to regain and then
retain autonomy over our bodies and health from self-appointed experts,
who have dispossessed us of it.(37)
If we refuse to learn from what has happened in AIDS research and
related medical policies, then worse is on the way, some of it is,
indeed, here already.(38) The genetics agenda begun in the 1860's (39)
and a primitive genetic determinism have become established through the
availability of genetic sequences and the ability to manipulate them
easily, which are, in fact, pure fantasy.(40) Furthermore, all models of
genetics and associated technologies, e.g. genome therapy, are based on
a one-dimensional, static model of genetics which is a crass
oversimplification, not defensible even when Mendel first proposed
Health as a Virtue (Ivan Illich):
Health designates a process of adaptation. It is not
the result of instinct, but of an autonomous yet culturally shaped
reaction to socially created reality. It designates the ability to adapt
to changing environments, to growing up and to ageing, to healing when
damaged, to suffering, and to the peaceful expectation of death. Health
embraces the future as well, and therefore includes anguish and the
inner resources to live with it.
Health designates a process by which each person is
responsible, but only in part responsible to others. To be responsible
may mean two things. A man is responsible for what he has done, and
responsible to another person or group. Only when he feels subjectively
responsible or answerable to another person will the consequences of his
failure be not criticism, censure, or punishment but regret, remorse,
and true repentance. The consequent states of grief and distress are
marks of recovery and healing, and are phenomenologically something
entirely different from guilt feelings. Health is a task, and as such is
not comparable to the physiological balance of beasts. Success in this
personal task is in large part the result of the self-awareness,
self-discipline, and inner resources by which each person regulates his
own daily rhythm and actions, his diet, and his sexual activity.
Knowledge encompassing desirable activities, competent performance, the
commitment to enhance health in others - these are all learned from the
example of peers or elders. These personal activities are shaped and
conditioned by the culture in which the individual grows up: patterns of
work and leisure, of celebration and sleep, of production and
preparation of food and drink, of family relations and politics.
Long-tested health patterns that fit a geographic area and a certain
technical situation depend to a large extent on long-lasting political
autonomy. They depend on the spread of responsibility for health habits
and for the socio-biological environment. That is, they depend on the
dynamic stability of a culture. The level of public health corresponds
to the degree to which the means andresponsibility for coping with
illness are distributed among the total population. This ability to cope
can be enhanced but never replaced by medical intervention or by the
hygienic characterisitcs of the environment. That society which can
reduce professional intervention to the minimum will provide the best
conditions for health. The greater the potential for autonomous
adaptation to self, to others, and to the environment, the less
management of adaptation will be needed or tolerated.
A world of optimal and widespread health is obviously a
world of minimal and only occasional medical intervention. Healthy
people are those who live in healthy homes on a healthy diet in an
environment equally fit for birth, growth, work, healing, and dying;
they are sustained by a culture that enhances the conscious acceptance
of limits to population, of ageing, of incomplete recovery and
ever-imminent death. Healthy people need minimal bureaucratic
interference to mate, give birth, share the human condition, and die.
Man's consciously lived fragility, individuality, and relatedness make
the experience of pain, of sickness, and of death an integral part of
his life. The ability to cope with this trio autonomously is fundamental
to his health. As he becomes dependent on the management of his
intimacy, he renounces his autonomy and his health must decline. The
true miracle of modern medicine is diabolical. It consists in making not
only individuals but whole populations survive on inhumanly low levels
of personal health. Medical nemesis is the negative feedback of a social
organization that set out to improve and equalize the opportunity for
each man to cope in autonomy and ended by destroying it.
This article is dedicated to Ivan Illich and Thomas
McKeown: had their writings been taken more seriously the world would
have been spared the AIDS panic as well as other perversions. I would
also like to thank Volker Gildemeister (Meditel, London) for translation
and constructive criticism, and of course, my family, Hans-Walter
Wiegand and other friends too numerous to list, for all their support.
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4 Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, Valendar F. Turner, John
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5 A similar article was published in a German monthly:
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18 Francoise Barre-Sinoussi et al. (including. L.
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19 see ref 4
20 Bio-Rad, 1989.
21 see ref 4
22 Just how little confidence is placed in the validity
of such tests is revealed by the caveats in the leaflet accompanying one
of them: "The Amplicor HIV-1 PCR test has been tested using whole blood
specimens only. Performance with other specimens has not been evaluated
and may result in false negative or false positive results... Detection
of HIV-1 may be dependent on the amount of proviral DNA in the specimen.
This may be affected by specimen collection methods and patient factors
such as age, disease status and risk factors etc. As in any diagnostic
test, results from Amplicor HIV-1 test should be interpreted with
consideration of clinical and laboratory findings." It will become clear
later why whole blood rather than serum is used for this test, all the
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