by Mickey Z.
July 15, 2003
When South End Press recently sent me a review copy of "Global AIDS: Myths and Facts" by Alexander Irwin, Joyce Millen, and Dorothy Fallows, I was cautiously optimistic. As with anything related to medicine and science (and with Dubya starring in his own African reality show) there is so much that needs to be clarified on this issue. Surely, I mused, a book published by South End would be a great place to start.
Well, I'll give it that: it's a start. The authors address ten myths...and in the process, dismantle much of the racism surrounding HIV/AIDS. For this, "Global AIDS: Myths and Facts" is recommended reading. However, my hope that Irwin, Millen, and Fallows would probe deeper and challenge medical orthodoxy were dashed...even before page one. In a preface entitled "HIV/AIDS Basics," the first words are: "Human deficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS."
To write, "Human deficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS." is an example of what Chomsky so delicately terms, "regurgitating conventional pieties."
"Human deficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes AIDS." This simple line is as easy to write as, say, "Saddam Hussein is a threat to the U.S." Everyone nods his or her head and moves on...or do they?
"What most of us fail to realize is that not everyone accepts the mainstream point of view," writes prolific author and activist, Gary Null. "A growing number of critics, including leading virologists and Nobel Prize winning scientists, doctors, journalists, and other academicians, question HIV's relationship to the diseases we term AIDS. Some argue that HIV has never been isolated; therefore, we have no proof of its existence. Others believe that HIV does exist, but that it can't possibly be doing everything that it is purported to do as it is merely one of 3,000 retroviruses, none of which have ever been proven harmful. What these dissenters have in common is a belief in the need to re-evaluate the HIV = AIDS hypothesis."
One of these dissenters is Dr. Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. "Every virus I've ever seen gets its job done by killing a cell at a time, and when it has killed enough, you get sick. HIV is said to be responsible for the loss of T-cells, which are the immune system," explains Duesberg. "Now, in every AIDS patient studied so far, there is never more than, on average, one in 1,000 cells infected by HIV."
In other words, like most corporate science, the conclusion was pronounced
before the results were in.
Another AIDS dissenter is none other than South African president, Thabo Mbeki. If you didn't know that before, the New York Times made it crystal clear in a July 10, 2003 article by Richard W. Stevenson ("Bush Pushes South African in Fighting AIDS"). Stevenson opens with what amounts to a press release for mainstream science and the pharmaceutical industry: "President (sic) Bush today brought the promise of more money for fighting AIDS to South Africa, which has been slow to attack the disease, and he pressed President Thabo Mbeki to deal with the epidemic more effectively. On the second day of his five-day trip to Africa, Mr. Bush urged the South African leader, who has expressed doubt about the link between HIV and AIDS and raised questions about the effectiveness of the drug treatment that has become standard, to come up with a plan that includes both the drug regimen and prevention efforts."
Expressing doubt and raising questions is fine when, for example, you're talking about the work of Gary Null or Peter Duesberg. When that doubt and those questions are aimed at the U.S. scientific priesthood, you wind up with the president (sic) and the newspaper of record breathing down your neck.
"We need a common-sense strategy to make sure that the money is well spent," said Bush's speechwriters. "And the definition of well spent means lives are saved, which means good treatment programs, good prevention programs, good programs to develop health infrastructures in remote parts of different countries so that we can actually get antiretroviral drugs to those who need help."
"South Africa has 4.7 million people with H.I.V., one of the largest infected populations in the world, but Mr. Mbeki's government has not yet made life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs widely available," a clearly baffled Stevenson added. "Advocacy groups have long demanded that Mr. Mbeki drop what they consider to be his incomprehensible reluctance to deal aggressively with the problem."
Mbecki was not quoted in the article...neither was Gary Null or Peter Duesberg, for that matter. But Stevenson, ever faithful to formulaic journalism, did give the all-important closing quote to Mark Heywood, national secretary of the Treatment Action Campaign, a group Stevenson informs us is "pushing Mr. Mbeki to do more to battle AIDS."
"There's no evidence that President Bush's visit advanced the South African government's thinking," said Heywood. "We're still stuck with a government policy that is at odds with medical thinking universally."
For those of you scoring at home, that is the same brand of universal medical thinking that put the mercury in our teeth and the fluoride in our water and the animal flesh on our plate and the vaccines in our bloodstream and...well, you get the picture.
With natural resources to be hijacked and black voters back home to be wooed, George W. Bush (with a little help from his friends at the New York Times) comes fresh off foisting GM food on Europe to exploit Africa's misery under the malleable umbrella of corporate science.
The issues swirling around HIV/AIDS are abundant. "Global AIDS: Myths and Facts" (http://www.southendpress.org) covers some of these issues from a somewhat alternative outlook while managing to preserve a mainstream approach...as I said, it's a start. For a more critical perspective, you may wish to visit:
Mickey Z. is the author of The Murdering of My Years: Artists and Activists Making Ends Meet (www.murderingofmyyears.com) and an editor at Wide Angle (www.wideangleny.com). He can be reached at: email@example.com.