It has been said that "men become accomplices to those tragedies which they fail to oppose." Nowhere is that truth more clearly demonstrated than in the apocalypse currently unfolding across the world as the HIV epidemic continues its silent spread from land to land.
As of January 1, 1997 over 350,000 Americans will be dead, another 200,000 will be in the terminal stages of their illness, and an additional 600,000 to a million more will be HIV infected. Barring the possibility that protease inhibitors can permanently block HIV-induced immunosuppression, almost all those currently infected will progress to terminal-stage illness and death.
The enormity of the tragedy facing America today, however, is dwarfed by the tragedy sweeping Asia and Africa. As of mid-1994, in the small landlocked nation of Malawi in Southern Africa, 30% of high school students and 68% of college students tested were found to be HIV infected.(1) Recent testing of soldiers throughout Africa revealed a 50% HIV infection rate, while testing of military units in Zimbabwe revealed a 90% infection rate. It is estimated that in Zimbabwe between one-quarter and one-third of President Mugabe's Cabinet have already perished from AIDS.(2)
In the May 1996 issue of Special Warfare, a magazine distributed primarily to members of Special Operations (Military Intelligence) units, Dr. Brian Sullivan writes:
The immediate future may present other daunting challenges...Because of complicated social and cultural reasons, AIDS already infects a high proportion of the military and civilian officials of Zaire, Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and other central African countries. In some or all of these countries government establishments may collapse in the next 10-15 years...civil rule may also erode or break down in parts of North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia.(3)
In Uganda, the average life span of men has fallen to 30 years, while the average life span of women has fallen to 27 years.(4) A missionary friend living in Africa reports that there are over 9 million children in sub-Saharan Africa who have lost their mothers to AIDS, and that one in every four miners working in South Africa is HIV positive. These statistics were communicated to me by E-mail from Vern Tisdalle, a missionary stationed in Johannesburg, South Africa. It is estimated that by the turn of the century the epicenter of the epidemic will have shifted from Africa to Asia. Indian health authorities currently estimate that "as many as 20 million or even 50 million Indians will be infected by the year 2000, and that there will be more AIDS patients than hospital beds."(5) On June 1, 1996, Reuter's News Service reported that Dr. William Blattner of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland estimated that 100 million people will be HIV infected by the year 2000.(6)
In both Asia and Africa, HIV infection (AIDS) is primarily a heterosexual disease, while in Western nations the illness is found almost exclusively among homosexuals, IV drug users, and more recently, among heterosexual blacks. Why is there such variance between the continents? There are several possible explanations. Dr. Max Essex, Director of the Harvard AIDS Institute, has reported that the predominant subtype of the virus found in Western nations is HIV-I: subtype B, whereas in both Asia and Africa, the predominant subtypes are A, D, and E. Dr. Essex believes that the Langerhans cells which line the vagina and oral cavities are the primary sites for HIV infection. In laboratory experiments using Langerhans cell cultures, investigators have discovered that HIV-I: subtype B is only minimally infectious to LH cells, whereas subtypes A, D, and E are highly infectious. This study may explain why we find heterosexual spread of HIV infection in Asia and Africa where subtypes HIV-I: A, D, and E predominate, but only rarely in Western nations where subtype B is found. It is presumed that homosexuals and IV drug users contract HIV-I: subtype B readily because of their lifestyles involving needle sharing and rectal sex.(7) Dr. Essex's work, however, does not explain the heterosexual epidemic developing within black America today. This aberration may be explained by studies which have found that certain genetic factors predispose blacks to HIV infection. Researchers have recently identified two mutated genes in some whites that are not found in blacks; these altered genes may protect their hosts from HIV infection. There may well be other yet unrecognized genetic factors which confer complete or partial immunity to whites, but these factors have yet to be identified.(8,9)
Shortly after the year 2000, blacks will make up the majority of new HIV infections occurring here in the United States.(10) That supposition is reflected in statistics released by the Department of Health in Virginia in 1996. Because of the 10-year latency period between HIV infection and immunodeficiency, AIDS statistics reflect the status of the epidemic 10 years ago rather than what is happening today. Virginia's current AIDS statistics suggest equal numbers of blacks and whites infected while HIV statistics reveal that 64% of recent infections are among blacks while only 31.8% are among whites. These figures become even more frightening when one reflects that blacks make up only 22.6% of Virginia's population.(11)
What most people do not realize is that all efforts to utilize public health measures to slow spread of the HIV epidemic have been thwarted. Why?
(A) Because most people don't understand what is happening;
(B) Because many who do recognize the unfolding tragedy have been threatened and are afraid to speak out; and,
(C) Because both public health officers and physicians have been effectively blocked from introducing the public health measures needed to stop further spread of this modern-day plague.(12)
Randy Shilts, author of And The Band Played On, recognized this fact when he wrote:
"The bitter truth was that AIDS did not just happen to America --- It was allowed to happen by an array of institutions, all of which failed to perform their appropriate tasks to safeguard the public health...There was no excuse, in this country and in this time, for the spread of a deadly new epidemic."(13)
Why is this happening? Tragically, most Americans do not understand the magnitude of the epidemic because our print and TV media have been selective in reporting matters dealing with the epidemic. I know that from first-hand experience because I and many of my cohorts have been thwarted in our efforts to disseminate the truth about the magnitude of the epidemic. I have recorded that story in my book, AIDS:The Unnecessary Epidemic.(12) (An interesting study in thought control in America today is to try to acquire my book via regular distribution channels.)
In recent years, several other books have been published which have, in my opinion, presented misleading information about the epidemic. Tragically, that misinformation has discouraged introduction of the public health measures needed to save human lives. In 1990, Regnery Gateway published Michael Fumento's The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS. In that book, Fumento assured his readers that there was no possibility of heterosexual spread of AIDS here in the United States. Noting that the epidemic had not exploded within the white, heterosexual community as feared, Fumento crafted a convincing tale belittling those of us who wanted to introduce public health measures to block further spread of the disease. In his book, Fumento accused me of "iceberg-theory terrorism," because during the early stages of the epidemic, I expressed fear that HIV disease would spread into the general heterosexual population.(14) As time has gone by, I have publicly modified my view, but to the best of my knowledge Michael Fumento has never recanted his message that no public health measures were needed. During the early stages of the epidemic, we were both wrong. I erred on the side of caution; Michael Fumento erred on the side that insists that preventive health measures were not needed to stop the epidemic. The tragedy unfolding in both Asia and Africa today reflects the apathy engendered by the misinformation disseminated during the early 1990s. I sincerely believe that the lives of hundreds of thousands of homosexuals, IV drug users, black heterosexuals and black children could have been saved had public health measures been introduced at that time. Had measures been introduced in Asia and Africa, hundreds of millions of lives could have been saved. That, however, was not to be.(15)
In 1994, Inside Story Publications released Why We Will Never Win the War on AIDS written by Brian Ellison and Dr. Peter Duesberg. Dr. Duesberg insists that there is no AIDS epidemic, and that most of those who are assumed to have died from AIDS have actually succumbed to the complications of drug usage, sexual stimulants, and AZT.(16) An updated version of Dr. Duesberg's book was republished by Regnery Publishing, Inc. in 1996 under the title Inventing the AIDS Virus. Both books contended that:
(1) "[I]n most individuals suffering from AIDS, no virus particles can be found anywhere in the body."(17)
(2) "[R]etroviruses do not kill cells."(18)
(3) There are no scientific studies to document any relationship between HIV infection and immunodeficiency.(19)
(4) Kimberly Bergalis was perfectly healthy before she was given AZT.(20)
(5) HIV-infected hemophiliacs and transfusion recipients do not die from immunodeficiency, but rather from their hemophilia and other diseases.(21)
A number of other questionable arguments were presented in a clever and convincing manner in Dr. Duesberg's book, and they swayed many people. After all, why would Dr. Duesberg, a world-famous retrovirologist, make such statements if they weren't true? Let me respond:
(1) Clinicians presently chart the course of HIV disease by measuring the numbers of viral particles present in peripheral blood.
(2) Because the HIV retrovirus routinely kills normal T cells in the laboratory, special resistant lines of T cells must be used to culture the retrovirus. (This information was confirmed by telephone conversation with Dr. Donald Francis in August 1996, and with the chief of the CDC virology lab in Atlanta, Georgia, in February 1996.)
(3) There have been a number of published studies documenting the relationship between HIV infection and terminal-stage immuno-suppression.(22,23)
(4) Kimberly Bergalis was severely immuno-compromised, contracted pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and had a CD4 count as low as 41 before she was started on AZT. This information was obtained from Kimberly's college medical records which were graciously provided to me by her father, George.
(5) Both Ellison and Dr. Duesberg ignore the fact that hemophiliacs and transfusion recipients who have died have virtually all manifested the classic, clinical picture of terminal-stage immunodeficiency.(24)
A detailed analysis of Dr. Duesberg's arguments and his agenda is beyond the scope of this article. That subject is covered in my newsletter, HIV-Watch, and in my monograph, The Population Control Agenda. Unfortunately, Dr. Duesberg's books have convinced many otherwise sincere people that there is no reason to institute standard public health measures to control further spread of the epidemic.(25)
Why have people been afraid to speak out? I personally know of physicians, medical personnel, and politicians who have had their livelihoods ruined simply because they dared to comment publicly on the mishandling of the epidemic. On one occasion, two public health officers approached me stating: "We want you to know that we support you and what you're doing, but we can't come out publicly because we've been threatened." That pattern of intimidation has been commonplace since the inception of the epidemic.(26)
For centuries, epidemics have been stopped by identifying the infected, and preventing them from transmitting their illness to others. In the case of HIV disease, it would have been relatively simple to have blocked further spread of the epidemic in the mid-1980s when the HIV blood test became available. That, however, was not to be. Even before the blood test was released in May of 1985, there were forces organizing to block the introduction of standard public health measures to control further spread of the epidemic. Virtually all necessary public health measures have been precluded because of those efforts.(27,28)
The precedent for public health management of a sexually transmitted disease epidemic was established by Surgeon General Thomas Parren during the syphilis epidemic of the 1930s. Had physicians been allowed to introduce the public health measures needed in the mid-1980s we could have stopped further spread of the plague. What should have been done?
(1) Physicians should have been instructed to carry out routine, non-mandatory, confidential HIV testing on all office and hospital patients.
(2) Mandatory reporting of the names of the infected to public health officials should have been instituted to facilitate contact tracing, compilation of accurate statistics, and identification of those who were intentionally spreading their illness.
(3) Mandatory premarital, prenatal, and neonatal HIV testing should have been introduced to save the lives of sexual partners, unborn and newborn children.
(4) Infected prostitutes should have been identified and removed from our streets.
(5) Houses of prostitution, gay sex clubs and bathhouses should have been closed.
(6) Nationwide treatment programs for drug addicts should have been introduced.
(7) Education should have stressed chastity and morality rather than instructing our youth how to put on condoms and lecturing them on aberrant sexual activity.
Tragically, almost all efforts by concerned public health officers and physicians to address the HIV epidemic have been thwarted. I know from personal experience, because for over a decade, I led the battle within the House of Delegates of the California Medical Association to introduce the public health measures needed to stop the epidemic. Year after year, the physicians voted to introduce effective public health measures, and year after year, those within the hierarchy and the bureaucracy of organized medicine worked to block implementation of those policies.
Men and women of conscience are not relieved of their moral responsibility to speak out concerning the manner in which this epidemic has been handled simply because it has failed to involve the white heterosexual population of America. In my opinion, almost everyone who acquires this disease today does so because of our nation's failure to implement the public health measures necessary to block further spread of the illness. I sincerely believe that men do become accomplices to those tragedies which they fail to oppose. Failure to speak out in times of moral crises makes cowards of men, and these days in which we live are surely times of great moral crises.
1. Radio Interview. John Harris, 9/13/95. Radio Liberty, P.O. Box 13, Santa Cruz, CA 95063. Copies available.
2. Radio Interview. Peter Hammond of Front Lines Ministry, 9/20/96. Radio Liberty. Copies available.
3. Sullivan BR. Special Operations and LIC in the 21st Century: The Joint Strategic Perspective: Special Warfare. The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School May 1996; 9(2):4. Contact Superintendent of Documents, US Publishing Office, Washington D.C. 20402.
4. Life Expectancy Shortened in Uganda. Xinhua News Agency, August 18, 1996. (See also CDC AIDS Daily Summary, August 19, 1996.)
5. Burns JF. Denial and Taboo Blind India to the Horror of the AIDS Scourge. New York Times, September 22, 1996, p.1. (See also CDC Daily Summary, September 23, 1996, p.2.)
6. Blattner W. More than 100 Million Worldwide Predicted to be HIV-Positive by Year 2000. Reuters News Service, June 17, 1996. (See also CDC AIDS Daily Summary, June 19, 1996, p.2.)
7. Soto KE et al. HIV-1 Langerhans' Cell Tropism Associated with Heterosexual Transmission of HIV. Science 1996;271:1291.
8. Kolata G. New AIDS Study Reveals Startling Immunity Data. New York Times, September 27, 1996, p.A13.
9. Dean M. Genetic Restrictions of HIV-1 Infection and Progression of AIDS. Science 1996;273:1856.
10. The Changing Face of AIDS. New York Times, November 04, 1996, p.A26.
11. Commonwealth of Virginia, Department of Health: Division of STD/AIDS Surveillance Quarterly;4(2,3):1. Available from P.O. Box 2448,Room 112, Richmond, VA 23218.
12. Monteith SK. AIDS:The Unnecessary Epidemic. Covenant House, 1991. (See also HIV-Watch; I-V.) P.O. Box 1835, Soquel, CA 95073.
13. Shilts R. And the Band Played On. New York, St. Martin's Press, 1987, p.xxii.
14. Fumento M. The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS. Washington, DC, Regnery Gateway, 1990, p.303.
15. Ibid., pp.178-184.
16. Ellison B, Duesberg PH. Why We Will Never Win the War on AIDS. El Cerrito, CA, Inside Story Communications, 1994, pp.v-viii.
17. Duesberg PH. Inventing the AIDS Virus. Washington, DC, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1996, p.175.
18. Ibid., p.158.
19. Ellison and Duesberg, op. cit., p.250.
20. Duesberg, op. cit., pp.348-352.
21. Ibid., pp.4, 183-185, 286-288.
22. Asher MS, et al. Does Drug Use Cause AIDS. Nature 1993;362:103.
23. Schecter MT, et al. HIV-1 and the Aetiology of AIDS. Lancet 1993;341:658-659.
24. Minimal Data Set for Risk Reduction,National Totals 1/1/93 - 12/31/93. 125 Hemophilia Treatment Centers Reporting to the CDC.
25. Ellison and Duesberg, op. cit., p.122.
26. Monteith, op. cit., p.274.
27. Shilts, op. cit., pp.539-560.
28. Monteith, op. cit., pp136, 161-166, 193, 342-343.
Dr. Monteith is a board certified orthopedic surgeon in Soquel, California, and author of AIDS: The Unnecessary Epidemic (Covenant House, 1991).
Commentaries by Michael Fumento and Dr. Peter Duesberg replying to this article appear on pp. 106-108 of this issue.-Editor.
Originally published in the Medical Sentinel 1997;2(3):97-100. Copyright ©1997 Association of American Physicians and Surgeons.