WHAT DO WE REALLY KNOW ABOUT AIDS?
By Christine Maggiore
Satya Mar. 2001
I am profoundly disappointed with progressive, critical thinkers who stop thinking critically when it comes to AIDS. The same people who are wary of mainstream media stories and government reports accept without question all stories and reports on AIDS. The very activists who protest the agendas of multinational chemical corporations assume their typical practices and toxic products are right-on when it comes to AIDS. On public radio, in alternative journals, and among the terribly concerned and compassionate, there?s only one side to AIDS and little tolerance for anyone who thinks otherwise. It seems that AIDS is immune to healthy skepticism and has the unique ability to turn fervent liberals ferociously conventional and make compliant followers out of our most innovative leaders.
As a healthy ?HIV positive? mother, I find that my decision to decline toxic pharmaceuticals for myself and my son inspires mostly criticism from people who otherwise support independent thinking, natural living, and everyone else?s right to choose. As the director of an alternative AIDS organization, I wish that intelligent, caring people would step outside of the mainstream paradigm and consider another side of AIDS. To that end, I offer Satya readers the tip of an enormous iceberg of information.
AIDS is not a new disease. AIDS is a new name for an ever-expanding list of previously known and unrelated conditions that include yeast infections, diarrhea, tuberculosis, salmonella, certain pneumonias and cancers. These conditions are only called AIDS when a person tests HIV positive, but all of these also happen to people who test HIV negative, and all have well-known causes and treatments that are completely unrelated to HIV.
AIDS varies from country to country and year to year. In January of 1993, government AIDS officials in America declared that people who test HIV positive and have a low T cell count -- but show no signs of illness -- have AIDS. This ?non-illness? AIDS definition caused the number of new AIDS cases to more than double overnight. Since then, more than half of all Americans diagnosed with AIDS are not sick with any disease. Despite this expanded definition and media cries to the contrary, AIDS cases in the U.S. have been declining steadily since the second quarter of 1993. Interestingly, Canada?s AIDS definition does not include America?s ?non-illness? criteria for AIDS, which means that more than 200,000 Americans diagnosed with AIDS based on T cell counts would not have AIDS if they moved to Toronto. Also of interest is the fact that mainstream AIDS researchers acknowledge that only three percent of human T cells actually reside in the blood where they can be counted by tests.
In Africa, where AIDS is said to be most prevalent, HIV tests are not required for an AIDS diagnosis and AIDS is determined by four clinical symptoms -- fever, cough, weight loss and diarrhea -- that are indistinguishable from symptoms of malnutrition, starvation, TB, malaria, and parasitic infection, and which commonly result from poverty and unclean water. In contrast to America, where eight out of ten AIDS diagnoses are given to men and 88 percent of cases fall into the official categories of ?Injection Drug Users? and ?Men Who Have Sex with Men,? in Africa, women and children are said to be its primary victims.
Noting the dissimilarity between American and African AIDS and other troubling anomalies within the ?HIV = AIDS? hypothesis, South African President Thabo Mbeki invited a group of international experts to participate in an AIDS think tank last year. Seeking dynamic and productive dialogue, Mbeki extended his invitation to doctors and scientists who question conventional wisdom on AIDS. His attempt at open discussion on AIDS provoked vicious and relentless media attacks accusing Mbeki of everything from foolishness to murder.
Media reports on Africa favor harrowing estimates over hard numbers. For example, four to five million South Africans are estimated to be HIV positive, while according to the World Health Organization, the 20-year cumulative total of reported AIDS cases in that country hovers under 15,000. Some AIDS activists argue that the actual numbers mean nothing because due to the stigma of an AIDS diagnosis, ?AIDS? is often left off African death certificates. Yet despite these alleged omissions, the numbers of reported deaths in other categories -- i.e. malaria or malnutrition -- have not dramatically increased as would be expected. In fact, overall death rates from all causes (including AIDS) among both sexes in South Africa is less than one percent annually -- a laudably low rate for a developing nation and almost equal to that of the U.S. While journalists trumpet estimates of death and devastation from AIDS, South Africa?s population continues to grow at a healthy three percent annually and infant mortality there has not increased during the AIDS epidemic.
The new media claims about ?African levels? of HIV infections in San Francisco are also based on estimates. These numbers were adopted at private meetings of public officials and are derived from such untenable data as telephone surveys and street corner questionnaires. While HIV estimates soar, according to the San Francisco Department of Public Health?s own epidemiology, AIDS cases in that city have been decreasing steadily since 1993, and actual HIV rates there peaked more than ten years ago.
Despite alarming predictions, 94 percent of American AIDS cases are still found among the original risk groups. Cancer, car accidents, flu, and suicides each take more lives every year than does AIDS. Although the media warns us that AIDS is increasing among America?s ethnic minorities, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, AIDS cases among all people of color have been decreasing every year since 1996.
Although there is no such thing as an actual AIDS test, and testing HIV positive is not the equivalent of having AIDS, the erroneous term ?AIDS test? has become part of our modern vocabulary. As mentioned previously, illness is not required for an AIDS diagnosis in the U.S., and HIV tests do not actually test for the virus or for HIV antibodies. The antibody tests detect certain proteins that are not unique or specific to HIV antibodies and that may correspond to antibodies produced in response to over 60 conditions including colds, flu, immunizations, herpes, hepatitis, blood transfusions, parasites, TB, malaria and even pregnancy. Newer ?viral load? tests purported to measure actual HIV do not detect or quantify infectious virus. In fact, the FDA requires test manufacturers to state that viral load is ?not intended to be used as a diagnostic to confirm the presence of HIV infection.?
Moreover, the drugs used to treat HIV can cause most of the symptoms related with AIDS. AZT and other chemicals used in the various ?AIDS cocktails? can provoke five of the official AIDS illnesses (diarrhea, dementia, muscle wasting, T cell depletion and lymphoma) in addition to anemia, diabetes, physical deformities, kidney stones, liver failure, heart attacks, strokes, paralysis, bone necrosis, and sudden death. While the idea that new drug cocktails are responsible for lowered AIDS cases and deaths remains popular, both categories were declining before the drugs were released for use.
I could go on and on, but even if I had the space, I don?t have the time. An HIV positive mother in New York just called for help. Her two children were taken by police this morning after she admitted to her doctor that she quit giving them toxic AIDS drugs a year ago. Never mind that the kids are now in perfect health and that the medicines gave them relentless diarrhea, anemia, excruciating leg cramps, and caused them to stop growing. What?s important with AIDS is compliance.
Despite my anger and frustration, I empathize with people who hold passionate views based on mainstream portrayals of AIDS. Before I started thinking independently, I was an AIDS awareness educator for several prominent AIDS organizations and a founding board member of Women at Risk. I know well how emotionally and socially challenging it is to question AIDS.
Since beginning my new AIDS work, I?ve met hundreds of HIV positives from Los Angeles to Zimbabwe who, despite dire predictions and pressures to conform, remain defiantly alive and naturally well. Contrary to popular belief, what we have in common is not some unique genetic quality or a special strain of the virus, but a well-founded decision to liberate ourselves from fear through education and embrace our ability to live in health. It?s time to open your minds -- and your hearts -- and give our views and experiences a chance.
Christine Maggiore is the founder and director of Alive & Well AIDS Alternatives, a non-profit education, support, and research network headquartered in Studio City, California. She is the author of the book What If Everything You Thought You Knew About AIDS Was Wrong? which has been translated into five languages. She is also a healthy, unmedicated HIV positive mother. For information, visit www.aliveandwell.org.