Date: Sat May 14 1994 03:23:00 To: David Bloomberg Subj: Skepticism + AIDS SKEPTIC - Hi, D
Date: Sat May 14 1994 03:23:00
From: Chris Lawson
To: David Bloomberg
Subj: Skepticism & AIDS
I've just caught onto this thread, and I'm deeply disturbed to see you holding
the fort by all by your lonesome.
Perhaps your opponents' claim that *they* are the skeptics for questioning the
"party line" on HIV/AIDS has put all the real skeptics off.
Unfortunately, these rebels forget that skepticism doesn't mean "question
authority", it simply means ask for evidence for all hypotheses.
So, to back you up, I'll post a brief rejoinder.
The question is: does HIV cause AIDS? Several posters on this thread have taken
the view that HIV and AIDS are not causally related because (i) there is no
mechanism for HIV causing AIDS (ii) some people with HIV still don't have AIDS
10 years later and (iii) some people with AIDS don't have HIV antibodies, or
HIV virus in them.
Furthermore, some total crackpots have suggested that the virus was a
biological weapon released by the KGB/CIA/God.
Dealing with these in order:
(i) HIV particles infect a type of blood cell called T4helper cells. The virus
can be seen under an electron microscope attaching to the cells, and cells that
are exposed can be shown to have HIV genetic material inside them by use of a
PCR test. T4 cells infected with HIV die. T4 cells are are vital link in the
immune system. All of these statements, for which there is ample data in many,
many journals (even Scientific American, you don't need to go to a medical
library), shows that HIV causing an infective immune-destroying disease is not
only possible, but quite plausible.
(ii) Like many viruses, expression is delayed. The most common human viruses
have incubation periods around five to ten days (ie, most colds), but some can
take years to express the disease. The reasons for this are not fully
understood as the cellular mechanics are extremely complex, but we know that
some things affect the rate of expression of viral illnesses, including: number
of virus particles exposed to, general health, depression, concurrent
illnesses. Just because some people have HIV but no AIDS proves nothing.
Especially since the disease was only described in 1983/84, we simply don't
have enough experience to give accurate prognoses.
(iii) Anyone who has anything to do with medical science/biochemistry/genetics
will know that NO TEST IS PERFECT. There are always false positives and false
negatives for every test. This is not due to laboratory error, or human
mistakes, it is a fundamental problem with testing. It is as unavoidable as
Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in quantum theory. Good tests have low false
positive and false negative rates, but never zero. As there are millions of
people infected with HIV, it is no surprise that several thousand of them don't
show up on the standard tests. You can then go on and do a PCR looking for the
HIV's own genetic material. It's a very good test, but like every test, there
will still be people infected with the virus who are not detected.
Given that almost every person with AIDS has HIV, and that almost every person
with HIV has eventually succumbed to AIDS, and that we now have a plausible
mechanism for explaining the pathology from the virus, THE HIV/AIDS hypotheses
is the best around.
What many people forget is that, if you throw out HIV as a cause for AIDS, then
you're left with the problem of explaining what DOES cause AIDS. Those
scientists who have been attacking the HIV/AIDS hypothesis have not presented a
more plausible working idea. There are simply debunking without an alternative
Also, many journals, and particularly Nature, gave the debunkers a go, but
quickly got sick of them providing flimsy evidence and no alternative theory.
When these journals stopped publishing the debunkers, the same people shouted
about being silenced by the establishment. Rubbish. They had their say, and it
wasn't good enough.
Finally, about those who like the CIA hypothesis - AIDS is a pathetic weapon,
since is is not a good discriminator, and it takes years to kill people.
E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank