Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS
By Celia Farber
Melville House Publishing
Paperback, 340 pages, $20.50
Reviewed by ANNA OLSON
Celia Farber, a U.S. journalist living in New York City, starts her introduction to Serious Adverse Events with a quote from Winston Churchill: "The empires of the future are the empires of the mind."
Then she goes on to show how the claim that HIV is the cause of AIDS became an empire fueled by rhetoric, sloppy science, outright fraud – and a billion dollar enterprise.
At a 1984 press conference in Atlanta, Georgia, virologist Robert Gallo planted the idea that "there was a single sexually transmissible virus that would bring imminent death upon millions of Americans." This concept raced around North America like wildfire and leapt into the media of the world. This occurred even though the medical world knew that retroviruses were considered "non-pathogenic, non-cell killing." This new retrovirus, claimed to be discovered by Gallo, bent all the rules of retrovirology to become a monster, capable, the proponents claimed, of wiping out millions. (The retrovirus was originally called HTLV-3 and later renamed Human Immunodeficiency Virus. "Gallo...spent years trying to find a disease for one of his viruses," says Farber.)
Farber's AIDS reporting career started in 1987 when Peter Duesberg, a retrovirus scientist, inadvertently upset the burgeoning AIDS establishment by calmly stating in an article what everyone knew: that retroviruses don't kill cells. Robert Gallo, on the other hand, claimed that "HIV kills like a truck" and he had the money, in the form of a steady stream of government grants, to chase HIV and bend results to his will. Farber was intrigued with Duesberg, interviewed him, and kept following the story, even to the frontier of Africa where AIDS was said to be devastating a nation.
Farber starts Serious Adverse Events with a chapter entitled, "The Passion of Peter Duesberg," giving us a glimpse of a resilient man who has withstood the empire trying to force him to recant his position that HIV is not the cause of AIDS. For daring to question the HIV myth, Duesberg, a top-level scientist, lost his lab funding, was un-invited to conferences and generally shunned by the scientific community that preferred to have access to HIV grant money. Despite 20 years of pressure, Duesberg has refused to back down and has instead shifted his focus to cancer genetics where he is once again gaining respect for his theories and experiments. Farber attended one of his cancer lectures where Duesberg spoke to students and his peers, commenting at one point, "Because retroviruses don't kill cells...." No one gasped or ran out of the room.
"Was it because they [the cancer researchers] don't deal with AIDS that they accepted this truth as self-evident?" asks Farber. "If retroviruses, as a class, are known not to kill cells, then how could that one – HIV – do something no other virus in its class could do?"
What about Africa?
In the beginning, the early 80s, AIDS struck mainly gay men and intravenous drug users. Some predicted that it would run rampant through the heterosexual bedrooms of North America. It never did but Africa has come to the rescue.
We in the West have been warned that the explosion of heterosexual AIDS in Africa could happen here, too. Farber credits Africa for giving beleaguered believers in the HIV myth new hope: "Losing none of their piety or implicit guilt, and undeterred by the abysmal failure of their hypothesis about the level of HIV infection to live up to a single one of the predictions made for it, many believers had a new kind of pepper spray to stop any critical thinker in his or her tracks. It consisted of four words: 'Well, what about Africa?'"
Farber has been to Africa many times and admits she has seen plenty of illness and death. "But how are people in the West so certain that HIV is the culprit?" she asks. Diagnostic tests are expensive and rarely used. Cause of death and death statistics are poorly kept. The list of symptoms, which are said to prove AIDS, is broad enough to include many diseases that have plagued Africa for centuries, like dysentery, tuberculosis and malaria.
Occasionally, an HIV test is given but Farber points out that the ELISA and Western Blot tests can cross-react with antibodies from other diseases. In countries where poverty and malnutrition are common, people's immune systems interact with a higher number of pathogens and parasites, thus creating more antibodies than usual. High numbers of false positives are the result. The HIV test does not test for a virus, but only for antibodies thought to be specific to HIV.
Another reason to question the high AIDS statistics in Africa is the practice of giving an HIV test to pregnant women at a clinic then extrapolating the results to the general public. Pregnancy is one of the conditions that can give a false positive. Another assumption is that HIV weakens the immune system, predisposing people to get tuberculosis and malaria. Those diseases are counted as AIDS, which swells the numbers of the AIDS "epidemic."
The basic premise in the West is that AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, carried especially in semen. Farber quotes studies that show that very little, if any, HIV is present in the semen of men with full blown AIDS. "You generally need thousands or millions of copies of any virus for it to be infective," one scientist explains. The West hammers the message through extensive publicity in Africa that AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease. This message is harassing a continent, causing unnecessary fear and shame, Farber claims.
For someone who wants information about AIDS that is not reported in the mainstream media, Serious Adverse Events by Celia Farber is a gem.