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AIDS a Myth?


>>> Item number 806, dated 95/11/12 16:26:02 -- ALL

Date:         Sun, 12 Nov 1995 16:26:02 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPORT: AIDS a myth?

From:           Peter Limb, University of Western Australia
                <plimb@library.uwa.edu.au>
Date sent:      Fri, 3 Nov 1995

            *************************************
            Editor's Note:
            The following report, along with a
            previously posted report on HIV
            seroposivity in Ugandad, highlight
            recent debates on AIDS and Africa.
            A recent *Transition* article by Dr.
            Charles Geshekter, questioning much
            of the statistical evidence cited for
            high rates of AIDS cases in Africa,
            has sparked some of the debate
            elsewhere.  Do H-AFRICA readers have
            any views on these matters?
                                        mep
            *************************************
            In Lesotho, AIDS Sounds Like Myth
                     by  Faith Zaba

MASERU, Lesotho (PANA) - Talking about the incurable disease, AIDS, to this bar tender at a hotel in Maseru, the capital of Lesotho, his reaction was: "I do not believe there is AIDS in Lesotho. Actually there is no AIDS here as far as I know".

"Until I see someone who is suffering from AIDS, then I might believe there is a disease like that," said the bar tender, who works in this hotel, known for its teeming prostitutes.

He was interviewed a day after a story appeared on the front page of the local newspaper, *Lesotho Today*, on the reported cases of AIDS in the country.

The bartender is among many Basotho men and women who still believe that the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS, does not exist but just a myth.

They say they have never seen anyone or heard of anyone who is either infected or has died of AIDS.

And a street vendor, Joseph Lebesa says if AIDS does exist it is just like any other epidemics that have come and gone, so it will disappear.

He vowed that no matter what "lies" medical practitioners preached to him about AIDS, he would not change his sexual behaviour.

According to Joseph, Basotho men had the duty to prove their manhood by having many lovers.

"AIDS is just a joke. I cannot afford to have just one woman, when there are so many of them. Anyway, it is unheard of in Lesotho to have just one woman-we have to have variety - a person cannot eat meat or cabbage everyday - this is the same with women".

A local prostitute, Mathabo, said most of her clients preferred not to use condoms because, like her, they do not accept the disease exists.

"If Jane who has been in the field for 15 years now and who actually trained us is still fit, then there is no AIDS in Lesotho," Mathabo laughed heartily, as she talked with this reporter.

A Maseru schoolgirl, Caroline, said as far as she was conerned, there was nothing like aids, so why practise safe sex ?

AIDS is a viral infection that damages the immune system, making the infected person vulnerable to opportunistic infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis and diarrhoea.

There are more than 17 million people worldwide infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS. Of these, 15.3 million or 90 per cent from Africa.

Health experts here caution that although AIDS cases in Lesotho are still officially very low, the Basotho had better avoid the mistakes made by other African countries, like Zimbabwe, when the first cases were reported in the late 1980s.

For lack of prompt preventive measures, HIV cases in Zimbabwe have soared to one million people during the past eight years.It was only after friends and relatives died that Zimbabweans started accepting that AIDS kills.

Currently, there are 810 cases reported at government health institutions of full blown AIDS in Lesotho. It is estimated that there are at least 4 000 such cases in the country of 1.8 million people.

Lesotho put in place an awareness educational programmes about five years ago to try and arrest the spread of the dreaded disease but there has not been any significant impact on sexual behaviour.

But the director of the disease control unit Dr Pearl Ntsekhe conceded government's efforts to promote aids awarenes have been futile. "We are facing a major task ahead because we have to prove that there is AIDS and that it kills."

The fact that cases of sexually transmitted diseases cases were as high as 140 000 a year showed there is nothing like safe-sex in Lesotho, she said.

"Like other African nations, Lesotho will probably only start believing that there is aids after thousands of people, mainly close friends and relatives, have died. By then for some it would already be too late as they might have been infected," Dr Ntsekhe said.

>>> Item number 823, dated 95/11/13 20:32:26 -- ALL

Date:         Mon, 13 Nov 1995 20:32:26 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Mon, 13 Nov 1995
From:           Elizabeth Isichei, University of Otago
                <Elizabeth.Isichei@stonebow.otago.ac.nz>

Can I have an exact reference for the *Transition* article by Geshekter? In general, people like myself working away from major African studies centres have to order articles on interlibrary loan, and one needs an exact reference. Many thanks.


              Editor's Note:
              Sorry!  I should never try to get by
              without doing the necessary work! So,
              here is the full reference (as I can
              find it):

              Charles Geshekter, "Outbreak? AIDS?
              Africa, and the Medicalization of
              Poverty," *Transition*, 67(Fall 1995).
                                            mep
              **************************************

>>> Item number 826, dated 95/11/16 19:20:54 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 16 Nov 1995 19:20:54 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Mon, 13 Nov 1995
From:           John Boldrick, Columbia University
                <jlb47@columbia.edu>

It is tragic that so many people do not yet believe that AIDS is a fact of life. Nonetheless, however many people may be thus deluded, this is not the case. AIDS exists, it is a fatal disease, and many people in Africa have died from it and will probably continue to do so. I mean no value judgement of the beliefs of others by this, but I believe that they are wrong, having myself seen peole die of AIDS.

What is the basis of the debate being here opened? Are we to understand the views expressed in the posted report to be continuous with scholarly reexamination of AIDS statistics from Africa? I am unaware of any serious scholar who rejects the existence of AIDS outright.

All of the premises on which I base my position are obviously open to debate; we can and should continue to examine the data, particularly statistics, with their long history as a technology of misrepresentation of Africa. Nevertheless, I would be very surprised to find myself convinced that AIDS is a myth, particularly in Africa. I welcome replies to my address, but prefer to discuss it on the group.

>>> Item number 829, dated 95/11/16 19:45:55 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 16 Nov 1995 19:45:55 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Tue, 14 Nov 1995
From:           Gretchen Walsh, Boeton University
                <gwalsh@acs.bu.edu>

The full citation for the Geshekter article:

Geshekter, Charles L.

"Outbreak? AIDS, Africa and the Medicalization of Poverty. Is Africa facing a lethal pandemic? *Transition* #67 (Vol. 5 #3) Fall 1995. p. 4-14.


                Editor Note:
                Thanks to Gretchen for the full
                details!
                                            mep
                *******************************

>>> Item number 834, dated 95/11/17 16:24:52 -- ALL

Date:         Fri, 17 Nov 1995 16:24:52 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Fri, 17 Nov 1995
From:           Ralph Austen, University of Chicago
                <wwb3@midway.uchicago.edu>

Somewhat earlier this fall I asked members of the Nuafrica net to comment on the Geshekter article and the general concensus (with a lot of counter-citations) was that he did not know what he was talking/writing about. Some member of this net with more time than I could resurrect the entire conversation and put it on H-Africa.

>>> Item number 840, dated 95/11/19 14:56:34 -- ALL

Date:         Sun, 19 Nov 1995 14:56:34 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Sat, 18 Nov 1995
From:           Glenn McKnight, Queens University
                <3ghm@qsilver.queensu.ca>

My comment on this issue arises from experience that is quite anecdotal. When I was living in Uganda a couple of years ago, I got the distinct impression that some people did not think that there was an AIDS epidemic in Uganda. First, many thought it was media hype. Some also saw it as yet another episode in the drama of western aid --it was just a new fad.

Most interesting to me was the fact that many people seemed to see AIDS as simply one of a number of serious diseases which could be fatal. Poor medical facilities and inadequate personal resources dictated that AIDS was like Hepatitus A, B, or C or malaria or liver disease or cancer or schistosomiasis etc. (you get the picture.) My impression was that many people die from the latter diseases because of lack of resources. It didn't matter that AIDS differed because there was no cure. For impoverished people, there is no cure for the other diseases as well.

AIDS may not be perceived as having an epidemic nature simply because, due to poverty, AIDS is only one of many serious diseases that can kill.

Glenn McKnight
Queen's University
3ghm@qsilver.queensu.ca

>>> Item number 841, dated 95/11/20 22:44:09 -- ALL

Date:         Mon, 20 Nov 1995 22:44:09 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

From:           Charles Geshekter, California State University, Chico
                <cgeshekter@FACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU>
Date sent:      Mon, 20 Nov 1995

My *Transition* essay on AIDS in Africa was an attempt to stimulate scholarly discussion about a topic long characterized by unscientific, unverifiable conclusions. Most of my evidence came from such refereed journals as *Lancet*, *Journal of Infectious Diseases*, *Journal of the American Medical Association*, and *Social Science and Medicine*.

Using standard sources, I tried to show that something is dreadfully wrong about the uncritically accepted generalizations about what's called "AIDS" in Africa. Scientific disagreements are best resolved by a careful examination of all the evidence. The research and teaching environment that surrounds AIDS in Africa shows no impulse to re-examine its assumptions.

Seen in that context, I was disappointed but not surprised at the vague, non-specific dismissal of my arguments by Ralph Austen. Why won't he or other critics identify a paragraph from my *Transition* article and explain exactly what's incorrect about it? Then a scholarly debate can get started.

In the meanwhile, perhaps Ralph might answer the following questions for me:

  1. Since there is no gold standard confirmation for either the

    ELISA or Western Blot, what is it exactly that this test is supposed to confirm? What do you understand "AIDS" to mean in Africa?

  2. What is the best study by a molecular biologist that confirms

    how HIV actually kills cells?

  3. In 1987, the WHO estimated that 1 million Ugandans were HIV

    positive. This was a pure guess of course. Yet eight years have passed and now the <cumulative> number of AIDS cases in that country (using the WHO's clinical case definition) remains fewer than 50,000. What happened to the other 950,000 HIV-positive Ugandans, many of whom probably had generally higher rates of opportunistic infections than people in the United States?

  4. Why assume that the prevalence of STDs indicates vulnerability

    to HIV? Why not hypothesize that the presence of antibodies to HIV indicates that the patient has mounted an immune response to any number of maladies including STDs, malnutrition, or tuberculosis? In other words, why not consider the possibility that the clinical AIDS symptoms in Africa are a manifestation of immune deficiency not a consequence of it?

  5. Those who insist that African cases of HIV, HIV/AIDS, or AIDS--

    the terms are used interchangeably--are transmitted sexually must explain how "it" (whatever "it" is) gets transmitted from a female to a male, and cite a refereed publication which established that "fact."

  6. The minimum requirement to prove that any AIDS-indicator disease--

    or the clinical symptoms associated with "African AIDS"--had been spread by sexual activity would be to take an index case, isolate the putative agent, trace the sexual contacts of that case, and then isolate the same agent. Can someone provide a reference from anywhere in the world where this has been done?

As Africanists concerned with health issues and the construction of knowledge about contemporary Africa, we have failed (or refuse) to examine critically the core assumptions about AIDS. I argued that because an artifact had been created--a disease by definition--that no progress has been made to save a single African life. In my opinion, the way to save African lives and improve public health is to do it the oldfashioned way: provide clean drinking water, improve sanitation facilities, deal directly with the causes of malnutrition, and assure that basic childhood immunizations are made widely available. It is the political economy of underdevelopment--NOT sexual intercourse-- that is killing Africans.

With yet another World AIDS Day (December 1st) fast approaching, it's time to acknowledge and vigorously debate the contradictions and uncertainties that conventional AIDS researchers remain so unwilling even to admit. H-AFRICA is a good place to start. Next year's ASA meetings in San Francisco might be the ideal venue to continue.

>>> Item number 847, dated 95/11/21 08:51:26 -- ALL

Date:         Tue, 21 Nov 1995 08:51:26 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

From:           Keith Tankard, Rhodes University
                <KTANKARD@lark.ru.ac.za>
Date sent:      Tue, 21 Nov 1995

Glenn McKnight, in his interesting observation on AIDS [H-AFRICA, 19 November 1995, ed.], says that it may not be perceived as having an epidemic nature simply because, due to poverty, AIDS is only one of many serious diseases that can kill.

He is, of course, perfectly right and the question is certainly complex, not made any easier by the fact that most governments appear to hide the exact figures.

A couple of years ago one of our final year students was researching a paper on "AIDS in Africa" as part of her Medical History of Africa project. She was a qualified nursing sister who knew all about medical research and also knew where to go to obtain the necessary information. However, every government department she contacted refused to talk to her the moment she mentioned the word AIDS. Instead, each suggested contacting someone else. In the end she gained no information whatever.

Another problem is that no-one really dies of AIDS. People die of TB and all the other diseases common to Africa for which they have no immunity because AIDS has broken down their immune systems. As far as I am aware, here in South Africa AIDS is seldom if ever given as a cause of death but rather the symptomatic disease like TB which was seen to carry the person off.

Statistically, therefore, few people die of AIDS. But speak to any one of our doctors working in the rural hospitals and they all point out a very high incidence of AIDS. They simply cannot fill that in on the death certificate.

For the average person on the ground (generally uneducated) they too see deaths through TB, etc. AIDS to them will be a theoretical proposition which they can't see: yes, another colonial story. They can see people dying of a host of other things but as long as they can't see people dying of AIDS, then AIDS presumably does not exist.

>>> Item number 851, dated 95/11/22 19:24:07 -- ALL

Date:         Wed, 22 Nov 1995 19:24:07 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Tue, 21 Nov 1995
From:           Ralph Austen, University of Chicago
                <wwb3@midway.uchicago.edu>

In response to Charles Geshekter:

  1. I am not the person to whom detailed questions about critiues of his article should be addressed, as I am only their very imperfect messenger. I have written to Geshekter separately on how he can get on to Nuafrica to read those critiques.
  2. The gist of the critiques was that, yes, there is a lot of mythology, racism, etc. involved in AIDS "discourse" but that has been pointed out by many others before Geshekter in less sensationalist fashion with better information. They have also concluded that AIDs does exist on a serious scale in Africa. Thus, even with clean water, etc. Africans who do not take the proper precautions would (as in the U.S.) die from it in large numbers, as they apparently are doing.

>>> Item number 854, dated 95/11/22 19:43:22 -- ALL

Date:         Wed, 22 Nov 1995 19:43:22 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      Re: REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Tue, 21 Nov 1995
From:           Tsehai Berhane-Selassie, Middlebury College
                <TSEHAIBS@midd.middlebury.edu>

I could not identify who posted the assertion about the existence of AIDS and its horrendous impact on the population in that huge continent. I would like to say, nonetheless, that there is a point about paying attention to what a population, if I am not mistaken in a southern African state [the original report concerned Lesotho, ed.], believes about the prevalence of the AIDS condition.

If a society believes that AIDS is a mere myth, then it means, among other things, that doctors and other health officials have a hard time on their hands to help the unaffected take preventive measures. Myths are powerful statements of perception and they need to be taken seriously however much they appear to be distance from the hard "reality" that others know about.

>>> Item number 855, dated 95/11/22 19:48:49 -- ALL

Date:         Wed, 22 Nov 1995 19:48:49 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Tue, 21 Nov 1995
From:           Gordon Thomasson Broome Community College-
                    SUNY
                <THOMASSON_G@sunybroome.edu>

Regarding Keith Tankard's comment:

"They [rural clinic physicians] simply cannot fill that [AIDS] in on the death certificate."

Is it really true that in South Africa there is no space on a death certificate for secondary, tertiary, or contributing causes of death? If so, that means that much of what is represented as public health data is worse than useless.

>>> Item number 864, dated 95/11/24 15:03:36 -- ALL

Date:         Fri, 24 Nov 1995 15:03:36 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

From:           Charles Geshekter, Cal State Univ.-Chico
                <cgeshekter@FACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU>
Date sent:      Fri, 24 Nov 1995

Ralph Austen wrote on November 21st that many others have "concluded that AIDs does exist on a serious scale in Africa. Thus, even with clean water, etc. Africans who do not take the proper precautions would (as in the U.S.) die from it in large numbers, as they apparently are doing."

This still begs the central question: "what exactly is 'AIDS' in Africa?" A viral disease? A cluster of clinical symptoms? Can someone please provide a succinct, scientific definition of the "it" that Africans are alleged to die of and a brief explanation of the mechanism involved?

When anyone claims that "Africans who do not take the proper precautions would (as in the U.S.) die from it in large numbers...", he should tell us precisely what proper precautions he has in mind.

While awaiting the predictable, conventional answer, skeptics might want to consult the November 1995 issue of the *American Journal of Public Health*. Reseachers report that from 1990 to 1992, American heterosexuals between ages 19-49 had more multiple partners (up from 15% to 19%) and used condoms either sporadically or not at all 65% of the time.

Meanwhile condom sales in the U.S. dropped by 1% between 1989 and 1992. Actuaries estimate--ESTIMATE--that the number of hetersexuals who are not IV drug users but who would test positive for HIV-antibodies is between 50,000 and 60,000. That's 1/500 of 1% of the American population. Still think HIV is sexually transmitted?

According to actuarial analyses, epidemiological studies, and the CDC's own (quiet) reduction of its estimated number of Americans who might be positive for HIV-antibodies, there never has been nor ever will be a hetersexual AIDS epidemic in the US.

But let's get back to Africa.........

>>> Item number 878, dated 95/11/27 20:46:08 -- ALL

Date:         Mon, 27 Nov 1995 20:46:08 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

From:           Keith Tankard, Rhodes University
                <KTANKARD@lark.ru.ac.za>
Date sent:      Mon, 27 Nov 1995

Gordon Thomasson replies with horror to my comment that the rural clinic physicians in South Africa simply cannot fill in AIDS on the death certificate as a cause of death. He asks:

"Is it really true that in South Africa there is no space on a death certificate for secondary, tertiary, or contributing causes of death? If so, that means that much of what is represented as public health data is worse than useless.

Before replying to this question, I decided to investigate rather than state what I know or think I know. I therefore put the question to a paediatrician friend of mine who then took it to a group of doctors who were gathering on Saturday night for a party (he assures me that doctors only know how to talk shop; "Doctors are not divergent thinkers," his wife said.)

He assures me that it is true that AIDS can very seldom appear on a Death Certificate in South Africa. AIDS, he says, is not a "notifiable disease": i.e. unlike TB, Measles, Mumps, Scarlet Fever, etc, which by law have to listed if a patient is found to have them, AIDS is not. The reason is so that the patient can be protected from the ravages of society: e.g. he might be fired if his workplace were to know he has AIDS.

It is therefore illegal for a doctor to run a test to verify whether his patient has AIDS. Indeed, if he is certain that his patient does have AIDS and therefore needs specific treatment, he can only run such a test with the express permission of the patient. Should the patient refuse, then the doctor must continue to treat the known symptoms and should the person die, the Death Certificate will then only carry the illness (like TB, pneumonia) which actually carried that person off.

If, on the other hand, the patient grants permission for the test and is thereby diagnosed as having AIDS, he will be treated for it and, in case of death, AIDS will be given as cause of death on the Death Certificate.

In the case of rural society, on the other hand, doctors often do a routine test for AIDS to verify what they are dealing with as a simple precaution to protect their own lives. They will then know that Patient A has AIDS and due precautions need be taken when handling that patient so that the doctor himself will not become infected. He may not, however, tell anybody of his finding because that would be illegal. If that patient dies, more often than not, AIDS will not appear on the Death Certificate because the patient was not being legally treated for AIDS.

Some of the bush dwellers, because they are uneducated and illiterate, are publicly certified as having AIDS because they are too ignorant to know their rights or to take action. Indeed, they wouldn't know what AIDS is and so, if permission were sought, it would be given. In such a case, their Death Certificate will bear the cause of death as AIDS, and that person will therefore become an AIDS statistic.

Does AIDS exist in South Africa? Yes! It is rampant and unofficial figures are growing at alarming proportions. Doctors who do random tests and mark that information down "for their information only" attest to an illness which is out of control.

What trust can we place in the "official" statistics? None whatsoever. I think (don't quote me on this one) that officially HIV positives number about 3 percent of the population. Doctors in the rural clinics or clinics of the now defunct "homelands" say that patients under their care who are HIV positive number between 20 to 50 percent and are increasing steadily.

But this does not give a figure for society at large, only for those being treated in hospitals. Some hospitals routinely test pregnant mothers and the results are horrifying. That statistic, however, will always be unofficial.

The doctor I consulted pointed out that the reason for the spread of AIDS in Africa was manyfold. Sexually transmitted. Poor health, leading to open sores, caused much greater probability of coming into blood contact with carriers of AIDS. Africa's predeliction for civil war, plus our incredible poverty, means that our people have very little to lose and a bleak future to look forward to. That in turn has its affect on "morality" which in turn increases the chances of AIDS infection.

It is certainly true in South Africa that the areas which are civil war places (like Kwa-Zulu Natal) or where there are masses of refugees or over-populated and poverty stricken (like the Eastern Cape) are also the areas where AIDS appears to be out of control.

But that will not appear in the official statistics.

>>> Item number 899, dated 95/12/01 18:53:49 -- ALL

Date:         Fri, 1 Dec 1995 18:53:49 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

From:           Charles Geshekter, California St U-Chico
                <cgeshekter@FACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU>
Date sent:      Tue, 28 Nov 95

Gordon Thomasson sensed that something was frightfully wrong with the presumptive diagnoses of immuned deficiency in Africa. In response to Thomasson, Keith Tankard provided even more evidence of the unscientific, utterly unverifiable nature of what passes for "AIDS" diagnoses in South Africa.

  1. Tankard says it's "illegal for a doctor to run a test to verify whether his patient has AIDS." He also refers to a "routine test for AIDS" and wonders about a patient who grants "permission for the test and is thereby diagnosed as having AIDS." Look - there is no "test for AIDS." Only an extremely inaccurate, non-specific test for the presence of antibodies - the body's own immune response - to HIV.

Furthermore, a study in the *Journal of Infectious Diseases* (April 1994) established that the most common HIV tests are useless in areas where microbes for leprosy, tuberculosis, and malaria are endemic; they cause a cross-reaction that registers false positives in a ludicrously high 70% of the cases. So exactly what "test" is Tankard talking about?

2) The WHO's definition of AIDS in Africa is based on clinical symptoms, not T-cell counts or serological tests. Those symptoms are chronic diarrhea (loose stools twice a day for 30 days), persistent cough, high fever, and a 10% body weight loss in two months. If this is presumed to be "AIDS" - and I suspect that many Africans and non-Africans alike often present these symptoms - then exactly what sort of treatments do doctors prescribe for it? Surely not cytotoxic, DNA chain terminators like AZT, ddI, and ddC?

3) Despite relying on a clinical symptoms definition of acquired immuno-deficiency, despite the uselessness of HIV antibody tests, and despite the fact that South African physicians rarely even use those tests, Tankard reports that doctors insist that "HIV positive patients number between 20 to 50 percent," that "AIDS appears to be out of control" and is"rampant and unofficial figures are growing at alarming proportions."

Septic hospital conditions, parasitic and endemic infections, unclean water supplies, reusable needles and syringes, and malnutrition all lower one's resistance and impair the immune system. The solution key is in social and economic development, not condoms, abstinence or sexual restraint.

But because it's much easier to blame these health risks on an elusive, mysterious virus, one must be prepared to disassociate himself from the real world when entering the realm of African AIDS research.

As H.L. Mencken once reminded us, "the problem with the truth is that it's mainly uncomfortable and often dull."

>>> Item number 931, dated 95/12/06 16:38:09 -- ALL

Date:         Wed, 6 Dec 1995 16:38:09 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a Myth?

Date sent:      Mon, 4 Dec 1995
From:           Beverly Smith
                <bsmith@post.cis.smu.edu>

I would like to point out a common error in the described rationale for AIDS testing in rural South Africa as described by Keith Tankard. I believe he is telling us that doctors are testing patients (without their knowledge apparently) whom they suspect have AIDS. When the diagnosis is confirmed, the physicians can then take appropriate precautions to avoid HIV transmission to themselves and other health care personnel.

But we are also told that the prevalence of HIV+ may be at least 3%, and higher in some areas. This means that 3% of the physicians' patients are HIV+, but until they seem to have full-blown AIDS, they are not tested. Thus, the physician will be incurring risk of transmission because he or she has assumed that the patient is not HIV+.

The notion that physicians must only take precautions with patients that are clearly ill seems ill-advised in areas where the prevalence is high. This is not to argue that physicians, or the population at large, should panic or treat everyone with suspicion, simply that we should not assume that it is only those who are obviously sick who deserve our care.

If Keith Tankard has any further contact with these health care workers, perhaps he can recommend that the money spent on testing patients for AIDS, which strikes me as unethical, could be spent on buying protective gloves instead.

>>> Item number 943, dated 95/12/07 23:28:26 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 7 Dec 1995 23:28:26 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Fri, 1 Dec 1995
From:           Paul S. Landau, Yale University
                <plandau@minerva.cis.yale.edu>

Am I the only person who finds Geshekter's musings alarming? He appears to want to imply that HIV testing is worthless, but so are other diagnostic techniques . . . it's all a big anti-Africa conspiracy.

>>> Item number 955, dated 95/12/09 18:12:03 -- ALL

Date:         Sat, 9 Dec 1995 18:12:03 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Fri, 8 Dec 1995
From:           John Boldrick, Columbia University
                <jlb47@columbia.edu>

Mr. Geshekter should by rights reply to Paul Landau's query, but my understanding of his theory was not that AIDS does not exist in Africa in any empirical sense, but rather that in the larger health-and-policy context of Africa, the American/European models of testing, statistics, epidemiology and treatment cannot be effectively applied. If his facts are correct, it almost seems that AIDS is the least among Africa's health worries, but I am in no position to judge medical issues.

With respect to the history of the way social constructions of contagion and contamination are deployed, I am wary of the spectre of AIDS both in Africa and in the West. Nobody can argue that the Black Plague was a conspiracy against Europe; it did exist, and still does. But that doesn't mean that the contemporary model of its causes, prevention and cure were useful.

I accept, as I think most of us do, that AIDS *as a disease* exists in Africa, but social context may make it a different thing there, and Western methods of dealing with it might not be the best ones. I am suspicious not of the existence of the HIV virus or its communicability, but rather of any *social spectacle* that, operating in many fields of public discourse, encourages a fear of sexuality, a sense of despair about poorer parts of the world, the idea that they are desperately dependent on the West and our further reliance on high-tech medical big business.

>>> Item number 956, dated 95/12/10 19:13:33 -- ALL

Date:         Sun, 10 Dec 1995 19:13:33 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

Date sent:      Sat, 09 Dec 1995
From:           Chris Lowe, Reed College
                <Chris.Lowe@directory.Reed.EDU>

My reading of Charles Geshekter's posts was different than John Boldrick's. The implication of Geshekter's various challenges/queries seemed clearly to be that at minimum he considers the causal role of HIV virus (a name I suspect he may object to as prejudging what he regards as a still-open question) in AIDS as unproven. From the tone of the posts I think he probably goes further and actively rejects such a causal role, but perhaps I am wrong. I would welcome a clear statement from him on his position.

I found Mr. Geshekter's posts unsatisfying. He offered no counter-hypothesis, or even suggestion of a direction of where to look for one, to the HIV hypothesis. His main method of criticism and argument was that everyone working on the problem had failed to show certain causal links, and thus should look elsewhere than they have been to find them. But he in turn has failed, at least on H-Africa, to provide any positive reason or evidence to think that they should look somewhere else in particular.

Moreover, he offers no view on how we are to explain the correlative associations of HIV and AIDS, which I take to be the main reason why lots of very intelligent people have continued to pursue HIV-based inquiries despite the absence of the causal links Mr. Geshekter says are lacking (assuming he's right and that others in the field agree).

Personally it seems to me as if two distinct issues are getting conflated. One is how human immune responses get suppressed, or put the other way around, how human vulnerabilities to disease get raised. It's been known for a long time that "immune deficiency" can be "acquired" in various ways; starvation following ecological or social disaster has been one of the major ones in agricultural societies all over the world. It remains a major one in much of Africa (and probably Asia and Latin America I suppose). There are others.

So, if a newer or newly recognized disease-based source of immune deficiency or vulnerability is entering into such an environment, developing the best public health responses to that situation presumably ought to take the interaction of the new and older sources of deficiency or vulnerability into account in figuring out the best application of resources.

Coming to that conclusion, and to the corollary that models relating to HIV in North America and Europe may require to be modified or jettisoned in Africa, seems quite independent of debates over the role of HIV in causing AIDS. If Mr. Geshekter's main aim is to make an argument for the redistribution of health resources in Africa to fight the diseases which directly kill people, whether people with AIDS or people without it, I think he does his case a disservice by entangling it in the HIV debate.

On the other hand, I think more than the challenges he raises would be needed to justify deciding to pay no attention to HIV in making policy. Yet I read him to be saying that was his conclusion.

I agree with John Boldrick's comments on social spectacle. In this context, I find Charles Geshekter's silence on an alternative hypothesis troubling, because the main alternative hypothesis of which I am aware is the one advanced by the conservative African-American pundit Tony Brown, who argues that AIDS is caused by a combination of promiscuous sex and drug use. His argument is very much in the interests of just the sort of spectacle John Boldrick mentions, aiming to bind an image of self-chosen physical pathology to one of social pathology (blame the victim underclass ideology and anti-homosexual moral ideology) in a seamless web of conservative handwashing of responsibility.

Clearly Charles Geshekter believes in social responsibility for public health. But has he thought about what will fill the analytical vacuum he seems to aim to create?

>>> Item number 966, dated 95/12/14 16:54:11 -- ALL

Date:         Thu, 14 Dec 1995 16:54:11 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

            **********************************
            Editor's Note:
            This, and several other postings
            to H-AFRICA have been delayed due
            a brief episode of illness.  Sorry
            for the inconvenience.
                                    mep
            **********************************
From:           Keith Tankard, Rhodes University
                <KTANKARD@lark.ru.ac.za>
Date sent:      Thu, 7 Dec 1995

I had wished to duck out of any further discussion on this topic, especially since I believe I was unjustly criticised by someone last week for my last posting. I had *reported* a discussion I had had with some members of the South African medical profession, but was criticised as though I personally was holding these supposedly incorrect views. Therefore, I felt the comments warranted no answer.

However, Beverly Smith resurrects the topic and I think she would like a comment, so I break my silence!

First, I spoke to a doctor at a function last night about the idea that AIDS testing was irrelevant. "What AIDS test?" I think the previous poster asked with scorn. The doctor just laughed and said, "Of course there's an AIDS test!" and left it at that.

Beverly, however, says "I believe he [Keith Tankard] is telling us that doctors are testing patients (without their knowledge apparently) whom they suspect have AIDS. When the diagnosis is confirmed, the physicians can then take appropriate precautions to avoid HIV transmission to themselves and other health care personnel."

I'm not sure whether this statement is accurate. Why and when the doctors do testing wasn't really part of my question. I think in some cases it is a regular test, for example, of all women who are admitted to hospital to give birth. It is without their knowledge, but it doesn't break the law in as much as the results of the tests are not notified: i.e. there is no public register kept that Patient A registered positive for whatever was being tested. But the information is being used as a statistic by the doctors to know what they are dealing with and by NGOs such as East London's Atic (a group which specialises in counselling AIDS patients) so that they too know what they are dealing with.

Beverley continues, "But we are also told that the prevalence of HIV+ may be at least 3%, and higher in some areas. This means that 3% of the physicians' patients are HIV+, but until they seem to have full-blown AIDS, they are not tested. Thus, the physician will be incurring risk of transmission because he or she has assumed that the patient is not HIV+."

I doubt very much whether our medical profession assumes that their patients are not HIV+. In fact, I would imagine the opposite and our doctors take all the precautions they can in dealing with every patient under their care. And one of the precautions that many are at present taking is, unfortunately, emigration!

Beverley ends by advising that, "If Keith Tankard has any further contact with these health care workers, perhaps he can recommend that the money spent on testing patients for AIDS, which strikes me as unethical, could be spent on buying protective gloves instead."

First, "unethical" refers to breaking the law (or does it?). I doubt whether our doctors are actually doing that. I know there are such cases, as in one recent court proceding where a doctor discovered his patient was HIV+ and warned his dentist friend whom he knew was also treating this patient. That is breaking the law and is regarded as unprofessional. But as I mentioned earlier, as long as the doctors are not actually making public note of the disease but are using the information purely as an aid to their own knowledge and/or as a statistic, I doubt there is any infringement of the law. The government could probably do the same but there is perhaps some clause in our Medical Act which says it can only be done for notifiable diseases. I don't know.

Second, it would be very presumptious of me as a historian to recommend to our medical profession that they wear protective gloves. I'm sure they do! I know that I carry protective gloves in my car just in case I come across an accident and have to help a bleeding victim - and I am not a doctor.

Unfortunately accidents do occur, as happened last week to a surgeon who, with gloves covered in blood, put out his hand for a scalpel and was given it the wrong way round so that it sliced through both glove and skin!

>>> Item number 994, dated 95/12/18 23:22:33 -- ALL

Date:         Mon, 18 Dec 1995 23:22:33 GMT-5
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         H-AFRICA---Mel Page <AFRICA@ETSUARTS.EAST-TENN-ST.EDU>
Organization: East Tennessee State University
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth?

From:           Charles Geshekter, CSU-Chico
                <cgeshekter@FACULTYPO.CSUCHICO.EDU>
Date sent:      Sat, 16 Dec 1995

My previous H-AFRICA postings [November 20th, 24th, and 28th] posed some basic questions for Africanists who accept the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. Thus far, none have been answered directly. What is more alarming than the lack of skepticism towards the official version of AIDS in Africa are the reactions to anyone who holds critical views about the western definition of AIDS in Africa.

Why are Africanists so reluctant to question the claim that "AIDS" is the result of African sexual excesses and that Africans owe it to their societies to stop their "unhealthy behavior?" Why do we blithely accept assertions regarding the presumed viral causation for AIDS? Isn't anyone curious about the vague, ambiguous, non-specific definition of "AIDS" used in Africa or the poor quality of epidemiological evidence used to buttress the endlessly expanding, doomsday predictions?

AIDS is the most politically conservative epidemic in history. The agenda for discussing AIDS in Africa has been driven by interventionist stategies that are designed to change African sexual behavior, not the impoverished environmental conditions so determinal to people's health. This medical model has coercive implications that would permit outside agencies to foist expensive high-tech solutions, vaccine trials, and drug therapies onto Africa.

I am suggesting that as Africanists concerned with understanding AIDS, we run a grave risk by uncritically committing ourselves to orthodox, archaic western assumptions about African sexuality and disease causation. Before anyone terrifies another African community with more scare tactics about a new, lethal epidemic and recommends behavioral modifications, he must provide compelling evidence that supports the claim that a contagious virus has caused the clinical symptoms called "AIDS."

>From the start, much AIDS research in Africa and particularly in the U.S. was driven by initiatives from pharmaceutical companies. AIDS was a "new disease" that presented new research opportunities. But in the May 12, 1994 issue of *Nature*, Bernard Fields, a prominent Harvard virologist, explained that the central questions remained unanswered: how does HIV spread through the body? Why do some people stay healthy for years why others die quickly? How does the virus destroy the immune system?

A lot of money is riding on the HIV=AIDS theory. As physician Gordon Stewart warns in the *Genetica* volume cited below,"if the HIV hypothesis is inadequate or wrong, the risks and misplacement of effort and research since 1984 will be enormous," [p. 190]

Who can admit that time, money, and energy were squandered because the entire premise of AIDS research in Africa was misguided? Orthodox researchers who have staked their careers on a unifying viral theory of causation cannot say, "we got it all wrong." They can only claim, "it's more complicated than we thought."

A growing body of literature provides the scientific basis for a reappraisal of AIDS in Africa and the role of HIV. For instance, virologist Stefan Lanka's "HIV - Reality or Artefact?" in issue #21 (August 1995) of *Provincetown Positive* [a publication by People Living With AIDS (PWA)] shows why, unlike other viruses, HIV has never been isolated and why it's impossible to have an antibody test for a virus that cannot be isolated.

Other sources include the article by Eleni Papdopulos-Eleopolus, et. al., "Is a Positive Western Blot Proof of HIV Infection?" in *Bio\Technology* (Vol. 11, June 1993, pp. 696-707) and an investigation into the prevalence of false positive test results in Zaire by Oscar Kashala, et. al., "Infection with HIV-1 and Human T Cell Lymphotropic Viruses Among Leprosy Patients and Contacts...." in *The Journal of Infectious Diseases* (Vol. 169, February 1994, pp. 296-304).

For alternative hypotheses about AIDS causation and the role of HIV, there is a special issue of the journal *Genetica* (Volume 95, #1-3, march 1995). A monograph by Michigan State physiologist Robert Root-Bernstein, *Rethinking AIDS: The Tragic Consequences of Premature Consensus* (Free Press, 1993) contains much material on Africa as do articles by Randall Packard and Paul Epstein in *Social Science and Medicine* (Volume 33, #7, 1991, pp. 771-794), and Meredith Turshen in the *Bulletin of Concerned Africa Scholars* (#36-36, Fall 1992, pp. 15-23).

I would reply to Paul Landau's query [1 December 1995], as John Boldrick urged me to do [8 December], except that Landau only asked if he was the "only person who finds Geshekter's musings alarming?" That's not for me to answer. Landau never specified what he found so alarming about my questions.

Landau imagines that I consider AIDS to be "a big antiAfrica conspiracy." I believe nothing of the sort and agree with Boldrick that the Black Plague was not some conspiracy against Europe. However, if Boldrick thinks that "AIDS as a disease exists in Africa," then what is the social context that makes AIDS different from, say, Australia or Canada? Does the context for malaria, tuberculosis, measles, or cholera "differ" from one continent to the next?

My response to Chris Lowe's posting [9 December 1995] is that someone who registers positive for antibodies to HIV presents a marker for immunological stress. The immunological dysfunction was likely caused by a varierty of insults: malnutrition, a pre-existing venereal disease, or chronic infections that frequently produce cross-reactivity on the HIV test. This would be the source of the correlative association of HIV with the clinical symptoms called "AIDS" in Africa. Someone looking for a causal relationship only tabulates as "AIDS" those clinical symptoms in cases when HIV antibodies are present. But where HIV antibodies may be present and the person does not have "AIDS," then what?

Immune responses may be suppressed or susceptibilities to disease "acquired" by the environmental and microbial factors cited above. The clinical AIDS symptoms in Africa - high fever, persistent cough, chronic diarrhea for 30 days, 10% body weight loss in two months - are found among people whose immune systems have been battered by repeated insults from impoverished and crowded living conditions, malnutrition, parasitic infections, anemia caused by malaria, and the lack of basic medical care. Antibodies to HIV signal that an immune response has been mounted. They do not "cause" immunosuppression.

We have exquisite knowledge of the HIV organism thanks to advanced molecular biological research but have done nothing to solve the problem of AIDS. Of course we all need paradigms to create some sense of order out of chaos, but the HIV/AIDS hypothesis has produced only erroneous projections, widespread misinformation, and grotesque errors in prognosis, treatment, and the allocation of resources.

If we appreciate the unverified role of HIV in causing cell depletion, realize that the WHO's definition of African AIDS is based on clinical symptoms not serological tests, and recognize the unreliability of HIV antibody tests among African populations where other endemic microbes and bacteria cross-react to produce ludicrously high false positive results, we might begin to understand how a huge artifact has been created - essentially a "disease by definition."

>>> Item number 1003, dated 95/12/29 00:00:03 -- ALL

Date:         Fri, 29 Dec 1995 00:00:03 -0500
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         Harold Marcus <ethiopia@hs1.hst.msu.edu>
Subject:      REPLY: AIDS a myth? (fwd)

Date: Thu, 28 Dec 1995 21:11:02 GMT-5

From:           John Boldrick, Columbia University
                <jlb47@columbia.edu>

Mr. Geshekter wonders what I imagine makes AIDS in Africa different than AIDS anywhere else. That's easy- nothing at all. I think AIDS is caused by the HIV virus, and have as yet heard nothing that makes me question that fundamental assumption.

In fact my support of his inquiry into the social implications of AIDS has no bearing on what causes it--AIDS could be completely imaginary or as real as you like and it would not be less open to honest inquiry. I agree that there are some *on the fringes of the debate* who fantasize about dictating sexual mores to the rest of the world, and they should be opposed.

However, if Geshekter believes that AIDS is *not* caused by HIV, and has another, more well-documented and convincing hypothesis, I know I'd be fascinated to hear it. As it is, I think he has conflated questions about the social and biological aspects of the disease.

After today, I will be away from the H-AFRICA group until January 16. If anyone wants to contact me I will be sporadically checking my e-mail at jlb47@columbia.edu until then. I hope that we can continue to debate this important question without personal rancor, and I will be checking back in after the first week in January.


                Editors' Note:
                We agree with John Boldrick--and
                Charles Geshekter--in wanting to
                continue this debate without personal
                rancor.  We hope all readers and
                contrtibutors will hold to the same
                standard.  If you have any concerns
                in this regard, please write to us
                directly.
                                        hgm & mep
                *************************************

>>> Item number 1120, dated 96/01/29 14:51:06 -- ALL

Date:         Mon, 29 Jan 1996 14:51:06 -0500
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         Harold Marcus <ethiopia@hs1.hst.msu.edu>
Subject:      Comment: Aids a Myth?

From:           Dr. James DeMeo
                <demeo@mind.net>
Date:           15 January 1996

"Regarding: AIDS in Africa, and The Continued Suppression

of Dissenting Views in Science and Medicine"

During a recent visit to Africa, I met with Dr. Mulugheta O. M., an African educated in medicine at the University of Leiden, Netherlands. He had practiced in both The Netherlands and in Malawi, and made many unusual observations related to the "AIDS Epidemic". Quite on his own, seven years ago, he became a critic of the conventional view of AIDS. At the time when I met him, in 1994, he did not know anything about the AIDS dissident movement in Europe or the USA, nor the scientific criticisms of Duesberg, Root-Bernstein, Elopulos/Lanka, and others. During my visits to Eritrea in 1994 and 1995, Dr. Mulugheta informed me of his personal story and tragedy which possibly holds the key to understanding part of the epidemiology of "AIDS" in Africa. It also provides additional dramatic support for the AIDS criticism movement in the USA and Europe, and sheds considerable light on the irresponsible and even devious practices and politics of "AIDS testing" facilities in Europe, and the conspiracy of silence at work in the medical and scientific mainstream.

Mulugheta and his wife simultaneously developed various "AIDS" symptoms a few weeks after they started taking the nitrate-based antibiotic nitrofurantoin, for a minor urinary tract infection. This particular antibiotic is widely used under different names. The symptoms included, among others, polneuropathy, dermatitis, alopecia, allergic pneumonitis, herpes zoster, and severe headaches. Upon the advice of local physicians, he was tested for "AIDS", and got a positive reaction to the Western Blot and Elisa. Mulugheta was shocked at this result, as he felt the symptoms were the clear result of the antibiotic. When they stopped taking the nitrofurantoin, their symptoms vanished. Mulugheta says his arguments to the local Netherlands physicians fell upon deaf ears, and additionally he feels they were dismissive of his claims because he was an African. He was a refugee from the bloody war between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and was schooled in all the high moral/ethical values of western science, and was shocked to learn that many Western scientists and doctors pay scant attention to those values. However, Mulugheta persisted in his questioning of the test results and diagnosis, and upset a lot of "top" people who were pressuring him to simply accept the diagnosis (and quietly go off and die somewhere else). He claims, upon undertaking a second set of tests, there was subsequent falsification of data by the labs, involving some of the big names in European AIDS research and the WHO AIDS program. He filed complaints and even a lawsuit against the perpetrators to get at the bottom of the matter, but this brought a strong counter-attack, and at one point he was jailed (apparently for refusing to leave WHO offices until his questions were addressed seriously). Later, he and his family fled the Netherlands and returned to Eritrea, where I met him and learned about his story.

To summarize the observations of Dr. Mulugheta:

  1. The widely used antibiotic nitrofurantoin has the capacity in some unknown percentage of patients to elicit many of the same symptoms of clinical AIDS, and additionally may produce a sero-conversion to "HIV Positive" on Western Blot testing method. He claims to have traced the precise biochemical pathway whereby the nitrate-base chemistry of nitrofurantoin triggers reactions in specific bands of the Western Blot test. He came to these conclusions in 1989 and 1990, and had sent letters and articles to various medical and science journals about it, but got no response whatsoever, only silence. This was *before* he learned (from me) about the role of nitrate-based inhalants in certain CDC-defined symptoms of AIDS in the USA. I recall his wide-eyed reaction when I informed him of these findings, and also after providing him with copies of the Rethinking AIDS mateirals and other articles by Duesberg, Root-Bernstein, Eleopulos, etc.
  2. Dr. Mulugheta argues that there are certain widely-consumed alcoholic beverages used in Africa which are made from fermented corn, barley and oats, to include the husks which are rich in nitrate compounds. He believes that this is the reason for many Africans testing positive for "HIV" when in fact it is only a nitrate-based trigger, from the widespread home-brew alcoholic drinks, affecting the test. Arguably, these alcoholic drinks are consumed in greatest quantity in poor areas of Africa, where other environmental and social factors which produce health problems overlap to produce "AIDS". This observation, according to Mulugheta (and he appears to be correct here) demonstrates a straightforward, testable and theoretically-compatible connection between the "AIDS epidemics" in both Europe/USA and Africa.

Here are some quotes from an 8-page "Open Letter to the World Health Organization" he recently wrote, out of anger and frustration at the continuing silent-treatment he received:

"Using the Nitrofurantoin model, I unravelled the pharmacologic and immunologic bases in the pathogenesis of AIDS. I formed a link between the so-called dual AIDS epidemiologies in Western Europe and U.S. and the one in Africa....They are both drug-related, i.e. therapeutic or recreational in the West and dietary or alcoholic in Africa. The Furanose sugar (of which nitrofurantoin is made) or its metabolites, i.e. the furans which are found in the husks of maize, barley, and oats explain the multitudes of seropositives in Africa. Similarly, arabinose and mannose and other oligosaccharides or their metabolites can trigger antibodies analogous to those of HIV. The chronic use of or exposure to these agents leads to full blown AIDS."

"Could Gp 120 and Gp 41 be one and the same glycoproteins differing only in molecular weights in kilodaltons? In fact, they are the only glycoproteins from the 9 different antibodies against the HIV. Their location is in juxtaposition in the viral envelope, could they be clevage products of one structure? This condition must be met for nitrofuranntoin to induce the production of both antibodies. That they are clevage production of one antigenic structure was 5 years later confirmed by Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, et al."

"Could the Furanose sugar with is the main building block of nitrofurantoin or its metabolites be the culprit in the generation of the antibodies analogous to those of HIV? This was later proven by Muller et al when they discovered the carbohydrate containing antigen lipoarabinomannan (LAM) (AIDS, 1990:4:159-62). For 7 years I have said Furanos can do the same thing, and for this reason I was put in jail by the WHO!"

"Could the Furans (derivatives of Furanose) which are pentose sugars, be the culprit for the multitude of seropositives in Africa? The furans are found in the husks of maize, barley and oats. Maize is the main stay of the Central African States and much if not all of their local drinks are made from maize. To concentrate the alcoholic contents, the Africans employ mainly the husks."

"The Missing Link. Peter Duesberg's Drug Hypothesis explaining the American and West European Epidemiology could be linked with the African one if the Furanose hypothesis is conrrect. The Amyl nitrates, aphrodisiac rectal dilators, and iv drugs could antigenically be related to furanose and mannose-type oligosacharrides...Peter Duesberg's Epidemiological approach completely reciprocates my immunological and pharmacological approach..."

I shall be mailing a copy of Dr. Mulugheta's "Open Letter to WHO" to various AIDS Criticism groups and individuals over the next week. Copies are also available to others who request it (send postal address). Since Mulugheta has been so completely censored on this subject, it would appear he would be glad to have his story, and his ideas, more widely spread via the internet. I should also add that my own two-years of field work in Africa (focused on issues of drought) in a peripheral way confirmed what was presented in the video by Meditel, that there is in fact no epidemic AIDS taking place, but rather a number of smaller epidemics of malnutrition, poor sanitation and housing, tuberculosis, and other infectious and parasitical diseases. There is a big campaign, with much money and resources, devoted to stoping the spread of hypothetical HIV, but the real problems facing ordinary Africans get far less attention. The health professionals in Africa are mostly unquestioning of what they learn from "official sources" in the west. They mostly look to Europe and America, and the UN and WHO, as a source of funding for nearly everything. Therefore, even if their own observations fully agree with the AIDS criticism, given the stark poverty of much of Africa, they have a strong economic motivation to never question "the hand that feeds them". Mulugheta has paid a high price for his outspokenness, which in Africa can often get one killed. Fortunately, Eritrea is one of the more reform-minded places in Africa today, so he appears safe.

I have written these paragraphs, and circulated them with Dr. Mulugheta's "Open Letter", out of a shared sense of outrage, that those in the power-political positions of modern science treat others without that power with the utmost contempt and arrogance. Surely, this arrogant contempt has not only been directed at Africans, but also at a host of American and European researchers as well, who dare to challenge the orthodox view, of "Infectious HIV" as the cause of AIDS.

The reader may copy and post this message elsewhere, but only in its entirety and in unedited form..

>>> Item number 1134, dated 96/01/30 09:53:50 -- ALL

Date:         Tue, 30 Jan 1996 09:53:50 -0500
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         Harold Marcus <ethiopia@hs1.hst.msu.edu>
Subject:      Reply: Aids a Myth?

I do not wish to comment on the disturbing story of your colleague, but I would like to pose several questions about the hypothetical connection between nitrates and HIV-infection.

  1. In communities (e.g. gay men in San Francisco) in which changes in sexual behavior are correlated with stable and/or declining incidence of HIV, have there also been declines in the use of nitrate-based drugs?
  2. Why, (if the nitrate/HIV hypothesis is correct) have African brewing practices only begun to produce the symptoms associated with HIV infection in the last 10-15 years? Kreiss's study in the NE Journal in 1986 of commercial sex workers in Nairobi found associations between HIV positive status and contact w/men from Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Are we to believe that these women (who were, as I recall, brothel-based, and thus had a fair supply of Tusker at their disposal) had a unique appetite for traditionally-brewed beer which led to their seroconversion? Why are HIV seroprevalence figures generally lower in rural areas, where (I suspect) consumption of traditionally-brewed beer is higher?

I do not claim to be a biochemist or molecular biologist with the capability to evaluate the arguments your colleague is putting forward, but I would suggest that these and numerous other historicalepidemiological questions challenge the nitrate-HIV hypothesis.

As a point of information, Peter Duesberg is not an epidemiologist, he is a retrovirologist; Fujimura and Chou, "Dissent in Science," *Social Science and Medicine* 38:8 discuss the starkly different approaches of the two disciplines and the effects of these approaches on the validity ascribed to the HIV virus & nitrate drug arguments.

I would also like to make the argument that HIV/AIDS prevention programs based on behavior change, STD surveillance and treatment, and condom provision should be recognized as valuable even if it is shown that the HIV virus is purely fictional. HIV/AIDS research has demonstrated the high rates of asymptomatic and/or untreated STDs in much of urban Africa. Given 1) the demonstrated influence of STDs on female infertility and 2) the ostracism and suffering experienced by infertile women in many African societies, the STD prevention effects of HIV/AIDS prevention campaigns are bringing unprecedented physical and mental health benefits to many African women.

We should also not be deluded into thinking that if the alleged African AIDS hoax is exposed, the money currently being spent on prevention will be put into other public health interventions. HIV/AIDS prevention is unique in that it is represented (in the US, at least) by an active domestic lobby. Malaria, infant diarrhea, and most other African health issues don't have big constituencies lobbying Congress; given the choice between cutting HIV/AIDS prevention to balance the budget and cutting it to fund infant nutrition overseas when WIC and Head Start are on the domestic chopping block, I have no doubt that the Congress will choose the former. In the current political climate, I believe that efforts to reduce spending on STD prevention in Africa can only do more harm than good.

Derick Fay
B.U. Anthro.

>>> Item number 1158, dated 96/02/03 11:20:56 -- ALL

Date:         Sat, 3 Feb 1996 11:20:56 -0500
Reply-To:     H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
Sender:       H-NET List for African History <H-AFRICA@MSU.EDU>
From:         Harold Marcus <ethiopia@hs1.hst.msu.edu>
Subject:      Reply: Aids a Myth?

Date:           Thu, 1 Feb 1996
From:           Martin Klein
                <mklein@epas.utoronto.ca>

If AIDs is a myth, bad chemistry as it were, what are people dying from?

Martin A. Klein

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