Robert Gallo is best known for his co-discovery of HIV. It has become widely accepted as the infectious agent responsible for AIDS. But if Gallo is still correct, some top virologists are saying that we should have been well on our way to finding a vaccine or a cure by now. But so far there's still nothing. Does HIV display such unique properties that it behaves unlike any other retrovirus and there lies the problem. Or should the world take a cautious second look at the doubters?
Peter Duesberg is a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He isolated the first cancer gene through his work on retroviruses in 1970. On the basis of his experience with retroviruses, Duesberg has challenged the virus-AIDS hypothesis. In this extract, he gave some of his controversial opinions to FM4:-
Tell us about the political setting (as you see it) for HIV being the cause of AIDS.
Peter Duesberg: Ronald Reagan was about to be re-elected. And he hadn't said a word about AIDS. He was not particularly interested in AIDS in fact he probably disliked (the topic). He was the old-fashioned macho-type who didn't even want to talk about this. But probably his political advisors told him, it's high time you talked about this and make some promises about it. And along came Gallo at the right time and Reagan's Secretary of Health called an international press conference with Gallo and they said the probable cause of AIDS is found and we'll have a vaccine in 2 years and it was found right here at the National Cancer Institute of the US government. And everybody was happy. The announcement was made before even one scientific paper from the Gallo group had appeared. Now it was a US government project and when they announced that HIV was the cause of AIDS and the money's rolling (in), there is no more return and no more questions. That is a disaster for science. And that is what we are living with now!
The picture, dated from 1987, shows the graphic model of an HIV. Quelle: DPA
What about the search for the link between HIV & AIDS?
Peter Duesberg: The existence of HIV is not a big deal. We have isolated and defined over 3000 retroviruses with huge sums of money, in chickens, in mice and in birds, in monkeys and humans ... everywhere we find retroviruses. And this was a daily menu in the AIDS or cancer (search) - yes, we found a virus here, we found one there. Except we didn't find a disease when we found a virus. Healthy people and healthy animals and not one disease outside laboratories or breeding colonies that we know has been caused by a retrovirus.
Reality Check also spoke with Robert Gallo who defends his work and findings vigorously.
Robert Gallo: It is more than a little absurd, there is no thinking virologist of any capacity that would agree to that statement (HIV is not the cause of AIDS) - I mean it is so silly. There are all kinds of electron microscopic pictures of HIV. I have made the statement for more than ten years that we have more scientific evidence that HIV is the cause of AIDS than we have for any other human disease. This (counter argument) is so ridiculous that it defies the imagination of most thinking normal scientists, that's all I can say!
You can hear from Gallo, Duisberg and other top scientists in their quest to overcome the challenges in understanding AIDS on Reality Check, Saturday (29.11.08) at 12 Midday.
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