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Aids, Covid and the same blunders all over again


IN common with many others, I have been uneasy from the start over the way Covid-19 has been handled by governments and the mainstream media. It seemed that only one narrative was permitted – extreme fear, to be encouraged through lockdowns, masks and exaggerated, cumulative, endlessly repeated statistics on cases and deaths – and that our only way of becoming free would be for scientists to vaccinate the world. 

It is now known of course that lockdowns have proved deeply damaging, both socially and financially. In the UK, they have left us with one of the highest Covid death rates in the world, and a taxpayer bill for countless billions of pounds. 

Recent ‘jab jingoism’ – claims of national superiority in our vaccine roll-out and the ridiculing of our European neighbours’ caution over possible dangers – is a cause for further alarm. Everyone hopes the vaccine will work, but it remains experimental, and its ability to block transmission is unproven.

As a veteran science and medical correspondent, I have seen previously how the world of science and its followers in media and government can lose their heads in a kind of shared psychosis when facing a major new medical challenge.

I am sorry to say that for a few years I too subscribed to a global hysteria, in the 1980s, which had us believing that every sexually active person on the planet was at risk of catching HIV and dying from Aids. 

By the early 90s, it became clear that this was simply not true, and I began to report the views of scientists who questioned the validity of various aspects of the HIV theory – the models that predicted general heterosexual spread, the test kits, reliance on the highly toxic antiviral drug AZT, the search for a vaccine, even the very existence of the virus as a genuine disease entity as opposed to an endogenous signal of an already compromised immune system. 

I was working under an editor (Andrew Neil at the Sunday Times) who welcomed challenges to orthodoxy as long as they were evidence-based. Lacking the power to answer the questions we were raising, the journal Nature instituted a campaign of ridicule. Nature’s editor, the late John Maddox, even contemplated picketing Sunday Times offices. His campaign was supported enthusiastically by the BBC, and by the Observer and Independent (both of whose circulations had been hammered almost into oblivion by Murdoch’s Times newspapers). 

It took 25 years before the World Health Organisation finally admitted there was no general heterosexual spread, and HIV was no longer deemed a ‘communicable disease of public health significance’ by US health and immigration authorities. 

Money plays a part in sustaining such illusions. HIV/Aids brought hundreds of billions of dollars for research and treatment, much of it dispensed by Anthony Fauci, who still heads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. It provided a gravy train for countless researchers, well-intentioned NGOs and the science journals themselves. But the cash was conditional on subscribing to the core belief, ‘HIV is the cause of Aids’.  Scientists, doctors and politicians who questioned this faith and proposed or implemented non-HIV treatments were ruthlessly defunded and disempowered.

I see much the same happening today with Covid, though thanks to the internet there is at least more scope for different voices to be heard. 

SARS-COV-2 differs from ‘HIV’ in being a genuine viral pathogen, but victims of Covid-19 and Aids share risk factors, including poverty, malnutrition, genetic inheritance and lifestyle, which predispose to immune deficiency. Failure to take such factors into account was and is the core mistake in Aids, and is the core mistake in the response to Covid-19 today. It has caused neglect of focused care for the poor and elderly, and futile disruption in the lives of children and young people, most of whom are at minimal risk. 

Nutritional support, the cost of which would be a tiny fraction of the Covid billions spent elsewhere, is a key area of neglect. 

In Ireland, more than 100 doctors, scientists and academics have signed an open letter calling on their government to recommend a daily dose of 20 to 25 micrograms of vitamin D for every adult as a preventive and treatment for the disease. They also want the government to provide vitamin D supplements to vulnerable groups such as front-line health workers, older adults, and those with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure. 

Dr Daniel McCartney, programme director of human nutrition and dietetics at the Technological University of Dublin and Trinity College Dublin, told the Irish Examiner: ‘We were aware of ongoing research that seemed to show vitamin D played a role in protecting people against becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 and could also be used to treat people once they did become ill. We felt it to be a professional, moral and ethical imperative to act.

‘Ireland has lost more than 4,000 people to the pandemic to date. At this time of crisis, we have nothing to lose and everything to gain if we make this harmless intervention. It’s safe, cheap, and easily available.’  

Elsewhere, McCartney has said evidence linking low vitamin D levels and risk of Covid-19 infection is now considerable. It includes studies which show a 25- to 30-fold reduced risk of admission to intensive care, and a substantial reduction of risk of death, in older Covid-19 patients supplemented with the vitamin.

NHS guidelines, however, remain largely dismissive, stating that there is no evidence that vitamin D helps in the prevention or treatment of Covid-19, whilst acknowledging that supplements may be needed daily in winter for healthy bones and muscle.   

Lack of evidence of benefit did not stop the UK government from launching lockdowns, nor from buying millions of doses of experimental Covid vaccines. The problem is that as with ‘HIV’/Aids, once a particular treatment strategy is in place it can take years before any others get a look in. 

A similar story surrounds vitamin C. Patrick Holford, who has worked for 35 years in the field of optimum nutrition, feels so strongly about C’s preventive and therapeutic potential that he has started a campaign,, petitioning governments and doctors to promote its use as well as fund further studies. 

The petition states: ‘Vitamin C is a safe, inexpensive and highly effective anti-viral nutrient in the right amount, both for prevention of colds, reducing duration and severity, and for the treatment of Covid-19 in the acute phase with life-saving potential. Yet it is classified as “false information”, not recommended by governments and rarely prescribed by doctors. This has to change . . . We stand for public health and healthcare policy to be based on science with the aim of saving lives.’

Holford is main author of a review citing 117 studies relevant to these claims, published last December in Nutrients, a Swiss-based, peer-reviewed, open-access journal. His co-authors include Professor David Smith of Oxford University’s Department of Pharmacology. 

He says that since that appeared, seven Covid-specific trials have been published, three of which show vitamin C levels to be vastly depleted in serious Covid-19 cases, often to the level seen in scurvy, and predictive of risk of death. Two of the trials showed an 80 per cent reduction in mortality in patients critically ill with Covid who were treated with vitamin C compared with standard therapy. 

‘These results are actually better than steroids, or any drug on offer, yet are simply ignored,’ he tells me. ‘Our team of world-leading vitamin C experts, professors, doctors and nutritionists have been supplying Public Health England, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) with all this evidence but they just don’t respond.  This ignoring of the evidence has been going on for almost a year. 

‘Much like vitamin D, there is no scientific, ethical or practical reason to simply ignore the fact that these nutrients, if used in the right amounts at the right time, would immediately save lives with no risk and minimal cost.’

I learned recently that the original Hippocratic oath for doctors does not say ‘First do no harm’, but states: ‘I will use those dietary regimens which will benefit my patients according to my greatest ability and judgment, and I will do no harm or injustice to them.  Neither will I administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so.’

Erm, excuse me: far from using ‘dietary regimens which will benefit’, the global response to Covid-19 has put 6.7million children at risk of being severely malnourished, according to Unicef. In the US, an unprecedented 14million children are going hungry due to the economic fallout, nearly three times the number who went hungry during the 1930s recession. About 2.5million people have died already of malnutrition and disease as a result of the restrictions, according to an analysis published last month by Swedish researchers.

It astounds me that in the UK the only effective opposition to our Government’s participation in this psychotic episode is coming from Conservative MPs. Why is Labour, traditionally more the party of compassion than pragmatism, so silent?  Please, will someone out there start to listen? 

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Neville Hodgkinson
Neville Hodgkinson
Neville Hodgkinson is the former Sunday Times medical and science correspondent who created an international storm by reporting a scientific challenge to the ‘HIV’ theory of Aids. His new book, How HIV/Aids Set the Stage for the Covid Crisis, is an expanded and updated version of his previous book on the controversy. It is available here.

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