‘WE NEED a new plague’ was the sentiment in the early 1980s in the corridors of America’s Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC), because the agency was facing closure. In his book The Real Anthony Fauci Robert F Kennedy Jr cites Dr Kary Mullis recalling the institutional desperation reflected in circulating memos which said: ‘We need to find something to scare the American people into giving us more money.’
The events which followed, and the panoply of artifices used to secure this end, became a template for amassing unbridled power over the population, the institutions, and even the White House.
Kennedy recounts that in the summer of 1981 the CDC reported that approximately 50 gay men in Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York had presented with Kaposi’s sarcoma (a skin cancer associated with immune suppression) and other immune deficiency-related health problems including a rare form of pneumonia (PCP).
As cases starting appearing in other major cities in the same cohort, the hunt was on for the cause of this new disease, dubbed Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids).
Responsibility for it fell under the US National Cancer Institute (NCI). In 1983 the French virologist Dr Luc Montagnier identified signals of a retrovirus in some Aids patients, which he believed could be responsible for causing the disease. Dr Robert Gallo of the NCI persuaded Montagnier to send him a sample of the virus in exchange for fast-tracking the publishing of Montagnier’s work in the journal Science.
Before doing so, Gallo cultured the sample, gave it a different name, patented an antibody kit he claimed capable of detecting it, and in April 1984 called a press conference to announce to the world that the probable cause of Aids had been found in the form of a ‘known human cancer virus’, claiming the discovery as his own. Once the announcement was made, no one could review Gallo’s work which was published subsequently.
A bitter row ensued between Montagnier and Gallo, which eventually led to an ‘accommodation’, whereby the researchers agreed to share the discovery, and the virus was given the name HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus).
The hypothesis that HIV caused Aids, however, had not been subject to the normal processes of independent replication, verification, dissent and rebuttal. A nascent hypothesis had been seized and hurriedly converted into accepted fact. ‘Science by announcement’ was a dangerous development which has had grave repercussions to the present day.
Robert Gallo’s overt ambition to be awarded a Nobel Prize made him a natural ally of Anthony Fauci. So once the HIV story of a worldwide lethal virus was launched, claiming the highly infectious nature of it, Fauci wrested jurisdiction for the disease away from NCI and into his moribund National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NAID), thus capturing the flood of congressional funds that would be made available to combat it.
Many eminent scientists had misgivings about the hypothesis. Foremost was Professor Peter Duesberg, a world-respected molecular biologist. Duesberg was a consummate scientist and an applied scholar. At thirty-three, having discovered the ‘oncogene’ which appeared to cause cancer, he subjected his own theory to more rigorous tests than his critics had, and became convinced his discovery had been a lab fluke. He therefore publicly abandoned his own hypothesis, at the height of his acclaim. Colleagues praised him for his ‘integrity, his genius, his kindness and his intelligence’.
Duesberg, Kary Mullis and their school of critics believed the first generation of Aids was a complex illness which had its cause in a variety of chemicals. The profusion of recreational drugs used by the homosexual community, particularly amyl nitrate (poppers) known to cause immune suppression, in combination with the constant use of antibiotics to treat infections, were strong factors in immunity collapse. But after Robert Gallo’s April 1984 press conference Fauci moved to quash all talk of toxic causation to attribute Aids uniquely to the deadly virus.
Following Gallo’s announcement, Duesberg studied every scientific publication on HIV and Aids, and in 1987 published his observations in the journal Cancer Research. He argued that retroviruses were not, by accepted definition, a life form, and HIV was not capable of causing either cancer or Aids. Referring to the supposed indeterminate incubation period of HIV he said: ‘There are no slow viruses causing Aids, only slow scientists.’ Duesberg was committed to clean functional proof at a time when electron microscopy and other technologies for detecting new viruses were making biology – particularly the study of viruses – increasingly murky. Fame and finance were driving the frenzy in viral research. With official and commercial encouragement, researchers were blaming newly discovered viruses for an assortment of ancient diseases. Duesberg argued that the apparent high incidence of HIV-Aids in Africa was a function of the now notorious PCR to produce false diagnoses of infection, and the broad definition of Aids, which captured everything in its net from malnutrition to endemic diseases.
The second generation of Aids in the early 1990s is now widely recognised to have been caused by the poisonous drug Azidothymidine (AZT) pushed by Fauci on to ‘HIV positive cases’. AZT was developed in the 1960s as a leukaemia chemotherapy drug but abandoned when government researchers deemed it too toxic even for short-term use. Described by Joseph Sonnabend as ‘incompatible with life’, AZT randomly destroys bones, kidneys, livers, muscle tissue, the brain and the central nervous system.
After Peter Duesberg’s compelling 1987 article, which challenged point by point the basis of the HIV-Aids hypothesis, the scientific world waited for answers to Duesberg’s probing questions, but Gallo never attempted a reply. Instead Fauci moved ruthlessly to annihilate Duesberg’s voice. His stature and the respect he commanded were an existential threat to Fauci’s plans for control and grandeur through the theory of a dangerous virus.
Marshalled by Fauci, the self-interested scientific press banished Duesberg. John Maddox, editor of the journal Nature, invited Duesberg’s colleagues to slander him without fear of response, writing an editorial stating that the virologist, by his heresy, had forfeited the standard scientific practice of ‘right of reply’.
Scientific conferences disinvited Duesberg. His graduate students were warned by their university that working with him would render them irrelevant, and the fawning mass media followed the instructions handed down from on high. As the reporter Celia Farber wrote, ‘Duesberg’s problem transcended science: It was career protection to partake in his bullying and degradation. The Fauci serf scientists were driven by fear that if they did not publicly denounce Duesberg in sufficiently disgusted tones they themselves would be punished.’
In 1994 a senior geneticist, Dr Stephen O’Brien, was dispatched by the very same editor of Nature, John Maddox, to try to persuade Duesberg to change his position, in exchange for ‘reinstatement’. O’Brien rang Duesberg on the pretext of needing to speak to him urgently and the two met at the opera in San Francisco. O’Brien pulled from his pocket a paper entitled ‘HIV Causes Aids: Koch’s Postulates Fulfilled’ with his own name and that of Duesberg printed at the bottom, and begged Duesberg to sign it. To his undying credit, Duesberg refused.
Duesberg’s remarkable lack of bitterness towards his persecutors is the sign of a man at peace with his soul. It is likely that Fauci’s rancour, and the depths to which he sank to humiliate and denigrate Duesberg, sprang from a hatred of his ability and integrity, qualities Fauci could not bear to contemplate.