Discredited AIDS origins theories

This article contains hypotheses not supported by scientific evidence. For current scientifically based hypotheses, see Origin of AIDS.

Various conspiracy theories and other such hypotheses have arisen to speculate about the origins of HIV and AIDS. These alternative ideas range from suggestions that AIDS was the inadvertent result of experiments in the development of vaccines, to claims that human immunodeficiency virus was developed by scientists working for the U.S. government. While a few reputable mainstream scientists once investigated some of these theories as reasonable hypotheses, this is no longer the case, as continuing research has invalidated the alternative ideas. The current scientific consensus is that AIDS originated in Africa in the mid 1930s from the closely related Simian Immunodeficiency Virus.


Man-made or iatrogenic origins of AIDS

  • Nobel Peace Prize laureate and environmental activist Wangari Maathai was asked by a Time magazine interviewer if she stood by a previous alleged claim that "AIDS is a biological weapon manufactured by the developed world to wipe out the black race". Maathai responded, "I have no idea who created AIDS and whether it is a biological agent or not. But I do know things like that don't come from the moon. (...) I guess there is some truth that must not be too exposed."[1] Maathai subsequently issued a written statement in December 2004: "I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people. Such views are wicked and destructive."[2]
  • Jakob Segal, a former biology professor at Humboldt University in then-East Germany, proposed that HIV was engineered at a U.S. military laboratory at Fort Detrick, by splicing together two other viruses, Visna and HTLV-1. According to his theory, the new virus, created between 1977 and 1978, was tested on prison inmates who had volunteered for the experiment in exchange for early release. He further suggested that it was through these prisoners that the virus was spread to the population at large. He has been accused, however, by KGB defector Vasili Mitrokhin of disseminating disinformation on behalf of the Soviet Union,[3] and the disease is known today to have existed in humans since at least 1959.
  • Alan Cantwell, in self-published books entitled AIDS and the Doctors of Death: An Inquiry into the Origin of the AIDS Epidemic and Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot, says that HIV is a genetically modified organism developed by U.S. Government scientists and that it was introduced into the population through Hepatitis B experiments performed on gay and bisexual men between 1978–1981 in major U.S. cities. Cantwell claims that these experiments were directed by Wolf Szmuness, and that there was an ongoing government cover-up of the origins of the AIDS epidemic. Similar theories have been advanced by Robert B. Strecker, Matilde Krim and Milton William Cooper.
  • Leonard G. Horowitz, author of the self-published works Emerging Viruses: AIDS & Ebola. Nature, Accident or Intentional? and Death in the Air: Globalism, Terrorism and Toxic Warfare, advances the theory that the AIDS virus was engineered by such U.S. Government defense contractors as Litton Bionetics for the purposes of bio-warfare and "population control."
In 1987 there was some consideration given to the possibility that the "Aids epidemic may have been triggered by the mass vaccination campaign which eradicated smallpox". An article[4] in the Times suggested this, quoting an unnamed "adviser to WHO" with "I believe the smallpox vaccine theory is the explanation to the explosion of Aids". It is now thought that the smallpox vaccine causes serious complications for people who already have impaired immune systems, and the Times article described the case of a military recruit with "dormant HIV" who died within months of receiving it. But no citation was provided regarding people who did not previously have HIV. (HIV is now considered to be a contraindication for the smallpox vaccine - both for an infected person and their sexual partners and household members.[5][6]) Some conspiracy theorists propose an expanded hypothesis in which the smallpox vaccine was deliberately 'laced' with HIV.[7]
In contrast, a research article was published in 2010 suggesting that it might have been the actual eradication of smallpox and the subsequent ending of the mass vaccination campaign that contributed to the sudden emergence of HIV, due to the possibility that immunization against smallpox "might play a role in providing an individual with some degree of protection to subsequent HIV infection and/or disease progression".[8][9] Regardless of the effects of the smallpox vaccine itself, its use in practice in Africa is one of the categories of un-sterile injection that may have contributed to the spread and mutation of the immunodeficiency viruses.[10]
  • The OPV AIDS hypothesis asserts that the oral polio vaccine was developed in chimpanzee tissues contaminated with a strain of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), and that an experimental mass vaccination program introduced the virus into the human population. The oral polio vaccine was not developed using chimpanzee tissue.[11] A large trial of an oral polio vaccine took place near Kisangani in the late 1950s, but the strain of SIV present in local chimpanzees is phylogenetically distinct from all strains of HIV.[12] HIV has been present in human populations since before the oral polio vaccine was developed, most likely since the 1930s.[13][14][15]

Alternative ideas regarding causation, origin or treatment

  • The Duesberg hypothesis promoted by biologist Peter Duesberg argues that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but rather that HIV is a harmless passenger virus, and that AIDS is caused by non-infectious agents like illegal drug usage.[16] The scientific consensus is that the Duesberg hypothesis has been discredited.[17]
  • Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, along with other prominent members of the ruling African National Congress party, has argued that AIDS is the result of poverty, chronic disease, malnutrition and other environmental factors.[18] Mbeki based his views on the discredited beliefs of AIDS denialists, especially Peter Duesberg. It has been suggested that the ANC leadership adopted this position as a political expedient, intended to deflect criticism that the ANC had not done enough to fight AIDS in South Africa.[19] In 2000, two statements by government spokespeople, (one later retracted), placed the financial cost of treating pregnant HIV positive women and the subsequent cost to the state of raising the child as central in the decision of whether to provide anti-retroviral drug treatment.[20] Also in 2000, the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reported that in a leaked text for a speech Mbeki was to give to an ANC caucus, Mbeki claimed that the CIA and Western drug companies were secretly promoting the view that HIV causes AIDS in order to increase sales of anti-HIV drugs.[21]

See also


  1. ^ Faris, Stephan (2004-10-10). "10 Questions: Wangari Maathai". TIME.com/CNN. http://www.time.com/time/europe/magazine/article/0,13005,901041018-713166,00.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  2. ^ from the Green Belt Movement website- Wangari Maathai's "The Challenge of AIDS in Africa".
  3. ^ Andrew, Christopher; Vasili Mitrokhin (1999). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. Basic Books. p. 319. ISBN 0-465-00310-9. 
  4. ^ Wright, Pearce (11 May 1987). "Smallpox vaccine 'triggered Aids virus'". The Times (London). 
  5. ^ Maurer, DM; Harrington, B; Lane, JM (1 September 2003). "Smallpox Vaccine: Contraindications, Administration, and Adverse Reactions". American Family Physician 68 (5): 889–96. PMID 13678138. http://www.aafp.org/afp/2003/0901/p889.html. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "Questions and Answers About Smallpox Contraindications and Screening". Emergency Preparedness and Response. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/agent/smallpox/faq/screening.asp. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  7. ^ Kalambuka, Angeyo (1 December 2009). "Don't Discount Conspiracy Theories on Origin of Aids". Daily Nation (Nairobi). http://allafrica.com/stories/200912011055.html. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  8. ^ Weinstein, Raymond S.; Weinstein, Michael M.; Alibek, Kenneth; Bukrinsky, Michael I.; Brichacek, Beda (18 May 2010). "Significantly reduced CCR5-tropic HIV-1 replication in vitro in cells from subjects previously immunized with Vaccinia Virus". BMC Immunology (BioMed Central) 11 (1): 23. doi:10.1186/1471-2172-11-23. ISSN 1471-2172. PMC 2881106. PMID 20482754. http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2172/11/23. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  9. ^ Connor, Steve (19 May 2010). "Smallpox vaccine 'helped fight HIV'". The Independent (London). http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/smallpox-vaccine-helped-fight-hiv-1976451.html. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Marx PA, Alcabes PG, Drucker E (June 2001). "Serial human passage of simian immunodeficiency virus by unsterile injections and the emergence of epidemic human immunodeficiency virus in Africa". Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci. 356 (1410): 911–20. doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.0867. PMC 1088484. PMID 11405938. http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?tool=pmcentrez&artid=1088484. 
  11. ^ Cohen J (2000). "Forensic epidemiology. Vaccine theory of AIDS origins disputed at Royal Society". Science 289 (5486): 1850–1. doi:10.1126/science.289.5486.1850. PMID 11012346. 
  12. ^ Worobey M, Santiago M, Keele B, Ndjango J, Joy J, Labama B, Dhed'A B, Rambaut A, Sharp P, Shaw G, Hahn B (2004). "Origin of AIDS: contaminated polio vaccine theory refuted". Nature 428 (6985): 820. doi:10.1038/428820a. PMID 15103367. 
  13. ^ Korber B, Muldoon M, Theiler J, et al. (2000). "Timing the ancestor of the HIV-1 pandemic strains". Science 288 (5472): 1789–96. doi:10.1126/science.288.5472.1789. PMID 10846155. 
  14. ^ Salemi M, Strimmer K, Hall WW, et al. (2001). "Dating the common ancestor of SIVcpz and HIV-1 group M and the origin of HIV-1 subtypes using a new method to uncover clock-like molecular evolution". FASEB J. 15 (2): 276–8. doi:10.1096/fj.00-0449fje. PMID 11156935. 
  15. ^ Sharp PM, Bailes E, Chaudhuri RR, Rodenburg CM, Santiago MO, Hahn BH (2001). "The origins of acquired immune deficiency syndrome viruses: where and when?". Philos. Trans. R. Soc. Lond., B, Biol. Sci. 356 (1410): 867–76. doi:10.1098/rstb.2001.0863. PMC 1088480. PMID 11405934. http://journals.royalsociety.org/openurl.asp?genre=article&issn=0962-8436&volume=356&issue=1410&spage=867. 
  16. ^ Duesberg, P; Koehnlein, C; Rasnick, D (2003). "The chemical bases of the various AIDS epidemics: recreational drugs, anti-viral chemotherapy and malnutrition.". Journal of biosciences 28 (4): 383–412. doi:10.1007/BF02705115. PMID 12799487. 
  17. ^ National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Disease Fact Sheet: The Evidence that HIV Causes AIDS. Accessed via National Institutes of Health website on 2007-03-09.
  18. ^ "Deadly meddling. Thabo Mbeki shows no sign of giving up his misguided views on AIDS". Economist GB. p. 82 print edition. 2001-11-01. Archived from the original on 2006-09-24. http://web.archive.org/web/20060924213923/http://www.speakout.org.za/events/news/archives/news_deadly_meddling.htm. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  19. ^ "Stop Denying the Killer Bug"[dead link] Economist, 23 February 2002-Mar 1;:49-51 abstract only sighted. Retrieved 2008-03-30.
  20. ^ "Cost of Treatment: Political Debate". Journ-AIDS. September 2000. Archived from the original on 2007-07-02. http://web.archive.org/web/20070702083352/http://journaids.org/politicsofhiv.php#costoftreatment. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 
  21. ^ Barrell, Howard (2000-10-06). "President tells party caucus that Western interests are seeking to discredit him and South Africa". Mail & Guardian (Johannesburg). http://www.aegis.org/news/dmg/2000/MG001005.html. Retrieved 2007-03-19. 

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