Why After 30 Years is the Cause of AIDS Still Being Questioned?

by John Hardie BDS, MSc, PhD, FRCDC

In 1999 on the pages of the Journal of the Canadian Dental Association, Dr. Samantha Nutt and her colleagues emphatically wrote that substantial scientific evidence exists to support the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS.1 Dr. Nutt might wish to reconsider her opinions on reading the recent publication “Questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: 30 years of dissent” by Dr. Patricia Goodson.2 Dr. Goodson is a highly respected educator and published professor in the Department of Health and Kinesiology at Texas A & M University. Her treatise appeared in the September 2014 issue of the peer-reviewed journal, Frontiers in Public Health. It is available online.

The purpose of this Oral Health article is to provide readers with a summary of why Dr. Goodson believes that there are sufficient grounds on which to challenge many of the mainstream assumptions and practices concerning HIV/AIDS. Not least among her reasons is that the stature and credentials of the scholars who question the hypothesis are equally as impressive as those who support it. Among the former, she mentions such prominent individuals as; Dr. R. Richards — who helped develop the first test for HIV, Dr. Ettiene de Harven — formerly of the University of Toronto — who produced the first electron micrograph of a retrovirus, Dr. P. Duesberg — a recognized outstanding investigator for his ground-breaking studies on retroviruses and impressive current work on cancer, Dr. J. Chin — formerly a WHO infectious disease expert who questions the validity of that organization’s epidemiologic data, and Dr. K. Mullis, — Noble Prize Winner in Chemistry for his invention of the polymerase chain reaction. Significantly she quotes Dr. Mullis as saying in 1996; “The HIV/AIDS Hypothesis is one hell of a mistake.”

Dr. Goodson’s argument is presented in a unique but effective manner. The major portion of her treatise concerns the various challenges that have been directed at purported factors supporting HIV as the cause of AIDS. This is followed by a section on alternative causes of AIDS offered by those who challenge the HIV hypothesis. She then discusses the reasons why HIV=AIDS was readily accepted and alternative ideas rejected. Finally, Dr. Goodson calls on her public health colleagues to critically reflect on their assumptions and practices related to HIV/AIDS.

The Challenges
A fundamental tenet of the HIV/AIDS orthodoxy is that a positive HIV test indicates infection with HIV since all HIV tests are said to identify the presence of HIV antibodies. Dr. Goodson notes this belief challenges the accepted immunological principle that antibodies indicate not the presence of an infection but a recovery from it. She describes the convoluted changes in the CDC’s interpretation of a positive test from accepting in 1984, that it means a previous but no current infection with HIV, to in 1987, stating that the antibodies signify active infection. Seemingly, HIV antibodies have the unique property of performing simultaneously diametrically opposing actions- a multitasking biologic feat that challenges belief.

Another problem of HIV tests worthy of questioning is that they produce positive results to diverse conditions, such as flu and tetanus vaccinations, malaria and pregnancy. Details on the ability of HIV tests to give false positive and incorrect results have been reported in the Lancet, the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The Western Blot test is thought to be highly specific for HIV. However, it can react to blood platelets in healthy individuals forcing them to face the challenge of an entirely false positive HIV/AIDS diagnosis. Another problem with the same test is that there are no universal criteria standardizing the interpretation of its results. For example, a Western Blot test positive for HIV in Africa would produce a negative result if repeated in the UK. Dr. Goodson notes not entirely facetiously that curing an HIV infection could be as simple as buying a plane ticket from Uganda to London! It is a challenge to the validity of HIV tests that their results vary according to the geographical location in which they are performed.

The questions on the efficacy of HIV tests would be removed if the virus could be successfully isolated and purified. A challenge which has yet to satisfy the critics of the HIV=AIDS hypothesis.

The viral load is a measure of the quantity of HIV present in blood. Current conventions use viral loads to determine when to start treatment and to assess the efficacy of anti-viral drugs. Currently, the polymerase chain reaction is used to determine viral load and herein exists a major challenge. According to its inventor Dr. K. Mullis, the reaction is simply not capable of making a quantitative assessment. It cannot detect free viruses or their numbers and its use questions the validity of all determinations that rely on viral loads.

The presence of a virus is often determined by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Mainstream scientists refer to published TEM photographs of HIV particles as proof of their existence. However, Dr. Goodson describes the various reasons why it is extremely difficult to obtain samples for TEM, that are not contaminated with cellular debris, that could be misinterpreted as HIV particles. In the final analysis, there appears to be no substantiated evidence to support the presence of HIV by TEM.

In recent years, cocktails of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) have been praised for their ability to reduce viral loads, level of infection and infectivity. They appear to have converted HIV/AIDS from a death sentence to a long term chronic infection albeit with significant side effects such as liver toxicity, premature aging and progressive multi-organ disease. Dr. Goodson provides intriguing details questioning the exact therapeutic role of ARVs, since they appear capable of causing non-AIDS defining illnesses and AIDS defining opportunistic infections such as Pneumocystis Carinii and Candida albicans. She suggests that the uncertainty associated with the pharmaceutical action of ARVs casts doubt on the HIV/AIDS hypothesis.

Dr. Goodson repeats the general understanding among investigators that, “Epidemiologic data do not provide evidence for causation. All the data can do is reveal risk factors and illnesses co-occurring in a given group.” Therefore, the use of epidemiology to prove that HIV causes AIDS should be challenged.

Alternative Causes of AIDS
Dr. Goodson accompanies the presentation of challenges to the conventional views on HIV/AIDS with the challengers’ alternative ideas that could account for the immunological collapse associated with AIDS. These include: adverse effects of recreational and prescription drugs; t-cell depletion caused by excessive amounts of intracellular nitric oxide; malfunction of cellular oxidative processes; and the latent infection overload hypothesis. She notes that among others, Montagnier and Gallo-the co-discoverers of HIV- have expressed the idea that HIV might be a co-factor in AIDS and not its exclusive causative agent. Perhaps the most telling aspect of these alternative causes is that they have been around for almost thirty years without rigorous investigation, while HIV was readily accepted as the cause after antibodies supposedly belonging to it were identified in only 48 persons from a sample of 119, with and without immune deficiency symptoms.

Acceptance, Rejection  and Public Health
Funding for President Nixon’s War on Cancer ended in 1981 with little evidence that there was an infectious cancer agent. Some viruses particularly retroviruses had been discovered but
no illnesses were attributable to them. Various scholars have proposed that such an environment was conducive to linking a retrovirus to an emerging syndrome associated with immune deficiency among otherwise healthy adults. Thus, the scene was set in 1984 to accept the pronouncement by Margaret Heckler, US Health Secretary that HIV was the probable cause of AIDS in spite of the sketchy supporting evidence. Dr. Goodson believes that these circumstances were factors causing researchers to quickly and assuredly jump on the HIV bandwagon.

Since the credibility and experiences of the opponents of the HIV=AIDS hypothesis are similar to the proponents of the hypothesis, it is difficult to understand why thirty years of alternative ideas continue to be ignored. Dr. Goodson indicates that the reasons are too complex to distill in a brief journal article, and require an understanding of how the co-operative relationships existing among established scientific, medical, economic and political systems work to thwart any challenge to the status quo.

Dr. Goodson ends her treatise with a plea to her public health colleagues. Whether they support the conventional attitudes towards HIV/AIDS or not, she wishes them to appreciate that doubts over the validity of HIV tests, the toxicity of ARV drugs and proposals to screen all adolescents and adults for HIV have a potential to cause harm. She believes that an awareness of this possibility presents a public health ethical dilemma which can be addressed by her colleagues becoming fully knowledgeable on the evolution of the HIV/AIDS hypothesis, conducting investigations that challenge conventional assumptions, and promoting debates that critically question current beliefs and practices.

The objective of Dr. Goodson’s paper is to air why the continuing doubts regarding the entire HIV/AIDS construct justify exploring all alternative ideas on the subject. She employs her undoubted skills as an educator and medical writer to present a convincing argument in support of her thesis. Many of the concerns that are discussed will be unfamiliar to health care workers not well versed in the history of HIV/AIDS. Fortunately, Dr. Goodson provides an extensive list of pertinent references permitting interested readers the opportunity for further education.

In a recent article in the National Post, Lawrence Solomon, Executive Director of the Consumer Policy Institute wrote, “In this medical-industrial-government complex, there was and is little appetite for out-of-the-box thinkers who challenge the status quo; there was and is an insatiable need to squelch dissent.”3 Accordingly, Dr. Goodson must be congratulated for providing the reasons that justify challenges to conventional assumptions on HIV/AIDS. OH

Since the mid 1980s, Dr. Hardie has been interested in the influence of HIV/AIDS on the practice of dentistry.

Oral Health welcomes this original article.


1. Nutt S et al. The Truth About HIV/AIDS and Infection Control Practices in Dentistry. J Can Dent Assoc 199; 65:334-6.

2. Goodson P. Questioning the HIV-AIDS hypothesis: 30 years of dissent. Frontiers in Public Health, 23rd September 2014.

3. Solomon L. Crippling medical research. National Post, 17th October, 2014