Archive-Name: aids-faq3
Last-Modified: 10 Nov 1993


Section 5.  The common debates.

 Q5.1        What are Strecker and Segal's theories that HIV is manmade?
 Q5.2        Other conspiracy theories.
 Q5.3        Duesberg's Risk-Group Theory
 Q5.4        Contaminated polio vaccine? (please contribute)
 Q5.5        Who is Lorraine Day? (please contribute)


Question 5.1.  What are Strecker and Segal's theories that HIV is manmade?

Jakob Segal's theory is that HIV was formed from visna (a sheep virus) and
HTLV-I (Human T-cell Leukemia Virus) by US army biological research labs
in 1977 or 1978.  The virus supposedly escaped accidentally after being
tested on prisoners.

Robert Strecker's theory is that HIV was formed from visna and BLV (Bovine
Leukemia Virus) by the US in the 1970's after 30-40 years of work. The
virus was supposedly tested on populations in Africa and was deliberately
introduced into the US homosexual community through the hepatitis B
vaccination program.

The alleged evidence to support this theory:

* Visna is very similar to HIV.  HIV can be formed by combining the genes
  of visna and BLV or HTLV.  HIV is not similar to primate viruses.  The
  government was interested in biological warfare and was planning to make
  an immune-system destroying virus.  In particular, the DOD
  Appropriations for 1970 Hearings, 91st Congress, Part 6, p 129 states:

  There are two things about the biological agent field I would like to
  mention.  One is the possibility of technological surprise.  Molecular
  biology is a field that is advancing very rapidly, and eminent
  biologists believe that within a period of 5 to 10 years it would be
  possible to produce a synthetic biological agent, an agent that does not
  naturally exist and for which no natural immunity could have been

  Mr. Sikes. Are we doing any work in that field?

  Dr. MacArthur. We are not.

  Mr. Sikes.  Why not?  Lack of money or lack of interest?

  Dr. MacArthur. Certainly not lack of interest.

   [MacArthur provides the following information:]

  The dramatic progress being made in the field of molecular biology led
  us to investigate the relevance of this field of science to biological
  warfare.  A small group of experts considered this matter and provided
  the following observations:

  * All biological agents up to the present time are representatives of
    naturally occurring disease, and are thus known by scientists
    throughout the world.  They are easily available to qualified
    scientists for research, either for offensive or defensive purposes.

  * Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make a
    new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important
    aspects from any known disease-causing organisms.  Most important of
    these is that it might be refractory to the immunological and
    therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative
    freedom from infectious disease.

  * A research program to explore the feasibility of this could be
    completed in approximately 5 years at a total cost of $10 million.''

* HIV is a new disease that appeared suddenly in the late 1970's without a
  natural source.

* HIV could have been easily synthesized in a laboratory in the 1970's.

The evidence is overwhelmingly against these theories.  The key problem
with these theories is they arose in the early 1980's, before SIV (simian
immunodeficiency virus) was discovered and before the relevant viruses
were sequenced.  The genetic sequences clearly show:

* HIV is much closer to SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) than HIV is to
  visna, BLV, HTLV or any other known virus.

* HIV can't be formed from splicing together parts of other known viruses.

Viral genetic sequences can be ftp'd from in

To summarize the other arguments against Strecker and Segal's theories:

* The military testimony described a future study to see if making a new
  agents was feasible, not to actually produce it.  More importantly, they
  are looking for an agent refractory to immunological processes; this
  means something resisting immunological processes.  The quoted testimony
  and other parts of the testimony state they are looking for a new agent
  for which people do not have natural immunity; this is entirely
  different from an agent that destroys the immune system.  It is also
  much easier than producing something like HIV.

* Most scientists believe HIV evolved from SIV or a close relative.  HIV
  did not suddenly appear in the late 1970's, but has been found in
  preserved blood samples from the 1950's.

* Biotechnology was not sufficently advanced in the 1970's to produce
  something like HIV, and it is debatable that it would be possible even
  now.  Since the details of HIV are not understood even now, it is
  inconceivable that someone could have deliberately designed HIV in the

Strecker's claim that HIV was introduced via hepatitis B vaccinations is
extremely doubtful.  McDonald et al, Lancet, 1983 Oct 15, 2(8355):882-4
state the incidence of AIDS in unvaccinated sexually active homosexual men
was _higher_ than in vaccinated men, although the rates were too low for
statistical significance. Stevens et al, JAMA, 1986 April 25,
255(16):2167-2172 tested blood samples from the beginning of the
vaccination program and found that 6.6% were already HIV-positive.
Therefore, HIV couldn't have been introduced via the vaccinations.

While evaluating these theories, I recommend treating Segal's and
Strecker's literature citations with extreme skepticism, as they are both
rather casual about the connection between their claims and the contents
of the papers.  In particular, Strecker provides quotes that do not appear
in the cited papers.

Finally, since both theories allege a coverup of the connection between
visna and HIV, a clear explanation of their relationships may be helpful.
The viruses described above are all retroviruses.  Retroviruses have three
subfamilies: Oncoviruses, Lentiviruses, and Spumaviruses.  HTLV is a
oncovirus, while the remainder are lentiviruses.  The analysis of genetic
sequences gives strong evidence for the evolution of lentiviruses.  They
apparently branched into the primate lentiviruses (HIV-1, HIV-2, and SIV),
and the nonprimate lentiviruses (visna, BLV, EIAV, FIV, CAEV, etc.) Thus,
HIV and visna have many similarities since they are both lentiviruses, but
HIV and SIV are much more similar.  (See Fields Virology for more
information on retrovirus classification and "The Emergence of Simian
Human Immunodeficiency Viruses", Myers et al, AIDS Research and Human
Retroviruses, 8(3), 1992 373-386 for more information on lentivirus


Question 5.2.  Other conspiracy theories.

One school of thought holds that the "AIDS was a U.S. biological warfare
experiment" myth was extensively spread as part of a dezinformatsiya
campaign by Department V of the Soviet KGB (their `active measures'
group).  They may not have invented the premise (Soviet disinformation
doctrine favored legends originated by third parties), but they added a
number of signature details such as the name of the supposed development
site (usually Fort Meade in Maryland) which still show up in most

According to a defector who was once the KGB chief rezident in Great
Britain, the KGB promulgated this legend through controlled sources in
Europe and the Third World.  The Third World version (only) included the
claim that HIV was the result of an attempt to build a "race bomb", a
plague that would kill only non-whites.

>From the CDC AIDS Clearinghouse:

"Soviets Secretly Tried to Blame U.S. for AIDS--CIA" Reuters (09/30/93)

Langley, Va.--For more than five years, the former Soviet Union attempted
to blame the AIDS virus on a plot by U.S. military scientists, according
to newly declassified CIA documents.  The papers reported that the Soviets
launched a campaign in 1983 aiming to tie the emergence of AIDS to
American biological weapons research.  The disinformation was circulated
in 25 different languages in over 200 publications, as well as in posters,
leaflets, and radio broadcasts, in more than 80 countries before the
campaign was finally abandoned by the Soviets, according to a study cited
by the CIA in the documents.  The Soviets dropped the campaign in 1988
when the United States refused to cooperate with them on a research
program on AIDS, which was by then spreading in the U.S.S.R., said the CIA
article.  The Soviet campaign was apparently retaliation for the Reagan
administration's claims of Soviet-produced "yellow rain," or yellow traces
found on vegetation due to a Soviet biological weapon.

Reproduction of the above excerpt is encouraged; however, copies may not
be sold, and the CDC Clearinghouse should be cited as the source of this
information.  Copyright 1993, Information, Inc., Bethesda, MD


Question 5.3.  Duesberg's Risk-Group Theory

The following discussion is excerpted from the sci.skeptic ``Frequently
Questioned Answers'' posting.

The generally accepted theory is that AIDS is caused by the Human
Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).  There are two different versions of HIV:
HIV-1 and HIV-2.  These viruses are believed, on the basis of their
genetic sequences, to have evolved from the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus
(SIV), with HIV-2 being much more similar to SIV.  Several years after the
initial HIV infection, the immune system is weakened to the point where
opportunistic infections occur, resulting in the syndrome of AIDS.  A good
reference for more information on the "mainstream" view of AIDS is:

The Science of AIDS: readings from Scientific American magazine.  New
York: W.H. Freeman, c1989.

Peter Duesberg has promulgated this theory: HIV is a harmless retrovirus
that may serve as a marker for people in AIDS high-risk groups.  AIDS is
not a contagious syndrome caused by one conventional virus or microbe.
AIDS is probably caused by conventional pathogenic factors: administration
of blood transfusions or drugs, promiscuous male homosexual activity
associated with drugs, acute parasitic infections, and malnutrition.
Drugs such as AZT promote AIDS, rather than fight it.  His theory is
explained in detail in "Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired
Immunodeficiency Syndrome: Correlation but not Causation", Proc. Natl.
Acad. Sci. USA V86 pp.755-764, (Feb. 1989).

He claims as evidence for his theory:

* HIV does not meet Koch's postulates for the causative agent of an
  infectious disease.

* The conversion rate from HIV infection to AIDS depends greatly on the
  country and risk group membership, so HIV isn't sufficient to cause

* The HIV virus is minimally active, does not seem to infect many cells,
  and is suppressed by the immune system, so how could it cause problems?

* It takes between 2 and 15 years from HIV infection for AIDS to occur.
  HIV should cause illness right away or never.

* HIV is similar to other retroviruses that don't cause AIDS.  There seems
  to be nothing special about HIV that would cause AIDS.

* AIDS patients suffer very different diseases in the US and Africa, which
  suggests that the cofactors are responsible, not AIDS.

* How could two viruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2, evolve at the same time? It
  doesn't seem likely that two deadly viruses would show up together.

Virtually the entire scientific community considers Duesberg's theory
unsupportable, although he was a respected researcher before he came out
with his theory about AIDS.  There is no suggestion that his theories are
the result of a political agenda or homophobia.

Some of the arguments against him are:

* People who receive HIV tainted blood become HIV+ and come down with
  AIDS.  People who receive HIV-free blood don't get AIDS (unless they get
  HIV somewhere else).  Thus, it is the HIV, not the transfusion, that
  causes AIDS.  See also Q2.4 `How risky is a blood transfusion?' for
  details on how blood transfusions have become less dangerous since HIV
  antibody testing began.

* The risk factors (homosexuality, drug use, transfusions, etc.) have been
  around for a very long time, but AIDS doesn't show up until HIV shows
  up.  People who engage in homosexuality, drug use, etc.  but aren't
  exposed to HIV don't get AIDS.  On the other hand, people who aren't
  members of "risk groups" but are exposed to HIV get AIDS.  Thus, it is
  the HIV, not the risk factors, that causes AIDS.

* With a few recent exceptions, everyone with an AIDS-like immune
  deficiency tests positive for HIV.  Everyone with HIV apparently gets
  AIDS eventually, after an average of 8 years.

* Koch's postulates are more of historical interest than practical use.
  There are many diseases that don't satisfy the postulates.

* It is not understood exactly how HIV causes AIDS, but a lack of
  understanding of the details isn't a reason to reject HIV.

* A recent study by Ascher (see abstract below) matched up people in the
  same risk groups and found those with HIV got AIDS but those without HIV

More information can be found in published rebuttals to Duesberg, such as
in Nature V345 pp.659-660 (June 21, 1990), and in Duesberg's debate with
Blattner, Gallo, Temin, Science V241 pp.514-517 (1988).

Here are some recent references to Duesberg's theory:

Kolata, Gina, Debunking Doubts That H.I.V. Causes AIDS, New York Times
(03/11/93), P. B13.

A team of California researchers has disproved a theory claiming that
recreational drug use, and not HIV, is the cause of AIDS.  The scientists
reported in a commentary published today in Nature that their research
shows no relationship between recreational drug use, excluding IV-drugs,
and the development of AIDS.  The research team was led by Dr. Michael S.
Ascher, an immunologist at the California Department of Health Services,
and Dr. Warren Winklestein Jr., an epidemiologist at the University of
California--Berkeley.  Dr. Ascher and colleagues wrote their paper in
response to a challenge by Tom Bethell, a media fellow at the Hoover
Institution at Stanford University, to compare people who used drugs with
those who didn't and to determine whether those who took drugs had a
higher incidence of AIDS.  Bethell wrote in an article in the San
Francisco Chronicle of the theory proposed six years ago by Dr. Peter H.
Duesberg, a molecular biologist at the University of California--Berkeley.
Duesberg argues that HIV is not the cause of AIDS and that the drug AZT
speeds, rather than slows, the depletion of the immune system.  Bethell
asked why no research had been done on this hypothesis.  Therefore, Dr.
Ascher et al. retested their hypothesis of the analysis of the San
Francisco Men's Study, a group of 1,034 randomly selected single men who
lived in San Francisco and were 25-54 years old in 1984, when the study
began.  The researchers found that homosexuals and heterosexuals in the
study were equally likely to use drugs.  However, 26 percent of
homosexuals developed AIDS, whereas none of the heterosexuals did.  All of
the men were infected with HIV, but there was no link between drug use and
AIDS.  Related Story: Wall Street Journal (03/11) P. B5

Ascher, M.S. et al., Does Drug Use Cause AIDS?, Nature (03/11/93) Vol.
362, No. 6416, P. 103.

Although Peter Duesberg, a professor of molecular biology at the
University of California--Berkeley, believes that AIDS and drug use are
related, they are not, writes M.S. Ascher et al. of the California
Department of Health Services in Berkeley, Calif.  Duesberg has maintained
since 1987 that HIV is not the infectious aetiological agent for AIDS and
has recently stated that either drug consumption or conventional clinical
deficiencies and their treatments cause AIDS-related illnesses.  However,
the researchers found this untrue.  They analyzed data from a unique
population-based cohort study, the San Francisco Men's Health Study
(SFMHS).  It is based on a randomly selected cohort of 1,027 single men
25-54 years old.  The researchers examined the cohort at 6-month intervals
for 96 months, and obtained drug-use data and determined HIV serostatus at
each examination.  The researchers compared heavy drug use for the
25-months period before entry into the study among 215 heterosexual and
812 homosexual/bisexual cohort members.  Except for amyl nitrate, with 18
percent heavy use in homosexuals versus no heavy use among heterosexuals,
the percentage of subjects reporting heavy use of each drug was similar in
both sexual preference groups: 36 versus 39 percent for marijuana; 7
versus 4 percent for cocaine; and 1 versus 5 percent for amphetamines,
respectively.  During the 96 months of follow-up, 215 cases of AIDS
occurred among the homosexual/bisexual men compared with none among the
heterosexuals.  It was found that if heavy use of marijuana, cocaine or
amphetamines is casually linked to AIDS, a cumulative incidence of 56
cases among the heterosexual subjects would be expected.

Duesberg, Peter, HIV and the Aetiology of AIDS, Lancet (04/10/93) Vol.
341, No. 8850, P. 957.

Because there is no proof that HIV is the cause of AIDS, the hypothesis
that drug use leads to AIDS will hopefully become a hindrance to the
physiologically (AZT) and psychologically (positive AIDS test) toxic
public health initiatives, writes Peter Duesberg of the University of
California--Berkeley.  In the Lancet's March 13 issue, Schechter et al.
call Duesberg's hypothesis that injected and orally used recreational
drugs and AZT lead to AIDS, "a hindrance to public health initiatives."
However, their hypothesis that HIV is the cause of AIDS has not attained
any public health benefits.  The U.S. government spends $4 billion
annually, but no vaccine, no therapy, no prevention, and no AIDS control
have resulted from work on this hypothesis.  Schechter et al. conclude
that HIV has a key role in CD4 depletion and AIDS based on epidemiological
correlations with antibodies against HIV and with self reported
recreational drug use among homosexuals from Vancouver.  However, their
survey neglects to disprove Duesberg's drug-AIDS hypothesis, because it
does not provide controls--i.e., confirmed drug-free AIDS cases--and
because it does not quantify drug use and ignores AZT use altogether.  To
refute Duesberg's hypothesis Schechter would have to produce a controlled
study demonstrating that over a period of up to 10 years HIV-positive
patients who use recreational drugs or AZT or both have the same AIDS
risks as positives who do not do so.  The 10 year period is claimed by
proponents of the HIV hypothesis to be the time needed for HIV to cause
AIDS.  Alternatively, they could show that HIV-free individuals who have
used drugs for 10 years never get AIDS-defining illnesses, concludes

Clayton, Julie, Duesberg's Anti-AZT Campaign Continues, Nature (06/24/93)
Vol. 363, No. 6431, P. 660.

The controversial American molecular biologist who claims that
recreational drug use rather than HIV is the cause of AIDS has rejected as
a "fabrication" the findings of a recent study designed to disprove his
hypothesis.  Michael Ascher and colleagues of the California Department of
Health Services used data from the San Francisco Men's Health Study to
demonstrate that men who were heavy drug users but showed no evidence of
HIV infection did not contract the virus, whereas those in the study who
were either light drug users, or did not use drugs at all, were shown to
be infected with HIV.  The study contradicts Peter Duesberg's idea that
AIDS is a clinical development of long-term consumption of recreational
drugs and of treatment with AZT.  But Duesberg said at a recent meeting in
London organized by a group known as the Steering Committee Against AZT
Malpractice (SCAM), that he refused to accept the group's conclusion, and
continued to insist that his own interpretations are sound.  He continued
to criticize the labeling of one table in the publication of the
California study for not indicating the category of "no drug use," and
that the paper was therefore invalid.  He apparently ignored an
explanation in the text that these subjects were represented in the
table's category of "light" drug users.  In addition, he said that he
refused to accept the way that the results of the study were presented in
a graph, claiming that "the curve is a fabrication and the conclusions are
flawed." Moreover, Duesberg said that the research group's findings could
be interpreted to support the opposite conclusion and suggested that there
was a 100 percent correlation between AIDS and drug use.

Maddox, John, Where the AIDS Virus Hides Away, Nature (03/25/93) Vol. 362,
No. 6418, P. 287.

Because of the new findings that HIV replicates in the lymph nodes while
in the so-called latent period, Professor Peter Duesberg of the University
of California--Berkeley may want to change his position, writes John
Maddox of Nature.  Duesberg has held that drug taking is responsible for
AIDS, and not HIV.  Most viruses are DNA viruses, which ordinarily
replicate within cells by hijacking the preexisting machinery of DNA
transcription and translation.  But the genomes of retroviruses, like HIV,
by contrast, consist of RNA.  Those of the lentiviruses, of which HIV is
one, come equipped with a gene specifying a reverse transcriptase (for
converting RNA into the complementary DNA).  While the RNA genome may be
used, as if it were one of the infected cell's own messenger molecules, to
generate the proteins that would allow an intact virus particle to be
regenerated, by far the more efficient means of replication is that DNA
complementary to the viral RNA should be incorporated in the genome of the
cell, where it will serve as a template for the production of its own
genomic RNA and thus for intact viral particles.  Duesberg claims that it
is difficult to recover from helper T lymphocytes, whose attrition for
many patients indicates the onset of overt AIDS, virus particles that
might plausibly infect others.  The new findings show that the virus is
alive and well in the lymph nodes, among other locations, of those
infected with HIV.  The recent revelations suggest that, nevertheless, the
alternatives for AIDS patients are even less justifiable than seemed
likely a few years ago.  Duesberg should now admit the possibility that he
has been mistaken, concludes Maddox.


Question 5.4.  Contaminated polio vaccine? (please contribute)

  (please contribute to this FAQ)


Question 5.5.  Who is Lorraine Day? (please contribute)

  (please contribute to this FAQ)