Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Dissidents' Views of HIV Tests

Momentum for the alternate HIV/AIDS explanation started in 1987 when Dr. Peter Duesberg, a professor of Molecular and Cell Biology at the University of California at Berkeley and initial demonstrator that the influenza virus has a segmented genome, published a paper claiming that HIV cannot be the cause of AIDS. Four years later, a number of scientists formed “The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis” which later established itself as an official non-profit organization. Within another four years, 32 scientists with advanced medical degrees published a statement in Science asking for the reconsideration of the current HIV/AIDS theory. Since this publishing, over 2,100 people have signed this statement. Should institutions acknowledge any concerns from this small, not-too-silent minority or are their claims completely unsubstantiated? I’m Colby Uptegraft from Dr. Dave Wessner’s Biology of HIV/AIDS class at Davidson College, and while AIDS dissidents have many claims, I will present their arguments regarding HIV testing.

HIV critics rest a substantial amount of their theory on the problems with HIV tests. Currently, there are three main types of tests—antibody tests, antigen tests, and PCR tests. Dissidents primarily scrutinize the antibody tests.

HIV antibody tests begin with an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). A second test confirms a positive ELISA. These secondary tests include Western blot assays, indirect immunoflorescence assays, line immunoassays, or a second ELISA. When used in combination, these tests are 99.9% accurate in detecting HIV antibodies.

According to Rebecca Culshaw, author of Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS?, the flaws in antibody tests originate in the proteins initially used to define reactivity on ELISA and Western blots. Before HIV had been isolated, scientists stimulated cell cultures from AIDS patients with mitogens to produce more proteins. Researchers found 30 of these proteins to have densities characteristic of retroviruses and selected the 10 that most commonly reacted in blood from AIDS and pre-AIDS patients to be from HIV alone. Do you see the circular logic? Researchers assumed HIV caused AIDS and automatically attributed the 10 most common reactive proteins to HIV. Positive test results may have a high correlation to developing AIDS, but according to Culshaw, they do not mean HIV is the cause. HIV supporters ascribe her claims to outdated data.

Robert Geraldo, a medical doctor working at the Cornell University hospital, added suspicion to these tests when he discovered that everyone reacts positive on the ELISA test for HIV. Lab technicians typically use a 1:400 dilution of HIV-suspected serum samples for these tests. Many antibody tests for other viruses such as hepatitis A and B, rubella, and syphilis use undiluted samples, and the ones that use dilutions such as the Epstein-Barr virus, use dilutions an order of magnitude less. When Geraldo tested 100 undiluted samples, including his own blood, they all produced positive ELISA results. When diluted 1:400, all specimens produced negative results. He claims his results indicate that we all have antibodies to HIV or at least ones that will cross-react with ELISA tests. presents the counter argument. One cannot compare antibody tests for other viruses to the HIV test. All antibodies are unique and require different dilutions to eliminate false-positives resulting from non-specific binding.

The second HIV test detects antigens, substances that trigger generation of antibodies in organisms. The most common HIV antigen that provokes an immune response is the protein p24. According to Culshaw again, the dissidents assert that many AIDS patients do not have detectable levels of p24 and that many people without HIV infection produce positive p24 results. However, the HIV hypothesis acknowledges the disappearance of p24 in the bloodstream as AIDS progresses, and states lab technicians can use the p24 antigen test in conjunction with other antigen or antibody tests to increase its accuracy.

The third and final family of HIV tests uses PCR to amplify minute levels of RNA or DNA to quantities sufficient for detection. However, Kary Mullis, the inventor of PCR technology, proclaims, “Quantitative PCR is an oxymoron” and believes PCR is not applicable to HIV detection. PCR is too efficient in that it will amplify any DNA in a sample, whether it represents contamination or belongs to HIV. Therefore, scientists cannot use PCR to ascertain HIV infection status or viral load, the number of DNA or RNA copies per milliliter of blood. Even with these dissenting claims, the FDA approved these tests for monitoring the health of people with HIV and high statistical correlations exists between these tests and the onset and severity of AIDS.

While believing in Bigfoot or that the Holocaust never happened provides entertainment to some, the conspiracies cannot sustain actual scientific inquiry. The theory that HIV does not cause AIDS is not any different. AIDS dissidents cling to small individual details and pull them out of context with the vast majority of HIV evidence and research. In the case of HIV tests, critics ignore the use of multiple tests to predict HIV status and the combined accuracy of these tests in predicting the onset of AIDS and the causative nature of HIV. They instead focus upon the individual use of each test and make the illogical assertion that the unknowns in each are additive and cannot be used to support each other.

If you believe the United States never landed on the moon, then consider the arguments of the AIDS dissidents. If you like reality, then stick with the traditional explanation.

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