I am writing in response to the article "Despair, Dissidence and Defiance." This piece contains several striking errors and omissions as well as statements attributed to Winstone Zulu that contradict remarks he made in a video taped interview following the 14th International AIDS Conference.
In your article, Winstone states he became interested in alternative AIDS views in order to find "a way out" of his positive diagnosis, a motivation that suggests such interest is always rooted in denial. Instead on camera, Winstone recalls how he decided to examine dissident AIDS information after no doctors or scientists came forth to address the challenges to HIV science posed by hunger strikers at the Geneva AIDS conference. He said it struck him as odd that at a gathering of the world's foremost experts on AIDS, not one presented evidence that would answer the strikers' simple questions. These varying versions of the facts could reflect a change heart or a decision to adopt a more acceptable story.
The tale of Winstone's fall from grace has him holed up in a "dissident household" full of people "viscerally opposed to AIDS treatment." In reality, Winstone stayed at a beachside apartment in South Africa with my 70 year-old mother, my 2 year-old son, my husband and an unexpected guest from New York. I had come to Durban as an exhibitor at the 14th International AIDS Conference, not to entice Winstone into AIDS rethinking as your article suggests. For the record, rather than opposing AIDS drugs, I promote informed choice with regard to tests and treatments; Rather than "denying AIDS," my organization takes AIDS research in productive new directions.
Your article insinuates Winstone stopped taking his AIDS meds after falling under the spell of dissidents when our video interview reveals he had quit the drugs previously due to intolerable adverse effects. He recounts his conflicted decision to stop treatment since it is a privilege few Zambians can afford and he was serving as a spokesperson for drug access and compliance.
The Positive Nation version of events fails to mention that ending his affiliation with orthodox AIDS groups left Winstone without an income (his AIDS work paid three times the yearly salary of a doctor or lawyer in Zambia), without transportation (one group provided him with a car and driver, a necessity since due to an injured leg, he can walk only short distances and with great difficulty), and at odds with his family. Questioning AIDS caused him to descend from well respected to disregarded, and from well paid to impoverished. He even claimed his life was threatened. A less biased article would consider how these issues affected Winstoneıs decision to return to work that supports his physical, emotional, and financial well being.
You tell us Winstone was "shocked back into [AIDS] orthodoxy" by the deaths of four siblings without noting that Winstone was the only member of his family to test HIV positive. A fair-minded article would discuss the horrific living conditions in Zambia that lead to such tragic circumstances.
Regarding the articleıs stance on "AIDS denial," I wonder who's in denial about what: According to studies published in the June 2002 issue of the Journal of Virology, certain protease inhibitor drugs cause up to fifty percent of healthy, uninfected T-cells to die. Other studies show alarming rates of DNA damage in the children of mothers who took AZT during pregnancy. Last month, The International Association of Midwives announced their support for HIV mothers who choose to breast feed, and this monthıs British Medical Journal declared, "breast is still best",even in countries where HIV is prevelant. According to recent news reports citing national statistics, life expectancy in South Africa has increased by nine years during the period of time known as the AIDS epidemic, deaths in South Africa from all causes including AIDS remain at less than 1% annually, infant mortality has not increased there in the past 20 years, and the countryıs population grows at a healthy 3% each year. These are just a few quick examples of crucial data that's denied a place in orthodox presentations on AIDS.
Rather than adopting alienating terms like "AIDS deniers" and dividing AIDS issues into sides, Iıd like to see Positive Nation welcome open, unbiased discussion of outstanding questions so we can work together seeking solutions to this great human tragedy.
In closing, I wish my friend Winstone all the best in his new efforts.
I never met Winstone personally but he did have dealings with a friend of mine in Zambia. She told me that about the time he resigned, some heavies from Geneva came down to intimidate him back into line. This is the sort of hearsay evidence the AIDS establishment is very fond of when it seems to support their dogma and it is frequently the sort of response they give to referenced, science-based rethinker arguments. Hearsay has the status of scientific evidence in the AIDS world because so few people are predisposed to question it and when used against AIDS rethinkers it is usually backed up with vitriolic, sanctimonious rant. We have so much manipulative rhetoric in AIDS that appeals to the imagination and the emotions rather than to the intellect, such as Winstone's meaningless and irrational statement "If Aids is just TB, as some dissidents claim, and not something that makes the TB 100 times worse, why are the only people I know who die from TB adults?" So no children in Lusaka are getting TB? There is certainly no shortage of street kids there. Surely Winstone must have spotted the vast numbers of AIDS orphans that are supposed to be around, why are none of them dying from TB?
HIV is supposed to cause AIDS by reducing or destroying CD4 cells. CD4 cells have an important role in the removal of cell debris. As the number of CD4 cells declines, presumably because of HIV, then cell debris starts to accumulate and this provides an ideal feeding base for the PCP fungus. If HIV were really the cause of AIDS in Africa then the vast majority of African AIDS patients would sooner or later get PCP, just as we see in the West, but there is very little PCP in Africa, see notes 1 and 2 below. Note that I am talking about fungal pneumonia (which is what PCP is) rather than bacterial pneumonia. AIDS drugs definitely do kill CD4 cells though (refs. 3 to 9) so once Africans have had prolonged exposure to these poisons, we will start to see the predominance of PCP as in the West. Any short term health improvements of these drugs can be attributed to an antimicrobial effect rather than an anti-HIV effect. We know that, contrary to the HIV doctor's mantra, anti-HIV drugs are not specific to HIV, they inhibit enzymes essential to many microbes (9 to 11) and some human enzymes too. Most notably the nucleoside analogs (AZT, D4T etc.) destroy mitochondria (the energy factories of cells) which are in all human cells except red blood cells (12). Those who are in awe of technology and also scientifically naive may have difficulty comprehending the fact that although an enzyme inhibitor is designed on computer, this does NOT mean it will interact with no enzymes other than the enzyme it has been designed against. Dosage levels of saquinavir, for example, are sufficient to inhibit the intestinal aspartyl protease cathepsin D. Ritonivar is 1000 times more potent against cathepsin D than Saquinavir. Further studies may reveal more microbial enzymes susceptible to anti-HIV drugs.
Winstone has exhibited seemingly eccentric behaviour, having apparently had two Damascus-like conversions, from HIV believeist to HIV dissident and back again. We are being asked to believe that, between his first sudden change and his second sudden change, almost all of his friends and siblings suddenly died. If his experience is typical then one is left to wonder how there can be anyone left in Zambia at all. In 1998 when I lived in Lusaka, the Times of Zambia was trumpeting the statistic that 1 in 5 Zambians were HIV positive. Despite hearing such dire statistics and anecdotes throughout most of the HIV era, the population of Zambia still continues to rise and has doubled during the HIV era, in fact throughout 1980 to 2000 even the rate of Zambian population increase, rather than going down, has continually risen (see http://esa.un.org/unpp). If Winstone's experience is typical and AIDS has been laying waste to Zambia for so long, surely the Zambian population should now be decreasing rather increasing, but not only is the population increasing, even the rate of population increase is increasing!
With regard to the numbers of HIV and AIDS cases in Africa, I do not feel that I should have to apologise for not accepting as actual AIDS or HIV cases, the results of extrapolations from mathematical models that use dubious assumptions. There is too much automatic deference to authority and not enough common sense questioning. Then we have the good old Bangui definition of AIDS where a few non-specific symptoms are good enough without an HIV test. If this definition were applied in the West there would be a human rights uproar. Conditions in South African prisons are optimum for the spread of HIV, so the HIV infection rate in prisons should be much higher than that given by establishment models for the general South African population. In fact it is much lower. In a letter to the BMJ, Dr Stewart Dwyer, a prison surgeon, wrote that his own regularly tested prison population only had a 2 to 4% HIV infection rate and the overall infection rate for South Africa's prisons was 2.3%.
In the 22 Nov 2001 issue of Rolling Stone magazine, journalist Rian Malan who, like the vast majority of people, had unquestioning acceptance of the official picture of AIDS in Africa, found that open and honest investigation showed a very different one:
This article reveals the statistical misrepresentation of African AIDS. Especially noteworthy is that he found that South African coffin makers, even for the poorest people, were doing a very slack trade and several had gone out of business. This in the supposed epicentre of the African AIDS "pandemic".
Winstone says "I've always worked at the Hope House Hospice (one of two in Zambia, it has 20 beds for the thousands dying in the country.)" Thousands of people die in Britain too, I wonder how many more would die here if we were also enduring the same dire conditions and dire medical services as your average Zambian? Winstone also parroted the one about teachers: "Last year Zambia lost 1500 of its teachers" The way the Zambian government treats its teachers, eg. fire-hosing them for protesting because they literally don't have enough money to live, I am surprised this figure is not higher.
I am well educated in science, I have a Master of Research degree and have had my research published in a peer reviewed journal. I am open to logical reasoning informed by direct observations from nature but this is not how AIDS Inc. works. It relies upon indirect markers derived from the abuse of genetic technology. AIDS Inc. are unquestioningly believed when they say that HIV is the sole and sufficient cause of AIDS despite there always being other non-HIV factors involved. Real science would treat these fundamental observations objectively instead of referring to a miniscule number of unsubstantiated cases where it is simply inferred that no other factors were involved. AIDS can be explained entirely without pseudo-logical recourse to HIV and a large number of observations from nature are inconsistent with the HIV model. We know for certain, however, that AIDS drugs can kill. A look at the AZT fiasco will demonstrate this beyond all doubt:
Perfectly healthy people have been pushed onto the combos either as a result of the "hit hard, hit early" doctrine or as a result of indirect markers like viral load and CD4 count. Are we able to compare survival times in developed countries of initially healthy HIV+ heterosexuals who lead a healthy lifestyle (did not take recreational drugs etc.) and were not given combos for either of these reasons, with those in the same group who were given them for these reasons? This is just one of many examples of a crucially important control for which a study should have been done, for which the results should have unequivocally supported the AIDS establishment.
Given an impartial assessment of the evidence, it is madness to shower Africans with poisons such as AZT. It is biochemically impossible for AZT to have an anti-HIV effect (13). The AIDS establishment now has poor Africans screaming for Nevirapine instead which is also deadly poisonous and cannot possibly be effective in preventing mother to child transmission of HIV:
Winstone says "I want people to know that AIDS denial is REAL, that it KILLS" I agree, AIDS denial is real and it does kill, it is denial by the establishment of the huge number of people who have already been killed primarily by AZT and denial of the now more measured destruction of people, who were otherwise perfectly healthy, through the use of combos. We also read "one of the manifestations of that denial is stigma" I don't know how you work that one out! People were not stigmatised before the establishment started branding them with a deadly transmissible virus. Stigmatism derives from fear. Dissidents did not originate this fear, the establishment did. Fear is the fuel of AIDS Inc. Rethinkers help people to conquer that fear whereas AIDS Inc. is founded upon it. There is a tremendous amount of, not just financial, but also emotional capital invested in the HIV model.
There are safe and effective alternatives to the pharmaco poisons. The alternative AIDS theorist Dr. Med. Heinrich Kremer can effectively treat AIDS with non-toxic therapies (14 to 18). Incidentally, Kremer was the first to predict the low rate of HIV positivity we see in prisons.
What it boils down to is that Africans need huge improvements in nutrition, their conditions and their quality of life rather than a quick, poisons for profit, fix where all the AIDS funding goes straight into the coffers of the pharmaceutical giants instead.
Notes and References
(1) Quote from American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, Vol. 149, No.6, 1994, pp1591-1596: "Detailed investigations confirm the rarity of PCP in Africa and highlight non-specific interstitial pneumonitis as the predominant diagnosis"
(2) Quote from Case Report, The Central African Journal of Medicine, Vol. 45, No.5, 1999, pp 127-8:
"Pneumocystis carinii [PCP] is recognised as one of the leading causes of death in AIDS patients in developed countries but its role in this regard in developing countries appears to be less prominent. Sub-Saharan African countries, in spite of their high HIV prevalence, have hardly recorded any cases"
(3) Balzarini et al. Journal of Biological Chemistry Vol. 264, pp 6127-6133, 1989
(4) Mansuri et al. Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy Vol. 34, pp637-641, 1990
(5) Hitchcock et al. Antiviral Chemistry and Chemotherapy, Vol 2, pp 125-132, 1991.
(6) Avramis et al, AIDS, Vol. 3, pp 417-422, 1989
(7) Richman et al, NEJM, Vol. 317 pp 192-197, 1987
(8) Alcabes et al, American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 137, pp 898-1000, 1993
(9) Physician's Desk Reference (1999)
(10) Atzori et al., Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol. 181, pp 1629-1634, 2000
(11) Cassone et al. Journal of Infectious Diseases, Vol. 180, pp 448-453, 1999
(12) Lewis et al. Nature Medicine, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp 417-422, 1995
(13) Turner et al. Current Medical Research and Opinion, Vol. 15, Supplement 1, 1999
(14) Herzenberg et al., Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, Vol. 94, pp 1,967-1972, 1997
(15) Greenspan, Medical Hypothesis Vol. 40, pp85-92, 1993
(16) Sjoerdsma et al., Trans. Assoc. Am. Phys. Vol. 97, p70, 1984
(17) Subbaramaiah et al., P.S.E.B.M. Vol. 216, pp 201-210, 1997
(18) Stone et al., Journal of Cell Biochemistry, Supplement 22, pp169-180, 1995
"Even now," says Winstone Zulu at the start of our conversation, "I hate this idea of being HIV positive." Yet by the end he is advocating radical street demos in Zambia to get Aids treatment. On an echoey phone line from London to Lusaka, a complex character comes through.
Zulu, now 38, was diagnosed in 1990. A life-long communist, he was given a scolarship to what was still (just) the USSR, to study politics - on one condition. He had to take an HIV test. "I had no counselling. I think from the time I found out I was HIV positive I really believed I was going to die."
And yet, almost from the start he became one of the few Africans in the Aids establishment. At the Paris world Aids conference in 1994 he was instrumental in seeing through the Paris declaration which said that people with HIV should be consulted on their care. He was present at a meting in Como, Italy, that set up UNAIDS. He was on the scientific committee of the Vancouver World Aids conference in 1996, and was all set to perform a similar role at Geneva two years later.
His high profile meant he had access to antiretrovirals and he started taking indinavir/3TC/AZT in December 1997.
But at Geneva he came across the Aids dissidents. "I was walking into the conference hall and met these people who were hunger striking to support the view that HIV did not exist, that it was all a conspiracy by the Western scientists and drug companies."
Others didnıt find them credible. Why was Zulu drawn to their ideas?
"I was already looking for a way out, something that meant I wasnıt inevitably going to die. So here were these people saying HIV has all been a big mistake. Itıs not what causes Aids. Looking back I think it was about wishing Aids away."
By the time of the Durban Aids conference in 2000, he was staying in a house with a group of people viscerally opposed to the Aids treatment that others were thronging the streets to demand. It must have been strange, to say the least, to see demonstrators with placards saying ONE DISSIDENT, ONE BULLET and knowing they were aimed at people like Zulu himself.
Head girl of the dissident household was Christine Maggiore, author of What If Everything you Thought you Knew About Aids was Wrong? Zulu still has a lot of time for the charismatic Maggiore, who has got rock stars such as the Foo Fighters to support her cause.
HEADLINE: "I WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW THAT AIDS DENIAL IS REAL, THAT IT KILLS, AND THAT IıVE BEEN THROUGH THE HEART OF IT AND SURVIVED. ONE OF THE MANIFESTATIONS OF THAT DENIAL IS STIGMA - WE WANT TO WISH AIDS AWAY. NOW MY BIGGEST ENERGY GOES INTO COMBATING STIGMA"
Zulu's dissidence became entrenched by being invited by President Thabo Mbeki to sit on his Aids Panel. Criticised by all treatment activists and most scientists as a delaying tactic at best, and as sending South Africa into a midnight of denial at worst, Zulu's interpretation is that the proud and private Mbeki was determined to make his own mind up on Aids.
"The atmosphere at the Aids Panel was extremely tense and emotional. Both sides thought the other was putting lives at risk. Peter Duesberg (the original dissident scientist, who says HIV does exist but is harmless, and that Aids is caused by other infections and recreational drugs) stormed out of the meeting in tears twice. The orthodox faction behaved hardly any better."
"The people I found most convincing were the Perth Group. These two maverick doctors who documented all the other conditions that can (occasionally) produce a positive HIV antibody test result. Theyıve done good work defining how accurate such tests can be."
But they believe HIV doesnıt exist and is therefore the one thing that the tests never measure. Zulu himself does not claim medical expertise.
In a letter to Thabo Mbeki, Zulu explained what happened to him next: "I resigned as co-ordinator of the Network of Zambian People living with HIV/Aids. I had already stopped taking my Aids medications in February 2000. But by March 2001, I started feeling very weak and could hardly walk. A fungal rash invaded my mouth and my feet. My toe nails dropped off. I donıt want to appeal to your emotions but I got really scared."
But it wasnıt really his own illnesses that shocked Zulu back into orthodoxy. It was the deaths of those around him.
"My three older brothers died aged 43, 33 and 31. I lost my younger sister when she was 33. Out of 12 friends in my neighbourhood only two were left, and soon their wives died too. Last year Zambia lost 1500 of its teachers.
"I thought if Aids is only caused by poverty, how come middle-class teachers are getting sick?
Youıve seen coverage of famines in Africa, refugee crises. Who do you see dying? The children. But in Zambia it's the healthy, sexually-active parents who die, not the kids. If Aids is just TB, as some dissidents claim, and not something that makes the TB 100 times worse, why are the only people I know who die from TB adults?"
In February 2000, when Zulu stopped taking his meds, his CD4 count was 536. In March 2002, when he started again on the same combo, it was 34. He is awaiting the result of another precious test to see if his CD4s have bounced back.
"Within a month of taking my meds again I was out of my wheelchair" and the phone line crackles with messianic force when he says: "And thatıs what I'd like to say to everyone. I'm BACK, and I want people to know that Aids denial is REAL, that it KILLS, and that I've been through the heart of it and survived. Now my biggest energy goes into combating stigma.
And I want to make Aids public. It is hidden away. In downtown Lusaka, you donıt see people with Aids, you see healthy people walking around. But their relatives are dying at home. You may ask any one of those people what they did at the weekend, and they will say one thing I did was visit a very sick friend."
His energies are now devoted to helping people get better. "I've always worked at the Hope House Hospice (one of two in Zambia, it has 20 beds for the thousands dying in the country). We are turning it into a one-stop shop where people will get while-you wait HIV testing, skills training and counselling. And we run a farm on the land so they earn a little money and arenıt on the street, catching HIV and turning the same vicious circle."
Are there parts of the dissident view-point he still agrees with?
"Yes- but the're the parts no one has ever denied. Of course the Aids drugs cause side effects. Of course HIV transmission is associated with poverty and ignorance. But the main thing dissidents do is read the small print in the story of Aids and turn it into a headline. I've been forced to read the headline at last. It says STOP THE DEATHS. NOW."