Analysis: the properness of the HIV hypothesis is a media hype 17 March 2005
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Torsten Engelbrecht,
20359 Hamburg/Germany

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Re: Analysis: the properness of the HIV hypothesis is a media hype

dear sir, dear madam,

my name is torsten engelbrecht and i am journalist in hamburg ( i am following the subject hiv/aids personally since many, many years. recently i addressed the subject more closely as journalist with my in-depth media analysis "sex, blood and death: 'the hi-virus causes aids.'. the universally held acceptance of this theory demonstrates how scientific journalism disregards significant inconsistencies to dispel any doubts about authenticity." this analysis has been published recently in germany's most recognised special interest media magazine "message" ( the original version of this analysis you can find on my website under the following link: the purpose of this research was to find out scientifically if all these very respectful scientists - like the nobel lauretes kary mullis and walter gilbert, harry rubikn, etienne de harven, "nature-biotechnology"-founder harvey bialy, eleni-papadopulos from the australian perth group, etc. - are right in saying that it has never been proven that (1) so-called hiv exists, that (2) so-called hiv causes aids, that (3) so-called hiv antibody tests detect hiv, that (4) haart prolong lives, and so on.

so i did an in-depth media analysis which took me several months to carry out. one of the basis was a worldwide survey asking the most important media outlets (e.g., "nature", "science", "washington post", "spiegel", "new york times", "die zeit", "time", "the new yorker", "newsweek") if they have any experimental proof/clear-cut study for all the claims the hiv-hypothesis is based on: that (1) so-called hiv exists, that (2) so-called hiv causes aids, that (3) so-called hiv antibody tests detect hiv, that (4) haart prolong lives, that (5) pcr- and cd4-tests are reliable in the context of aids-diagnosis, or that (6) the so called drug- hypothesis (aids = drugs like poppers or crystal meth, antiretroviral drugs, malnutrition and/or re-definition of well-known diseases) makes no sense. the result: not one media outlet could deliver one single proof for one of these claims. additionally, i wanted to know, to which drgree the media was dealing with the (obviously justified) criticism of the hiv- hypothesis. so i checked the coverage of the subject aids of several german speaking print media ("spiegel", "faz", "nzz", "berliner zeitung", "sz", "tagesspiegel", and "taz") during the last 10 years. and the result is unmistakable, as i write in my article "sex, blood and death": altogether we counted more than 20,000 texts on the subject. of the 60 reputable experts who criticised the hiv-hypothesis during that time, only nine were mentioned: among them peter duesberg in 20 articles related to aids and kary mullis in seven, which constitute only 0.135 percent of all reports about aids. yet even in those few articles, the authors avoided confrontation with the arguments of the critics, such as the criticism of conventional aids-testing. which confirms what the us-media critic michael tracey discovered once (see his analysis "mere smoke of opinion - aids and the making of the public mind": "we decided to interrogate the majpap (major papers) file in the nexis database of 37 newspers, which includes the british broadsheets, "guardian", "times", "sunday times", "independent", "ft", and the "daily telegraph", as well as most major us papers. (for some reason the mass circulation british tabloids, the "sun" and the "star" are not included.) we searched for the number of stories in which the phrase "aids virus” was employed - a phrase which he correctly took as representing the notion of causality within the aids thesis. in 1984 - the year of the heckler-gallo-conference - there were just 31 mentions of the phrase, but by 1991 it was appearing in more than 3000 stories a year in these 37 papers. by 1993 there had in fact been 20,024 uses of the term. of countervailing theories there is barely a bat's squeak. then we had a look at how gallo had fared. he found that alongside the hundreds of references were attached phrases such as 'noted', 'superstar', 'famed', 'vindication', 'significant strides', 'the one scientific hero', 'brilliant, dynamic', 'pioneering researcher', 'who discovered [or co-discovered] the aids virus', 'gallo's virus', and so on."

so what we see here is a clear example of the shaping of public discourse, the construction of a way of seeing aids. and the media made it possible by sending out the unproven messages that a virus named hiv causes aids or that a positive hiv test means getting aids (or better: one of the dozens of well-known diseases like kaposi's sarcoma) sooner or later. what kary mullis and all the other critics fo the hiv-hypothesis addresses should also be fundamental to the media: facts count first. but the media has been having problems with just these facts since the beginning of the aids-issue, when, in 1983, the "new york times" wrote about a “worldwide health problem”. at that time, not taking the facts into account, for example "spiegel" and "bild der wissenschaft" were already quite sure that civilisation was going downhill and anticipated that the last german would die of aids in 1996 (see: "aids: die bombe ist gelegt“, in: "der spiegel" 45/1984; "aids - eine neue krankheit erschüttert deutschland“, in "bild der wissenschaft" 12/1985). and on what or whom did the media base this catastrophic scenario? mostly - so the result of my analysis - on the cassandra-like talk of fame hungry physicians who turned the subject into a headline from the very beginning. it must be a contagious disease, following the principle spread by louis pasteur - “one disease, one cause, one cure” (to quote sociologist steven epstein)

in 1959 pulitzer-prize winning microbiologist rené jules dubos wrote that “the search for THE (single) cause would remain a hopeless enterprise, since most disease-conditions are the indirect result of a constellation of life circumstances.” Understanding this concept, one must ponder whether or not the matter is too complicated and at the same time too mundane, to be turned into an exciting media story.

additionally, the scientific journalists suffer from a fundamental problem: dealing with uncertainty. in striving to provide their audience with simple answers, the journalists reduced overly complex aids-issues to simple, mostly causal patterns of explanation. hence, they created the superstition that, with “safer sex” or "hiv testings", aids could be defeated.

thanks for your attention


Competing interests: None declared