The politics of AIDS in South Africa: beyond the controversies 19 August 2004
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Christopher J Noble,
postdoc
Australia

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Re: The politics of AIDS in South Africa: beyond the controversies

The Perth Group wrote: We have given Christopher Noble repeated loud and clear answers. Christopher Noble is not listening and spares no effort trying to derail the debate from its main topic, which is: has anybody proven the existence of a unique retrovirus presently known as HIV?

I am sorry to dispel the Perth Group's delusions but the topic of this debate is: The politics of AIDS in South Africa: beyond the controversies.

The Perth Group would like to imagine that this debate is about the rest of the world personally "proving" to the Perth Group that HIV exists and causes AIDS. It is not. As much as they would like to imagine, the existence of HIV does not depend on their personal belief or disbelief. The controversy was clinically dead years ago. The self-styled dissidents have kept it hooked up to an internet-led life-support system in a futile effort to keep it alive.

The Perth Group may have success in convincing a lay audience such as Pennee Atkinson, Alexander Russell or even Thabo Mbeki. What they have completely failed to do is convince the scientific community that they have any valid reasons for dismissing the thousands of papers that confirm the existence of HIV and its role in AIDS.

I have given several examnples illustrating exactly why I personally find the Perth Group's reasons for doubting the existence of HIV completely unconvincing. The Perth Group have not adequately dealt with these challenges.

As far as the Perth Group answering my questions that is entirely false. They have not answered my questions. I have been waiting with baited breath and have been rewarded with a deafening silence


A Deafening Silence

The Perth Group have previously claimed that in order to prove the existence of HIV it is absolutely necessary to:

Prove that the difference between the RNA obtained from particles originating from different cultures is about the same as the differences between the RNAs of other RNA viruses

The Perth Group have also said:

Man and chimpanzee DNA differ by less than 2% but variation in the composition of the "HIV genome" (derived from analysis of "pieces" measuring 2% to 30% of the presumed total) measures between 3-40%. By comparison, two RNA containing viruses (polio and influenza, the latter after 27 years of dormancy,) vary by less than 1% as do RNA molecules self-assembled in test tubes denied the organising influence of living cells.(155,156)

The reference that they give for the variation of poliovirus and influenza virus is a review by David Steinhauer.

Does the review say that the genomes of different poliovirus isolates differ from each other by less than 1%? No!

Influenza? No!

What does the review say? It is clear from sequencing data now available that despite the presence of some strongly conserved genomic stretches, well over half of the nucleotide positions in many RNA virus genomes can be substituted without loss of virus viability

Yes, in the very reference that the Perth Group cite there is evidence that contradicts their assertions. It is for this reason that the Perth Group are unable to convince more than their close associates that they have a valid argument.

Let's look at the poliovirus example

The article regarding the poliovirus that is cited by the Steinhauer review is by Glyn Stanway from 1984 ( Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1984 March; 81 (5): 1539-1543).

A little bit of literature searching by the Perth Group would have found another article published only months earlier by the same author (Nucleic Acids Res. 1983 August 25; 11 (16): 5629-5643) - "There is 77.4% base-sequence homology and 89.6% predicted amino-acid homology between types 1 and 3"

The deafening silence that is now emanating from the Perth Group can only indicate that they hope that if they ignore the issue people will forget that they:

  1. Invented strawman rules and criteria
  2. Completely misrepresented papers
  3. Refused to accept papers that contradicted their claims
I am giving them another chance to be honest. I will ask them.
  1. Did you invent this criterion? - Prove that the difference between the RNA obtained from particles originating from different cultures is about the same as the differences between the RNAs of other RNA viruses
  2. Did you perhaps misread and misrepresent the Steinhauer review?
  3. Do the genomes of the three Sabin poliovirus strains differ from each other by more than 1%?

Competing interests: None declared