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REPORT FROM WAR ON AIDS - ACCRA

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Sir,

Another African AIDS conference has come and gone, and we are still no closer to a cure. A cure for what? Perhaps we need a cure for AIDS researchers.

This indaba was the 13th International Conference on HIV Treatment, Pathogenesis and Prevention in Resource-Limited Settings. A real mouthful. But the word ‘pathogenesis’, meaning how the virus gradually causes the disease, was not uttered a single time during the three and a half days of presentations in Accra, Ghana.


That is probably a good thing because when the curtain is pulled back on the doctors, scientists and professors who were professing at the conference, the irony is revealed that they do not really know how HIV causes AIDS. This is despite their unspoken, uncritical belief in an outdated, 35-five-year old explanation that HIV causes AIDS by killing CD4 cells. In fact, the professors do not really care about the technicalities of pathogenesis as long as the pharmaceutical companies keep funneling money to keep their research machines running and well-oiled.


Who cares how the sausage is made? Just don’t look behind the AIDS research curtain or ask any questions the professors cannot easily answer. In other words, do not question orthodox conventional wisdom – even if it is wrong.


Proved


Indeed, your correspondent again proved to be the fly in the ointment of a perfectly planned and executed programme of mutually satisfactory scientific pats on the back and polite applause. The alphabetic health agencies of the United States and the World Health Organization were there, along with representatives of several pharmaceutical companies. All co-sponsored a well-run program designed by Virology Education and the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development.

The Amsterdam Institute was founded by imminent AIDS researcher and humanitarian Joep Lange who fatefully lost his life; shot down by a Russian missile over Ukraine in 2014 as he and his wife headed to the International AIDS Conference in Australia. Dr. Lange had campaigned zealously to make affordable treatments for AIDS available in Africa when there were none. He championed ‘sustainable solutions to major health problems’ and a ‘problem-oriented approach’. Unfortunately, in the HIV scientific community, these noble goals are all too often smothered by a blanket of financial self-interest that puts the interests of AIDS researchers above those of poor and sick people living with the disease.


Progress


The good news is that across the continent, great progress has been made. In Ghana, AIDS has fallen from the number one to the number six cause of death. After all this scientific progress, people with HIV are expected to sit back and rejoice at their good fortune. As well we should. But good is not good enough. Especially when 10 million people with HIV still receive no treatment, and so-called experts at a pathogenesis conference cannot even correctly explain the pathogenesis of how HIV causes AIDS. Why?


In 2001 at the First Scientific Conference on AIDS, the world-famous developer of the protease inhibitor drugs that finally stopped the dying, Dr. David Ho, declared the original hypothesis of how HIV causes AIDS – by killing CD4 cells – was ‘scientifically impossible’. Since then the AIDS research community has continued to skate on the thin ice of this scientifically impossible explanation about HIV killing CD4 cells.


But all the ice has melted. Now they continue to skate merrily along on an ice-free pond of an illogical, false scientific theory; none the wiser. If anyone dares suggest that the scientific emperor has no clothes, or the scientific pond has no ice left to skate on, the AIDS boffins circle their wagons and pull rank. “But we are the WHO, the CDC and the NIH,” they protest. Good for them.

That still does not put any ice back on the pathogenic pond when their explanation of how HIV causes AIDS remains impossible. It is incumbent for today’s scientists to find a pond with real ice and a truly supportable explanation of AIDS pathogenesis if they really want to make progress towards improving treatments for people with HIV. However if anyone points out their logical fallacy, the professors ignore or dismiss it. Could this denial by ignoring be part of a campaign to obscure tremendous scientific progress made against HIV in another area, but that for commercial reasons has not been widely shared with the public?


Forum


The 13th Interest Conference was a laudable forum, bringing together almost 700, mostly young, African scientists to highlight the work they have been doing in practically every sphere of prevention, care and treatment.

The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa were widely represented, and the next two annual Interest conferences are scheduled to be in Windhoek, Namibia and Kampala, Uganda. But will those conferences again allow self-interested AIDS researchers to whistle past the graveyard as they continue to ignore a fundamental question about a major part of the claimed purpose of their conference – pathogenesis? The burning unanswered question remains; how does HIV actually cause AIDS?


Unfortunately, far too many people in Africa still believe AIDS is a death sentence – a disease to die from, rather than one to live with. This is because governments have failed to amplify this critical message clearly enough to the person in the street. Because of this, people are still dying who should not be.
This misperception on the part of the public about life expectancy with HIV disease must change. Governments need to clearly communicate this necessary change in mindset to communities - but they do not. Important research conducted by the Ministry of Health of Rwanda has also been ignored and shoved under the carpet.


A 2015 Rwandan study published in the journal AIDS showed that for HIV positive people who are not yet on ARVs, taking just one 200mcg tablet of selenium daily slows down progression of HIV by almost 45 per cent. Nothing else besides ARVs can do that.


Ten million people worldwide, who are HIV positive but are not yet on ARVs, could benefit from using this affordable therapeutic approach – but they do not. Those given the responsibility for world health fail to inform them about it.


If critically important AIDS research conducted by mature, well-connected African scientists is ignored by the ‘scientific community’, what does that bode for the future of the bright-faced, optimistic young scientists making their debut at the Interest Conference?


The 13th Interest Conference was interesting. But when will these virology boffins admit the fact that selenium plays a central role in HIV disease?
After all, it is the most essential, critical chemical element for both the body’s immune system and antioxidant system. How long will it be before the AIDS Establishment stops standing in the way of improving HIV treatment for ordinary people living with HIV across Sub-Saharan Africa by adopting the strategic breakthrough African scientists have already discovered?

Howard S. Armistead

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