We are gratified that the Los Angeles Times chose to inform its readers of the growing controversy over the cause(s) of AIDS ("Hero or Heretic?" May 21). However, the article that purported to "rebut" several of our arguments against a viral cause of AIDS was grossly misleading. Each of the "answers" to our questions either cited data that does not exist or avoided the question entirely.
As we have pointed out, the body fights new infections by raising antibodies against the invading virus, and the battle is decided within days or weeks; these antibodies against HIV are detected by the feared AIDS test years after HIV has been neutralized. The effectiveness of such antibodies is the sole rationale for all vaccinations. It is for this reason that the AIDS virus is undetectable in most antibody-positive persons, and we have therefore proposed that something else must be the cause AIDS.
HIV is not found in virtually all AIDS cases. Only antibodies against the virus can be found in the vast majority of cases, and even this association is only by definition. AIDS is defined as a syndrome of 25 old diseases, but only if they occur in the presence of antibody to HIV. Tuberculosis found in an HIV-negative patient is referred to by its classical name, but in the presence of antibody of HIV, it is renamed "AIDS."
When we point out that figures connecting HIV infection with AIDS are very dubious and totally at odds with the virus-AIDS hypothesis, the Times (article) can only agree that such numbers are "imprecise." Indeed, of the 1 million American HIV carriers, only 2% to 3% have developed AIDS annually during the last five years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. At this rate, most HIV-carriers would have to wait 33 to 50 years to get AIDS.
Although admitting its toxicity, our critics are quoted as saying that AZT therapy extends the lives of AIDS patients. No study supports this claim.
The Times (article) declares that "drugs are now discounted" as the cause of AIDS. On what basis? The only reason many scientists "discount" drugs as major factors is because of the popularity of HIV in awarding grants for AIDS research. The small amount of existing data on drugs and AIDS certainly does suggest a causal link, but no scientist could make a living investigating such a poorly funded hypothesis.
All this debate, however, basically ignores our central point. We are simply proposing that an inactive virus, neutralized by the body's immune system and possessing no unusual genetic or biochemical properties, and which is loosely and inconsistently associated with two dozen unrelated diseases, is nothing more than a harmless marker for the real health risks that causes AIDS diseases in very restricted groups of people.
BRYAN J. ELLISON
University of California