Adding to an ongoing list of controversial statements, American Family Association President Bryan Fischer is now claiming that HIV is not the cause of AIDS or the AIDS epidemic.
Fischer made the comments Wednesday on his syndicated radio show, Focal Point, during an interview with Peter H. Duesberg, a discredited scientist who also claims that the disease manifestation known as AIDS is not caused by HIV. The apparent cause, according to Fischer and Duesberg — who authored the AIDS denialist manifesto “Inventing the AIDS Virus” — is too much homosexual sex and recreational drug use.
And what evidence does Fisher have that HIV does not cause AIDS?
Fischer: I read a story about Earvin Johnson — Magic Johnson–
Duesberg: Ah, yes.
Fischer: A very prominent diagnosis of AIDS in 1991, I think it was.
Duesberg: That is correct.
Fischer: And everybody thought he’s going to die, he’s going to keel over, he’s going to wither away. And here he is 20 years later — and the article was celebrating the 20th anniversary of his diagnosis. You look at the guy and he is absolutely as healthy as a horse, but he’s been HIV-positive for 20 years and that would fit your theory that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS.
Duesberg: And so are 100 million Americans that been HIV-positive in ’85 — and even now in 2012, it’s still 1 million HIV-positive Americans. On average, they have the same life expectancy as the rest, else otherwise they would have disappeared by now.
What Fischer and Duesberg don’t note in this exchange is important. First, Johnson was never diagnosed with AIDS. He was diagnosed as HIV-positive. AIDS is a clinical manifestation of the disease process caused by the virus — HIV — which includes a significantly compromised immune system and one of several infections not found in people with healthy immune systems. Second, neither Duesberg nor Fischer note that as a very wealthy man, Johnson had access to the best medical care and best medications from the moment of his diagnosis. In fact, that flies in the face of a claim by Duesberg that antiretroviral drugs are toxic and kill more people than HIV itself does.
And finally, neither notes that Johnson himself, on Nov. 7, 1991, denied having AIDS. From CBS News:
“I just want to make it clear, first of all, that I do not have the AIDS disease.”
CBS News also reports that Johnson’s care was overseen in part by Dr. David Ho, the scientist who is credited with discovering protease inhibitors, a powerful drug which stops the virus’ replication process.
The folks at the National Association of People With AIDS are not keen on Fischer’s venture into AIDS denialism either.
“There’s no excuse for denying that the HIV virus causes AIDS,” said Peter Kronenberg, communications director for the Washington, D.C.-based advocacy group. “It’s been accepted for years that HIV passes all the standard tests for identifying an infectious agent as the cause of a disease. With very rare exceptions (which can be traced to other health conditions), the virus is present in all patients who display the complete immune system breakdown that characterizes advanced AIDS. Transmission of the virus to uninfected persons causes steady progression towards AIDS as long as the virus is left untreated and unchecked. When the virus is finally treated, even very advanced AIDS patients come back from the brink of death as their immune systems begin to rebuild themselves. There’s nothing left to prove: HIV causes AIDS.”
Watch the Right Wing Watch has the entire Duesberg-Fischer interview:
Photo: Bryan Fischer at the 2011 Values Voter Summit (AMERICAN INDEPENDENT/Sofia Resnick)