The Potemkin Village of Essex and Chigwedere

March 21, 2010

How do you tell that you are in a Potemkin village, where all hundred and forty-one houses are mere fronts, with the happy peasants out front really just actors driven in for the occasion? If you were one of the Czar’s courtiers and he was driving you through in his carriage it would seem quite rude to ask to get down and look inside one of the houses, wouldn’t it?  But if you really wanted to know, that is just what you would have to do. Or, if you really didn’t want to know, but were happy being paid to live the illusion, you could just stay comfortably seated and tell everyone on your return that the peasants are so happy and well looked after that there is no possibility of a revolution. 

If you did look at one house – and find no furniture, nothing on the walls, maybe even a missing back wall – you could probably explain it away. Maybe the owners recently moved out. Maybe it’s under construction. Or getting new wallpaper. But if you poke your nose into two or three or more and see the same thing — only the wind from the steppes whistling through the loose boards on the side wall — you would know that something is terribly wrong. You would have to deny the Czar’s truth. 

MD Pride Chigwedere and Max Essex, the famous virologist of yore (and of course of the FIV that cat-owners purchase vaccines for to stem a tsunami of AIDS amongst this notoriously promiscuous animal), have published a presumably peer-reviewed paper “AIDS Denialism and Public Health Practice”  [Chigwedere, 2010] in AIDS and Behaviour, edited by Seth Kalichman, a University of Connecticut Psychology Professor. Kalichman has good connections among South African AIDS treatment activists and is paid by the US government to infiltrate “denialists,” even using the false name Joseph Newton.

The word “Denialist” first came into widespread use because of people who denied that the Nazi holocaust of Jews, Gypsies, Socialists, Homosexuals and other undesirables ever happened and it is deliberately used because of its consequent emotional force. But, to “deny” is a good thing if what you are denying is wrong. To deny that you killed your wife when arrested is a good thing if you did not do it — it is only an evil if you really did kill her and are now compounding murder with dishonesty. Denial is a neutral word — its morality is relative to the truth of the matter.

The Chigwedere and Essex paper would be described by most people as “scientific” but, despite this, the emotional term “denialist” is used throughout. They call Dr. Peter Duesberg of UC Berkeley, “the most well known AIDS Denialist,” for example.

The motivation for them is an earlier paper by Duesberg and others that was published on the website of the journal Medical Hypotheses in anticipation of printing but then quickly withdrawn after AIDS drug pushers leaned on the publishers who overrode the journal editor and pulled it (even threatening to close the journal’s doors) [Duesberg, 2009]. Chigwedere and Essex are here seen cursing at the graveside of their enemy while knowing that his body has been thrown to the wolves so dangerous is he even in death. But the grave, the PubMed entry, cannot be removed or their hatred would have no focus and their victory would have no trophy.

The heresies of Duesberg and others are:

  • Denying that HIV causes AIDS.
  • Denying that Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARV) are useful.
  • Denying that hundreds of thousands of South Africans have died from AIDS.

The implication that these denials by Duesberg and others are wrong is based on a single paper of which Chigwedere and Essex are authors. But their self-reference is based on a mathematical model under the control of the authors (and mathematical models do tend to validate the prejudices of their designers) and flies in the face of a rapidly increasing population in South Africa, small numbers of AIDS deaths documented by Statistics South Africa and a major confounding factor — a rapid improvement in the reporting of black deaths since the fall of apartheid which has produced the illusion of a rapidly increasing death rate.

Back to our carriage. As we start rolling through the village the first substantial structure we come to is the claim that “AZT…is safe for use by pregnant women,” supported by a single reference to an article in Lancet. I say “article,” not “paper,“ because the author, A. Baleta, is a staff writer for the Lancet and one sister journal, not a scientist, and someone who has never written a single line for any other medical journal. The article is not peer-reviewed and is merely a report of recent news. The “news” was mainly a statement by the manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline, that President Mbeki was “gravely misinformed” to claim that AZT is dangerous to health. Yet the manufacturer themselves, on the label of the drug that few people read states that, “It was often difficult to distinguish adverse events possibly associated with administration of RETROVIR® (AZT™) from underlying signs of HIV disease or intercurrent illnesses.” [GSK, 2005] Not only is this an admission that the drug has side effects but that the side effects are the symptoms of AIDS. This should not be too surprising because the “T” in “AZT” refers to Thymidine, one of the four DNA nucleosides and the drug should be expected to interfere with DNA synthesis. The only reason the administration of AZT to pregnant women has not been recognized as a new Thalidomide is because those taking it are believed to be doomed so any side effects will be called “AIDS,” thus absolving the drug.

The second house we come to is the statement that President Mbeki “appointed Duesberg and others to a commission to examine whether HIV causes AIDS.”  While strictly true, the wording implies that only “denialists” were invited but, in fact, the majority of people on the panel were mainstream scientists [PAAP, 2001] and the purpose was not to examine whether HIV caused AIDS (although that discussion was not excluded) but to advise the President on how to improve the South African response to AIDS.

Koch’s house is the next that we come to with the claim that, “HIV has satisfied Koch’s postulates, the traditional standard of infectious disease causation,” but  we don’t have to get down from our carriage. Koch’s Postulates have been stated in many different ways, even by the famous 19th century German bacteriologist Koch, but fundamentally they require a series of logical steps for proving that a pathogen is the cause of a disease. First, it must be possible to purify the pathogen (HIV in this case) from every case of the disease.  Second, injecting the pathogen must cause the same disease. Third, it must be possible to re-inject the re-purified pathogen. Fourth, this re-purified pathogen must again cause the same disease upon re-injection.

There are a lot of problems here, the first being that HIV has never been purified, clearly meaning that not a single one of Koch’s postulates can be satisfied.  You will find only two references. The first is an article written by Jon Cohen, a staff writer for the magazine Science (this house appears to have an echo in it). In this news report we find a reference to three lab workers accidentally injected with “a pure, molecularly cloned strain of HIV” and reported at a 1993 AIDS conference by William Blattner. The clone might have been pure, but where did it come from? Not from pure virus because there has never been any. 

Despite the seminal importance of these three cases they have never been reported in any detail in any journal, peer-reviewed or not. Two paragraphs in Cohen’s article indicate that only one of the three was diagnosed with AIDS but it is impossible to determine the veracity of this because of the stunning lack of useful information (except the claim that he did not take AZT). Did the one lab worker with AIDS have other risk factors such as drug use? What was the impact of the stress on his immune system? Did he take antibiotics, steroids or another AIDS drug approved at that time (such as ddI)? How was the PCP diagnosed, was it pneumonia presumed to be PCP because the person was HIV-positive? This house is looking pretty shaky – we had better leave.

Perhaps our answer will be in the second reference by O’Brien and Goedert [O’Brien, 1996]. It certainly seems more impressive. It is published in a peer-reviewed article (although in a rather obscure journal) and the title is, “HIV causes AIDS: Koch’s postulates fulfilled.” This paper was designed to be a statement of faith or a confession of sins in the style of a Stalin, Mao or Guantanamo. It was supposed to be signed by Peter Duesberg as a revocation of his heresies, and would have allowed him back to communion with the non-denialist (dogmatist) AIDS scientists. An indication of this intent is an otherwise inexplicable statement at the end of the paper, “Peter Duesberg was invited to sign this article, but after some discussion he declined.” Apparently, the paper was lined up to be published in a major journal but that plan fell through when Duesberg refused to lend his name to it.

Bizarrely, this paper achieves Koch’s postulates by watering them down to be worthy only of gruel for a starving peasant in a Czarist village. While Chigwedere and Essex describe them accurately as, “one has to isolate the infectious agent from diseased animals, culture it in the lab, inoculate the agent into healthy animals which then develop disease, and reisolate the same infectious agent,” O’Brien and Goedert make the first, most troublesome, postulate unrecognizable, “first, epidemiological association — the suspected cause is strongly associated with the disease; second, isolation — the pathogen can be isolated and propagated outside the host; and third, transmission pathogenesis — the transfer of the pathogen to an uninfected host (man or animal) leads to disease.” The  first postulate is now just a matter of opinion — what is a strong association? Neither paper, however, discusses what “isolation” means. A naïve observer would assume that it means purification, based on the latin root “isola,” meaning “island.” But no, isolation now means what a virologist wants it to mean, no more, no less (apologies to Lewis Carroll). Isolation can mean the detection of a particular protein, p24, that is found widely in HIV-negative people and found only about half the time in HIV-positive people. Or it can be the indirect detection of reverse transcription, a process that is not unique to viruses, let alone HIV. Or it can mean cell death, the formation of giant cells (Synctitia) in culture that are never found in even the sickest AIDS patient. But one thing it never means is purification of the virus, separation of the virus from all other organic materials.

Moving on down the road we see another very impressive edifice, the claims that “AIDS develops only in those infected with HIV,” with two references. The first, [Biggar, 1990], was a collection of 1891 people who were entered into the trial because they had serooconverted (become HIV-positive). They were then monitored for AIDS and, indeed, 189 were diagnosed. It would have been impossible for AIDS to have occurred before HIV infection because people were only entered if they had a documented positive HIV test (and an earlier documented negative test)! Whatever useful data this paper might hold, it cannot speak to whether AIDS occurs in HIV-negative people. The second citation [Prins, 1997] has exactly the same problem, “The HIV-positive study population comprised 418 IDU and 422 homosexual men in whom the dates of the last negative and first positive HIV-1 test were known.”

I have to emphasize that my method of analyzing this paper was to first read it and to highlight the major claims. I then started over again and examined each highlighted item. I have only got to my marks on page 2, leaving four more pages. I only needed to open a few doors to find that behind every one there is emptiness. The Chigwedere and Essex paper truly is a Potemkin Village, something worthy of denial, something everyone should be proud to deny – it should be razed to the ground because it has no value and, in fact, is part of an empire that is destroying lives through the pronouncement of death sentences, the use of toxic drugs, and the demonization of gay men, Africans and the association of sex with terror, shame and death. The empire will fall and no sympathy should be felt for the AIDS Czars when they lose their fine palaces and legions of servants and sycophants.


[Biggar, 1990]    Biggar, RJ et al. AIDS incubation in 1891 HIV-seroconverters from different exposure groups. AIDS. 1990; 4(11): 1059–66.

[Chigwedere, 2010]    Chigwedere P et al. AIDS Denialism and Public Health Practice. AIDS Behav. 2010 Jan 8.

[Duesberg, 2009]    Duesberg PH et al. HIV-AIDS hypothesis out of touch with South African AIDS – A new perspective. Med Hypotheses. 2009. (search for: Duesberg[1au] AND Med Hypotheses[journal])

[GSK, 2005]    Retrovir product monograph. GlaxoSmithKline. 2005 Sep 21.

[O’Brien, 1996]    O’Brien SJ et al. HIV causes AIDS: Koch’s postulates fulfilled. Curr Opin Immunol. 1996 Oct; 8(5): 613–8.

[PAAP, 2001]    Presidential AIDS advisory panel report. Government of South Africa. 2001 Mar.

[Prins, 1997]    Prins M et al. Comparison of progression and non-progression in injecting drug users and homosexual men with documented dates of HIV-1 seroconversion. European Seroconverter Study and the Tricontinental Seroconverter Study. AIDS. 1997 Apr; 11(5): 621–31. 

David Crowe is the President of Rethinking AIDS.