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Rethinking AIDS’s Politically Correct Eureka Moment

This is part II of  an examination of Rethinking AIDS’s politically motivated censorship of the Perth Group’s Toxic Semen theory of AIDS. In part I we showed how “strategic blunders”, unpopular or politically incorrect  (according to David Crowe’s understanding of political correctness) theories and their originators get censored in the Rethinking AIDS forum. Here we present a directly related example of the kind of favourable reception even minor contributions and contributors receive if they fit the political agenda.

In February of 2008, Professor Henry Bauer presented a paper by Tony Lance on “Intestinal Dysbiosis”, hailing it as a historical breakthrough. In a comment he summed it up in these glowing terms:

The intestinal dysbiosis theory seems able to answer all the salient questions that have been so puzzling for so long about HIV and AIDS.

Mainly through Bauer’s and Crowe’s endorsement, Tony Lance became an overnight Rethinking AIDS sensation. He was elevated to scientific expert status and invited to speak on his theory at the 2009 Rethinking AIDS conference where Anthony Brink, who has merely authored a book on AZT that altered the course of South African history,was considered too much of a lightweight to earn a place; he was a co-conspirator in the “hostile take-over” of Rod Knoll’s Aidsmythexposed forum, a distinguished guest on Crowe’s radio show, and latest Bauer has introduced Prof. Ruggiero’s new “cure for AIDS” as “confirming the intestinal dysbiosis hypothesis of Tony Lance”.

So, what’s so revolutionary about the Intestinal Dysbiosis hypothesis of Tony Lance that even Marco Ruggiero can aspire to no higher honour than confirming it? Bauer explains how it dethroned his previous favourite, the rather ill-defined “Multifactorial AIDS” theory:

1. Why did AIDS appear first among gay men in the United States?
2. Why in the late 1970s to early 1980s?
3. Why did it manifest in the specific forms of Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia, candidiasis, lymphadenopathy, and Kaposi’s sarcoma?

Dissent from HIV/AIDS theory has persisted for some two decades, but the dissidents agree only over the inadequacy of that theory; no consensus has formed over a possible alternative among a number of suggestions: drug abuse; multifactorial—a combination of many insults including a variety of infections and antibiotic treatments; undiagnosed syphilis. None of those offer convincing answers to those three questions. And dissidents have an additional question to answer:
4. If HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, why do antiretroviral drugs sometimes make people feel much better, quite quickly? (even if that benefit doesn’t last, and the drugs themselves cause harm in the longer run) (…) acknowledging an association with drug abuse leaves unanswered those same three questions. After all, there had been an epidemic of drug abuse, not restricted to gay men, in the 1960s to 1970s. Then, and also in more recent times with cocaine, crack, and meth, certain consequences deleterious to health are well known—but they did and do not prominently feature Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia or candidiasis.

This assumes two things: 1. That the pattern of drug abuse and kind of drugs used among fast-lane gays from the mid-1970s were the same as the “epidemic” in other demographics in the 1960s and 1970s. John Lauritsen for one doesn’t think so 2. That overuse of antibiotics is not drug abuse, or that the originators of the Multifactorial theory of AIDS were as ignorant as Bauer about the real damage done by antibiotics.  In a comment to his own blog post, Bauer explains:

When told about (the Intestinal Dysbiosis theory), I experienced a Eureka moment, because it resolved some things that had puzzled me about the multifactorial theory which, up to then, had seemed to me the best explanation for AIDS. I had accepted as plausible that recurrent infections of various sorts, recurrently treated with antibiotics, as well as the steady consumption of antibiotics as prophylactics, could suppress the immune system and permit opportunistic infections like candidiasis—thrush, yeast infections—to flourish. “Of course”, I had thought to myself, “if a few weeks of those things brings on thrush for me, then naturally months or years of that sort of stuff could break the immune system down altogether”. What I overlooked was that a few weeks of an antibiotic could hardly inflict serious damage on the immune system as a whole. What it does very effectively, though, is to upset the stomach by killing some of the beneficial resident bacteria; after all, that’s what antibiotics do, they kill bacteria. What finally brought my prostate infections to an end was a course of intravenous antibiotic. Moreover no stomach upset, no thrush. The antibiotic wasn’t harming the immune-system cells that circulate in the blood stream.

Since overuse of antibiotics does in fact feature, sometimes quite prominently, in the “Multifactorial” theory of AIDS, Tony Lance’s Intestinal Dysbiosis theory of AIDS could only be news, never mind a “Eureka moment”, if the proponents of it were all as ignorant of dissident lore and the action of antibiotics on gut flora and how that could be linked to AIDS as Bauer was. Perhaps that is the case for many American dissidents, but Bauer is on the mailing list of Felix deFries and the Study Group (on) AIDS Therapy, who wrote the following open letter in 2001 (excerpt, slightly edited for spelling errors):

Chemical antibiotics (e.g. sulphonamides, TMPSMX and Co-trimoxazole), that have been repeatedly administrated from 1970 on in any kind of infections, cause immunosuppression, resistant bacteria and toxic effects like skin rash, nausea and vomiting, leukopenia, pancreatitis, hyperkalemia, thrombo-cytopenia, toxic metabolites, elevated levels of liver enzymes and methhaemoglobinemia. By destroying bacteria in the gut they inhibit the production of immunoglobulins, needed for the body’s inner defences, and lay the body open to all sorts of bacterial, fungal and viral infections, including those associated with AIDS. By their strong oxidative effects they lead to a deficiency of glutathione molecules in cells, that is characteristic for the development of AIDS-defining illnesses.

Lance himself is quick to acknowledge the primacy of Vladimir Koliadin in this area. Furthermore, in early February 2008 we wrote a letter to Bauer alerting him to what was advertised as the first study of probiotics in the context of African AIDS. The mail was headlined “Wonder Drug Stabilizes CD4 Count”, and it contained a quote from an article accompanied by an ironic comment assuming he was familiar with gut immunity and its suspected role in HIV and AIDS (exerpt):

“This is the first study to show the benefits of probiotic yogurt on quality of life of women in Nigeria with HIV/AIDS and suggests that perhaps a simple fermented food can provide some relief in the management of the AIDS epidemic in Africa

Now why didn’t we “denialists” ever think of the possible link between proper nutrition, healthy gut flora and African AIDS?

Bauer didn’t reply, and two weeks later he trumpeted Tony Lance’s paper on his blog as a historical breakthrough.

As far as the Multifactorial theory, including the Oxidative Stress theory of AIDS, being unable to explain why certain AIDS indicator diseases are almost exclusively found in the fast-lane gay demographic, Bauer neglects to inform his readers why he doesn’t consider for example the combination of overuse of corticosteroids (notably stressed by Al-Bayati but also the European rethinkers quoted above as linked to both Pneumocystis Jiroveci and Kaposi’s sarcoma) and abuse of nitrite inhalants (Lauritsen – linked to Kaposi’s sarcoma) to be fairly unique to the fast-lane gay demographic in the AIDS era. In addition, Eleopulos-Papadopulos suggested a specific role for the synergistic effect of nitrites and anally deposited sperm, the latter itself oxidized by nitrites and the other polluting substances to which the fast-lane gay demographic was heavily exposed.

But Bauer persists in pretending that his personal “Eureka moment”  is a collective Eureka moment for all rethinkers, so the question becomes what stake does he have in pretending so? Bauer has been very active in rewriting the history of rethinking to focus it around himself. He facilitated and hailed Prof. de Harven’s shoddy, wholly derivative paper on the ”Endogenous Retrovirus” theory of HIV as a historical breakthrough, and now he can add another historical claim to have “encouraged”, provided “invaluable editorial suggestions” to and shepherded his latest protege’s original breakthrough paper on the “real cause” of AIDS through to Rethinking AIDS prominence. But there is added value because Tony Lance is a gay man, an “insider” who is also a long term HIV positive.  It can’t get any sexier than that for the homophobia-accused Bauer, who was forced to explain the, largely manufactured, charge publicly, and the equally political correctness-hungry Rethinking AIDS president Crowe. Significantly, what’s left when we remove  antibiotics from the equation is Tony Lance’s remarks on “anal douching”. This is the only part of his theory Lance himself claims is completely, original and the way in which it is introduced in his paper is revealing:

First, bear in mind the connection between receptive anal sex and the propensity to test “HIV+” which has been noted since AIDS began. The Perth Group in a letter to David Rasnick, citing the Multicenter AIDS Cohort study and the Padian study, stated “The only sexual act, in both gay and heterosexual sex, which is related to the appearance of AIDS and a positive antibody test is receptive anal intercourse.” And “The frequency of this practice, by either sex, and not the number of partners (promiscuity) is the risk factor for the development of AIDS and of a positive antibody test.” They go on to say, “…for AIDS to appear a very high frequency of receptive anal intercourse over a long period is necessary” (15). It doesn’t take much imagination to connect receptive anal sex with a disturbance of the microflora found in the mucosal lining of the intestinal tract. Trauma associated with anal penetration and the effects of sexual lubricants are two factors that might plausibly be implicated.

Any mention of semen has conveniently disappeared from Lance’s quote of the Perth Group, as it has from the rest of his paper. This is still not very politically correct since “the act itself”, as Crowe puts it, remains the culprit. But fortunately Tony Lance has a much more acceptable alternative explanation for the Perth Group’s observation:

But another practice likely plays a significant role in intestinal dysbiosis, at least as far as many gay men are concerned: Douching. It’s easy to see how one might completely overlook that this common practice could be a health risk. Cleanliness through washing is a shibboleth; and anyway, how dangerous could a little water be?

This is of course heaven-sent for all “politically correct” rethinkers; it is not the unnatural, immoral, dangerous or dirty character of the “act itself”, but, paradoxically, the extreme propensity for cleanliness and consideration in gay men that is the main cause of AIDS. It is a perfect counter theory to the Perth Group’s unacceptable interpretation of the same data, and the opportunity to write off the Perth Group on this issue as well proved so irresistible that the fact that Lance offers practically zero evidence  in support of a strong causal link between anal douching and severe Intestinal Dysbiosis or the classical Gay AIDS indicator diseases is completely ignored. Consequently, when advertised on David Crowe’s radio show,  the Intestinal Dysbiosis theory had already become the “Rectal Enema” theory of AIDS in the summary:

This theory is based on observing gay male sexual practices that involve rectal washing or enemas that may deplete the natural bacterial flora in the intestine that is critical to good health.

The radio show featuring Tony Lance is also involuntarily amusing because of co-host Terry Michael’s unwitting “deconstruction”, heedless of Lance’s attempts to keep the discussion focused on anally inserted objects, of the central dishonesty perpetrated by both Bauer and Lance: the premise that the Intestinal Dysbiosis theory is fundamentally different from or simpler than the Multifactorial theory.  Lance readily admits that intestinal dysbiosis is only one of many possible causes of the syndrome called AIDS, but what’s glossed over is that intestinal dysbiosis itself has multiple causes. Lance comes up with fisting, lubricants and antibiotics in addition to anal douching, and the helpful radio hosts quickly add around-the-clock partying, alcohol, unhealthy food, unclean water, consumption of HIV drugs etc.. . . . until Michael excitedly declares that “it was the Multifactorial theory!”, forgetting the narrow, freely-invented-for-the-occasion definition of ”multifactorial” he used to accommodate Lance at the beginning of the show.

In his paper, Lance nevertheless cannot resist the temptation to stretch his theory beyond its capacity to “answer all salient questions in a coherent way”. Under the heading “HIV/AIDS and Heterosexual Women” Lance writes:

A 1999 study concluded that the presence of abnormal vaginal flora was associated with an increased risk of HIV infection (60) and a 2006 paper found that vaginal douching among African sex workers increased their risk of acquiring HIV (61). The conventional explanation for these observations is that douching disturbs the protective mucosal lining of the vagina, making it easier for HIV to reach the underlying tissue and gain entry into the body. But the mucosal lining is also where the beneficial flora reside. So if the mucosa are damaged then it follows that the flora it harbors are being disturbed as well.

Abnormal vaginal flora and intestinal dysbiosis or “leaky gut” are not the same thing; the female immune system is not primarily located in the vagina, so what Lance’s example shows, if anything, is that something related to sexual practices or hygiene but unrelated to intestinal dysbiosis is a sufficient cause of testing HIV positive.

In the section headlined “HIV/AIDS is Equally Distributed Between the Sexes in Africa”, Lance writes:

HIV/AIDS in Africa does not discriminate based on gender. This would be predicted by the intestinal dysbiosis theory. Conditions of poverty such as malnutrition, poor sanitation, limited access to health care, widespread parasitic infections, and the lack of clean water would likely contribute to and exacerbate intestinal dysbiosis. Indeed, intestinal problems are endemic in much of Africa. And intestinal dysbiosis resulting from living conditions would not skew toward one sex or the other but would instead be evenly divided between the two.

This is true, but the Intestinal Dysbiosis theory also predicts, at least in the first part of the paper, that the AIDS indicator diseases caused by it would be skewed towards Pneumocystes jiroveci and Kaposi’s sarcoma. This in fact was the essence of Prof Bauer’s Eureka moment. But since neither of those diseases is characteristic of African AIDS, it means there  must be other factors, either in addition to intestinal dysbiosis or sufficient in themselves,  causing the classical Gay AIDS diseases among Western homosexuals.

In sum, Tony Lance’ s exploration of intestinal dysbiosis is a much appreciated highlight of one important link in the synergistic chain of multiple factors contributing to AIDS, nothing more, nothing less, and Lance himself would be the first to recognize that if he hasn’t yet been blinded by the politically motivated Rethinking AIDS spotlight. It is highly doubtful  that Bauer and Crowe would have propelled him unchallenged to Rethinking AIDS stardom, normally reserved for  the well connected, the well credentialed  and the “politically correct”  had they not deemed it  expedient to their efforts at rewriting the history of AIDS rethinking.


2 Responses to “Rethinking AIDS’s Politically Correct Eureka Moment”

  1. Gene Semon says:

    Absolutely spot on Claus.

    You’ve exposed a type of intellectual hustle that Professor Bauer has made into a higher art form. Eureka moment one: his activity as lead scientist for RA is par for the course in the world he lives in. It’s an illustration of why the ‘social construction of science’ crowd is worth paying attention to.

    It’s true for example that most textbooks rewrite the history of science to suit the current view of science. As Kuhn documented, it’s necessary to understand a particular scientific era under its own terms.

    And EUREKA, rewriting history and throwing bones to the establishment – removing antibiotics from the equation – increases one’s political power.

    One could try to provide a list of references, starting with Root-Bernstein, at Bauer’s site on why antibiotics should remain in the equation. It would be a test of the new RA Open Science policy …

  2. mahndisa says:

    Interesting article. I was thinking the other night, as I took some probiotics about how the gut is so gosh darned important. One thing I want to point out is that we are beings made of bacteria and other organsims and some scientists think that the stuff of which we are made affects our behaviors, desires etc. When a person has a yeast infection, they tend to want to eat sweets which feeds the yeast. If a person participates in anal rimming or anal intercourse we know the beneficial bacterial counts in the gut will be off, sometimes leading to giardiasis. Giardia wants to propagate so it wants to be fed. So the human will do whatever it can to feed it like engaging in activities to get fecal to mouth contact. So I think the other factor is that the negative organisms that can affect our behavior and that can lead up to vulnerability to disease also. I also think the anal douching makes a lot of sense and most doctors tell women not to douche anymore, at least that has been my personal experience. It is not recommended precisely because it interrupts the balance of beneficial bacteria in the vagina. This was a good article and thanks for posting it here.

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