By Christine Johnson

HEAL Magazine 1995

The primary evidence offered to substantiate the hypothesis that HIV causes AIDS is an epidemiological correlation between HIV and AIDS. It is claimed that all AIDS patients are infected with HIV, as demonstrated by positive HIV antibody tests, and that a positive HIV antibody test means that a person is infected with HIV.

First, it is impossible to claim that HIV has been present in all AIDS cases. The CDC admits that 43,606 American AIDS cases have never been tested for HIV. Using the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) statistics, Professor Peter Duesberg of the University of California at Berkeley calculates an additional 18,666 have not been tested, totaling 62,272.[1] In Africa virtually no one is tested. The resources for HIV antibody tests are simply not available in most sub-Saharan African countries. Instead, Africans are diagnosed with AIDS on the basis of a clinical case definition [2] which consists of cough, fever, persistent diarrhea, and weight loss of greater than 10% of body weight. These identical symptoms can be caused by any number of diseases endemic to African countries. In fact, on the rare occasions when groups of African "AIDS" patients have been tested, approximately half of them have been found to be HIV negative.[3]

Even if all cases throughout the world had been tested and had been found to be positive, this would still offer no proof that AIDS patients are infected with HIV, since during the initial development of HIV antibody tests (and even to this day), the tests were never verified by an independent gold standard. A gold standard means that it is necessary to correlate a positive antibody test with findings of actual virus in the body of the person being tested and a negative test with findings of no virus in the body.

HIV antibody tests have been subjected to severe criticism by an Australian research team headed by Dr. Eleni Eleopulos [4] for a multitude of reasons. The most important is that an antibody test is not valid unless it has been authenticated by use of an independent gold standard which, for HIV antibody tests, must be the presence of HIV itself. Dr. Eleopulos's team thoroughly searched the literature on antibody testing and found that no researcher had yet met the requirement of a gold standard. Thus, they conclude that the relationship between a positive HIV antibody test and HIV infection has not been substantiated.

The necessity for a proper gold standard cannot be emphasized too much. Eleopulos explains: "The use of viral isolation as an independent means of establishing the presence or absence of the virus is technically known as a gold standard, and is a quintessential element for the authentication of any diagnostic test. Without a gold standard the investigator is hopelessly disoriented since he does not have an autonomous yardstick against which he can appraise the test he is aspiring to develop."

Without a gold standard there is no way to be sure that a positive HIV antibody test indicates HIV infection or what it indicates. False positives due to cross-reactions have been well-documented for dozens of different reasons. A crossreaction is when the test finds an antibody to another microbe or even to some normal cellular component and registers it as an antibody to HIV.

Cross-reactions with non-HIV antibodies have been documented in the presence of the following: any other retrovirus besides HIV, the flu virus, common cold virus, herpes simplex-2 virus, hepatitis B virus, all Mycobacterium bacterial species (including tuberculosis, leprosy, and M. avium [MAC]); vaccinations such as for flu or hepatitis B; pregnancy or prior pregnancy, blood transfusions, hemophilia, blood clotting factor, sperm, a highly oxidized physiological condition (which occurs with extensive use of drugs or blood products); autoimmune disorders such as lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and Sjogren's syndrome; cancers such as multiple myeloma; alcoholic hepatitis, alcoholism, liver disease; naturally-occurring antibodies such as antibodies to carbohydrate, nuclear antigens, human T-cells, mitochondria, and cellular actin; tapeworms and other parasites; malaria, malnutrition, and others.

The reason members of the AIDS risk groups (gay men, intravenous drug users, hemophiliacs, and recipients of blood transfusions) have high levels of positive HIV antibody tests is due to the fact that all these groups are exposed to a multitude of foreign antigens and infectious agents and thus have numerous antibodies to many non-HIV antigens. Because of these factors, it is to be expected that cross-reactivity with the HIV antigens in the test kits would be the rule rather than the exception in these groups. The same holds true for Africans: Both ELISA and Western Blot tests are nonspecific in African populations, meaning the tests cross-react with antibodies to other diseases on such a frequent basis as to make the results worthless for HIV detection.[5-9]

According to Langedijk, "[a]lmost all reactions, especially in low-risk populations, represent false positive results."[10] Both on ELISA and Western Blot. In the general population, it has been generally accepted by mainstream AIDS researchers that positive results are likely to be false positives. Many articles have been written in the scientific literature expressing concern about this problem.[11-13] As Germanson has noted, "At some point of extremely low disease prevalence, it is expected that the positive predictive value (PPV) of the most powerful assay series will deteriorate to a sub-standard level of performance." A low PPV means that a positive result is not likely to predict infection.

The mathematics of the relationship between test specificity, disease prevalence, and positive predictive value consistently predict that in low-prevalence populations almost all positives are false positives. In the general population, which the CDC estimates to have a prevalence of HIV infection of 0.04%, using a test with a specificity of 99.9%, the result is that 71% of all positives will be false positives. At a specificity of 98.6%, 97% will be false positives. (Send a SASE to the author for a chart of these calculations.)

The above discussion only scratches the surface of what is wrong with HIV antibody tests. It is not recommended by this author to get tested for any reason; to do so is to open a Pandora's box of trouble.


1. Duesberg, P. 1993. "The HIV gap in national AIDS statistics." Bio/Technolpgy.- 11:955-6.

2. Gilks, C. 199 1. 'What use is a clinical case definition for AIDS in Africa?' BMJ. 303.1189-90.

3. Duesberg, P. 1992. AIDS acquired by drug consumption and other non contagious risk factors. Pharmac. Ther. 12. 55:201-277.

4, Papadopulos-Eleopulos, E., Turner, V., Papadimitriou, J. 1993. Is a positive Western Blot proof of HIV infection? Bio/Technology--- 11:696-707.

5. Hunsmann, G., Schneider, J, Wendler, I. et al. 1985. HTLV positivity in Africans. Lancet. October 26, 1985.

6. AIDS vaccine efficacy trial sites selected by WHO. 1991. The Blue Sheet. 34(43):1-3.

7. Weiss, R., Cheingsong-Popov, R., Clayden, S. et al. 1986. Lack of HTLVA antibodies in Africans. Nature. 319:794795.

8. Biggar, R., Melbye, M., Sarin, P. et al. 1985. ELISA HTLV retrovirus antibody reactivity associated with malaria and immune complexes in healthy Aflicans. Lancet. ii:520-523.

9. Kashala, 0., Marlink, R., Ilunga, M. et al. 1994. Infection with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV- 1) and human T-cell lymphotropic viruses among leprosy patients and contacts: correlation between HIV- 1 crossreactivity and antibodies to lipoarabinomanna. J. Infec. Dis. 169:296-304.

10. Langedijk, J., Vos, W., Doornum, G, et al. 1992. Identification of crossreactive epitopes recognized by HIV- 1 false-positive sera. AIDS. 6:1547-1548.

11. Weiss, R., Thier, S. 1988. HIV testing is the answer -- what's the questiong NEJM 319:1010-1012. Meyer, K., Pauker, S. 1987. Screening for HIV: Can we afford the false positive rate? . 317:238-241.

13. Germanson, T. 1989. Screening for HIV: Can we afford the confusion of the false positive rate? J. Clin. Epi. 42:1235-123