Etienne de Harven's 'alternative'
Most unfortunately, AIDS Rethinkers have recently appeared divided on the issue of the existence or of the non-existence of HIV, one group claiming that HIV exists but is a harmless, passenger virus, while the other group asserts simply that HIV does not exist. Neither of these two stands is compatible with available scientific evidence.
Claiming a harmless passenger is not consistent with the name HIV that implies a causal relationship with immunodeficiency, a most serious pathological condition. Asserting simply that HIV does not exist is a fragile position that can hardly account for 1) the fact that typical retrovirus particles illustrated in the 1983, Barré-Sinoussi et al. Science paper, and 2) the fact that retroviral nucleic acid sequences are routinely amplified by PCR methodologies in attempts to measure an hypothetical viral load in AIDS patients.
Obviously, an alternative analysis is urgently needed that is consistent with all the scientifically published evidence. Human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) provide such an alternative analysis that can no longer be ignored. As stated by myself in Pretoria in 2000, nobody has ever demonstrated by EM retroviral particles in the blood of patients tagged as presenting with a high viral load. An award, offered to whomever would demonstrate the opposite, has never been claimed. However, harmless viruses, when existing, are just as readily visualized by EM as pathogenic ones. The fact that they have never been observed in high viral load blood samples is therefore significant.
In conclusion, HERVs have interfered with HIV/AIDS research. Facing this fact makes it possible to correct several miss-interpretations that stand at the roots of the current HIV/AIDS dogma. Recognizing the role of HERVs in a coherent analysis of available data shall restore RA’s scientific credibility, consolidate a united front for RA, and provide RA with the strength of fundamentally redirecting AIDS research, far away from hypothetical exogenous retroviruses.
Etienne de Harven: RA2009 Conference abstract: 'Questioning the Existence of HIV'
In the original
thread, I have pointed out that de Harven's "alternative" to the opposing views
• HIV ‘exists’ but is a “harmless passenger virus”
• HIV does not exist
- consists in calling free-floating pieces of DNA a virus.
Perhaps this is the time to elaborate on the sleight of hand involved.
The fact is that neither the Perth Group nor Stefan Lanka claims that what PCR picks up on does not exist, only that the material has not been shown to originate from a virus, exogenous or endogenous.
Neither the Perth Group nor Stefan Lanka have at any point excluded the idea that at least some of the genetic material picked up by PCR could be found among the elements in the human genome called "retroviral" by scientists who were slow to accept that reverse transcriptase activity can occur in the absence of a viral entity.
It is obvious that both PG and Lanka had considered this possibility early on and simply chose to use more careful wording than de Harven.
In their 1988 paper Reappraisal of Aids: Is the Oxidation Induced by the Risk Factors the Primary Cause?, the Perth Group even uses the word "retrovirus" in this exact context in their comments on a passage including extensive quotes from the literature:
In rare cases by isolation is meant finding of virus-like particles either T-cells in vitro or cells other than T in fresh AIDS tissue (81,82). These particles are not only hard to detect but at least in some cases may be normal organelles not HTLV-III/LAV viruses (...) Although the retroviruses can arise spontaneously in virus-free cell cultures, the rate of appearance can be increased a million fold by the use of radiation chemical mitogens or infection of the culture with other viruses*
In their 1993 paper PG have an entire section on problems arising from so-called retroviral sequences in the human genome. An excerpt:
At present it is generally accepted that "one of the most striking features that distinguishes retroviruses from all other animal viruses is the presence, in the chromosomes of normal uninfected cells, of genomes closely related to, or identical with, those of infectious viruses"80.
Depending on conditions, the provirus genome remains unexpressed or part or all of it may be expressed. The latter may or may not lead to the assembly of viral particles (endogenous retrovirus). 80 In other words, the finding of a viral genome (DNA) or even of RNA, antigens and antibodies to them, is not proof of the presence of infectious particles. Although most of the above findings are from animal experiments, at present, evidence exists that "The human genome carries DNA sequences related to endogenous retroviral genomes. . .
The way such "viral genomes" are detected for diagnostic purposes is via PCR. Thus, included in PG's critique was right from the beginning the distinct possibility that what was found or detected both by PCR technology and in EMs was so-called endogenous retroviral elements.
How is this different from de Harven's "alternative"?
Discussing his Continuum articles on the non-isolation/non-existence of HIV with Steven Harris MD, Stefan Lanka writes anno 1995:
Dr Harris is clearly quite an intelligent man, so his very first point "Strangely enough, Lanka does not explain what we're seeing in all those electron micrographs" has me tearing my hair out, because a few paragraphs further down he provides his own answer that "less well-known is the existence of other particles which look like viruses but aren't and are nonchalantly referred to as "virus-like" particles. Such particles are far from rare, found for example, always in placentas, and very frequently in the artificial environment of laboratory cell cultures. They have served to muddy the waters considerably as far as AIDS research isconcerned, because particles just like these have been called HIV."
And further down:
It is my humble opinion that the sequences are endogenous, and anybody can prove it. Not only in man, of course, but also in the special cell cultures that always have to be used to make HIV.
In the first case, one can simply remove "like" from "virus-like" to get de Harven's analysis of the Montagnier photo of a budding "virus" from placenta-derived lymphocytes. In the second case, add "retrovirus" after Lanka's repeated use of the word "endogenous" and once more we have the de Harven Alternative.
If we consult Lanka's Continuum article (second reply to Duesberg), we are told plainly why Lanka (and PG) is reluctant to add the word "retrovirus" when he talks about endogenous sequences:
The human genome carries thousands of such genes that can be traced back to the action of reverse transcription (3) and were named "retroviral elements" by "retrovirologists" in an ad hoc decision (2).
Prof. de Harven's alternative consists in the following steps:
1) De Harven pretends that "HIV doesn't exist", as uttered by Lanka, means that where the label HIV is applied there is literally nothing.
2) He then makes hay of his implicit strawman by pointing out that this is wrong; that there is indeed "something" there, namely DNA (RNA), and that this DNA/RNA could be from an endogenous retroviral element.
3) However, since no retroviral particles can be isolated from AIDS patients, de Harven presents us with an EM from Montagnier of a retroviral-like particle and pronounces ex cathedra, to borrow a favourite Lanka expression, that this is most definitely a budding retroviral particle, only it comes from uninfected placenta-derived lymphocytes rather than an AIDS patient.
4) Since de Harven now has, on highest authority, both some DNA and a retroviral particle, vaguely associated with HIV because Montagnier claimed it was a picture of HIV, he can glue them together in true HIV scientific manner and claim that the DNA/RNA picked up by HIV PCR not only represents an endogenous retroviral element, but is in fact a bona fide retrovirus.
As a parody on HIV science the de Harven Alternative is quite effective. As an alternative to the Perth Group and Stefan Lanka's analyses, it has not yet been proven to exist.
*PG's 1988 paper also contains formulations such as this -
Since this is the case, even assuming that HTLV-III/LAV exists in vivo. . .
-- making it very clear for anybody with eyes to see that the isolation problems and existence of HIV were inextricably linked in PG's analyses from very early on.