AIDS researchers are baffled by the latest findings: The AIDS vaccine developed by pharmaceutical manufacturer, Merck Inc., has failed to prevent HIV infection in previously uninfected volunteers. To add to the mystery, those taking the vaccine actually had higher incidences of infection, leaving scientists and Merck officials scratching their heads in disbelief.

The study, a randomized double-blind trial, looked at two groups. The first was given a modified cold virus that was engineered to carry three synthetic HIV genes (genes native to the HIV virus but produced in the lab). The other group was given a placebo. Both groups received prevention counseling. All the volunteers in the study belonged to groups that were already high-risk for infection. The group receiving the vaccine were not only susceptible to infection, but they also contracted HIV at a rate of more than double the placebo group.

Huh? You mean, the group receiving the vaccine actually contracted HIV more than the non-vaccinated group? Quite the mystery, isn’t it? Here’s what makes this especially strange–it is not possible for the vaccine itself to have caused infection: It wasn’t HIV! Whoa. What happened then? Well, nobody knows. But you better bet I’ve got a theory.

Here it goes: HIV is not the sole factor causing AIDS. Before I take credit for this idea, just know I didn’t think of it. The first person I heard it from was a researcher at my alma mater, U.C. Berkeley Professor of Virology, Peter Duesberg. Let’s just say this controversial theory–this little bit of logic thrown in the face of scientific and political dogma–really grabbed my attention back in the early nineties when I first heard it. And now, here might be another piece of evidence hinting at its possibility. I won’t go into detail on his reasoning because it can get quite involved; and you can read it here on your own, anyway. Suffice it to say, however, that if you go against conventional wisdom, you will be ostracized and ridiculed by your peers, and also the public at large. Dr. Duesberg lost much of his funding in the form of research grants because of his controversial theory; and while I was still a student, he was forbidden from teaching–blacklisted if you will; censored; effin’ scary.

And so here we are with new research that makes no sense within the context of how we currently understand HIV and AIDS. But don’t expect the mainstream political and scientific machine to back off of their dogmatic position any time soon. When you have years and years, and billions and billions of dollars, invested in a paradigm, it’s pretty hard to give it up and look elsewhere.

This can be summed up beautifully by Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which co-sponsored the trials. The results are “both disappointing and puzzling,” he said. “Certainly, the failure of this HIV vaccine product was unexpected, but this setback should not and can not diminish our commitment to developing an effective HIV vaccine.” Stay tuned, but don’t expect me to win any research grants anytime soon, either.

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