Robert Gallo praises PEPFAR, dismisses Duesberg

I attended a recent event at Princeton where a number of eminent scientists reviewed the state of what we know about the virus, a possible vaccine and different treatment and prevention strategies to limit the disease’s spread. From what I heard, it sounds like the science of making a vaccine for HIV/AIDS is particularly difficult, given the way in which this virus is able to integrate itself into cells throughout the body. While I understood the general contours of the science of HIV/AIDS, some of the more interesting elements for me as a political scientist were Robert Gallo’s comments praising PEPFAR and the Bush Administration’s response to HIV/AIDS. His comments were echoed by Emilio Emini. They offered effusive praise, suggesting that the Bush Administration has done more for AIDS than any preceding administration and much more than the Europeans are doing. Their comments focused on retroviral treatment. I’m not sure if they are as enthusiastic about prevention efforts.

Gallo also discussed the issue of the infamous HIV/AIDS skeptic Duesberg (see Ben’s post here) who was recently given exposure and credibility through a piece in Harper’s. Gallo said he has a forthcoming reply to that piece in Harper’s and blasted Duesberg’s views as below the zero of knowledge, bordering between crap and insanity, off-the-the-wall insane and that talking about him gives him credit. He suggested they used to be friends, but Duesberg’s malignant narcissism has been fed by his notoriety for taking on the science of HIV/AIDS. Gallo referenced a 2003 paper he wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine that he thinks puts this discussion to rest. Some important quotes from that paper include:

The year 1984 was a time of both intense excitement and harsh discussions between members of our two groups. Identifying the cause of AIDS presented a unique challenge, because unlike other viral diseases responsible for past epidemics (or, more recently, the severe acute respiratory syndrome), AIDS was characterized by clinical signs that developed years after the infection had occurred, and by then, patients usually had numerous other infections. Thus, an exceptional linkage of agent to disease had to be established. This linkage was made (particularly in Bethesda) through the repeated isolation of HIV from patients with AIDS and, more important, through the development of a readily reproducible blood test. The growth of the putative virus in T-cell lines was an enormous step, facilitating the development of a blood test for HIV, which became available in blood-transfusion centers in 1985 and produced convincing evidence of the association between HIV infection and AIDS. Theblood test also helped in the cloning and molecular characterization of the genetic material of the virus at the end of 1984, which clearly proved that the new virus belonged to the subfamily of lentiretroviruses; this finding, in turn, opened the way for the design of specific drugs and vaccines.

Other indirect evidence that HIV was the cause of AIDS came from the demonstration, in 1984, of its high degree of tropism for the subgroup of CD4+ T cells, its consistent isolation from patients of different origins who had AIDS, and the isolation of similar viruses that cause AIDS in nonhuman primates (specifically, macaques). Thus, the causative
relation between HIV and AIDS was accepted by the scientific and medical community in 1984 and was
further verified through the later isolation of HIV type 2 in West African patients with AIDS. The relation was also supported by the clinical efficacy of drugs that specifically inhibit HIV enzymes and thecompetitive spirit as a stimulant.

Be Sociable, Share!

Comments are closed.