The following are from remarks to President Thabo Mbkei's AIDS Advisory Panel by Prof. Peter Duesberg in June of 2000*. (Otis):
I will briefly analyze how African AIDS measures up with “the historical and epidemiological literature” described by Anderson and others (Fenner et al., 1974). My analysis is based on statistical numbers from the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, the United Nations and the U.S. Agency for International Development & the U.S. Census Bureau (USAID). According to the WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Records the whole continent of Africa has generated between 1991 and 1999 a rather steady yield of 60,000 to 90,000 AIDS cases annually, on average about 75,000 (WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Records since 1991). Based on the last available data from South Africa, 8,976 cases were reported there between 1994 and 1996 by the WHO, corresponding to about 4,500 cases per year (WHO’s Weekly Epidemiological Records 1998 and 1995). The WHO does not report how many of these cases are deaths, how many survive with, and how many recover from AIDS. However, it is evident from the WHO data that the African AIDS epidemic is not following the bell- shaped curve of an exponential rise and subsequent sharp drop with immunity, that are typical of infectious epidemics. Instead it drags on like a nutritionally or environmentally caused disease (Seligmann et al., 1984), that steadily affects, what appears to be only a very small percentage of the African population.
Given a current African population of 616 million (United Nations Environment Programme, June 15, 2000), and an average of 75,000 African AIDS cases per year, it follows that only 0.012% of the African population is annually suffering or dying from AIDS. Likewise only 0.01% of the South African population was suffering from AIDS between 1994 and 1996, based on the 4,500 annual cases and a population of approximately 44 million (US Agency for International Development, “HIV/AIDS in the
developing World”, May 1999). This means that the new African AIDS epidemic only represents a very small fraction of normal African mortality.
Based on a current average life expectancy for Africa of about 50 years (US Agency for International Development, “HIV/AIDS in the developing World”, May 1999), the annual mortality of 616 million people is 12.3 million. Thus even if we assume that all AIDS cases reported by the WHO are deaths, the African AIDS epidemic represents only 75,000 out of 12,300,000 deaths per year, or 0.6% of all African mortality. Thus African AIDS is certainly not one of the historical microbial epidemics described by Camus and Anderson (see above). Since no immunity has emerged in over a decade the restriction of African AIDS to a relatively small fraction of the large reservoir of susceptible people indicates non-contagious risk factors that are limited to certain subsets of the African population.
In view of the very small share (0.6%) that the African AIDS epidemic seems to hold on Africa’s total mortality, the question arises whether the mortality claimed for AIDS is in fact new and can be distinguished from conventional mortality, or whether it is a minor fraction of conventional mortality under a new name.
The complete text of Prof. Duesberg's remarks, from which the above is excerpted, is available as a PDF file here.
Peter Duesberg is a professor in the department of molecular and cell biology at the University of California (Berkeley), and a member of the United States National Academy of Sciences.
*Selections from the internet discussions of The Panel pertaining to these remarks, as well as other points, will be appearing here beginning next week. (Otis)