a collection of stories from the past 20 years

homeblogtourshome IIcontact

Award-winning investigative journalist (and dad) Peter Gorman has spent more than 20 years tracking down stories from the streets of Manhattan to the slums of Bombay. Specializing in Drug War issues, he is credited as a primary journalist in the medical marijuana and hemp movements, as well as in property forfeiture reform. His work has appeared in over 100 national and international magazines and newspapers.

Peter Gorman's love affair with the Amazon jungle is well-known to people in the field. Since 1984 Mr. Gorman has spent a minimum of three months annually there generally using Iquitos
Peru as his base. During that time he has studied ayahuasca the visionary healing vine of the jungle with his friend the curandero Julio Jerena. He has collected artifacts for the American Museum of Natural History botanical specimens for Shaman Pharmaceuticals and herpetological specimens for the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome. His description of the indiginous Matses Indians’ use of the secretions of the phyllomedusa bicolor frog has opened an entire field devoted to the use of amphibian peptides as potential medicines in Western medicine.


by Peter Gorman

Once the darling of the scientific community, Peter Deusberg, professor of molecular biology at the University of California, Berkeley, threw his career out the window when he published a paper in the Journal of Cancer Research in 1987 in which he stated HIV did not cause AIDS. Coming from most professors the paper would have been laughed at as the work of a lunatic, but Deusberg is one of the world’s leading experts on retroviruses, the class of viruses to which HIV belongs. So instead of laughing at his theory, the scientific community chose to ignore it.

But within a short while of his paper’s publication, as HIV-negative AIDS cases began cropping up and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) had to redefine AIDS to accomodate for HIV-free AIDS, Deusberg’s theory began to be noticed. By then, however, the six-billion dollar a year HIV/AIDS industry—which includes testing millions of blood samples for HIV, pharmacrutical companies marketing $10,000 a year antiretroviral therapies like AZT, ddI and ddC, and thousands of researchers and grants—was too entrenched to consider that it might be barking up the wrong viral tree.

So Deusberg, who’s credentials include being a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the recipient of a 1985 Outstanding Investigative Grant from the National Institutes of Health—he was also later rumored to have been a Nobel candidate for his work with oncogenes, thought to be a cause of cancer in viruses—was labeled a public menace. If HIV didn’t cause AIDS, the thinking went, then we don’t need clean needles. And if sex doesn’t cause AIDS, then we don’t need protected sex. Neither are positions Deusberg subscribes to: He sees both needles and condoms as valuable protection for all sorts of conditions, he simply doesn’t believe that saving you from HIV will save you from AIDS, since he doesn’t believe HIV causes AIDS.

To most of those in the AIDS treatment community contacted by HIGH TIMES, Peter Deusberg is at best a once-good scientest who is dogmatically protecting an indefensible theory. At worst he is a homophobe who hates intravenous drug-users and would be willing to let them all die by dividing the scientific community if he could. He may be neither. He may simply be, as he claims, a scientist who is looking for answers to a pandemic.     

HIGH TIMES: I’ve often read that you don’t believe HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, causes AIDS. What makes you say that?

PD: Because there is no proof whatsoever in the scientific literature that HIV is causing AIDS.

HT: If HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, what does the virus do and why do so many people with AIDS have it?

PD: HIV is a retrovirus. It’s one of hundreds, in fact thousands, of retroviruses that we know in animals and humans. The HIV virus does what all retroviruses do. It replicates, albeit slowly and rarely, in humans.

HT: To what end?

PD: To its own replication. Period. No other known end. It’s claimed by many to cause a disease, but there’s no evidence that while it’s replicating it causes any disease whatsoever.

There’s some very tentative evidence from a couple studies that when it first hits the human body it causes a flu-like symptom. Very likely, that’s extremely rare, because among the many, many thousands who have tested antibody-positive, nobody remembers when he was first infected. That’s an indication that during first infection, essentially nothing happens.

HT: You’ve also said that there are several thousand cases of people who have died from AIDS in whom neither HIV nor its antibodies were found.

PD: I listed those in a paper last year. I added up what I could find at that time and the total was 4,600. By now I could easily top 5,000 cases recorded in the literature clinically diagnosed as AIDS, but without HIV.

HT: What is the clinical diagnosis of AIDS?

PD: Well, the syndrome called AIDS has by now about thirty diseases, previously known diseases, that when they occur in the presence of HIV are called AIDS. In the absence of HIV they are called by their old name. So, the clinical diagnosis of AIDS consists of diagnosing the AIDS-defining disease.

For instance if someone has pneumocystis pneumonia or Kaposi’s sarcoma or diarrhea or dementia, that’s the first part. The second part of the diagnosis would then be, can you find HIV in the person? If you find HIV, then you say it’s AIDS. When you don’t find HIV, you can say two things. Either you can call it HIV-free AIDS, or you can call it by the old name.

HT: Where did you find the 4,600 HIV-free cases you claim to have documented?

PD: I searched the studies of scientists who looked at risk groups—gay men and IV drug users, in both Africa and America—for the presence of these AIDS diseases, and then looked for the virus. And in some cases they couldn’t find the virus even though they were trying. These I would call the HIV-free AIDS cases. That is to say, there were gay men with Kaposi’s sarcoma in New York who didn’t have HIV, and intravenous drug users, again in New York, who had tuberculosis or who had dementia and didn’t have HIV. There were also hemophiliacs with less than two hundred T-cells that had no HIV and Africans with tuberculosis and diarrhea and again, no HIV. These cases were all initially diagnosed as AIDS patients until HIV couldn’t be found.

HT: So the designation “HIV-free AIDS” is really just your own definition for these cases?

PD: Yes, but the Center for Disease Control has invented their own new name for these HIV-free AIDS cases. They call them ICL—idiopathic CD-4 lymphocytopenia.

HT: Why did the CDC need a new name?

PD: To get around the HIV-free label, because if you accept that label you are acknowledging the existence of AIDS in the absence of HIV. The AIDS establishment thinks AIDS is caused by HIV. If there’s no HIV, you really can’t, by that definition, have an HIV-free AIDS. You can only have HIV-positive AIDS.

HT: If it’s not HIV, then what do you think is killing all of these young people? Why are so many in the risk groups dying?

PD: That is another question altogether. But I have a hypothesis about what’s killing these people. The reason for AIDS in this country and in Europe, in my opinion, is the long-term consumption of recreational drugs, particularly heroin and cocaine.

HT: What about marijuana?

PD: I have not seen any evidence that marijuana causes AIDS. If it did the whole city of Berkeley would be dead. No, I am talking mostly about heroin and cocaine, and then AZT [the medicine they use for AIDS], which is the worst of all.

HT: Why do you think heroin and cocaine cause AIDS?

PD: Well, if you look at the literature of diseases in IV drug users, you find many of them get tuberculosis, develop dementia, have pneumonia, have weight loss, have mouth infections and have fevers and night sweats. They are subject to all sorts of infections.

HT: Yes, but I think these are often prison-related diseases, needle-sharing diseases and poor-quality, badly-cut drug diseases, not directly drug-related.

PD: Not all the IV drug users are in prison

HT: No, but a lot of them have spent some time in prison.

PD: That could well be so, but I mean, of all US AIDS cases, over 100,000 of them are confirmed by the CDC to be intravenous drug users. You can hardly claim that 100,000 in ten years died from tuberculosis developed in prisons. According to the literature, they simply had these diseases. They came into the hospital after injecting these drugs for years because of the primary effect of being a drug addict: you don’t want to eat, you don’t want to sleep and in the end, you just eat some junk food. You just want some sugar and some alcohol and then you shoot up again.

But if you don’t sleep and you’re suffering from malnutrition, protein malnutrition, the first thing that goes is your immune system. You become immune-deficient and you get an infectious disease. You get tuberculosis, you get pneumonia, you get mouth infection, fevers, night sweats. If that happens and then you check into the hospital and they find HIV, they say you have AIDS.

HT: Well, I agree with you that the junkie who cannot maintain his habit, who loses his job and home and ends up on a park bench somewhere is going to die. But this is one, two percent.

PD: These are 100,000 cases in America. A third of all US AIDS patients are IV drug users according to the CDC.

HT: Why aren’t the rest of them getting these diseases?

PD: There are also fifty million smokers and there are only like 300,000 lung cancers, because, with drugs, the dose is the poison. You do not get lung cancer from one cigarette; you do not get liver cirrhosis from one bottle of schnapps. You have to use it for years to reach a cumulative lifetime toxic dose before you have irreversible disease, before you’re dying from these diseases, and only then we pay attention.

Not everybody does that. A lot of people did drugs for a short time and then they said, “well, that’s not good for me, I’m getting married and settling down” and then they stop doing it.

There may be a million or several million drug users in this country, but not all of them use it long enough, or enough of it daily, to reach those critical conditions where they get weight loss, fever or these things. But that needs further study. I give you my hypothesis and this is not just my thinking; this is based on checking the literature extensively.

Unfortunately, very little is said about drug use as a medical problem, because that is not politically correct. Most people feel intuitively like the medical orthodoxy: Drugs are basically harmless; they just happen to be against the law. That’s why they recommend clean needles.

HT: Clean needles can only help.

PD: I’m only saying it gives a very bad message to the uneducated user. Do you think the majority of the people on the street see needle exchanges as a warning that drugs are against your health or that dirty needles are against your health?

HT: They know both are not good for you. And in many places where you exchange needles you get a lesson in how to shoot your heroin, which is one way to avoid abscesses, in addition to which with your clean needle you’ll avoid hepatitis, picking up someone else’s pneumonia and whatever else they would otherwise be sharing with you. And that’s not even counting HIV.

PD: I accept that. But why are people just giving clean needles and told how to shoot up rather than being told it’s dangerous to shoot up, that you will get sick from that? This is something vital and it is not being told to these people.

HT: When you say recreational drug use, do you include amyl nitrite, butyl nitrite and things like that which have been more traditional in the gay community than in other groups?

PD: Yes, I do. That’s why you see, traditionally, Kaposi’s sarcoma only in the gay community.

HT: What would be the medical relation between amyl and butyl nitrite and Kaposi’s?

PD: There’s certainly an epidemiological connection between the two. It’s very likely that the nitrites are sufficient to cause it. They’re known to be carcinogens. The Food and Drug Administration regulates the content of nitrites in treated meat, in hamburgers and frankfurters, for instance, to one part in 100,000 or 200,000.

Apparently, at that concentration and being combined with meat, where the toxins react with that meat rather than with your own, the level is relatively safe. But, if you inhale the substance concentrated, then the risk is much, much higher of having effects from it. That had been proposed by the Center for Disease Control and by some other independent investigators for AIDS before the HIV hypothesis.

But even more damaging than those is the long-term use of AZT. AZT is worse than any of these drugs.

HT: Why?

PD: Because AZT disregulates your immune system enough to allow these opportunistic diseases to come in and attack your system. DdI and the other antiviral therapies are the same. I’m not a doctor, but if I had to give you a recommendation, I would recommend to take as little drugs as possible.

HT: Are there doctors who, when a test comes back HIV-positive, simply say, ‘Let’s start you on AZT’, and maybe take healthy people and put them in dramatic physical condition?

PD: I can only speculate that the answer to that may well be yes, particularly if they come from risk groups, and the assumption is made that they are going to get AIDS.

HT: If you were told tomorrow you were HIV-positive, what would you do?

PD: I would try to live a healthy life and that’s it. I wouldn’t get worried about this, not the least bit.

HT: What’s your feeling about the various alternative therapies that HIV-positive people are using?

PD: Well, I can’t really comment on them except to say, the good thing is they get people away from AZT. That is the critical thing.

HT: Can you tell me about the Concord Study which was published recently suggesting that AZT offered no value to its recipients?

PD: It was a French-English collaboration, the largest study of its kind. It was going on for almost three years with 1,500 people in each group, I think.

The study was designed to test the idea of whether AZT is able to prevent AIDS in people infected by HIV, and it turned out that the people on AZT got AIDS just as often and as soon as those without AZT. And, worse than that, the Concord Study also showed that in the group of people treated with AZT, during the experiment, 25 percent more died than in the control group. So, it not only failed to show any benefit in preventing the onset of AIDS, it also showed a much higher mortality in those treated with AZT than those untreated.

HT: If they’re so dangerous, why are AZT and the other antiretroviral therapies still being used?

PD: Because people want drugs and doctors want to prescribe drugs. People are primed to believe in drugs, so they will continue even if its only marginally beneficial because they’re scared and they want to do something to remain alive.

HT: If HIV is not the actual cause of AIDS, do you consider testing positive for it at least a wake-up call for people?

PD: If you want my hypothesis what HIV is, it is a harmless retrovirus. Its presence by itself says nothing about your risk for AIDS. Remember that this is my hypothesis, not a fact.

Now, roughly one person in 250 in the United States is HIV-positive. So it’s rare. But if you’re positive, then you are either one of the 250 people who, in the general population, appear to be positive, or you are in a risk group that has practiced enough risk behavior to actually become HIV-positive. So, HIV then could be, in that sense, a wake-up call as a marker for risk behavior. But it’s not unique in that regard. Other rare viruses are also markers of risk behavior.

HT: Like what?

PD: Well, take, for example, hepatitis-B virus, which is relatively rare in the US population, but relatively common in fast-track male homosexuals, and in recipients of drug transfusions—or used to be, before it was eliminated with antibody tests on the blood. This is a relatively rare virus that’s common in people practicing risk behavior. Likewise, things like syphilis and gonorrhea, and some other diseases like chlamydia, are much more common in people who practice risk behavior than in the general population. Because they have essentially worked for it. They are collectors of microbes in the general population.

HT: Explain that last remark.

PD: From a microbiological point of view, you pick up microbes by having contacts with lots of people in the community who might carry them. Microbes live in their hosts. They can only exist if they have found a host or hostess to nurture them. And to collect a microbe from a community, you have to be in contact with another carrier. So, the more contacts you make, the more likely it is that you pick up a microbe in the community. The prostitute is a classic example. They have virtually all been infected at some time by things like syphilis or gonorrhea or hepatitis, right? Why? Because they had contacts with many in the community. Intravenous drug users often share injection equipment.

HT: Do these microbes eventually wear out or somehow disrupt the body’s immune function?

PD: Well, prostitutes have been in existence for a long time and they didn’t suffer from immune deficiency as a result of it, and gays have been around for a long time. But, what is relatively new in this country is the use of recreational drugs, drugs as aphrodisiacs and AZT.

The larger importation of cocaine and heroin has increased the population of intravenous drug users a hundredfold in the last ten years alone. And we have seen the bill for that drug consumption. The drugs are the poison. They are the reasons why these people get sick, not the sex. The sex has been tested for three billion years of life and has not cost any life. What is new though, are the drugs that they’re using for these things and the intravenous drugs that are used.

HT: What about syphilis? Didn’t that cause dimentia and death?

PD: I don’t think so. The mercury and arsenic they treated it with did, however. They were the AZT of their day. But since the advent of pennicylin and the discontinuing of mercury and arsenic in the treatment of syphilis, no one is losing their mind to it.

HT: All right. Now with that theory a couple of things come to mind: How do we explain nonintravenous, nonmultisexual-partner people getting these diseases and dying at these young ages?

PD: Wait a minute. The Center for Disease Control says 97 percent of the AIDS cases in the United States—and the same is virtually true for Europe—are from risk groups. They’re people who have indeed done exactly those things that I just described. There’s hardly anybody outside these risk groups, although there will be some because all of these diseases have existed before.

HT: Let’s cut to Africa. The World Health Organization estimates that there are 10 million HIV-positive people in Africa. But these are not by and large drug-using populations, and probably not fast-track gays. And they certainly aren’t getting the AZT like Americans. So what do those people have in common with each other and with us?

PD: As far as I know, there about half as many AIDS cases in Africa as in this country. Half as many. The large numbers refer to those infected by HIV. That’s very different from having AIDS.

HT: How are they getting infected by HIV?

PD: Most people there get infected by their mothers. That’s how it’s naturally transmitted and that is how most Africans probably would have gotten HIV. That’s how most retroviruses are transmitted in nature.

But in regard to HIV in Africa, do you know that if you have malaria antibodies you will test positive for HIV? Or flu medicines and infections and several other things as well? And in Africa, things like malaria and the antibodies for it are quite common. So there too the numbers for HIV seem positive, yet death from AIDS is not nearly so great as here.

But I submit something else that is very crucial for my argument, and that is that African AIDS and American-and-European AIDS are totally different things. They have the same name, but that’s all they have in common. African AIDS is equally distributed between men and women. European and American AIDS is 90 percent male. That’s epidemiologically as different as day and night. In addition, most of the African AIDS diseases are tuberculosis, chronic fevers, diarrhea, while 80 to 90 percent of the European/American diseases are pneumocystis pneumonia, Kaposi’s sarcoma, dementia and that wasting disease.

The African epidemic, in my opinion, is caused by malnutrition, parasitic infection and poor sanitation, while the European and US epidemics are caused by recreational drug use and AZT. That explains the epidemiology and the difference in the clinical manifestations.

HT: Most people I’ve talked with consider you a dogmatist. Do you view yourself that way or do you think you’re really just trying to get science to look beyond HIV for a treatment for AIDS?

PD: Well, from all the indications I see, the long-term use of recreational drugs is the cause of AIDS, but in order to prove this hypothesis, some more work would have to be done. I’m trying desperately to get money to study this, but I haven’t been able to get that because of the HIV ideology. People do not let you do anything but study AIDS in the framework of that HIV hypothesis.

Science is not the field of political correctness, it’s concerned with truth. Before we can fight the cause of AIDS we have to know the cause. And here we are 10 years later and we have yet to save the first AIDS patient. And we have developed one thing only, namely AZT, helping 200,000 people to die. That’s a tremendous price to pay for political correctness and to save face. And that’s exactly what they are doing, according to me.

HT: Are there other scientists, good competent scientists, who agree with you?

PD: Yes, there’s a group that calls itself The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis. There are three hundred fifty or five hundred scientists in that group. The most famous among them is Kary Mullis, who won the Nobel Prize for the polymerase chain reaction last year. The PCR is, among other things, a method that is used to detect HIV in AIDS patients.

HT: Is this polymerase chain reaction now being used on people who are said to be HIV-positive, and if so, in how many people is the actual virus being found?

PD: Well, it sometimes positive and sometimes negative. In some he’s finding, not the virus, but viral nucleic acid. The method is limited to finding only part of the virus. He cannot say whether all of it is there, the reaction can often only find a fragment of it, which may not be enough to explain anything. But still it would be a positive test, a confirmation. But because the test is very expensive, it is not routinely used.

HT: A lot of people have died from the diseases under the umbrella we call AIDS who were not recreational drug users. Nor were they indulging in multiple sexual contacts. They had to get something from someone, didn’t they?

PD: I don’t think so. Remember that 97 percent of AIDS cases come from high-risk groups, according to the Center for Disease Control. Of that, 30 percent are confirmed intravenous drug users, about 60 percent are fast-track male homosexuals who use drugs for sex, like poppers and amphetamines, and a few are transfusion recipients who would have had these problems anyway owing to the transfusions and the prior illnesses, not because of HIV.

HT: If we get into transfusions, we have to think about hemophiliacs. I’ve gotten estimates from several doctors that as many as 95 percent of the American hemophiliacs over 10 years old are HIV-positive.

PD: I have heard it’s only about 75 percent who are HIV-positive, about 15,000 people. But think about that. They are all positive from ten years ago, when the AIDS test was introduced. According to the HIV virus-equals-AIDS hypothesis these people should all be dead by now, because HIV is supposed to lead to AIDS within ten years or so.

And we know these 15,000 hemophiliacs were infected by HIV since at least 1984, because after that blood was screened to be free of HIV. So no new people, or very few, were infected since then. Are you with me?

But they are not dying. The reality is hemophiliacs now live longer than they ever did. The hemophiliac, if anything, disproves the virus hypothesis. They are living examples that HIV is not causing AIDS.

HT: How do you explain the person who’s nineteen, who had very little unsafe sex, who never used a drug, didn’t take AZT and suddenly starts to lose weight, loses fifty pounds in three weeks, gets pneumocystis and dies?

PD: Well, who has ever described such a person in the literature? If they have would you please get me the paper? Could you please get me one just single paper documenting that? I challenge you to do that. I would like to see just one study where the person only got AIDS from HIV or sex. I’ve never found one and I’ve checked the literature quite a lot.

HT: Have you ever actually worked with people suffering from the diseases in the umbrella of AIDS.

PD: No. I’m not an MD, so I do not treat them. But I’ve talked to them, I’ve seen them.

HT: Prior to your saying HIV didn’t cause AIDS you were part of the “in” scientific group, so to speak, weren’t you?

PD: I was in the club, that’s right. I was one of the darlings in the field. Before this I had no difficulties getting money for my work. But I’m not in the club anymore. I am an outcast now

HT: Is this treatment normal, even if you are dead wrong, in a community allegedly after truth?

PD: When a major hypothesis fails, you look for an alternative and set out to test it. And that’s what I’ve done, and for that I have been severely penalized. I’ve lost my grant; I’ve been excommunicated from the scientific community and I have been slandered by lots of people, including however many you talked to.

HT: Why?

PD: Because there is so much interest vested in the HIV hypothesis, in grants, ego and in face. There’s face-saving rather than life-saving in this business. And then there are the commercial interests—the blood-screening tests, the biotechnology companies. AZT treatment is $10,000 a year, and 200,000 people are treated! And of course one of the hardest things for people to do is to admit, “I’ve made a mistake for ten years. Not just a minor mistake. I’ve helped people die.”

But if the interests were not on the side of the six-billion-dollar-a-year HIV theories, we could find out about this disease in a minute. All of that money has not saved one life.