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Activity 1: Does HIV Cause AIDS?

Dr. Peter Duesberg seems to enjoy courting controversy. His current research seeks to explain cancer not as unchecked cell growth, but as the result of chromosomal abnormalities87. In the late 1980s, he took on a similarly contentious stance, one that has still not been accepted by the larger scientific community: that the HIV virus does not cause AIDS88. Rather, Dr. Duesberg thinks that drug use and the toxic effects of antiretroviral compounds are the primary cause of the disease88. While, Dr. Duesberg’shypothesis seems unlikely, given almost two decades of contrary evidence, it does raise an important question: when is a theory strong enough to support through clinical practice?

Students will read “HIV is not the cause AIDS” (Science, Vol. 241, pp. 514-517, July 29, 1988: available online at http://www.duesberg.com/papers/ch2.html). Before you consult any other sources, quickly jot down what the assumptions of Duesberg’s nine points of contention are. Can you see any possible errors in reasoning? If necessary, look up terminology in a virology textbook.

Each group (or students, depending upon class size) will take one of Duesberg’s nine points and research his conclusion. Is it valid? What literature supports/denies his conclusion? Each group/students then prepares a 1-2 page summary of their findings to present to the class, concluding either “yes” or “no” for Duesberg’s proposition.