DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES
Office of the Secretary
April 28, 1987
An NCI grantee scientist, Dr. Peter Duesberg of California/Berkeley, has published a paper in a scientific journal which concludes that the HTLV-III/HIV virus identified by Dr. Gallo and Dr. Montagnier is not the cause of AIDS and that the disease is caused by "a still unidentified agent" which may not even be a virus.
Inexplicably, the paper was published in the March 1 addition of Cancer Research, and gives a non-specific credit to Dr. Robert Gallo and others, but nobody within the Department or the news media seems to have been aware of it until it was disclosed Monday, 4/27, by a gay publication in New York City.
Dr. Duesberg has been an NCI grantee doing research in retroviruses and oncogenes for 17 years and is highly regarded. He is the recipient of an "outstanding researcher" award from the Department. The article apparently went through the normal pre-publication process and should have been flagged at NIH. Failing that, it should have caused a splash on publication nearly two months ago.
Playwright, gay activist and Department critic Larry Kramer is currently bringing it to the attention of the media, but it really hasn't taken off yet. I know for instance he has talked to Tom Brokaw about it. There has been one call to CDC from Newsday and none to the press office so far.
This obviously has the potential to raise a lot of controversy (if this isn't the virus, how do we know the blood supply is safe? How do we know anything about transmission? How could you all be so stupid and why should we ever believe you again?) and we need to be prepared to respond. I have already asked NIH public affairs to start digging into this.