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Will I test positive while on meds.?

Dec 28, 2010

Thank you Dr. Bob for all the excellent informtion you provide for the many people who access this site. You are an renowned expert in the field of HIV and I so value your candid responses. I have a couple of questions, please: 1. I was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS (CD4 was @80) about 2 years ago. I have often wondered if my diagnosis was correct as I have never been ill nor had any of the opportnitisic illnesses I have read about. I immediately started Atripla and have been on this medication ever since. If I were to take an antibody test now, would I test + or -? (My viral load is undectable). 2. I would like your take on this article: Why I Quit HIV

(original found on

by Rebecca V. Culshaw

As I write this, in the late winter of 2006, we are more than twenty years into the AIDS era. Like many, a large part of my life has been irreversibly affected by AIDS. My entire adolescence and adult life as well as the lives of many of my peers has been overshadowed by the belief in a deadly, sexually transmittable pathogen and the attendant fear of intimacy and lack of trust that belief engenders.

To add to this impact, my chosen career has developed around the HIV model of AIDS. I received my Ph.D. in 2002 for my work constructing mathematical models of HIV infection, a field of study I entered in 1996. Just ten years later, it might seem early for me to be looking back on and seriously reconsidering my chosen field, yet here I am.

My work as a mathematical biologist has been built in large part on the paradigm that HIV causes AIDS, and I have since come to realize that there is good evidence that the entire basis for this theory is wrong. AIDS, it seems, is not a disease so much as a sociopolitical construct that few people understand and even fewer question. The issue of causation, in particular, has become beyond question even to bring it up is deemed irresponsible.

Why have we as a society been so quick to accept a theory for which so little solid evidence exists? Why do we take proclamations by government institutions like the NIH and the CDC, via newscasters and talk show hosts, entirely on faith? The average citizen has no idea how weak the connection really is between HIV and AIDS, and this is the manner in which scientifically insupportable phrases like "the AIDS virus" or "an AIDS test" have become part of the common vernacular despite no evidence for their accuracy.

When it was announced in 1984 that the cause of AIDS had been found in a retrovirus that came to be known as HIV, there was a palpable panic. My own family was immediately affected by this panic, since my mother had had several blood transfusions in the early 1980s as a result of three late miscarriages she had experienced. In the early days, we feared mosquito bites, kissing, and public toilet seats. I can still recall the panic I felt after looking up in a public restroom and seeing some graffiti that read "Do you have AIDS yet? If not, sit on this toilet seat."

But I was only ten years old then, and over time the panic subsided to more of a dull roar as it became clear that AIDS was not as easy to "catch" as we had initially believed. Fear of going to the bathroom or the dentist was replaced with a more realistic wariness of having sex with anyone we didn't know really, really well. As a teenager who was in no way promiscuous, I didn't have much to worry about.

That all changed or so I thought when I was twenty-one. Due to circumstances in my personal life and a bit of paranoia that (as it turned out, falsely and completely groundlessly) led me to believe I had somehow contracted "AIDS," I got an HIV test. I spent two weeks waiting for the results, convinced that I would soon die, and that it would be "all my fault." This was despite the fact that I was perfectly healthy, didnt use drugs, and wasnt promiscuous low-risk by any definition. As it happened, the test was negative, and, having felt I had been granted a reprieve, I vowed not to take more risks, and to quit worrying so much.

Over the past ten years, my attitude toward HIV and AIDS has undergone a dramatic shift. This shift was catalyzed by the work I did as a graduate student, analyzing mathematical models of HIV and the immune system. As a mathematician, I found virtually every model I studied to be unrealistic. The biological assumptions on which the models were based varied from author to author, and this made no sense to me. It was around this time, too, that I became increasingly perplexed by the stories I heard about long-term survivors. From my admittedly inexpert viewpoint, the major thing they all had in common other than HIV was that they lived extremely healthy lifestyles. Part of me was becoming suspicious that being HIV-positive didnt necessarily mean you would ever get AIDS.

By a rather curious twist of fate, it was on my way to a conference to present the results of a model of HIV that I had proposed together with my advisor, that I came across an article by Dr. David Rasnick about AIDS and the corruption of modern science. As I sat on the airplane reading this story, in which he said "the more I examined HIV, the less it made sense that this largely inactive, barely detectable virus could cause such devastation," everything he wrote started making sense to me in a way that the currently accepted model did not. I didnt have anywhere near all the information, but my instincts told me that what he said seemed to fit.

Over the past ten years, I nevertheless continued my research into mathematical models of HIV infection, all the while keeping an ear open for dissenting voices. By now, I have read hundreds of articles on HIV and AIDS, many from the dissident point of view but far, far more from that of the establishment, which unequivocally promotes the idea that HIV causes AIDS and that the case is closed. In that time, I even published four papers on HIV (from a modeling perspective). I justified my contributions to a theory I wasnt convinced of by telling myself these were purely theoretical, mathematical constructs, never to be applied in the real world. I suppose, in some sense also, I wanted to keep an open mind.

So why is it that only now have I decided that enough is enough, and I can no longer in any capacity continue to support the paradigm on which my entire career has been built?

As a mathematician, I was taught early on about the importance of clear definitions. AIDS, if you consider its definition, is far from clear, and is in fact not even a consistent entity. The classification "AIDS" was introduced in the early 1980s not as a disease but as a surveillance tool to help doctors and public health officials understand and control a strange "new" syndrome affecting mostly young gay men. In the two decades intervening, it has evolved into something quite different. AIDS today bears little or no resemblance to the syndrome for which it was named. For one thing, the definition has actually been changed by the CDC several times, continually expanding to include ever more diseases (all of which existed for decades prior to AIDS), and sometimes, no disease whatsoever. More than half of all AIDS diagnoses in the past several years in the United States have been made on the basis of a T-cell count and a "confirmed" positive antibody test in other words, a deadly disease has been diagnosed over and over again on the basis of no clinical disease at all. And the leading cause of death in HIV-positives in the last few years has been liver failure, not an AIDS-defining disease in any way, but rather an acknowledged side effect of protease inhibitors, which asymptomatic individuals take in massive daily doses, for years.

The epidemiology of HIV and AIDS is puzzling and unclear as well. In spite of the fact that AIDS cases increased rapidly from their initial observation in the early 1980s and reached a peak in 1993 before declining rapidly, the number of HIV-positive individuals in the U.S. has remained constant at one million since the advent of widespread HIV antibody testing. This cannot be due to anti-HIV therapy, since the annual mortality rate of North American HIV-positives who are treated with anti-HIV drugs is much higher between 6.7 and 8.8% than would be the approximately 12% global mortality rate of HIV-positives if all AIDS cases were fatal in a given year.

Even more strangely, HIV has been present everywhere in the U.S., in every population tested including repeat blood donors and military recruits, at a virtually constant rate since testing began in 1985. It is deeply confusing that a virus thought to have been brought to the AIDS epicenters of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles in the early 1970s could possibly have spread so rapidly at first, yet have stopped spreading completely as soon as testing began.

Returning for a moment to the mathematical modeling, one aspect that had always puzzled me was the lack of agreement on how to accurately represent the actual biological mechanism of immune impairment. AIDS is said to be caused by a dramatic loss of the immune systems T-cells, said loss being presumably caused by HIV. Why then could no one agree on how to mathematically model the dynamics of the fundamental disease process that is, how are T-cells actually killed by HIV? Early models assumed that HIV killed T-cells directly, by what is referred to as lysis. An infected cell lyses, or bursts, when the internal viral burden is so high that it can no longer be contained, just like your grocery bag breaks when its too full. This is in fact the accepted mechanism of pathogenesis for virtually all other viruses. But it became clear that HIV did not in fact kill T-cells in this manner, and this concept was abandoned, to be replaced by various other ones, each of which resulted in very different models and, therefore, different predictions. Which model was "correct" never was clear.

As it turns out, the reason there was no consensus mathematically as to how HIV killed T-cells was because there was no biological consensus. There still isnt. HIV is possibly the most studied microbe in history certainly it is the best-funded yet there is still no agreed-upon mechanism of pathogenesis. Worse than that, there are no data to support the hypothesis that HIV kills T-cells at all. It doesnt in the test tube. It mostly just sits there, as it does in people if it can be found at all. In Robert Gallo's seminal 1984 paper in which he claims "proof" that HIV causes AIDS, actual HIV could be found in only 26 out of 72 AIDS patients. To date, actual HIV remains an elusive target in those with AIDS or simply HIV-positive.

This is starkly illustrated by the continued use of antibody tests to diagnose HIV infection. Antibody tests are fairly standard to test for certain microbes, but for anything other than HIV, the main reason they are used in place of direct tests (that is, actually looking for the bacteria or virus itself) is because they are generally much easier and cheaper than direct testing. Most importantly, such antibody tests have been rigorously verified against the gold standard of microbial isolation. This stands in vivid contrast to HIV, for which antibody tests are used because there exists no test for the actual virus. As to so-called "viral load," most people are not aware that tests for viral load are neither licensed nor recommended by the FDA to diagnose HIV infection. This is why an "AIDS test" is still an antibody test. Viral load, however, is used to estimate the health status of those already diagnosed HIV-positive. But there are very good reasons to believe it does not work at all. Viral load uses either PCR or a technique called branched-chained DNA amplification (bDNA). PCR is the same technique used for "DNA fingerprinting" at crime scenes where only trace amounts of materials can be found. PCR essentially mass-produces DNA or RNA so that it can be seen. If something has to be mass-produced to even be seen, and the result of that mass-production is used to estimate how much of a pathogen there is, it might lead a person to wonder how relevant the pathogen was in the first place. Specifically, how could something so hard to find, even using the most sensitive and sophisticated technology, completely decimate the immune system? bDNA, while not magnifying anything directly, nevertheless looks only for fragments of DNA believed, but not proven, to be components of the genome of HIV but there is no evidence to say that these fragments dont exist in other genetic sequences unrelated to HIV or to any virus. It is worth noting at this point that viral load, like antibody tests, has never been verified against the gold standard of HIV isolation. bDNA uses PCR as a gold standard, PCR uses antibody tests as a gold standard, and antibody tests use each other. None use HIV itself.

There is good reason to believe the antibody tests are flawed as well. The two types of tests routinely used are the ELISA and the Western Blot (WB). The current testing protocol is to "verify" a positive ELISA with the "more specific" WB (which has actually been banned from diagnostic use in the UK because it is so unreliable). But few people know that the criteria for a positive WB vary from country to country and even from lab to lab. Put bluntly, a persons HIV status could well change depending on the testing venue. It is also possible to test "WB indeterminate," which translates to any one of "uninfected," "possibly infected," or even, absurdly, "partly infected" under the current interpretation. This conundrum is confounded by the fact that the proteins comprising the different reactive "bands" on the WB test are all claimed to be specific to HIV, raising the question of how a truly uninfected individual could possess antibodies to even one "HIV-specific" protein.

I have come to sincerely believe that these HIV tests do immeasurably more harm than good, due to their astounding lack of specificity and standardization. I can buy the idea that anonymous screening of the blood supply for some nonspecific marker of ill health (which, due to cross reactivity with many known pathogens, a positive HIV antibody test often seems to be) is useful. I cannot buy the idea that any individual needs to have a diagnostic HIV test. A negative test may not be accurate (whatever that means), but a positive one can create utter havoc and destruction in a persons life all for a virus that most likely does absolutely nothing. I do not feel it is going too far to say that these tests ought to be banned for diagnostic purposes.

The real victims in this mess are those whose lives are turned upside-down by the stigma of an HIV diagnosis. These people, most of whom are perfectly healthy, are encouraged to avoid intimacy and are further branded with the implication that they were somehow dreadfully foolish and careless. Worse, they are encouraged to take massive daily doses of some of the most toxic drugs ever manufactured. HIV, for many years, has fulfilled the role of a microscopic terrorist. People have lost their jobs, been denied entry into the Armed Forces, been refused residency in and even entry into some countries, even been charged with assault or murder for having consensual sex; babies have been taken from their mothers and had toxic medications forced down their throats. There is no precedent for this type of behavior, as it is all in the name of a completely unproven, fundamentally flawed hypothesis, on the basis of highly suspect, indirect tests for supposed infection with an allegedly deadly virus a virus that has never been observed to do much of anything.

As to the question of what does cause AIDS, if it is not HIV, there are many plausible explanations given by people known to be experts. Before the discovery of HIV, AIDS was assumed to be a lifestyle syndrome caused mostly by indiscriminate use of recreational drugs. Immunosuppression has multiple causes, from an overload of microbes to malnutrition. Probably all of these are true causes of AIDS. Immune deficiency has many manifestations, and a syndrome with many manifestations is likely multicausal as well. Suffice it to say that the HIV hypothesis of AIDS has offered nothing but predictions of its spread, of the availability of a vaccine, of a forthcoming animal model, and so on that have not materialized, and it has not saved a single life.

After ten years involved in the academic side of HIV research, as well as in the academic world at large, I truly believe that the blame for the universal, unconditional, faith-based acceptance of such a flawed theory falls squarely on the shoulders of those among us who have actively endorsed a completely unproven hypothesis in the interests of furthering our careers. Of course, hypotheses in science deserve to be studied, but no hypothesis should be accepted as fact before it is proven, particularly one whose blind acceptance has such dire consequences.

For over twenty years, the general public has been greatly misled and ill-informed. As someone who has been raised by parents who taught me from a young age never to believe anything just because "everyone else accepts it to be true," I can no longer just sit by and do nothing, thereby contributing to this craziness. And the craziness has gone on long enough. As humans as honest academics and scientists the only thing we can do is allow the truth to come to light.

March 3, 2006

Rebecca V. Culshaw, Ph.D. [send her mail], is a mathematical biologist who has been working on mathematical models of HIV infection for the past ten years. She received her Ph.D. (mathematics with a specialization in mathematical biology) from Dalhousie University in Canada in 2002 and is currently employed as an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at a university in Texas.

Response from Dr. Frascino


1. Yes. HIV-infected folks will continue to test HIV-antibody positive, even if they are on antiretroviral drugs and have an undetectable viral load.

2. This article from 2006 claiming that HIV/AIDS "is not a disease so much as a sociopolitical construct" was written by a mathematician who knows absolutely nothing about medicine (or common sense). She was influenced by "Dr. David Ransack," an infamous AIDS denialist. (See below.) Her article spits forth the usual nonsensical pseudo-science crap that AIDS denialists have been recycling for the past several decades. It totally ignores scientific fact. I could refute every sentence in her opinion piece, but it really isn't worth the effort. AIDS denialists are a dwindling small group of severely misguided wackos who live in a parallel universe where scientific facts and reality-based common sense do not exist. I do agree with the last two sentences of her article, although from a completely different perspective. I would add the following phrase in parentheses to what she wrote: "And the craziness (of the AIDS DENIALISTS) has gone on long enough. As humans, as honest academics and scientists the only thing we can do is allow the truth to come to light." The best way to do that is to visit for a complete scientific rebuttal of not only the looney opinions expressed in the article but also all the other poppycock concocted by the AIDS denialists cult.

Dr. Bob

Aids Dissident (AIDS DENIALISM, 2010) May 11, 2010

I am currently undergoing tests for HIV post exposure. I am also trying to start a non for profit organization. To keep a long story short the graphic designer I am using to create logo is also gay and has told me there there is no reason to test for HIV. I said he doesn't know anything and he wrote me this via facebook. Well I know less about any of this stuff than him and it had me feeling kind of confused could you explain the following statment to me and is it true or false.

BTW, thank you for the excellent work you do.

Immune health is a very complex topic and it took me years and years of research to understand the science behind HIV and to understand immune health in general. In order for the orthodoxy hypothesis to work the following parts have to be explained: A part about what the term 'AIDS" really means (and really doesn't mean). A part about what the "HIV" tests are really detecting (which would have to include what proteins were used in their design and how those proteins were ever proven to be associated with a novel pathogen you call "HIV"). A part about the original scientific prove of "HIV's" existence (isolation/purification). A part about how it was proven that being antibody-positive equaled being infected. A part about how counting CD4+ T-cells in the peripheral blood of "HIV-positive" people is not a predictor of health. A part about the so-called "Long Term Non-Progressors" (which is a pseudo-scientific label for those who test antibody-positive yet do not succumb to the expected opportunistic infections). A part about the sub-category of LTNPs who achieve this superhuman feat without taking any anti-HIV medications. A part about the drugs themselves and how they cause "AIDS" (but instead of calling it AIDS they call it Immune Reconstitution Syndrome). A part about the media and how the New York Times deleted the word "probable" from the pronouncement that the "probable cause of AIDS has been found" and the very next morning ran the headline "The cause of AIDS has been found." And a part about how everyone repeated this lie, and repeated this lie, over and over until it became.....fact. Is this an opinion? Hardly. Am I passionate about this topic? You bet! Are you part of the solution or have you already accepted "HIV" on blind faith?

Response from Dr. Frascino


Your graphic designer may be great at creating logos, but when it comes to HIV/AIDS he's totally whacked. AIDS denialists (a more accurate term than dissidents) are a shrinking group of deluded individuals who refuse to believe scientific fact or even common sense. I've discussed this terribly misguided movement a number of times over the years. (See the archives.) There is a sound scientific answer to all of their often repeated questions. They just refuse to accept reality.

Check out for the scientific proof that debunks the denialist's mythology. I'll also reprint below a small sample of what you can find in the archives of this forum.

Knowledge is power. Enlighten your graphic designer if you are able. You just might save his life.

Dr. Bob

no true scientific proof that hiv exists - see website (AIDS DENIALISM, 2010) Mar 13, 2010

hey, I know you have adressed this topic multiple times, however it would be good to know whether it is a lie that hiv has never been seen under EM as is stated in this article about how the virus through rna pcr is detected and in testing antibodies to the virus. Here is the website, so that you can research it. Please let us know what you think, as it indicates that proper scientific method is not used regarding isolating HIV but rather indicates that certain proteins that are common among various other mycoplasmas, fungus, etc produce the same test results. Many places it also states that people who have run down immune systems due to numerous std's are much more likely to get HIV which could indicate that merely a busy immune system needing to deal with too many things at a time causes immune failure. If a virus was never truly visualized, then where is the scientific proof, as opposed to severly convincing circumstantial evidence. There would be no model to proove a theory of overburdoned immune system as the combinations would proove prohibitive to scientific investigation, so is it possible that the scientists bended the rules a bit to allow circumstantial evidence to become fact. This is not to say that there is not a virus, but this article states that there was never concrete proof, only mathmatical evidence. here is the article and this article as well although not as scientifically written

Response from Dr. Frascino


See below. I've already addressed this Web site and the topic of AIDS denialism extensively. Don't be fooled by the nonsense and pseudoscience of that Web site or the rapidly dwindling number of AIDS denialists who support these repeatedly disproven theories. It's all pure poppycock!

Dr. Bob


what are your thoughts and opinions on this article?

Response from Dr. Frascino


The Web site you reference is an "AIDS Denialist" Web site. I have discussed this dwindling idiotic fringe group many times before in this forum. (Check the archives.) The article you reference is from 1994, ancient history in the world of HIV/AIDS. It's also complete balderdash! Check out the science that debunks these illogical farfetched claims at

I'll reprint below a post from the archives that addresses AIDS Denialism.

Dr. Bob

Prove that HIV causes AIDS Jan 16, 2009

There is a lot of talk on here about Duesberg and the Perth Group. You say that their so called 'dangerous' beliefs have been disputed time and time again yet this is not true. Many of the questions asked by some of these 'denialists' have never been answered satisfactorily. To this day there is still no convincing scientific evidence to prove that HIV leads to AIDS. The test itself should be abolished. How do you explain the growing number of people who have tested positive and then reversed their status back to negative? How do you explain that an HIV positive persons cd4 count gets higher and the viral load is undetectable after being positive for 15 years on NO medication? Is it not true that there are over 60 conditions that can give you a false positive on an HIV test? There are a significant number of cases of people who tested positive after recently having a flu vaccine and then 6 months later their test is negative. How do you explain this? Is it not true that so far there are over 60,000 cases of AIDS patients who died in the 80's but were never tested for HIV? Is it not also true that the results are 'interpreted'according to whether you belong in a risk group or not? Is it not also true that you can test positve for HIV in Africa where only two coloured bands on the WB are required for a positive result yet if that same person was to come to Australia, they would test negative because 4 bands are required for a positive result? How come if you ask your doctor to prove that a positive result is proof of HIV itself that they can provide no such proof? It's not just Duesberg and the Perth Group who deny the HIV=AIDS myth - the number of credible doctors, scientists and run of the mill citizens who dispute this theory is growing! The truth will set you free!

Response from Dr. Frascino


Detailed scientific answers to each and every one of your questions (many of which have been recycled for years by the dwindling number of people who refuse to believe science or common sense) are available at Check it out! You have much to learn. The one thing you and I definitely agree on is your last statement: "The truth will set you free."

I will make a few comments about AIDS denialism in general for our readers who may not know the history of this misguided cult. In the early years of the epidemic, a few scientists postulated that HIV infection may not be the cause of AIDS. They suggested a number of other potential explanations, such as AZT causing AIDS in developed nations and malnutrition causing AIDS in the developing world. These scientists argued that "Koch's postulates" have not been fulfilled and suggested that antiretroviral therapy rather than being life sustaining was actually killing people. (Koch's postulates are a series of four distinct criteria that need to be fulfilled to conclusively prove that a germ, microbe or organism is the cause of a specific disease.)

The AIDS denialists hypothesis was far fetched when it was proposed in the 80s and today we know it is complete lunacy. Koch's postulates have been fulfilled many times over. We now have solid scientific evidence of how HIV infects human cells, damages the immune system and results in AIDS. The life-sustaining effects of antiretroviral drugs have also been absolutely established by countless clinical trials and large epidemiological observational studies. The death rate from AIDS plummeted by 50% the year after HAART was introduced!!! It's hard to argue with facts such as these.

The AIDS denialists are a dwindling cult. Many have either died prematurely while some have come to their senses and started therapy. These feckless whack-jobs would be nothing more than amusing if it weren't for the influence they have exerted on some gullible individuals. They have encouraged some very scared folks into believing their myths and even affected the health policy of South Africa, which resulted in tremendous human tragedy.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health have calculated that the South African government's refusal to provide antiretroviral drugs (because Mbeki, their president, was influenced by AIDS denialists) resulted in 330,000 lives being prematurely snuffed out by the virus between 2000 and 2005!

Dr. Bob

Ugggh so stupid
Re: A graduate student seeking help...

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