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Cofactors and HIV infection?

Mar 3, 1997

Hi doctor. I recently read an article in which Luc Montagnier and Robert Gallo--two pioneers in AIDS research--admitted that perhaps cofactors may play a role in HIV infection and that HIV alone may not cause AIDS. AMong these cofactors were: excessive drug use, exposure to semen, exposure to illnesses which affect the immune system, etc...My question for you use, isn't it true that nobody has ever proven that HIV causes AIDS? When you look at the people who first got HIV--and who largely still continue to get HIV-- they all have "cofactors" which contribute to illness--i mean, intraveinous drug users, those who receive blood transfusion, and promiscous homosexuals who take lots of drugs (i.e poppers)are hardly healthy people to begin with... is it possible that HIV, while it does play a role, can be harmless, and when given the opportunity paved by cofactors--which have already weakened the immune system--becomes deadly? What is your theory on this?

Response from Mr. Sowadsky

Hi. Thank you for your question. The issue of whether HIV causes AIDS has been previously addressed in the questions, "What about Deusberg and others?", "HIV: Cause? or Correlation only?", and "AIDS vs. Idiopathic CD4 Lymphocytopenia". A good review of how HIV has been shown to cause AIDS, is found in the publication,The Relationship Between The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and the Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, published by The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland.

People have often been confused on the topic of Co-factors and HIV. An HIV positive person does not have to have a co-factor to get AIDS. However, when a person does have various co-factors, this can speed up the progression from an HIV positive diagnosis to full-blown AIDS. In other words, continuing to live an unhealthy lifestyle, using recreational drugs, eating a poor diet, getting other infectious diseases, etc. etc. do NOT lead to AIDS in of themselves. But in persons who have HIV, these co-factors can lead to a faster progression to AIDS, or can make AIDS more severe. There are definetely people who have AIDS but who don't have any co-factors. Look at it this way. HIV can lead to AIDS even without a person having any co-factors. However, if a person does have various co-factors, this can speed up the progression to full-blown AIDS, and can also make full-blown AIDS even more severe. Co-factors don't cause AIDS, but they can speed up the progression to the full-blown disease.

If you have any further questions, please feel free to call the Centers for Disease Control at 1.800.232.4636 (Nationwide).

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