February 10, 2012
A member of the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology editorial board recently stepped down in protest of a paper that was published in the journal's December 2011 issue. The paper claims that there is no link between HIV and AIDS, and was published with only two peer reviews, one from the journal's own editor-in-chief.
According to Nature magazine, Klaudia Brix, a cell biologist at Jacobs University in Bremen, Germany, left "because she felt that it was important for a journal to function within its scientific 'scope.'"
The piece, written under the direction of longtime AIDS denialist Peter Duesberg, questioned the validity of deaths in South Africa due to AIDS and whether AIDS medications actually improved the health of people living with HIV.
Nature reported that six of the paper's nine authors are on the board of the denialist group Rethinking AIDS.
The paper is a reworked version of one published in the journal Medical Hypotheses in 2009, which at that time did not use peer review. Following a storm of protest, publisher Elsevier sent the paper to five external reviewers, and it was unanimously rejected. Elsevier permanently withdrew the paper on grounds of quality and concern for public health.
This version, like the original, attempts to challenge estimates of HIV-AIDS death-tolls in South Africa put forward in a study led by AIDS epidemiologist Max Essex of the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts, and questions the effectiveness of antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. "There is no evidence for a new fatal HIV-AIDS epidemic in Africa," write the authors. "We deduce ... that HIV is not a new killer virus," they add, and propose a "reevaluation of the HIV-AIDS hypothesis".
But AIDS researchers consulted by Nature say that the new paper uses the same arguments and data as the original version. Both papers, in their view, use flawed methods and selective evidence, they say. Given the body of available evidence, it is "ridiculous" to deny the link between HIV and AIDS, says Essex.
Brix is not the only board member to have issues with the paper. Hanne Mikkelsen, associate professor of molecular medicine at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, says she is also considering stepping down.
Kellee Terrell is the former news editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Kellee on Twitter: @kelleent.
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