As well, while his fundamental views on HIV as the cause of AIDS are entirely conventional, he also advocates some hypotheses that are less well supported by evidence, such as a possible role for antioxidant supplementation in reducing susceptibility to HIV transmission, and as a possible adjunctive treatment for HIV disease - in addition to antiretrovirals – particularly among malnourished populations.
So it is no surprise that one of the chief promotional tools of Brent Leung and the House of Numbers production team was to take an interview with Montagnier, carefully edit it, misrepresent his statements and trumpet this all over the net, not only on his own House of Numbers sites (including Facebook) but also on other HIV/AIDS denialist sites like the Lew Rockwell right-wing "libertarian" conspiracy site and Mike Adams’ quack site Natural News.
And when Leung gets challenged on this misrepresentation, what’s his response? To post another edit of the interview and misrepresent some more.
Leung is no newcomer to HIV/AIDS denialist wingnuttery. In 2000 he was listed as the director for a documentary project to publicise the "theory" propounded over the internet by Boyd E. Graves and his followers that HIV was the product of a secret US government biological weapons program. Graves also pushed the idea that HIV/AIDS could be cured by injecting the patient with the swimming pool disinfectant tetrasilver tetroxide. Apparently this simple "cure" was being hidden by a vast conspiracy.
Sadly, Graves died in 2009 of AIDS despite making extensive use of his "cure".
Canadian-born Brent W.Leung, appears to be serially gullible when it comes to reading self-evidently barking mad claims on the internet. He combines this superficial aw-shucks naivete with an evasiveness which is more suggestive of of calculating dishonesty. For example at a question and answer session reported by Boston-based gay magazine Bay Windows, he was less than forthcoming when asked who funded his film:
"During a post-film question-and-answer session held before the panel Leung claimed that his film took a neutral stance on the question of what causes AIDS. He declined to say which side he represents.
""The purpose of the film is to present a broad range of ideas, and those ideas are for you, the audience, and for scientists to take and to create a catalyst for more discussion," said Leung.
"One audience member asked Leung who funded the film, noting that Leung seemed to have a large budget for travel. Leung declined to name the sources but described them as a group of "funders from all over the world." When Bay Windows later asked him if most of his funders supported the viewpoint of AIDS denialists, Leung claimed that they did not."
Neutral independent film maker Brent W. Leung, who
denies that House of Numbers was substantially funded
by the HIV/AIDS denialist organisation whose
members are featured in it.
denies that House of Numbers was substantially funded
by the HIV/AIDS denialist organisation whose
members are featured in it.
Of course, while Leung has been trying to present himself as an "neutral" film maker "just asking questions" it is obvious that the film has its ideological and financial origins with the internet-based HIV/AIDS denialist group Rethinking AIDS. For instance, the minutes of the June 11th 2006 meeting of the board of RA records:
"Bob Leppo (the principal financier of RA) moved that RA board authorities authorize the RA foundation to make grants for a wider range of purposes, including films and video. Seconded by Charles Geschekter...
"Robert Giraldo moved that the RA foundation make grants for Brent Leung's film based on available funds (Leppo's money). Seconded by Christine Maggiore. Unanimous agreement..."
(Hat tip to Anthony Brink)
And they were true to their word. According to the 990-PF filed by Rethinking AIDS for 2006 to the IRS, $25,000 was paid to a recipient by the name of "Brent W. Leung" for the purpose of "AIDS documentary funding".
SO WHAT IS IT THAT MONTAGNIER said that has the denialists indulging in this orgy of triumphalist mendacity? Here’s the full transcript of the latest edit, together with some explanatory commentary in red:
Leung: You talked about oxidative stress earlier. Is treating oxidative stress one of the best ways to deal with the African AIDS epidemic?
Note the vagueness of “deal with the African epidemic”. Is Leung talking about treatment for those already chronically infected with HIV, or is he talking about ways of slowing down the rate of transmission? Note also that this is a segment culled from a much longer interview.
Montagnier: I think this is one way to approach, to decrease the rate of transmission,
Montagnier is talking about treating oxidative stress as one way of reducing the chances getting chronically infected with HIV following an exposure
because I believe HIV we can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected, our immune system can get rid of the virus within a few weeks,
ie in the few weeks between exposure and possible seroconversion.
if you have a good immune system;
LM is a little vague about what constitutes a “good” immune system here
and this is the problem also of the African people. Their nutrition is not very equilibrated, they are in oxidative stress, even if they are not infected with HIV; so their immune system doesn't work well already.
well, this is perhaps a questionable generalisation about "Africans" and their immune systems
So it's prone, it can, you know, allow HIV to get in and persist.
Again, Montagnier make it clear that he is talking about the factors that lead to persistent or chronic infection following exposure
So there are many ways which are not the vaccine, the magic name, the vaccine, many ways to decrease the transmission just by simple measures of nutrition, giving antioxidants -- proper antioxidants -- hygiene measures, fighting the other infections.
Here LM is voicing his frustration at what he sees as the excessive attention paid to the vaccine (which we don’t have yet) as the main preventive, at the expense of more mundane and less "spectacular" preventive measures which do exist, and which do work to reduce HIV transmission.
So they are not spectacular, but they could, you know, decrease very well the epidemic,
ie, the rate of new chronic infections with HIV
to the level they are in occidental countries, western countries.
Well maybe, but the factors that have resulted in the relatively high numbers of HIV infections in Africa are probably more complex than that...
A small but important point: the subtitling on this clip has Montagnier saying, "our immune system will get rid of the virus..." when in fact he says "can".
Leung: So if you have a good immune system, then your body can naturally get rid of HIV?
He has just been talking about a “good immune system” being one of the variables that allow a person to clear the virus in the first few weeks following exposure, before seeding of the lymphoid organs and chronic infection is established. This is obviously what he thinks Leung’s question refers to.
Leung: Oh, interesting. Do you think we should have more of a push for antioxidants, and things of that nature, in Africa than antiretrovirals (AIDS drugs)?
Leung presents a false dichotomy between ARVs and other measures. He also seems to be subtly shifting the topic from prevention of chronic infection (what Montagnier has been talking about throughout the interview segment) possibly to treatment. Montagnier doesn't pick up this sleight of hand, as is clear from what he goes on to say
Montagnier: We should push for more, you know, a combination of measures
LM rejects the false dichotomy, and emphasises that multiple approaches are needed to reduce HIV transmission
antioxidants, nutrition advice, nutritions, fighting other infections -- malaria, tuberculosis, parasitosis, worms -- education of course, genital hygiene for women and men also, very simple measures which [are] not very expensive, but which could do a lot.
Montagnier is reiterating his comments in his first answer, which addressed the question of prevention of chronic HIV infection, not its treatment
And this is my, actually my worry about the many spectacular action for the global funds to buy drugs and so on, and Bill Gates and so on, for the vaccine. But you know those kind of measures are not very well funded, they're not funded at all, or they are, you know, it really depends on the local government to take charge of this, but local governments they take advice of the scientific advisors from the intelligent institutions, and they don't get this kind of advice very often.
Again, Montagnier is voicing frustration at what he sees as neglect of the basic public health measures already proven to reduce the incidence of new HIV infections in favour of more expensive and "spectacular" approaches.
Leung: Well there's no money in nutrition, right? There's no profit.
Montagnier: There's no profit, yes. Water is important. Water is key.
And indeed it is, especially for reducing mother to child transmission in third world settings
Leung: Now one thing you said, you were talking about the fact that if you have a built [indicates his pectorals] immune system, it is possible to get rid of HIV naturally.
during the “few weeks” following the exposure and before seroconversion to HIV positive status, but not after chronic infection is established
If you take a poor African who's been infected and you build up their immune system, is it possible for them to also naturally get rid of it?
Montagnier: I would think so.
Montagnier is clearly talking about them “naturally getting rid of it” in the few weeks post exposure. This is what he has been talking about throughout this segment. It doesn’t occur to him that Leung is suggesting that Africans (why only Africans?) might be able to clear the virus following the establishment of chronic infection. Not realising that Leung is a denialist, he takes for granted that everyone knows that following seroconversion for HIV, the infection is permanent.
Leung: That's an important point.
Montagnier: It's important knowledge which is completely neglected. People always think of drugs
well, to be fair, it hasn't been "completely neglected". But perhaps Montagnier is right to point out an excessive emphasis on post exposure prophylaxis and reducing the infectivity of HIV positive partners
Although this film clip is promoted as "uncut" and "unedited" on some websites, there is some obvious and less than seamless editing at this point. In the interim Leung's microphone has been switched off, and a surprised-looking sound recordist can be seen in the background pulling off his headphones and starting to pack up his equipment. This last section is culled from awkward post interview banter, not the body of the interview itself. So what "this message" refers to is not clear.
Montagnier: So this is a message which may be different from what you heard before, no?
Leung: The closing?
Leung is apparently referring to the "closing" section of the interview, which has been edited out of this clip.
Montagnier: No, no, yes, my message, it's different from what you heard from Fauci or...
Here he seems to be having a dig at Fauci for apparently favoring drugs and vaccine as preventives rather than more basic public health approaches to preventing HIV infection he thinks are being neglected
Leung: Yes, it's a little different.
Montagnier: Little different.
And what does Leung say Montagnier is talking about?
“Professor Luc Montagnier, 2009 [sic] Nobel Laureate for the discovery of HIV, reveals his views on the treatment of HIV and its relationship to nutrition and profit with House of Numbers documentary Director, Brent Leung. The clip includes footage not previously seen in the documentary.”No he doesn’t! He is not talking about the treatment of HIV disease, he is quite clearly talking about ways to decrease the transmission as he makes absolutely clear from the very start of this section. What Leung does in the exchange is subtly shift his questions to the topic to treatment of established infection, without Montagnier realising that he’s changed the subject. This is dishonest and reprehensible on Leung’s part. You could argue that perhaps Leung didn’t understand what Montagnier was saying in the heat of the interview, but the footage has gone through hours and hours of editing and careful perusal that were required to produce this repulsive piece of disinformation.
The House of Numbers production and promotion team and their supporters are intentionally trying to deceive HIV positive people, and twisting the words of a respected scientist to make this case. Their intent becomes clear when you read the comments of supporters. For example, Mike Adams on Natural News informs his readership:
"The pharmaceutical industry operating today is largely a cabal of unindicted criminals who are guilty of crimes against humanity, and one of their favorite methods of multiplying their profits is to push a disease, then sell a vaccine they claim "treats" the disease. It's the same old scam, whether we're talking about cervical cancer, swine flu or even AIDS.Or Celia Farber, who tries to make out that Montagnier's words are some kind of "mea culpa" - a confession that HIV, the virus - for whose discovery he shared the Nobel with Françoise Barré-Sinoussi in 2008 - is not the cause of AIDS:
"Getting back to Brent Leung and his film House of Numbers, when the AIDS-pharma promoters saw his film, they knew they had to attack the messenger and try to discredit him as quickly as possible. So they claimed Leung quoted the scientists in the film out of context, thereby distorting what they were saying. In particular, Leung was attacked for his interview with Dr. Luc Montagnier, the Nobel Prize-winning co-discoverer of the AIDS virus, who explained to Leung during the interview that AIDS can be overcome (cured) with nutrition, and that the vaccine approach is entirely overblown."
- Shocking truth about AIDS exposed on World AIDS Day with “House of Numbers” un-cut footage
"It’s “World AIDS Day,” and although I despair of this impossible subject, I submit that with this concession from Montagnier, the war is as good as over. It has reached mass public saturation and we can’t wait around forever for the “orthodoxy” and its obedient “media” to admit complete, shattering defeat. Brent Leung’s multi-award winning documentary House of Numbers has penetrated mass public awareness beyond that all previous reportage combined, mine included, since 1987, ever managed to do."Farber, of course, appeared in the film as an interviewee. She tells us, "This word AIDS, I don't know what it is any more," implying that she once did - which is doubtful - and appears mouthing a handful of similar inanities. But according to her own words she was more than just a spokesmouth whose vacuous pronouncements were used to punctuate the film. As she writes to Val Turner and Eleni Papadopulos when they tax her on her "Montagnier's Mea Culpa" article:
[...] "Read the comments on Health Ranger’s video-blog and start imagining a world where no citizen is abused, accused, fired, harassed, or labeled, as Michael Specter said recently, “homicidal” for saying the same thing the discoverer of what came to be known as “HIV,” says clearly and openly: HIV is not deadly. Oxidative stress, malnutrition, poverty, toxic assaults, and many other things conspire to create illness–not a sexually transmissible retrovirus."
- Montagnier’s Mea Culpa: A Healthy Immune System Can Handle HIV
“Why are you lecturing me about supporting Brent? I did. I do. That caused your irritation as well, as everything I say or do or don't say or don't do does. I am on good terms with Brent and I helped him a whole lot on his film and I am proud of his success. Stop creating problems.”Or self-described "investigative journalist" Liam Scheff, who is also cast as a commentator in the film, who demands on the Nashville Scene film critic’s blog:
“Ask yourself what Luc Montagnier is talking about, when he talks about improving the immune system of AIDS patients, in order to help them ‘get rid of the virus,’ and recover…
“That is, if debate is ALLOWED regarding the AIDS industry. Is the AIDS Industry honest? Is it even remotely honest?”Or Anthony Liversidge , who tells us that:
"...Montagnier freely admits, indeed even emphasizes, that anyone with a healthy immune system has nothing to fear from the so called AIDS virus, which will be quickly defeated by the immune system."Liversidge's precise role in the House of Numbers production is not clear. Like Farber and Scheff he tells us he was interviewed for the film (although he doesn't appear in the final cut) and has actively promoted both the whole film and the Montagnier segment in his Duesberg-adulation website Science Guardian. He insists that:
"Brent Leung was and is open to all comers and new information on any aspect of this topic, and in no way did he start his film as some kind of propaganda exercise peddling anti-science."Which is an odd thing for Liversidge to say, given that he was present at the June 2006 meeting in which the RA board voted to fund the film.
But the prize for most creative misrepresentation of Montagnier’s words must go to “Valendar”, a commentator on the film blog of the Tennessean which carried a positive "critical review" of the film written by someone called Arienne Holland. Now, Adrienne Holland is not a film critic. She describes herself as a "communications manager" for a Nashville outfit called Raven Internet Marketing Tools . In other words, she's paid to write advertising copy for her clients and try to get it out on the net.
The original piece Holland wrote has since died of embarrassment on the Tennessean and now gets a 404 message along with its attached comment thread, but fortunately “Valendar’s” wisdom has been preserved here :
“FROM Valendar @ the Tennessean Blog:
“Luc Montagnier says “we can be exposed to HIV many times without getting chronically infected. Our immune system can get rid of the virus in a few weeks, if you have a good immune system”. So Montagnier is telling us people are getting infected all the time but shrugging it off as long as they have a healthy immune system. But any HIV expert will tell you by the time the person is HIV positive, (antibody positive, the only proof experts accept), HIV has insinuated itself permanently into the host DNA. From where nothing can get it out. Once infected, always infected. However, according to Montagnier, if your immune system is unhealthy, you can fall prey to HIV. Which is putting the cause (HIV) after the effect (immune deficiency). If you put all this together, a person who looks after his/her immune system could have sex with every HIV positive person on the planet and never get infected. Is this the message Professor Montagnier wishes to convey?”
Now Snout is not suggesting for a moment that the author of this bit of inspired sophistry - this particular blog commenter called “Valendar” - has anything to do with any of the major players in the HIV/AIDS denialist movement. It’s obviously just a coincidence that another “Valendar” appears prominently in HoN. But what’s interesting is that Henry Bauer has picked up the theme, alluding to
“Luc Montagnier’s view that HIV is a consequence and not a cause of immunedeficiency”
(Hat tip to the December 15 2009 comment below from Fulano de Tal)
IN ESSENCE. WHAT MONTAGNIER SAYS is actually quite unremarkable.
There are multiple well-identified factors influencing the likelihood that a given exposure to HIV will result in chronic infection (HIV positive status). Treating concomitant infections, particularly genital ulcer disease is vital. Good hygiene, including condom use and even circumcision have been proven to reduce transmission. Clean water is Public Health 101, particularly for preventing the diarrheal illnesses of children that increase their susceptibilty to HIV infection. Calling for better education and awareness to help prevent HIV infection is not exactly "paradigm-busting". Bedrock basic public health measures that “are not spectacular, but they could, you know, decrease very well the epidemic”.
Montagnier says, quite rightly, that “we should push for more, you know, a combination of measures” to “decrease the rate of transmission”, and while a safe, effective, affordable vaccine is the holy grail for the prevention and even possible eradication of any infectious disease, the fact is we don’t have one yet, and we need to focus on whatever methods we do have to stop people getting infected, because preventing people getting infected is actually more effective than trying to treat the disease the infection causes.
STOP THE PRESSES!! Nobel Laureate Luc Montagnier thinks that preventing people getting infected with HIV is a Good Thing. Furthermore, he reckons that the best way of achieving this, particularly in high incidence populations, is to use "a combination of measures."
Well, there goes the Paradigm.
Where Montagnier wanders off into his own particular interest is in his views about the importance of nutrition (particularly antioxidants) in supporting the immune factors that can prevent an exposure to HIV progressing to chronic infection. He clearly believes that widespread malnutrition may be a factor in reducing people's resistance to developing chronic HIV infection following exposure to the virus, and is thus is a significant factor in the way the HIV epidemic has progressed in sub-Saharan Africa compared to elsewhere. There may be some truth to this, but not a great deal of evidence – the factors involved in southern and eastern Africa’s epidemic are complex and include the particular prevalent subtypes of HIV there (particularly subtype C, which appears to transmit more easily from female to male during vaginal sex), lack of testing and awareness of HIV status, perhaps poor infection control in some medical and quasi-medical settings, other diseases which facilitate HIV transmission, widespread migration for work and its disruption of traditional social structures and sexual mixing patterns, stigma and secrecy, lack of access to treatment, etc, etc.
But to get back to the HoN team's fundamental dishonesty – they are telling HIV positive people that Montagnier claims they can clear their infection through diet. And to judge from the highly selected feedback on Leung’s Facebook page there are individuals - including some who say they have been diagnosed with HIV - who are falling for this spin. The intended message of HoN is not only dishonest - it poses a direct threat to health.
To tell HIV positive people and even people with AIDS that they can clear their infection through diet is a lie – a cruel and negligent lie – from an utterly unscrupulous filmmaking team and the pseudoscientists who financed them.
EXTRA: Not directly relevant to Montagnier's views on HIV as the cause of AIDS, but it looks like Post Nobel Syndrome has carried off yet another victim:
Dear oh dear oh dear.