AIDS and HIV:The steroid connection

Dr Mohammed Ali Al-Bayati is a toxicologist and pathologist whose California-based company, Toxi-Health, investigates the toxicity of chemicals and prescription drugs in the environment and the workplace, as well as the adverse effects of vaccinations.

In the 1990s, a 60-year-old man who consulted him appeared to have developed all the hallmarks of a patient with AIDS. Yet, three tests performed at different clinics confirmed that he was not infected with HIV.

For many years, the patient had worked as a flight engineer, where he had been chronically exposed to organic solvents and aviation jet fuels. As a result of this exposure, he’d developed fibrosis of the lung, for which his doctor had prescribed the steroid prednisone and a two-week course of azathioprine, an immunosuppressant. When this treatment was changed and the drugs tapered, the man’s T-cell counts more or less returned to normal.

When this patient was later treated with another drug for a minor joint problem, his T cells dipped again. At this time, it took four months to bring his T-cell count back to normal.

As it became clear to Dr Al-Bayati that the prescribed drugs might be responsible for this patient’s depressed immune system, he began to think about the number of drugs used in modern medicine which are actually immunosuppressive agents.

This prompted Dr Al-Bayati to em-bark on a massive review of the medical literature and, subsequently, to carry out his own study to find out whether the use of certain prescription drugs – in addition to other lifestyle practices – might actually be causing AIDS.

Dr Peter Duesberg, professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California at Berkeley, was one of the first to challenge the AIDS-virus hypothesis. Instead, he put forward the alternative theory that AIDS is brought on by the long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or AZT (zidovudine) itself, a drug that is prescribed to prevent or treat AIDS.

Dr Al-Bayati’s work carries Duesberg’s theory further with the shocking suggestion that prescription drugs, particularly steroids, may be the major cause of AIDS.

The HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) hypothesis says that HIV causes AIDS by killing a person’s T cells – directly or indirectly. After long incubation periods (about 10 years), this slow-motion process causes these cell numbers to reach very low levels, leading to severe immune deficiency (CD4-positive T-cell counts of less than 200/mL). Such patients then usually begin to suffer from opportunistic infections (viral, bacterial, fungal, yeast and/or parasitic) and certain forms of cancer, such as Kaposi’s sarcoma and lymphoma.

If HIV were indeed the cause of a precipitous decline in T cells, it follows that treatment with antiviral drugs such as reverse transcriptase inhibitors (AZT) or protease inhibitors would delay the progression of AIDS by preventing HIV replication in the cells (Sci Am, 1987; 256: 46-56).

Yet, there is no clinical or laboratory evidence that HIV has the ability to kill infected T4 cells. Furthermore, the AIDS hypothesis only covers the destruction of T cells, whereas patients with AIDS often show up with many other types of disorders.

One laboratory study of HIV could find no evidence of T-cell death after being infected with the virus in tissue cultures. Indeed, the T cells were healthy and continued to function for more than four months after inoculation with HIV (Science, 1985; 229: 1400).

In this hypothesis, it follows that all patients with AIDS must be infected with HIV. However, an investigation into the AIDS literature reveals an astonishing finding: the majority of AIDS patients who participated in the four major zidovudine (AZT) treatment clinical trials in the US during 1987-1992 were HIV-negative prior to AZT treatment. Of 2349 patients, at least 77 per cent were had no HIV infection before treatment (N Engl J Med, 1987; 317: 185-91; N Engl J Med, 1990; 323: 1009-14; N Engl J Med, 1990; 322: 941-9; N Engl J Med, 1992; 326: 437-43).

This is a clear indication that the AIDS present in more than three-quarters of the study patients was due to something other than HIV.

Dr Peter Duesberg has found that, on average, HIV infects only 0.1 per cent (one in 1000) of T cells in AIDS patients, and at least 3 per cent of all T cells regenerate in the two days it takes a retrovirus to infect a cell (Pharmacol Ther, 1992; 55: 201-77). Thus, HIV could never kill enough T cells to cause the widespread and total destruction of the immune system seen in AIDS. Even if HIV killed every infected T cell, it can only do so very slowly – at 1/30 the rate of T-cell regeneration.

Drugs among gay men
The worldwide AIDS medical literature shows that 90 per cent of AIDS cases in the US and Europe occur among homosexual men and drug abusers. Regular use of alcohol, heroin, cocaine, amphetamines and alkyl nitrite in a majority of these patients causes chronic health problems of the nervous, respiratory and cardiovascular systems as well as of the kidneys and other tissues.

Doctors now tend to diagnose the majority of these health problems as ‘idiopathic’ (of unknown cause) and treat them with high doses of glucocorticoids and/or cytotoxic drugs. Gay men are also heavy users of rectal glucocorticoids (Fauci AS et al., Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, 14th edn, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1998).

The appearance of AIDS in the US and Europe among drug abusers and homosexuals in the late 1970s and early 1980s coincided with several events. This was a time when illicit drug use, especially smoking crack, cocaine and heroin, became widespread along with the use of alkyl nitrites (such as amyl nitrate) by gay men to facilitate anal sex.

At the same time, glucocorticoids in an aerosol form were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1976. These inhalers are widely used to treat the chronic respiratory illnesses caused by inhaling cocaine and heroin. Corticosteroids are also often used to treat chronic gastrointestinal tract illness in homosexuals.

In addition, some gay men are heavy users of alkyl nitrites, which relax the anal muscle and facilitate anal sex. In one study, 86.4 per cent of 420 gay men attending clinics for sexually transmitted diseases in New York, Atlanta and San Francisco reported frequently using amyl and butyl nitrites as sexual stimulants. The frequency of nitrite use was proportional to the number of sexual partners.

Many of the studies cited by Peter Duesberg show heavy use among homosexuals of alkyl nitrites and illicit drugs. A survey of 170 gay men attending sexual disease clinics found that 50-60 per cent had used cocaine, 50-70 per cent amphetamines, 40 per cent marijuana and 10 per cent heroin. Over half had also used prescription drugs, 80 per cent had past or current gonorrhoea, 40-70 per cent had syphilis, 15 per cent mononucleosis, 50 per cent hepatitis and 30 per cent parasitic diarrhoea.

Another study of 359 homosexual men in San Francisco in 1987 reported that 84 per cent had used cocaine, 82 per cent alkyl nitrites, 64 per cent amphetamines, 51 per cent methaqualone and 41 per cent barbiturates.

Of the nearly 4000 gay men surveyed, 83 per cent admitted to using one drug, and 60 per cent to two or more drugs, with sexual activities during the previous six months (similar to the drug use reported by European homosexuals at risk).

Yet another 1985-1988 survey of gay men in Boston, MA, found that, of 206 HIV-positives, 92 per cent had used nitrite inhalants, 73 per cent cocaine, 39 per cent amphetamines, and 29 per cent LSD and other psychoactive drugs as sexual stimulants (Pharmacol Ther, 1992; 55: 201-77; Biomed Pharmacother, 1992; 46: 3-15).

Steroids for inflammation
Homosexuals usually suffer from acute and chronic rectal and gastrointestinal diseases, requiring the therapeutic use of rectal steroids. Seven studies involving 736 patients (97 per cent homosexual or bisexual men) who were HIV-positive or had full-blown AIDS repeatedly showed this to be the case (Al-Bayati MA, Get All The Facts: HIV Does Not Cause AIDS, Dixon, CA: Toxi-Health International, 1999).

The fact is, treatment with 60 mg/day of prednisone for three months can produce all the typical symptoms of AIDS. Indeed, this is the treatment and dosage often given to patients who have lung fibrosis, thrombocytopenia or other chemically induced chronic illnesses.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the US National Institutes of Health, and considered the US government’s leading expert in infectious disease, is among the authors of Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine, a massive, classic textbook on medicine.

In the book, the authors describe a treatment for lung fibrosis that pushes the patient to the brink of severe immunosuppression:

‘A trial of oral prednisone is begun at a dose of 1 mg/kg daily and continued for about eight weeks. Should the disease not respond or be progressive, additional immunosuppression with cyclophosphomide should be considered. The objective is to reduce the white blood cell count to approximately half the normal baseline value, causing a distinct drop in the total lymphocyte count.’ [italics ours]

At this dosage, the patient’s T-cell count meets the definition for AIDS as set by the US Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A review of the medical literature revealed that, in those without HIV, both short- and long-term use of glucocorticoids at therapeutic doses can have a dramatic effect on the immune system – from a transient reduction in T cells to full-blown AIDS (J Clin Lab Immunol, 1981; 6: 147-55; Clin Exp Immunol, 1978; 31: 116-25; Clin Exp Immunol, 1977; 28: 467-73; Ann Intern Med, 1976; 84: 304-15; Immunology, 1975; 28: 669-79; Cancer, 1978; 42: 2626-30).

In several articles, Dr Fauci describes in detail the effects of corticosteroids on the immune system, which sound remarkably like the alleged effects of HIV. In one, he and co-authors write that the effects of steroids on patients’ defenses are broad, affecting many systems of the body and that, given the combined effect of these changes, it’s ‘not surprising’ that infections are common in patients treated with these drugs:

‘Of the bacterial infections, staphylococcal and Gram-negative infections, as well as tuberculosis and Listeria infections, probably occur most often. Certain types of viral, fungal, and parasitic infections also occur often. Patients with lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and renal transplant have more infection with steroid administration. Studies of bronchial aerosols showed that with higher doses of steroid in the aerosol, Candida infections of the larynx and pharynx occurred more often’ (Ann Intern Med, 1976; 84: 304-15).

In other words, many of the infections most usually linked with AIDS occur as a result of taking steroids, including the inhaled variety.

Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS), the skin cancer most associated with AIDS, has been shown to develop in HIV-negative patients chronically treated with glucocorticoids. In the case of a 58-year-old man with systemic rheumatoid disease, KS developed eight months after starting prednisone (40 mg/day for three months) (Am J Med, 1987; 82: 1021-6). The patient also had a reduced lymphocyte count, specifically T4 cells. When tested, the man was found to be HIV-negative.

The literature reveals many cases of KS following glucocorticoids (Am J Med, 1987; 82: 313-7; Am J Med, 1981; 71: 320-2; Am J Med, 1986; 80: 119-22; Arch Intern Med, 1988; 148: 1201-3; J Am Acad Dermatol, 1993; 29: 890-4; Clin Exp Rheumatol, 1991; 9: 285-8; Br J Dermatol, 1997; 137: 140-3; Am J Nephrol, 1992; 12: 384-6; Cancer, 1990; 65: 492-8; Dermatology, 1997; 195: 91-2; Hautarzt, 1988; 39: 368-70; Dermatology, 1997; 194: 229-33). The lesions disappeared as soon as they stopped the treatment (Al-Bayati, 1999; op cit).

In one 1996 study, eight HIV-positive men with inflammatory bowel disease who used a rectal steroid preparation suffered a steady decline in T cells of 85 cells/mL/year. Four of them had part of their colon removed, after which they no longer needed steroids. T cells increased by 4 cells/mL/year. Eight control patients who did not have surgery and continued taking rectal steroids saw their T cells steadily decline (Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol, 1996; 8: 575-8).

These reports highlight the importance of monitoring T cells in patients chronically taking moderate or high therapeutic doses of steroids.

Endocrine changes
Another clue to the possibility of a steroid connection in AIDS is the fact that the majority of AIDS patients have metabolic and endocrine abnormalities, particularly adrenal insufficiency. One study showed changes in adrenal gland function in 182 AIDS patients (Al-Bayati, 1999; op cit). The Harrison’s textbook states that endocrine and metabolic abnormalities are frequently seen in those who are HIV-positive, and that most autopsies of HIV patients show these types of changes in the adrenal glands.

The most common abnormality is hyponatraemia (low sodium), seen in up to 30 per cent of HIV-positives. Often, these patients also have a high blood potassium level – a sign of adrenal insufficiency often due to prolonged administration of too many steroids.

Another clue is that the process of T-cell destruction can be reversed in homosexual men once they stop taking steroids. We also know that proper nutrition can reverse immune suppression caused by malnutrition (J Trop Pediatr, 1998; 44: 304-7), as can alpha-lipoic acid (ALA), a potent antioxidant (Al-Bayati, 1999; op cit).

The ‘cure’ is the disease
The approval of antiviral drugs (AZT and protease inhibitors) and steroids by the FDA for AIDS patients and asymptomatic HIV patients has made the problem worse.

Studies showing increased T cells in HIV-positive patients after antiviral medication were interpreted as a good response to the drugs. However, in such cases, raised T-cell counts are not a good response, but an indication of severe tissue damage and infection.

This may explain why many patients who take these drugs die – with death invariably attributed to the virus finally taking irrevocable hold. In HIV-negative nurses with normal immune-system function taking AZT just in case, T-cell counts increased and all developed severe symptoms after three weeks of taking the drug (Al-Bayati, 1999; op cit).

And, of course, patients with AIDS, who are immune-deficient, are treated with steroids (Fauci et al., 1998; op cit) – a practice not supported by any known biomedical model. In this case, it is likely that the ‘cure’ is actually the disease.
Dr Al-Bayati is author of Get All The Facts: HIV Does Not Cause AIDS, published by Toxi-Health International, Dixon, California. To purchase copies, go to his website at

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