Inside House of Numbers
Montagnier: Still No Denial

Update: Dec. 3, 2009

Montagnier: Nothing New 

On World AIDS Day, Brent Leung released a short* clip from his interview with Luc Montagnier. What the Nobel Laureate said has been hailed as “the shocking truth about AIDS” on House of Numbers’ blog, and exaggerated in posts on various HIV denialist and alternative health websites. Celia Farber described it as a “concession” and said, “the war is as good as over.”  But in fact Montagnier said nothing he hasn’t said before, and he is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a denialist or a dissident.
 
Luc Montagnier won the Nobel Prize for discovering HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.  Montagnier he accepts that HIV exists, that it causes AIDS, and that it is deadly.  In “House of Numbers” he speculates that it may be possible for a healthy immune system to clear the body of HIV within a few weeks of exposure.  There is, however, no evidence for this: there is not a single documented case of an individual having cleared the virus after being infected by virtue of superior immune health of better nutrition. Millions of people—rich and poor, well fed and malnourished—have died of HIV disease, and millions more will succumb to this deadly virus unless they are able to access antiretrovirals.  It is important to base treatment decisions on the scientific evidence, and not on speculative, untested hypotheses, even when these come from Nobel laureates.
 
HIV/AIDS researchers, clinicians, health care workers, and activists share Montagnier’s call for better HIV prevention education and practices to prevent infection following exposure to HIV, as well as good nutrition and clean water in poor regions, and control of other pathogens and parasites as part of the comprehensive response to the epidemic.
 
Dr. Montagnier’s interest in anti-oxidants is not new. He has endorsed a product called Fermented Papaya Extract which he claimed in 2002 was helpful—not alone, but as a supplement to triple combination ARV therapy (http://www.anti-oxidant-enzyme.com/montagnier.html); these “findings” were based on observations of a dozen AIDS patients.  So he is a little wackier than many others among the “AIDS Orthodoxy/”
 
The “shocking truth” revealed by Leung’s YouTube clip is that Dr. Montagnier still thinks that HIV causes AIDS and that comprehensive HIV prevention is crucial, and that he continues to entertain some completely unproven and dubious ideas about nutrition.
 
For a brilliant discussion of the content and structure of the interview clip, see Snout’s post “More Lies from Brent Leung” on his blog, Reckless Endangerment: http://snoutworld.blogspot.com/2009/12/more-lies-from-brent-leung.html.
 
For a more comprehensive overview of Montagnier’s work and idea’s, see his own 2008 Nobel Lecture.
 
* This interview clip is just 3 minutes and 23 seconds long, in contrast to a total of just 1 minute, 29 seconds granted Montagnier in the film.  Both times include Leung’s questions and dramatic pauses).
 



Luc Montagnier is Clearly Not an HIV Denialist 

Unedited footage of Luc Montagnier's interview with Brent Leung is not available, so there is as yet no way to identify the context for his short clips. He speaks a total of 212 words in the film, on several different subjects, and is led by Leung on the question of whether nutrition can prevent HIV seroconversion.  It is likely that Montagnier was discussing the ways that people with relatively strong immune systems might also be relatively resistant to becoming infected with the virus. This is an important scientific question because, as is well known, the sexual transmission of HIV is inefficient, and some people are known to be particularly resistant to acquiring the virus (cohorts of exposed-uninfected sex workers are the subject of several research programs). But it is clear that in November 2009, well after he was sucker-punched by Leung, Montagnier still states clearly that AIDS is caused by HIV, which damages T-cells, a key element of the immune system, although he again states that co-factors play a role in infection and disease progression (see Joe Sonnabend's statement for a coherent explanation of what this means).  Montagnier is currently working on a therapeutic vaccine, and says clearly in the interview below that while his goal is to enable the immune systems of people living with HIV to control the virus, this will not be easy.

Montagnier does not spontaneously say in the film  that a healthy diet will clear the virus.  Leung asked leading questions and then presented a fragment of conversation out of context. It is also well known that Montagnier's command of English is imperfect, and that he sometimes does not explain his thinking very clearly in this language.  Here is the exchange:

Luc Montagnier:  “We can be exposed to HIV many times without being chronically infected.  Our immune system will get rid of the virus within a few weeks, if you have a good immune system.”

Leung: “If you have a good immune system then your body can naturally get rid of HIV.”

Montagnier:  “Yes.”  [Sound effect: a gong sounds!]

Leung “If you take a poor African whose been infected and you build up their immune system, is it possible for them to naturally get rid of it?”

Montagnier:  “I would think so.”

But perhaps Montagnier does believe what Leung made him out to say. In that case, he would be wrong.  Montagnier entertains other ideas that most scientists consider to be eccentric and with a dubious basis, as for example the experiments on "resonance emission of low-frequency electromagnetic waves through high-water dilutions of DNA" mentioned here.  For an excellent dissection of this idea, please see Andy Lewis' October 20, 2009, blog post on Quackometer: "Why I Am Nominating Luc Montagnier for an IgNobel Prize" for research "that could not and should not be replicated."  As Kary Mullis has demonstrated, a Nobel Prize for an HIV-related achievement is no guarantee of future contributions to the field.

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“Nobel Laureate, man who discovered virus, gives Claflin address”

Times and Democrat, November 10, 2009

By Dionne Gleaton T&D Staff Writer  

 

A world renowned scientist and 2008 Nobel Laureate for Physiology or Medicine outlined his latest research in controlling HIV/AIDS infection during a stop at Claflin University Monday morning.??

Dr. Luc Montagnier, president of the World Foundation for Medical Research and Prevention, gave a lecture titled “HIV/AIDS: Future Prospects for Controlling Infection” to a large group of students and faculty gathered in the Daniel C. Moss Jr. Auditorium.??

Montagnier, who is co-founder of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention and co-director of the Program for International Viral Collaboration, received the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine along with Francoise Barre- Sinoussi for the discovery of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.??

“There is still a lot to learn about DNA if you want to test and prevent most of our diseases,” said Montagnier, who said the use of antiretroviral therapies for HIV-positive individuals has its limitations.??

“Most people try to avert this unless they are very sick,” he said, adding that stigma and discrimination associated with the disease make many reluctant to seek treatment at all, particularly among those who are asymptomatic.??

He instead put an emphasis on the establishment of a short-term treatment, or therapeutic vaccine, that could achieve the ultimate prevention of HIV over a six- to nine-month period as is possible in tuberculosis treatment. He said the treatment would involve self control of the HIV infection by an individual’s own immune system.??

“This not unusual,” he said, and will create a reduced ability to transmit the HIV virus. He said restoring immunity against HIV or boosting an individual’s immune system in a specific way, however, will not be easy. His current research includes looking into the use of antioxidants in helping to treat HIV and “identifying and targeting the viral reservoir” contributing to the development of HIV.??

Montagnier suggested the identification of the “viral reservoir” is where an individual’s DNA comes into play. “There are many studies to be done,” he said, but the current one being conducted to extrapolate HIV DNA involves studying the resonance emission of low-frequency electromagnetic waves through high-water dilutions of DNA.??

Montagnier said the idea of a cure is relative, particularly since an individual’s viral particles cannot all be removed anyway. He said they can, however, be lowered enough to be controlled by an individual’s own immune system.??

Dr. Verlie Tisdale, dean of natural sciences and mathematics at Claflin University, asked if the cost of HIV/AIDS care can potentially go down with the development of a short-term treatment.

Montagnier said that issue, however, was “not simple” because it pointed to the fact that developing a treatment involved not just medical forces, but political ones that would better define the cost of a treatment.

Dr. Omar Bagasra, Claflin biology professor and director of the campus-based South Carolina Center for Biotechnology, said Montagnier’s visit to the university was a significant one. He said the university is collaborating on Montagnier’s work with HIV DNA.??“I think that he’s given us a great scientific and moral boost with what he’s doing,” said Bagasra, who has been putting his own focus on the potential of an HIV vaccine. Since vaccines to produce antibodies against HIV have not proven successful, he has studied the development of a vaccine based on the development of a specific gene sequence that would mimic the HIV-blocking micro RNA found in chimpanzees, who do not get AIDS.??

“Every vaccine has failed. We continue to do vaccine work. Dr. Montagnier is very interested in collaborating with us. We’ll continue with that facet,” Bagasra said.

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