HIV Doesn’t Cause AIDS
There is overwhelming evidence that HIV does cause AIDS. However there are a minute minority of people, often labeled denialists, who believe that HIV and AIDS are either not linked, or that HIV does not exist at all.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus which primarily enters the body through unprotected sexual intercourse. Once inside the body HIV attacks the immune system leaving the body vulnerable to the opportunistic infections (Kaposi’s sarcoma, tuberculosis, thrush in the mouth and/or throat, etc) associated with Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV and AIDS are therefore distinct from one another; this is why many people and organizations take exception to the use of the HIV/AIDS combination.
Someone who has HIV does not necessarily have AIDS but is at risk of developing AIDS at some point in their lifetime. The progression from HIV to AIDS can be virtually halted by effective anti-retroviral treatment (ART).
There are multiple reasons why the statements made by the HIV denialists are erroneous.
Koch’s postulates and HIV and AIDS
Koch’s postulates are four criteria which were developed so that scientists and doctors could determine that a particular germ causes a particular disease. In this case it is to determine that HIV causes AIDS.
Scientifically, HIV meets all of Koch’s postulates. Firstly in early trials those with the diseases and infections which classify one as having AIDS are mainly those who test positive for HIV. Secondly, HIV can be isolated from a person who has the disease (AIDS) and grown in culture (outside of the body). In this way HIV is separated from any other factors which might cause the diseases and infections associated with AIDS. Koch’s third postulate is that the germ which has been isolated and grown outside the body must result in the disease when introduced into the body of a healthy person. This case has mostly been proven through monitoring those who have been accidentally exposed to HIV cultures and through introducing HIV into animals that subsequently developed AIDS. Following this the germ must again be isolated from the person who has the disease.
Other reasons why we should act on the basis that HIV causes AIDS are;
Testing positive for HIV increases chance of premature death
Various studies on different populations have shown that those who test positive for HIV are more likely to die over a short period of time. For example a study conducted in Thailand showed that the death rate for female sex workers with HIV was 50 times higher than the death rate for their HIV negative counterparts. Furthermore all of the HIV positive sex workers died of conditions linked to immune deficiency, whereas none of the negative women died of these conditions.
Drug treatment that specifically targets HIV prevents progression to AIDS
Studies have shown that effective drug treatment (ART) significantly reduces the amount of HIV in the blood and raises the CD4 count. Those not on treatment or those who are somehow immune to treatment are more likely to develop AIDS and die. Therefore if drugs that target HIV prevent AIDS then we must conclude that HIV causes AIDS.
Other factors do not cause AIDS
Denialists argue that AIDS is non-infectious and identified certain groups as more likely to develop AIDS. They contend that conditions associated with poverty, lack sleep, non-intravenous (and intravenous) drug use, stress and anti-AIDS drugs are the causes of AIDS. While it is true that intravenous drug use does put one at risk of developing AIDS, the denialists leave out one crucial step-the contracting of HIV. So denialists assert that drug use alone is what causes AIDS whereas credible scientific evidence has established that intravenous drug use can expose a person to HIV and that HIV then leads to AIDS. This was determined when people who did not fit into the groups that the denialists had outlined presented with AIDS and it was discovered that the previously healthy people had had contact with the bodily fluids of someone with AIDS.
Sources and Further ReadingJourAIDS, What is HIV? JournAIDS, HIV Progression and Symptoms JournAIDS, What is AIDS? WHO, HIV and AIDS Q&A