HEALTH News & Analysis

How Aids became an ‘epidemic’ in Africa

How Aids became an ‘epidemic’ in Africa
  • PublishedMarch 7, 2019

In a shocking confession, made on camera in a new documentary released last month, a former member of South Africa’s Apartheid-era intelligence service says that the Aids virus, and other diseases, were deliberately spread among the population in an effort to kill off as many blacks as possible. His confession, considered just the tip of the iceberg, has reignited the simmering debate about the whole phenomenon of Aids in Africa. Report by Baffour Ankomah. 

Alexander Jones’ confession opens up a whole Pandora’s Box of other questions, many long suppressed but which have not gone away. These questions are uncomfortable, not only in terms of the South African players but also of other powers that were involved, directly or indirectly, in the propagation of this dreadful disease and the cover-up, as well as, just as culpably, in pointing the finger of blame at the victims.

It also raises the question of how and why Aids was labelled an ‘epidemic’ in Africa when the facts did not support this blanket label and in doing so, condemned the continent and its people to years of denigration and to what amounted to a wholesale character assassination of African people. Let us not forget that at the height of the Aids panic, virtually every African was suspected of being a carrier and was shunned.

Of course the stock reaction in the West to Alexander Jones’ recent revelations, and any other attempt to show that Aids became an ‘epidemic’ in Africa because there was something more sinister to it, is met with shouts of ‘conspiracy theory’. 

But ‘conspiracy theory’, according to Prof F. I. D. Konotey-Ahulu (the UK-based Ghanaian medical giant and pan-African writer), becomes ‘conspiracy facts’ if you remove the wrapping from the way the world is actually run by the Western powers.

Conspiracy theories exist because the explanations provided do not fully accord with the reality of the events – in short, the evidence does not fit the facts. Indeed as history shows, many ‘conspiracy theories’ turn out to be ‘conspiracy facts’ when revelations are finally made, or declassified documents are made public.

Not satisfied with the Aids-epidemic-in-Africa theories then sweeping the world, Prof. Konotey-Ahulu is the first African to have paid out of his own pocket to go on a medical journey in the late 1980s to Africa to investigate the so-called HIV/Aids ‘epidemic’ when it was forecast to wipe out the continent. 

What he saw on the ground across the continent befuddled him – it ran totally counter to what the Western-based Aids orthodoxy was telling the world. And he recounted it all in his book, What is Aids? 

Since then, Prof. Konotey-Ahulu has become a one-man-band fighting for, and defending, African interests in the medical world from his base in the UK, where he has been urging Africans to open their eyes to what is happening around them because the dismissive charges of ‘conspiracy theory’ actually mean ‘conspiracy facts’. 

Was it the epidemic it was made out to be?

While there is no doubt that Aids devastated parts of Southern and East Africa, was it really on the scale of Biblical epidemics it has been made out to be? Also, why did Africa buck the trend in that most of the infections were among heterosexuals, rather than homosexuals as elsewhere? 

From the very beginning of the HIV/Aids story in 1980, even though the syndrome had first been identified in the gay community in San Francisco in the US (and it was in fact originally called Gay Related Immune Deficiency, GRID), the orthodoxy insisted that in Africa the major mode of transmission was heterosexual encounters. 

This was regardless of the fact that in the West, HIV/Aids remained in what was described as ‘at-risk groups’ – i.e., homosexuals, intravenous drug users, recipients of contaminated plasma, etc. 

Africa’s ‘epidemic’ was blamed on the African’s so-called unbridled sexuality, as if the African was the only one who had sexual urges in the world. This was the recycling of a shameful trope about the character of the African which went back to the days of slavery and colonisation.

In order to justify the brutality and inhumanity of both these phenomena while still trying to maintain ‘Christian values’ which expressly forbade them, it was necessary to dehumanise the African, to cast him as a child of nature, a creature of instinct and wild appetites, a dangerous savage who needed to be ‘civilised’ and disciplined. 

These tropes, popularised in adventure novels and countless films, persist to this day. So it did not take much imagination to ascribe the prevalence of heterosexual Aids in Africa to the ‘unbridled sexuality’ of the African. ‘Unbridled’ means ‘out of control’ – an irremissible urge peculiar only to Africans.

But this was far from the case. There is no evidence that indicates that Africans on the whole indulge in more sexual activity with more partners than anyone anywhere else in the world. If anything, Africans, most of whom are either Church going Christians or strict Muslims, tend to be far more conservative in sexual matters than in the more permissive West. 

Methods of contraception, including the pill, and ideas of sexual freedom unleashed an era of unprecedented sexual permissiveness in the West – the likes of which never reached Africa. 

Interestingly, in the early 1970s, a power crisis in the UK which led to the curtailment of TV after 10.30 pm, for seven weeks, led to “an excess of at least 3,000 births”. After independent television was strikebound for 11 weeks in 1979, a Sun headline forecast a ‘telly baby boom’.

Deprived of their usual evening pastime, it would seem, the British happily indulged in what, according to the regular content of the tabloid newspapers, was their favourite activity, sex, with extra zeal.

On 2 March 2000, both The Times and The Independent [of the UK] reported that the “Millennium Holiday” (24 December to 31 December 1999) alone resulted in a 20% rise in abortions in Britain. 

“ ‘An additional 9,000 women had abortions in January and February 2000 compared with the same time last year,’ said Marie Stopes International, one of the main providers of abortions in the country,” reported The Independent. “ ‘This increase could be the tip of the iceberg,’ said Helen Axby, the deputy director of Marie Stopes. It seems we are just seeing the first swathe of women who have missed their period after the holidays.”

 Which means two things: (a) the British are as sexually active as, if not more than, the Africans; and (b) many don’t use condoms. For years, Britain was said to have the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe. Which confirms the fact that condom use is, or was, low, otherwise the teenagers would not be pregnant at that high rate. 

This then begs the question: If the British were sexually active, and many of them did not use condoms but were not catching HIV/Aids; and if the Africans were sexually active and many did not use condoms, but were catching HIV/Aids, what accounted for the dichotomy, if in fact the major mode of HIV/Aids transmission is heterosexual encounters? 

Something more than sex?

It stands to reason that the Aids ‘epidemic’ in Africa was caused by something more than sex; or to be accurate, several factors caused it, one of which is the way that the HIV virus was deliberately spread in Africa.

Back in the mid 1990s, a group of American researchers writing in the medical journal Nature claimed that “mass smallpox immunisation campaigns in Africa by the WHO helped to spread the disease”, a claim that the WHO summarily rejected. 

This does sound a far-fetched theory and is a smear on the good work done by the WHO. However, the fact that these researchers came to the conclusion, and published it as fact, that the disease was being transmitted by agencies other than through pure human contact, is interesting. What, one wonders, led them to this conclusion?

Other causal factors

The recent confession of Jones, allied to the horrendous work of Project Coast (detailed in the earlier story) gives credence to the belief that in Southern Africa at least, the disease was helped along by clandestine organisations. 

While, as Dr Salim Karim contends, it is difficult to isolate and transport the Aids virus, it is simplicity itself to take blood from an infected person and inject it into a healthy one, as Jones says. Many people, including the US African-American tennis champion, Arthur Ashe, were infected through blood transfusion.

In addition, the notion that HIV is a man-made virus gone awry has been circulating since the very first years of the Aids epidemic. New African ran dozens of stories and interviews in the 1990s based on the views of experts who said – though not providing any hard evidence – that the HIV virus was created as part of the US chemical and biological warfare (CBW) programme at Fort Detrick, Maryland.

For 20 years starting from 1988, New African and this writer were an informed part of the Aids debate and analysis. We published evidence from the US Congressional Library that showed that in 1970, the Congressional Appropriations Committee authorised a $10m grant to the Pentagon for research into a then “naturally non-existent organism that would affect the immune system”, as part of the US CBW programme. 

A 10-year deadline was attached to the grant, and exactly 10 years later, in 1980, a “naturally non-existent organism” (later named HIV) was identified to be the cause of a syndrome first identified in gays in San Francisco. From there, what was originally called GRID morphed into HIV/Aids and conquered the world, particularly Africa. How it became an ‘epidemic’ in Africa is still a mystery, but we shall consider some of the causal factors here. 

First, we have the Aids definition itself. For Africa, it was too loose. In its infinite wisdom, the orthodoxy came up with two definitions for Aids – one for Africa and one for the rest of the world. 

The African definition was remarkable in its low specificity: “Weight loss of more than 10%, chronic diarrhoea lasting more than a month, and prolonged fever (intermittent or constant) lasting more than a month.”

 No test was required. Just by eyesight, millions of Africans were condemned to a life of Aids. No wonder scores of millions of Africans were said to be HIV-positive, feeding into the ‘epidemic’ narrative.

In November 1991, a group of Western doctors led by K. M. de Cock attacked the African Aids definition in a letter to the British Medical Journal, saying: “Many patients with TB, irrespective of HIV state, have weight loss, fever, and cough, and the WHO clinical case definition for Aids therefore has a low specificity in this population. Unless the results of HIV tests are known, many patients with TB who have no HIV infection might be reported as having Aids.”

The second factor was the inefficient and unreliable test kits,and the inadequacy of the testing procedures (even the HlV test itself was flawed). As a result, millions of false positives were reported in Africa, where one test (in most cases, none at all) was enough to declare people as HIV-positive. In that context, the reported ‘epidemic’ was a false one. 

The third factor was the HIV theory itself. The orthodoxystretched and disregarded facts to fit a comfortable theory, and they did everything to avoid the discomfort of admitting error, especially when 29 old diseases were cobbled together and called Aids or Aids-related.

The fourth factor was money, money, money. At one point, Aids was bringing to American researchers alone a whopping $1.3bn a year, and hundreds of thousands of highly-paid jobs were linked directly or indirectly to the Aids industry. So the orthodoxy had to keep the false theory going for as long as possible, otherwise the jobs would be lost. 

In fact, in April 1995, the WHO Global Programme on AIDS (which later became UNAIDS) dismissed 750 of its 3,000 workers because none of the ‘pandemic’ predictions had come true. 

In her book, Positively False – Exposing the myths around HIV and AIDS, the British award-winning journalist and broadcaster, Joan Shenton, tells how “on the very same day, in the spring of 1984, when Margaret Heckler, the US Health Secretary, with Robert Gallo by her side, announced at a press conference in Washington DC that ‘the probable cause of AIDS has been found’, Gallo filed a US patent for the HIV blood test kit he had developed. 

“His claim that he was the sole discoverer of the virus was soon challenged by the French doctor, Luc Montagnier, who happened to be the first to have ‘discovered’ the virus. So, at the behest of President Ronald Reagan and the then French Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, Gallo and Montagnier met in a Frankfurt hotel room to work out a settlement. The end result was that the French and Americans settled the lawsuit. In March 1987, they agreed to share the credit for discovering the virus and split the royalties from the blood test kits.” 

By 1994, those royalties had amounted to $35m. Gallo held 13 US patents at the time and had applied for 29 others. His inventions had brought his previous employers, the National Institutes of Health, half of its income from royalties. The University of Maryland was authorised to hold the patents on new inventions emerging from Gallo’s Institute of Human Virology, but would split the profits 50-50 with the inventors. Great hopes were pinned on Gallo.

With such money and politics swirling around HIV/Aids, Africa stood no chance. Its HIV/Aids figures had to be exaggerated all the time to put more money into the coffers of global Aids researchers. And with it an ‘epidemic’ was truly born. Never mind that it had two huge clay feet! NA

Written By
Baffour Ankomah

Baffour Ankomah is New African's current Editor at Large. He has spent much of his 39 years of journalism at the magazine, having served as its Assistant Editor for 6 years, Deputy Editor for 5 years, and Editor for 15 years, retiring from active service in 2014. In 39 years of his journalism career - Africa and his many causes have been his passion. His personal column, Baffour's Beefs, which has been running continuously in New African since 1987, is a big hit and a must-read for the magazine's worldwide readers. He is now based in Zimbabwe, where he and his wife Elizabeth run their own media consultancy and fashion house called "African Interest" which trades under the trademark "I am African".

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