UC Berkeley Professor Under Investigation for Controversial AIDS Article

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Duesberg talks about AIDS

Professor Peter Duesberg has raised controversy for decades because of his theories which challenge the link between HIV and AIDS. He talks about how he has been affected by this controversy.

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"AIDS Denialist" and UC Berkeley professor Peter Duesberg is currently under investigation by the campus for a 2009 article that has raised concerns of alleged "issues of credibility and false claims" as well as of whether he failed to disclose an alleged conflict of interest in writing the article.

Though the allegations are unclear, Duesberg denies that the article--which he co-wrote last year in response to a 2008 study by professors from Harvard University who disputed Duesberg's challenge of the link between HIV and AIDS--violated campus and university policy. Sheldon Zedeck, campus vice provost for academic affairs and faculty welfare, informed Duesberg of the allegations in a letter dated Nov. 18.

Arthur Reingold, a professor at the campus school of public health, is investigating the matter, according to the letter. Duesberg said he was not contacted again regarding the allegations until two weeks ago. A meeting between the two has not yet occurred, Duesberg said.

"This restricts academic freedom," he said. "It's really a first amendment issue. A great university which prides itself for free speech should not be doing this."

Specific charges will not be considered until Reingold-who has also researched AIDS extensively-completes his investigation and submits a report to Zedeck, who declined to state the specifics of the ongoing investigation, citing campus policy.

The Harvard professors stated research such as Duesberg's was in part responsible for delays in distribution of anti-HIV drugs, which the Harvard professors said had cost 330,000 South African lives. Duesberg's article was later withdrawn by the publisher of science journal Medical Hypotheses, despite opposition by the journal's editor, following a decision by a panel of five anonymous scientists.

The Harvard study had "no statistical evidence for the claim," Duesberg said in the 2009 article, adding that anti-HIV drugs are actually "inevitably toxic."

Two anonymous sources have alleged that Duesberg should have disclosed the relationship between co-author David Rasnick, a former visiting scholar at UC Berkeley, and a company that distributes alternative treatments for HIV, according to letters given to The Daily Californian by Duesberg, who said he obtained the letters from Reingold.

Reingold declined to comment on the investigation.

According to Duesberg, Rasnick ended his work with the organization three years ago and only worked with the group for a year. He added that his conduct charges should not be determined by the actions of his colleague.

"They are trying to focus misconduct charges on the historic collaboration of my co-author," he said.

Online magazine ScienceInsider named one of the sources of the allegations as Nathan Geffen from the AIDS-advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign.

Geffen could not be reached for comment Tuesday at a phone number and e-mail address listed on the campaign's website.

Duesberg said he feels he is being targeted because his ideas challenge conventional thought.

"All great ideas challenged the status quo, from Galileo to Einstein," he said. "I could be one of those whose ideas falls through, but that's how science advances."

Zedeck said the campus must address accusations of misconduct in order to assess whether violations of campus and university policy have occurred.

"A lot goes into an investigation ... in some ways it's a judgement call," he said. "The focus is on what evidence do we have on the faculty member, what did somebody do or not do."


Emma Anderson covers academics and administration. Contact her at [email protected]

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