DATE: June 10, 2013
FROM: Helen Lauer, Ph.D.
TO: BBC World Service
CC: Joan Shenton <>
SUBJECT: HIV analysis using electron microscopy
Dear Worldservice,

This morning May 31, 2013, I listened with great attention to the interesting segment on HIV detection and analysis using electron microscopy in your Science in Action programme. I was surprised however to realise that your interviewee failed to reveal the actual scientific state of opinion about the application of electron microscopy to HIV analysis.

It is not esoteric, but rather widely known, for some decades now, that electron microscopy has among its many uses the detection of viral particulate matter in human blood — but it is equally well known that the interpretation of this data is controversial. The question of interpretation is what is of keen interest to the general public because it has ramifications for the HIV AIDS industry.

Why don't you consult one of the pioneers in the field of electron microscopy, Prof. Etienne de Harven, about his readily accessible, widely respected opinion — one among many competing views — that the particulates claimed to be HIV are better understood as endogenously produced. Other scientists regard these molecuar bits as evidence of residual virus shells of previous infection that has been countered by the body and floats around. There are many ways of interpreting this material, it is a flawed analysis, according to many scientists, albeit a lucrative one, to call this HIV. In any case there is no evidence from electron microscopic data that is viewed at this sub-microscopic level is the cause of AIDS. I attach a scientific article published some few years ago on the topic, by the originator of the methodology, Prof. de Harven. His article I have attached, "Human Endogenous Retroviruses and AIDS Research: Confusion, Consensus, or Science?" Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons Volume 15 Number 3 Fall 2010: 69-74. is required reading for the course I teach to Masters level students in public health, HIVM 612: Ethical Issues in HIV and AIDS Management. This article is easily managed by an editor of a science programme to appreciate how off the mark you were in today's interview. But you don't have to read technical journals to gain the information to needed so you can begin to approach this as a balanced subject matter for future shows. It is certainly important, but the view from all sides of experts is not obscure, arcane or difficult to research. To get started on research preparation for your next show try these URL sites: and

Not only Prof. de Harven, who is very articulate and quite responsive to quality investigative journalism, but there is already a media group working on scientific research that affects the public domain, on your doorstep, called Meditel. Ms. Joan Shenton is a co-founder of the medical research media collaboration, and her email is above. They have produced award winning documentaries containing among other features of the controversy considerable footage about the role played by electron microscopy in detecting viral material in the blood. I am sure that some of their airtime documentary could be made available to the BBC for public information, with minimal if any cost or effort to BBC production schedules, providing you with some insightful and substantive coverage of this fascinating arena. Your guest did your show a disservice this morning.

Indeed your guest gave the severe misimpression that this development of electron microscopy is brand new — it is not, and so the impression he gave was fraudulent; as was the implications for HIV treatment or prevention can be concluded from this method of electron microscopy, as is clear to anyone who has done the slightest bit of reading on the subject. What your guest actually said sounded, even to an ordinary listener with the most fleeting awareness of the subject matter, like a word salad of obfuscation.

Why not talk to some experts who are not invested in sustaining a mythology around HIV and AIDS?

See the email addresses cc'd above to go further.

Yours loyally,

H. Lauer, Ph.D.
University of Ghana, Legon