Press Release
February 5, 2007

International Science Group Decries Death Sentence of Medical Workers in Libya,
Calls for Full Disclosure of Medical Treatment of Dying Children

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb. 5, 2007--Rethinking AIDS, a global organization of more than 2,300 scientists, medical doctors, journalists, health advocates, and business professionals, called today for the creation of an international commission to investigate the recent trial and death sentences of five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor convicted of deliberately infecting children in Libya with HIV, the virus thought to cause AIDS. The sentences were pronounced on Dec. 19, 2006, after the defendants' second trial since 1999.


“We object to the death sentences given to these health workers,” said RA president Dr. Etienne de Harven. “The diagnosis, prosecution and conviction in this case is founded on poor science. The charges are based on serious and fundamental flaws, widely documented in the medical literature.”

The purpose of the commission, de Harven said, would be to investigate the facts openly and without threat of punishment against those who testify. He emphasized several crucial points regarding the medical workers' trial:


  • Witnesses alleged that, in 1998, nurses gave each of 426 children at Al-Fateh Children's Hospital in Benghazi, Libya, pills and injections, the contents of which remain unknown.
  • Transmission of HIV in a medical setting, as alleged to have occurred among the children at the hospital, has never been documented in the medical literature.
  • Numerous non-HIV factors, including vaccinations and other injections, can cause false-positive reactions on HIV antibody tests.
  • More than 50 scientific studies document more than 70 different conditions which can cause false-positive reactions on HIV antibody tests, including vaccinations and hepatitis.


Given the cross-reactivity of the HIV tests and the lack of scientific confirmation of HIV transmission in medical settings, the children's positive diagnoses could be a natural consequence of vaccinations, other medical interventions, or non-HIV infections. (See and Hepatitis is common in developing areas of the world, such as Libya, lacking in adequate infection control procedures. Information from the trial revealed findings of a high level of positive hepatitis tests among the children. Also, the nurses might have unwittingly participated in an experimental trial of a drug or of an oral or injected vaccine that caused false-positive reactions, and the sick and dying children may have been unnecessarily medicated with highly toxic AIDS drugs in response.

Other scientific groups have claimed that the particular strain of HIV found among the children was present before the nurses arrived, exonerating the medical workers from having caused the alleged infection. However, de Harven notes, such claims are spurious and not based on rigorous scientific approaches: “No scientific literature anywhere documents HIV isolated from patients.” This lack of scientific evidence also applies to assertions of proof that HIV was found in vials previously used for vaccinations, a key claim in the prosecution evidence, according to trial observer Michael Hersee of the health advocacy group HEAL London. HEAL joins RA in asking for full disclosure of the content of injections and oral medications the children may have received.

“It must also be established whether the children are dying of AIDS-defined illnesses or AIDS drug toxicities,” said de Harven. “This is particularly urgent because, with recent reports that several more children are near death, we risk unnecessary injury and death caused by pharmaceuticals given to the remaining 370 children.” Severe, life-threatening side effects of AIDS drugs include serious anemias, immune suppression, organ failure, muscle weakness and paralysis, deformities, diarrhea, vomiting, cancer, life-threatening skin disorders, and more (cited at and

“The international AIDS community has been reluctant to address issues of test inaccuracy, drug toxicities, and the lack of tenable data on HIV transmission,” said de Harven. “With the lives of children and health workers at stake, it is time to speak up on these well-established problems.”

Rethinking AIDS: The Group for the Scientific Reappraisal of the HIV/AIDS Hypothesis (“RA” or “the Group”) was formed in 1991 to express the concerns of a growing number of renowned scientists and medical doctors about HIV research and the resulting human rights abuses. In 1995, by a letter published in The Lancet, the Group called for a thorough reappraisal of the existing evidence for and against the HIV/AIDS hypothesis and recommended that critical epidemiological studies be undertaken.

Among RA's founders are Harvard microbiologist Dr. Charles Thomas; 1993 Nobel laureate for chemistry Dr. Kary Mullis; Nature Biotechnology co-founder Dr. Harvey Bialy; University of California at Berkeley molecular biologist Dr. Peter Duesberg and the late Yale mathematician Dr. Serge Lang, both members of the National Academy of Sciences;  in Western Australia Dr. Eleni Papadopulos; and Glasgow University professor emeritus of public health and World Health Organization consultant Dr. Gordon Stewart.

The Group's current president, Dr. Etienne de Harven, is a professor emeritus of pathology at the University of Toronto and a former cancer researcher at Sloan-Kettering Institute, New York (1956-1981). He produced the first electron microscopic studies of a retrovirus (the murine Friend leukemia virus) and was co-director of the Electron Microscopy Laboratory at the Banting Institute, Department of Pathology, University of Toronto.


Press Contacts:

Etienne de Harven, M.D.
Phone: 33-4-93-60-28-39
Saint Cézaire, France

David Crowe
Media Relations
Phone: 1-403-289-6609
Mobile: 1-403-861-2225
Calgary, Canada





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