Worldwide Coalition of Concerned Scientists Issues Durban Declaration
Affirming HIV is the Cause of AIDS
Unprecedented Statement of Unity Will Appear in July 6, 2000 Issue of
PRNewswire - Jul 1, 2000
More than 5,000 scientists from around the world have united to prepare
a resounding assertion that HIV causes AIDS and that an all-out effort
to stem the tide of HIV infection is the world's best hope of ending
the AIDS pandemic.
The unprecedented statement, called the Durban Declaration, represents
the definitive affirmation of a voluntary, ad hoc coalition of the
world's leading scientists and doctors, including AIDS researchers and
physicians from more than 50 countries on five continents. It will be
published in the July 6, 2000 issue of Nature, the world's leading sci-
Citing extensive publications in the scientific literature, the authors
and signatories call for an immediate end to the debate on the funda-
mental causal relationship between HIV and AIDS, noting that the insis-
tence of a vocal minority in denying that HIV causes AIDS "will cost
The name of the Durban Declaration refers to Durban, South Africa, site
of the 13th International AIDS Conference, which begins on July 9,
The Durban Declaration affirms that the scientific evidence supporting
the link between HIV and AIDS is "clear-cut, exhaustive and unambigu-
ous." It stresses that the data, compiled from years of HIV/AIDS re-
search, "fulfill exactly the same criteria as for other viral diseases,
such as polio, measles and smallpox."
The Declaration was drafted by an international team drawn from the
250+ member Committee for the Joint Statement by the International Sci-
entific Community, which was formed for the sole purpose of producing
the Durban Declaration.
Among the 5,000 signatories of the Durban Declaration are 11 Nobel Lau-
reates, as well as directors of leading research institutes and presi-
dents of academies and medical societies, notably the US National Acad-
emy of Science, the Royal Society of London, the UK Academy of Medical
Sciences, the Pasteur Institute, Max Planck Institutes, the US Insti-
tute of Medicine, the European Molecular Biology Organization, the AIDS
Society of India, the National Institute for Virology in South Africa,
Southern African HIV Clinicians Society, and Medecins du Monde.
While the Committee for the Joint Statement recognizes that pharmaceu-
tical companies have contributed significantly to the development of
anti-HIV drugs, no scientists from the industry were involved in draft-
ing or signing the Declaration.
"The cause of AIDS was scientifically identified and confirmed a long
time ago," says Philippa Musoke, M.D., a pediatrician with Makerere
University- Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration in Kampala,
Uganda. "We know that if we stop HIV transmission we can stop AIDS. Our
challenge now is to use this knowledge urgently to prevent the spread
of HIV from person to person, and from mother to child."
The Durban Declaration comes at a time when 19 million people have al-
ready died of AIDS in less than 20 years since the emergence of the
disease. More than 34 million people are now living with HIV/AIDS, of
whom 24 million live in sub-Saharan Africa. The epidemic has broad im-
plications for future generations. The United Nations AIDS Program
(UNAIDS) estimates that half of all 15-year olds in the African coun-
tries worst affected by AIDS will die of the disease even if the rates
of infection drop in the next few years.
"The AIDS epidemic now raging out of control in Africa will be dupli-
cated in India unless we can institute widespread prevention programs,"
says Professor N.M. Samuel, M.D., Ph.D., President of the AIDS Society
of India. "The most potent weapon we have in our fight against this
disease is the knowledge that HIV causes AIDS. If we can prevent the
transmission of HIV, we can stop the spread of AIDS."
The Declaration lists the following fundamental scientific observations
made over the past two decades regarding the role of HIV in causing
AIDS: People with AIDS, regardless of where they live, are infected
with HIV. In the laboratory, HIV infects CD4 lymphocytes, which are the
key immune cells that coordinate immune responses to infection. These
are the exact type of white blood cells that become depleted in all
persons with AIDS. Persons who receive HIV-contaminated blood or blood
products develop AIDS, whereas those who receive untainted or screened
blood do not.
"The Durban Declaration is not simply an effort to respond directly to
those few who continue to deny the evidence that HIV causes AIDS," says
Professor Neal Nathanson, M.D., Director of the Office of AIDS Research
at the US National Institutes of Health.
"It was written to conclude the debate in a manner so clear and firm as
to command the world's attention. The declaration should assure anyone
who might otherwise doubt that we know what causes AIDS, and that this
knowledge underpins all our efforts to treat AIDS and prevent HIV in-
The Declaration stresses that, "In this global emergency, prevention of
HIV infection must be our greatest worldwide public health priority."
It ends with a call for concerted action to curb the spread of HIV and
reverse the tide of the epidemic.
The list of signatories of the Durban Declaration can be found on the
The Durban Declaration website address, which will be unveiled on July
6, 2000 is:
This website contains additional information about HIV and AIDS as well
as translations of the document into many of the world's leading lan-
guages and links to other sites.
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