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AFRO-NETS> Worldwide Coalition of Concerned Scientists Issues Durban Declaration

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-
entific journal.

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 
countless lives."

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 
Nature website:

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.

Claudio Schuftan

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