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AZT, Fauci and COVID

Although relatively unknown before 2019, the name Anthony Fauci is now a household name, particularly in America. His plan for handling the pandemic has become incredibly polarising and is somewhat divided along party lines. However, the criticism is somewhat warranted and it has to do with an epidemic that has been long forgotten.

In May 1983, the AIDS crisis was spiraling out of control. Although it is now known that the HIV virus actually caused AIDS through exposure to infected bodily fluids such as blood or via sexual contact, Fauci had hypothesised that the virus could be passed by ordinary close contact. This theory came about due to the infection of an infant, which led to speculation that household contact between family members was the culprit. However, it was discovered that the infant had actually obtained the virus from its mother during pregnancy. Nevertheless, the damage was done.

The media went to work stoking alarm about AIDS transmission through simple routine contacts. Hundreds of newspapers disseminated the distressing theory from Fauci’s article further driving fear that transmission could occur through simple contact. Although many defend Fauci’s conclusions as simple scientific uncertainty of a new virus, others have not been so forgiving, even going so far as to call it “scientific negligence and alarmist speculation”. Bizarrely, even though his paper was the cause of the frenzy, less than two months after his article appeared, he breathlessly claimed, “It is absolutely preposterous to suggest that AIDS can be contracted through normal social contact like being in the same room with someone or sitting on a bus with them. The poor gays have received a very raw deal on this.” Sadly, the public fallout from Fauci’s original article would be felt for years. Public panic had intensified and people were fearing they could get AIDS from sharing a toilet seat or even from shaking hands. People living with AIDS were being alienated and ostracised from their jobs, homes, communities and gay men in particular were heavily stigmatised.

Meanwhile, Fauci and his team of scientists at the National Institute of Health (NIH) went full steam ahead on developing a vaccine for AIDS. Realising the potential to reap massive profits, pharmaceutical companies gladly jumped on board and began to make radical statements. British drug company, Burroughs Wellcome and Co, said its failed cancer drug AZT could be used to treat AIDS. Few studies were done and the long-term side effects were unknown. Nevertheless, in March 1987, the US Food and Drug Administration approved AZT, claiming the benefits outweighed the risks.

The majority of those in the AIDS-afflicted and medical communities held the drug up as the first breakthrough on AIDS. For better or worse, AZT had been approved faster than any drug in FDA history and activists considered it a victory. The price paid for the “victory”, however, was that almost all government drug trials from then on focused on AZT – while over 100 other promising drugs were left uninvestigated. Writing about AZT in 1989, Celia Farber said that AZT was “one of the most toxic, expensive and controversial drugs in the history of medicine.” Undeterred, Fauci started promoting the drug not only for critically ill AIDS patients, but for anyone who tested positive for HIV, including those who were asymptomatic and showed no sign of the disease. Those patients included hospital workers, pregnant women and even children. Doctors were stunned. Despite limited data, the NIH forged ahead, ignoring all evidence that the drug was toxic, caused liver damage and destroyed white blood cells.

This story is proving all too familiar. While many hoped a vaccine would eliminate COVID, like AIDS, the virus appears to mutate too rapidly. But the same way Fauci discouraged and prevented inexpensive treatments from being talked about, researched and prescribed in the 1980’s is the same thing that is happening today. Governments are insisting that we “trust the science” but it appears the people involved in “the science” are completely untrustworthy themselves.

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