A Proposal to Halt the Spread of HIV/AIDS in Southern
In this discussion we will only consider HIV transmission thru sexual contact, and not
transmission due to shared needles, since needle transfer is not known to be a significant
transmission mode in southern Africa.
After 20 years of practice in the field of Sexually Transmitted Diseases, it has become
apparent to me that HIV sexual transmission in the Western world operates entirely
inside an existing syphilis pattern. In other words, the people who get it sexually have
had syphilis, usually several times.
The HIV virus most likely requires the presence of an active syphilis lesion to help it
penetrate human skin in a sexual situation. This would explain why the disease moves so
well in the more promiscuous segments of the gay community, but not in the more
promiscuous segments of the heterosexual or lesbian communities, since syphilis is
endemic in the gay male population. This requirement of an existing syphilis lesion
explains why many famous people like Magic Johnson, Arthur Ashe, and Paul Michael
Glaser’s wife could not transmit their disease to their primary partners.
In my practice we identified 22 heterosexuals who were HIV positive. When we
examined and followed all 52 of their sexual contacts closely, we found that they were all
not infected at the time of their partner’s diagnosis, and they did not get infected as we
followed them for 2 years or more while they continued to have sex with their HIV
positive partners without condoms.
On the other hand, two of our gay males were treated for syphilis several times each and
both eventually contracted HIV. In addition, HIV/AIDS is a much more aggressive
disease in gay males than heterosexuals. While some scientists have gone to great lengths
to show that they have different strains of the virus, the obvious difference is the
multitude of other STD’s that accompany the promiscuous gay males HIV infection.
The Public Health Service has done a very effective job of reducing and practically
eliminating syphilis in heterosexuals. However, the PHS cannot track the activities of the
very active gay male, and as a result of this, syphilis is endemic (out of control) in the gay
male community. As a point of separate fact, it is almost impossible for lesbian females
to transmit any significant STD female-to-female.
The only other place on Earth where a similar situation exists is in southern Africa, where
a sexually transmitted disease that is almost identical to syphilis, called
Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV), is endemic in the prostitute population. Both
syphilis and LGV produce almost identical ulcers on the skin, and both of these ulcer
types are lined at their base with T4 lymphocytes, the primary target of the HIV agent.
This is the “portal”, or hole in the skin that allows the HIV agent to pass.
Other kinds of sores, cuts, rashes, etc., will not allow the HIV agent to pass. These other
wounds and lesions are too heavily defended by the immune system to allow this delicate
agent to get a foothold.
Both syphilis and LGV are exquisitely sensitive to the antibiotic tetracycline (TCN),
which can be easily taken by mouth. Many, if not most of us, have taken this drug for
conditions including acne, bronchitis, bladder infections, upper and lower respiratory
infections, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and others. Serious reactions to this drug are rare.
Actual Interruption of HIV Spread
Since tetracycline is safe, I propose that we freely distribute it throughout the affected
African countries, along with the suggestion that if you take this once a day for 3 months
you will be safe from AIDS. If we can create a wave of this treatment in sexually active
people over the entire region for a short period we can accomplish a dramatic decrease in
the prevalence of LGV and syphilis long enough to stop the spread of AIDS.
Tetracycline does have side effects, such as nausea, rashes, fungal vaginitis, etc., all of
which are minor and easily controlled. Tetracycline does not kill people, cannot be
overdosed because it causes vomiting in high doses, and extremely few people are
allergic to it. Even if the drug (hypothetically) killed one in every hundred people, and
still did the job proposed here, it would still be preferable to the ravages of the AIDS
epidemic in southern Africa.
Tetracycline is dirt-cheap. It might even cost more to send dirt, especially in pill form.
This idea is so cheap in terms of money and suffering and time saved that the best way to
test it may be to just do it now. Each day we test or disagree loses a large number of
newly infected people. If this idea fails, it fails cheap. More to the point, if this idea is
only one-half correct, we still save millions of people and whole countries.
Wilfred L. Anderson, MD