In many ways, AIDS is the disease of the modern world. Although cancer kills many more people than AIDS ever has, and Malaria is much more common than AIDS in Africa (irrespective of HIV status), AIDS has captured the popular imagination like no other disease. Partly because of the way it seemed to suddenly erupt onto the world, initially in predominantly gay populations in major urban areas in the United States and Europe – and now more so in Africa – it has provoked a massive world-wide campaign to address the disease, becoming the largest peace time operation in the world. In the West, after initial denial of the disease – partly as it was affecting gay people who at that time were not being socially accepted – the juggernaut of the pharmaceutical and medical industry as well as governments were activated, leading to the development of a huge AIDS industry to attempt to find a cure.
Given the complexity and unique expression of the disease, this challenge was not easy and soon the issues around the disease became highly politicized, with many questions about the disease’s origins, diagnosis, treatment and the social implications of being HIV positive. However, in the West, the disease never spread outside of vulnerable, immune-compromised groups – and the forecasted epidemic never happened on a wide scale. It remained somewhat contained to certain groups/communities and now in most developed countries, the incidences of AIDS have greatly declined. The broad social and political impact of the disease have been well documented in such books as And The Band Plays On, by Randy Shilts, who tells an amazing story of the disease’s development in the USA in the early 1980’s and also America in the Age of AIDS by Elinor Burkitt who explored the political and financial interests that developed around the AIDS industry in the United States. This is a central point in understanding the disease and the idea of an AIDS miasm.
The nature of the disease’s apparent sudden eruption in the gay population and then other immune-compromised groups stimulated much debate about the disease’s origins, both in the West and then in Africa. The conventional theory is that the disease originated in Africa, stemming from some people eating local bush (monkey) meat, becoming contaminated with a simian (SV) virus, which then transformed into a new virus that became what we know as HIV in its various strains. It spread from Cameroon and then The Belgian Congo (now Democratic Republic of Congo) and from there made its way to other parts of Africa, especially around Lake Victoria in Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania. It apparently spread to the West through air personnel who having had sex with people in Africa then spread the disease into gay and also some heterosexual populations in the United States and Europe. Shilt’s book exhaustively traces this idea. However, alternative theories abound, including that polio vaccines used in the 1950’s and 1960’s were contaminated with simian viruses which then spread the disease. It has been admitted by the Centers for Disease Control that polio vaccines (in Africa and in the United States) were contaminated by simian viruses (SV40) until at least 1963 and likely to be much longer, which they attribute to higher incidences of cancer, but not necessarily AIDS. (1) However, a book called The River: A Journey Back to the Source of HIV and AIDS by Edward Hooper explores the AIDS connection to polio vaccines, and which became a movie called The Origin of AIDS. Another theory is that in the gay population, experimental Hepatitis B vaccines were similarly contaminated which could have been a catalyst for the disease.
The main thing for homeopaths to consider in the miasmatic consideration of AIDS is that these possible causes could influence our ideas about the nature of the disease and how we understand the disease in relation to our understanding of miasmatic theory and acute and chronic disease.
The first homeopath to write about this was Harris Coulter in his book AIDS and Syphilis, The Hidden Link. This was based on his idea that the suppression of Syphilis led to AIDS, especially in the gay population, whose promiscuous activities led to a high incidence of Syphilis (and Gonorrhea and other STI’s) and their consequent suppression. AIDS therefore is merely suppressed syphilis seeking another expression. More recently Peter Fraser wrote the book The AIDS miasm, looking at AIDS as a separate miasm and also looked at the remedy the AIDS nosode as well as other remedies identified as part of the miasm.
Therefore, AIDS can be seen as a miasm in its own right, following on from the big five miasms of Psora, Sycosis, Syphilis, Tuberculosis and Cancer. (The extension of more miasms depends very much on individual homeopaths philosophical predilections toward miasmatic theory and practice, but here by looking at more possible miasms, we are mainly looking for patterns of symptoms, conditions and broad phenomena that can be connected to the actual disease AIDS). The overall qualities of the AIDS miasm can be said to be a breaking down of boundaries, which have been seen on a broader social level with the advent of the digital age and the influence of the internet, breaking through all previous communication barriers; also on a political level with the influence of global capital, challenging the relevance of national boundaries and a realization of the interconnectedness of all business and capital. On a physical level, we see with the disease AIDS, a breaking down of the body, a retroviral interloper infecting T cells in the body, destroying them and allowing a variety of infectious diseases to take hold of the body. We see the possibility that AIDS could have developed from monkey viruses (SIV as opposed to HIV) or from other animals, another form of breaking down of boundaries.
In the public consciousness, there is no doubt that AIDS has become the most dominant disease in modern consciousness, along with cancer, even though malaria kills many more people than AIDS. In the West, in spite of the terrible impact AIDS has had on various communities, it has never spread widely into mainstream society, different to what seems to being been seen in Africa. But even here, questions can be asked about the nature of the spread of AIDS in Africa and it is interesting to look at the wider impact this disease has had on the zeitgeist of modern medical, social and cultural thought.
Let us explore the condition known as HIV/AIDS from the perspective of other miasms and then go more into the possible unique characteristics of an AIDS miasm.
Syphilis and AIDS
The connection to the Syphilitic miasm is one of the most obvious, with a history of syphilis seen in some cases and from a homeopathic view, its suppression, along with other STI’s leading to the suppression of the syphilitic impulse, only to come out in a more virulent form. There is no doubt that a history of STI’s was a precursor for many who got AIDS, whether in the West and also in Africa but more so in the West, and the nature of the destructiveness of the disease shows clear syphilitic qualities. Also, similar to syphilis, after an initial intense and violent expression, (over a twenty – twenty five year period), the disease seems to be declining. New infections in the West are not that common and for most relatively healthy people, AIDS is not much of a risk. A healthy immune system is enough to protect against the disease, even if one does become infected. It has never been shown that merely being positive will lead to active AIDS, a common myth promulgated in the medical community. In Africa today, we also see a dropping off of AIDS cases. Some statistics show that AIDS cases peaked around 200-2001 in most Sub Saharan countries, except parts of Southern Africa. One can study these statistics at www.avert.org.
The same thing happened with syphilis in the 16th century. After about 50 years, it developed into more of a chronic condition and did not kill people in the manner that it did in the first years of infection where it swept through Europe, with people dying in the street and being herded into camps and often killed. This is no different to when colonizers took European bugs to the new world and millions died of diseases such as smallpox and measles, which had become less life threatening in the West due to recurrent exposure. As has been seen in many infectious diseases, including polio and smallpox, their incidences were declining before vaccination became widespread.
However, although both diseases are communicated through sex, there are significant differences in the symptom pictures presented, and Syphilis is a spirochete bacteria whereas HIV is a retrovirus, also known a human endogenous retrovirus (HERV) and which is not a virus at all but genetic material that is often released in response to certain infections. Also HIV is not that easy to catch, contrary to some of the myths surrounding it. There are many ‘discordant’ couples, one being positive, the other negative and it has been shown that some people who are frequently exposed do not get the disease. (2) It seems to require other factors, which conventional science can’t identify all the time, but which in homeopathy, with our theory of susceptibility we can make some conclusions. But what is commonly recognized is that HIV/AIDS predominantly affects people with existing immune-deficiency issues, whether in the West or Africa. STI’s, including Syphilis are one of the common factors, but only one of many and in fact Tuberculosis is much more commonly seen connected to HIV/AIDS, both in the West and Africa.
Tuberculosis and AIDS
The tubercular miasm figures very strongly in a miasmatic evaluation of AIDS. In the gay population in Europe and United States, the social situation and behavior amongst the gay community in the 1960s and 1970’s was being freed from the inhibition and denial of one’s sexuality, its liberation leading to extraordinary sexual behavior amongst other things for some people, and including a social and political identity within mainstream society. That feeling of liberation and expression is found strongly in the tubercular miasm, more so than in the syphilitic miasm. The sexual promiscuity seen was not a primarily destructive act, but more of a freedom to do what they want and in so doing challenging the conventional societal mores that imposed restrictions on sexual behavior. Even though the dynamics within the gay community led to a greater separation of male and female energy – male homosexuals mainly being together and females the same, which no doubt impacted on the “male” sexual extremes, the behavior itself was more tubercular in nature than syphilitic. However, the fact that many gay people who got AIDS did have a long history of STD’s, including Syphilis confirms the syphilitic imprint as well.
Tuberculosis has also been described by some homeopaths as being a combination of the psoric and syphilitic miasm (termed pseudo-psora), especially if one uses the three major miasms as a background to understand all further miasms, instead of seeing the Tubercular, Cancer and AIDS miasms as separate in their own right. Conventional miasmatic theory has been based on the idea that it all began with psora, without which one cannot have Sycosis and Syphilis, which then leads to T.B. and Cancer etc. Therefore all further miasms, apart from the main three are combinations of the main three. Many homeopaths don’t particularly adhere to this theory, which is one reason miasmatic theory is somewhat contentious in homeopathy. The loose and hugely broad definition of psora has led to all sorts of conclusions about what it means and to assume that all the other diseases kind of stack up one another after that is debatable.
Another aspect of the influence of the tubercular miasm is that one of the strongest conditions of AIDS is pneumocystitis carinii pneumonia (PCP), a fungal infection which invades the lungs and also spreads throughout the body, looking like TB. Other key symptoms of AIDS has been a serious loss of weight, chronic night sweats and lymphatic swelling, all characteristic of T.B.
Some Haitians in New York who got AIDS in the 1980’s were also afflicted with T.B. In Africa, the connection between T.B. and AIDS is very strong. It can even be questioned whether the HIV retrovirus leads to more T.B. or T.B. leads to the activation of the retrovirus in the system. Conventional theory accepts the former proposal, leading to a large increase in statistical AIDS cases, but questions remain as to the true “cause”.
In Africa, although there were some initial cases of Kaposi’s sarcoma (one of the first striking conditions of AIDS in the West but before a fairly benign form of cancer found in Africa) and pneumocystis, one of the most common and visible conditions initially seen has been ‘slim’, a wasting away of the body, with an inability to eat hardly anything, along with viral diseases such as shingles and lymphatic swelling. However, this has now significantly diminished in the last number of years. However, one of the strongest connections has apparently been the increase in serious malaria and especially tuberculosis, which is being attributed to AIDS. In a homeopathic project in Swaziland (The Swaziland Homeopathy Project), T.B. and its complications is now one of the most common conditions associated with AIDS. Slim is not seen much now and neither is malaria. Shingles is very common, as are chronic fungal infections, which are also a side-effect of T.B. treatment, which begs the question whether many active T.B. sufferers on medication and who then test positive for HIV simply have T.B., based on the fact that HIV tests cannot be HIV specific and therefore will test positive when people already have T.B. This is discussed below when looking at the larger questions and controversies around AIDS diagnosis.
There is a growing problem with Multiple Drug Resistant T.B. and many don’t survive the drug regime. In another project in Tanzania, 30-40% have T.B. with another 30-40% with various forms of pneumonia, lymph involvement in 40-50% of cases and shingles in about 30% of cases. Kaposi’s sarcoma is not seen very much. Fungal infections are about 30% of cases. Over 80% of cases seen are on ARV’s with neuropathy side effects seen in a majority of cases, again making one consider again if much of what is seen is simply T.B., and the effects of T.B and ARV medications. (3) Therefore, the connection between Tuberculosis and AIDS is particularly strong.
The significance of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the West, seen much more than in Africa has been attributed by some AIDS writers to be due to the abuse of certain social drugs, especially poppers (amyl nitrate), which are commonly taken among some in the gay community.
The Miasm of Confusion and Controversy
In studying the broader miasmatic themes of any disease, it is useful to look at the larger social impact of a disease, the environment in which the disease occurs and its impact on wider society. As already mentioned AIDS seemed to suddenly erupt onto the world, leading to much confusion about what was happening – a new, mysterious but deadly epidemic that threatened to spread across the globe. But then, after 20 years or so in the West, cases began to diminish and although drug therapy improved, the disease didn’t spread as originally thought. Also it hasn’t behaved like any other disease before, the actual virus remaining highly elusive and science finding it hard to isolate it or to make a vaccine. Also AIDS is not a disease but a syndrome, a collection of up to 29 different conditions, which also exist without being HIV positive. With a variety of conditions being attributed to the disease and not one clearly defined condition that could specifically be linked to the contagious factor, as in most diseases, it has led to further controversy over what we are looking at.
This has led some scientists to question whether HIV really exists and if it does, whether it is more of a co-factor than a primary cause of many of the conditions attributed to it. The fact remains that AIDS hasn’t behaved like a normal epidemic infectious disease and seems mainly to affect those already immune-compromised e.g., gays with a history of social drug use and also many incidences of STI’s and extensive anti-biotic use, hemophiliacs, serious drug users and people with a susceptibility to T.B., like the Haitian community in New York. In Africa, it has affected people more broadly, but again, not in ways consistently seen in epidemics. Some countries in West Africa, like Nigeria and Ghana have fairly low incidences while Kenya, Uganda and Malawi have much higher incidences. Some feel this is attributed to different HIV strains but it may also be that the health infrastructures are more developed in East Africa, leading to more testing and treatment. The normal factors that have been identified as major factors in the spread of the disease, e.g., multiple sexual partners, polygamy, ‘hot spots’ where sexual workers and trucking stops are found, a history of STI’s, malnutrition etc are equally apparent in West Africa as in East or Southern Africa, making one question their significance.
Also, and this would tie in to the more esoteric theories around AIDS, West African countries have generally retained more of their traditional cultural beliefs – or are more at ease in expressing them – than in East Africa that has more widely denied this tradition, often under the influence of Christian and Islamic religions. Maybe the denial of their traditional cultural myths and rituals has made them further susceptible to the imposition of the ‘Electronic age’ and the cultural miasms of Western society. This is further explored when looking at the possible unique features of the AIDS miasm.
Another key part of the controversy, especially in Africa, is whether there are as many AIDS cases as being stated. There is evidence that the HIV tests used in Africa are not specific to HIV and that many immune-compromised people test positive anyway. This has been verified scientifically with those who have had leprosy and it is thought that a wide range of existing conditions, including merely being pregnant, can lead to false positive tests.(4) If that is the case, then millions of people are being falsely tested and suffer the profound stigma often attached to the disease. In Africa, this alone can be a death sentence as a HIV positive person would be a threat to the community, leading to social isolation and stigmatization. Also the power of the word is strong in Africa and being told by an ‘expert’ that you have a life threatening disease can become just that – just from believing it.
The stigma of AIDS has been addressed by the AIDS movement and aggressive education in this way has made positive inroads in many communities and countries and yet remains a challenge. It is here that AIDS looks similar to other infectious epidemics of the past, including Syphilis and Leprosy when a positive diagnosis or when symptoms of a disease would lead to social isolation or worse.
Just recently in the news, in April 2014, a BBC report in Uganda showed that many people who are HIV positive are buying HIV negative test reports so that they can get work and not be so socially shunned. Companies require people to have a HIV test and so HIV positive people are being discriminated, in spite of years of education and millions of dollars of educational investment. Uganda has also been held up to be one of the success stories in Africa. The tragedy of this is clear. If the tests aren’t accurate, people are being profoundly stigmatized as a result of false tests. Also, as has been known for years, a HIV positive test in and of itself does not mean a person will get sick. A healthy immune system is enough to deal with this, making the whole policy of widespread HIV testing throughout Africa even more questionable.
As the epidemic in Africa has evolved and affected different groups of people, the symptoms have somewhat changed. Slim is now much less seen, ARV’s are much more widely available, changing the face of the disease and Kaposi’s sarcoma is not seen very much. However, as mentioned, T.B. and other chronic chest conditions are now the most commonly seen condition attributed to AIDS in many parts of Africa. Malaria is still seen very frequently, some of which may be attributable to HIV infection and other general immune problems. Malnutrition is a major issue and and chronic diarrhea is commonly seen in HIV patients, along with shingles and chronic lymph swellings. But again, the question is whether HIV is the primary cause of many of these conditions or whether it simply happens to be around and that people test positive anyway due to tests which are not accurate.
The tests used in Africa are two band rapid tests, a quick and cheap way to test for HIV. However, as noted, tests of this sort and even more comprehensive ELISA and Western Blot tests only test for antibody response. They do not test for the virus and are not specific for HIV. The implications for those who test positive is extremely serious, especially in Africa where exposure to many other infectious and immune-suppressive illnesses e.g., malaria, Tuberculosis, Typhoid, Dysentery, Leprosy, even simply being pregnant etc may be lead to a positive diagnosis, with consequent stigma and likely ARV/Septrin treatment, whether it is needed or not. If this is true, then all statistics quoted of HIV/AIDS in Africa may be wrong. When certain rapid tests were used in the United States, they were removed because of the amount of false positive results. (5)
Although it is theorized that AIDS originated in Africa and spread to the West, what we see now is the importation of the AIDS industry into Africa, with billions of dollars invested into its treatment and education. This industry has become such a force in the whole “Aid” movement that more money is spent on AIDS now than on all other diseases put together. So, there is a lot at stake and many thousands, if not millions of people’s livelihoods are dependent on this. In this climate therefore, it makes it hard to challenge the accepted statistics given about the incidence of AIDS in Africa. Maybe it is not what we are told and inadvertently the AIDS industry is becoming another quasi-colonial endeavor onto the African continent whose governments have acquiesced as the amounts of money and political pressures are simply too great. The US President’s PEPFAR President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief) fund, which channels funds to organizations such as UNAIDS, Global AIDS Fund, USAID, UNDP, WHO, CDC etc, pledged over $46 billion dollars over five years from 2008. (6)
One other area of controversy is mother to child contamination, which has led to a policy of giving all HIV positive mothers ARV’s to prevent mother to child transmission. HIV positive and HIV negative children born or HIV positive mothers are also given ARV’s. According to research quoted in Christine Maggiore’s book, What If Everything You Knew About AIDS Is Wrong, “at least 75% of babies born to HIV positive mothers will test HIV negative without medical intervention. Over 90% of children of mothers who receive regular prenatal care and are properly nourished will test negative. Also it is known that children take up to 18 months to develop their own immune response and discard antibobodies passed onto them from their mothers and that HIV testing before 18 months does not yield conclusive results. (7). And yet now, in Malawi, the WHO has instigated a “voluntary” program to give ALL HIV positive pregnant women ARV medications for LIFE, even if they are healthy and have no clinical symptoms at all. This is admittedly an experiment and yet, in spite of all evidence to the contrary that questions routine use of ARV’s for HIV pregnant women, the medical strategy of giving ARV’s is becoming even more forceful.
All of these questions and issues surround AIDS in Africa and elsewhere. If many of the things stated above are true, it means that the miasm of AIDS in Africa is much more than simply the virus and the disease. It is also to do with the imposition of a cultural projection and social/political force that in many ways mimics the worst of colonial oppression, in which Africans are being exploited once more and where the fears of Western culture are being imposed onto the African continent, this time in the name of addressing the so-called scourge of AIDS, instead of the ‘noble’ colonial ideology of ‘Commerce, Christianity and Civilization’. Therefore, in looking at the miasm of AIDS we see a forceful imposition of one cultural perspective onto another, backed by medical/political forces that represent one particular view of the syndrome of AIDS in Africa. This can fit into the broader idea of an AIDS miasm as described below, a breaking down of boundaries as an aspect of the Electronic Age.
An AIDS Miasm
The idea of an AIDS miasm, like any form of classification is to see certain patterns, symptoms and general phenomena that can link the disease to its etiology and broader impact on the culture, as well as its ability to reflect an epigenetic impact on people and between generations. In this broader idea of miasmatic thinking, a miasm is as much a metaphor of the prevailing culture as simply a disease. This concept was explored by Peter Fraser in his book The AIDS Miasm, which sees AIDS as a reflection of the modern electronic age and following on from the three major miasms. He classifies the Tubercular and Cancer miasms slightly differently than the three major miasms, stating that they are a reaction to the big three miasms. As mentioned earlier, the characteristics of the AIDS miasm are seen as a breaking down of all boundaries, where there is no longer the concept of limitation and separation as before. Fraser states that because of the nature of African culture, it created a unique susceptibility to the disease, in other words, a cultural susceptibility, which offers new ideas on the idea of the transmission of the disease. To quote Fraser:
“The particular effect of man’s extension by Electronics, which Marshall McLuhan called the extension of the nervous system of man, is to bring about an almost complete destruction of the concept of distance in both space and time…Boundaries disappear, they are of absolutely no consequence to electronic communication or to airplanes.” To summarize this point, the Electronic Age allows a new “global consciousness” to appear which transforms everything we do: politics, economics, war, environmentalism and communication on all levels. In other words a growing awareness of the interconnectedness of all things and actions becomes clear. This is strongly apparent in the field of ecology and the environment.