Debunking HIV/AIDS Denialism takes on Italian HIV/AIDS denialist Marco Ruggiero

Marco Ruggiero is a professor of molecular biology at the University of Florence. He is also an HIV/AIDS denialist that promotes pro-biotic yogurt as a cure for AIDS. He is also a coauthor of the pseudoscientific junk paper published in an obscure Italian journal with an impact factor of below 0.5

A few days ago, I received a message from a user called Dora from the discussion forum Dora said that they had “sent a letter to the provost of the University of Florence, asking for an open dissociation of his Institution from denialist Professor Marco Ruggiero theories and practices” and that they sent “a similar letter […] to many Italian infectious diseases experts, to the scientific board of the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, who recently published a paper of Duesberg and Ruggiero denying HIV–AIDS link , to activists, politicians, media and institutional agencies”.

Dora asked me to link to the English version of the letter to maximize the circulation of their message. The ongoing forum conversation can be found here (it is in Italian, so use Google translate service).

The gist is that Ruggiero is attempting to teach a course at the University of Florence called “The revolution of immunotherapy: perspectives on cancer and AIDS cure”. According to screenshots taken of the course description, it will be taught that “the HIV role in AIDS pathogenesis; association but not causation” and that clinical trials have supposedly eliminated HIV infection. This would be enormously damaging and they contacted Professor Marco Linari, President of the undergraduate degree in Biological Science at the University of Florence and they have apparently got him on their side now.

I wish them good luck in their attempts to get him investigated and disciplined or ousted. Academic freedom is one thing, but trying to sneak in HIV/AIDS denialist junk into undergraduate biology classes, even if elective, is insane.


Debunker of pseudoscience.

27 thoughts on “ takes on Italian HIV/AIDS denialist Marco Ruggiero

  • Sorry Emil,
    I read your post only now.
    Many many thanks for your help and for the wishes of good luck.
    Congratulations for the work you’re doing in this blog.

  • if marco ruggiero is a discredited denialist why is it that his paper on his study was presented at the world aids conference in vienna in 2010. i spoke to him there, and also to his colleagues. he seemed well received.

    • No, his denialist paper was never presented at the World AIDS conference in Vienna in 2010. His denialist paper was presented at a denialist conference being held in Vienna on the two days before the International AIDS Conference.

      The actual presentation he was a part of at the World AIDS conference was lead by N. Yamamoto and was about immunotheraphy to HIV (for which Ruggiero did not do any of the actual research), and not Ruggiero ‘s beliefs about how HIV does not cause AIDS.

  • I really hope that if Marco Ruggiero’s theories and research are based on science, he will be able to teach them; that’s what Universities are for. Science, as well as learning is all about thinking, and debating. The gist I get after reading this page is that it is degrading a person’s opinion and research,
    Best of luck to Mr Ruggiero.

    • You are using the theory concept in a non-scientific context. It doesn’t mean “idea”, but rather “a well-supported explanation that can include facts, laws, inferences and tested hypothesis”. Marco Ruggiero’s notions are not based on science and not everything that is well-established is taught in school. You do teach advanced quantum mechanics in a high-school drama class.

      There is nothing wrong with criticizing a person’s opinion and research.It is also contradictory of you to claim that you support the open exchange of ideas in the first two sentences of your comment, then state the exact opposite in your final sentence.

  • WhoEver Dora is, dr ruggiero does the right things. One day the truth will prevail. There is no HIV – whatever you called causes aids. And let the science be the way It is. Look back in the history why dr gallo went to the court before attacking others whom you called denialist.

    • If there is no such thing as HIV, then why:

      – can HIV be isolated from all patients with AIDS?
      – have we been able to sequence the genome of many HIV strains?
      – why does HIV fulfill Koch’s postulate?
      – why does ARVs specifically targeted at HIV help AIDS patients?
      – why do the vast majority of patients with AIDS have anti-HIV antibodies?
      – why can infants who have no behavioral risk for AIDS born to HIV positive mother develop AIDS and die?
      – etc.

      Read more about the evidence that HIV causes AIDS at National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

  • Emil, Enfant Mortality from Aids is a fact with or without ‘hiv’ retrovirus/lentivirus. ‘Aids’ acronym as a clinical syndrome manifesting many of the O.I.s attributed to retroviral infectious ‘hiv’ was reported discussed and treated long before this particular construct was put together.
    Prolonged protein malnourishment and stress caused many of the same outcomes both clinically in lab investigations and physically manifestly through resulting disease, in WWII at Dresden for example , and there were many papers on this . That is not to say that there are not potentially hundreds of man made disasters waiting in phial in lab. sit. and accidentally or otherwise, penetrate populations and cause untold genetic maiming.
    ‘Arv’s’ are not ‘specifically targeted’ at ‘HIV’. They act on various mechanisms across many disease profiles and THEIR mechanisms and in recent times ‘Arv’s’ have been proposed for treatment of auto immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis – which is not thought to be caused by a recent infectious exogenous virus. Farr’s Law – a validated principle of epidemiology would say epidemics should proceed at same rate they arose – this has not happened with the ‘hiv’ epidemic .In USA aids peaked in 1989 – 1992 and since then what has changed is the definition of Aids (several times) .
    CDC cautioned that the huge increase in ‘new aids cases’ did not mean that aids was now mushrooming.The 1985 change in definition increased no of aids cases by 2%, from 1984 definition.The 1987 definition increased new diagnoses 30%-40%. And again since..
    Many aids diseases do not depend on immune deficiency and occur without it – Karposi Sarcoma
    (a hereditary condition for many Mediterranean and African populations), Lymphoma, Dementia and Wasting. Dementia is a side effect of some Aids treatments and also other chemo treatments. When the treatment is changed or stopped the Dementia reverses – this is well documented, and it is cynical and manipulative of some doctors to with hold this fact from suffering patients and add to their distress by misleading them into believing that their brain is being eaten up by a virus.
    Meanings of meanings could have us all in Leper Colonies if we are not careful.

    • Try reading the website I linked above. It has answers to many of your claims.

      In cohort studies, severe immunosuppression and AIDS-defining illnesses occur almost exclusively in individuals who are HIV-infected.

      For example, analysis of data from more than 8,000 participants in the Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study (MACS) and the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) demonstrated that participants who were HIV-seropositive were 1,100 times more likely to develop an AIDS-associated illness than those who were HIV-seronegative. These overwhelming odds provide a clarity of association that is unusual in medical research.

      In a Canadian cohort, investigators followed 715 homosexual men for a median of 8.6 years. Every case of AIDS in this cohort occurred in individuals who were HIV-seropositive. No AIDS-defining illnesses occurred in men who remained negative for HIV antibodies, despite the fact that these individuals had appreciable patterns of illicit drug use and receptive anal intercourse

      as well as

      Before the appearance of HIV, AIDS-related diseases such as PCP, KS and MAC were rare in developed countries; today, they are common in HIV-infected individuals.

      Prior to the appearance of HIV, AIDS-related conditions such as Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP), Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) and disseminated infection with the Mycobacterium avium complex (MAC) were extraordinarily rare in the United States. In a 1967 survey, only 107 cases of PCP in the United States had been described in the medical literature, virtually all among individuals with underlying immunosuppressive conditions. Before the AIDS epidemic, the annual incidence of Kaposi’s sarcoma in the United States was only 0.2 to 0.6 cases per million population, and only 32 individuals with disseminated MAC disease had been described in the medical literature (Safai. Ann NY Acad Sci 1984;437:373; Le Clair. Am Rev Respir Dis 1969;99:542; Masur. JAMA 1982;248:3013).

      By the end of 1999, CDC had received reports of 166,368 HIV-infected patients in the United States with definitive diagnoses of PCP, 46,684 with definitive diagnoses of KS, and 41,873 with definitive diagnoses of disseminated MAC (personal communication).

      It is the same error in the denialist argument that claims that HIV does not cause AIDS because there are an incredibly low number of long-term non-progressors. Your argument is a form of cherry picking. It is not enough to state that there are an incredibly low number of cases that may show e. g. KS without having HIV/AIDS. You have to look at the big picture.

      As far as ARVs go, NIAID has refuted that claim as well:

      The availability of potent combinations of drugs that specifically block HIV replication has dramatically improved the prognosis for HIV-infected individuals. Such an effect would not be seen if HIV did not have a central role in causing AIDS.

      Clinical trials have shown that potent three-drug combinations of anti-HIV drugs, known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), can significantly reduce the incidence of AIDS and death among HIV-infected individuals as compared to previously available HIV treatment regimens (Hammer et al. NEJM 1997;337:725; Cameron et al. Lancet 1998;351:543).

      Use of these potent anti-HIV combination therapies has contributed to dramatic reductions in the incidence of AIDS and AIDS-related deaths in populations where these drugs are widely available, among both adults and children (Figure 1; CDC. HIV AIDS Surveillance Report 1999;11[2]:1; Palella et al. NEJM 1998;338:853; Mocroft et al. Lancet 1998;352:1725; Mocroft et al. Lancet 2000;356:291; Vittinghoff et al. J Infect Dis 1999;179:717; Detels et al. JAMA 1998;280:1497; de Martino et al. JAMA 2000;284:190; CASCADE Collaboration. Lancet 2000;355:1158; Hogg et al. CMAJ 1999;160:659; Schwarcz et al. Am J Epidemiol 2000;152:178; Kaplan et al. Clin Infect Dis 2000;30:S5; McNaghten et al. AIDS 1999;13:1687;).

      For example, in a prospective study of more than 7,300 HIV-infected patients in 52 European outpatient clinics, the incidence of new AIDS-defining illnesses declined from 30.7 per 100 patient-years of observation in 1994 (before the availability of HAART) to 2.5 per 100 patient years in 1998, when the majority of patients received HAART (Mocroft et al. Lancet 2000;356:291).

      So if HIV does not cause AIDS, then why do medications specifically directed at HIV reduce incidence of AIDS and death among HIV positive individuals compared with previous treatments?

      I have discussed the inapplicability of Farr’s Law to infectious diseases that do not resemble i. e. plague in a previous entry:

      The Spread of Plague is not analogous to HIV/AIDS

      –> Duesberg et. al. (2011) tries to compare the spread of infectious diseases such as plague caused by Y. pestis with HIV and concludes that since the spread of HIV and incidence of AIDS does not match that of the typical infectious diseases, this means that HIV cannot be the cause of AIDS or of an infectious epidemic. This is a flawed analogy, because unlike plague, HIV does not spread through casual, non-sexual contact as Y. pestis can and HIV/AIDS can take several years to be clinically obvious, rather than having an incubation time of a couple of days.

      If HIV does not cause AIDS, then how come:

      • AIDS-defining illnesses occur almost exclusively in individuals who are HIV-infected?
      • Before the appearance of HIV, AIDS-related diseases such as PCP and KS were rare in developed countries; today, they are common in HIV-infected individuals?
      • The availability of potent combinations of drugs that specifically block HIV replication has dramatically improved the prognosis for HIV-infected individuals?

      I am waiting.

  • On ‘Denying’, Dissent and it’s discourse, discussion and digressions……….there is,I would agree,
    a danger, in this war with words and meanings, that very isolated sick people who have been on a highly potent treatment regimen could abandon their treatment and follow up care to admonitions of internet advisors and this is not a good thing.It is dangerous and it is not to be encouraged.
    It would be unethical of people to group up on individuals and advise them without a doctor to steer this offline. Treatments with ‘Arv’s’ are very potent – long term use brings side effects that can need careful monitoring by professionals who understand the mechanisms of the drugs and the damage they cause as a side effect – there are many. But having seen several young associates die of heart failure and liver failure, I have empathy with people who wish to find an alternative naturopathic pathway to ‘functional cure’ or who wish to take a treatment break. To be stridently dogmatic in these difficult cross roads in care is unfair to the individual and their experience of medication or illness.
    A Functional Cure or treatment is one similar to ‘Arv’s’ – it allows you to get on with your day.It is not a ‘cure’ in eradicating the underlying dysfunction in the system , but it controls the fall out . There are many new novel approaches and they should be explored.Many many people have died on ‘Arv’s’. ‘Arv’s’ themselves are a -chemo toxic- ‘functional cure’. Many people on low income find them intolerable and don’t have quality of life. They should not be bullied by people who happen to find them tolerable and unproblematic because they wish to try alternatives.
    It is their body.
    Not all people think like laboratory researchers – they do not , simply so not wish to have toxic treatments. They want to give their bodies and monies over to research that seeks to explore other pathways not so well funded. We arrived at most of our modern day ‘arsenal’ of ‘drugs against disease’ from experiments that maimed killed and injured scores of subjects – with no apology.
    Arv’s are not perfect – people become multi drug resistant- let’s keep the door open to new ideas. Ruggiero has never advised people to stop their medications – I’ve followed his postings.He is solicited by people anxious to begin some intervention before they are eligible for ‘arv’s’ from what I see, and that is very different from telling people to stop your meds and eat my yogurt instead..

  • You are performing a skewed analysis of risk as patients with HIV/AIDS will die of organ failure much more frequently if they are not taking their medications. So you have to look at the risks of not taking the medications to have something to compare it with.

    We know that most so called alternative treatments are either ineffective or completely untested. It may be understandable, but it would be a profound breech of ethics for a doctor to knowingly proscribe things that do not work or is untested.

    While it is true that drug testing in the past has been unethical, modern drugs are tested in well-regulated clinical trials.

    You claim that Ruggiero has never advised people to stop taking their medications. However, this is the functional result of promoting an ineffective and ludicrous yogurt treatment.

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  • Emil, I will reply – I did not see this and am little busy – but I am not trying to provide analysis. Your last line …..” this is the functional result of promoting an ineffective and ludicrous treatment”. I attended several AIDS conferences and I read papers for 12 years across many disciplines. I would agree that trials must be conducted in a structured way with the input of good medical team for crises. But I know that that has no happened in many conventional mainstream trials. 100’s of trials have been flawed, 100’s …1000’s have died. Fact. ‘We’.. are who -? Who is ‘The Patient’ these days ..? Has he /she a right to autonomy? Can we enlist ourselves in trials before we are deemed eligible by HIV/AIDS treatment eligibility criteria for Arvs-? Yes there will probably be casualties , failures and lessons learned- everyone is entering into this knowing that one would hope. From all I have read on this small modest endeavour Marco Ruggiero has not said he offers a cure , has not advocated this for people with advanced conditions and cd4 counts below the cut off point for a diagnosis of aids. He has said without any ambiguity that noone should stop their medications without medical supervision , that it is wrong to do so , and he has offered this as a supportive therapy one that may or may not support the maintenance of cd4 blood plasma levels above that magical cut off for an aids diagnosis and initiation of Arvs. We all want to find ways to stave off the need for a lifetime of toxic medicines , costly regimens. Many many trials have gone before that have pushed its subjects to the limit of endurance with medicines. They were legitimised. They are to our shame. This product cannot be compared to those assaults on the human condition. This protest against this modest adjunct is political and shameful. If there is a concern over the structure of the exercise than deal with that internally but to denounce the entire exercise as some anti establishment ‘denialist’ quackery is hypocritical. This parroting of the mantra that All Other Forms of Treatment That Are Not Pharmaceutical Double Blind Placebo Trialled By Our Rules – does not serve us the Citizen Patient very well!!!! I am just an observer in this but I can tell you that I have had good results for many toxic side effects ONLY from alternative and complementary healing disciplines – herbal therapies and nutritional therapies.

  • You claim that thousands of people have died, but you do not specify the context or provide any evidence for this figure. Even if I am charitable, you have to compare the 330 000+ deaths in South Africa and many more who die of HIV/AIDS if they do not get treatment.

    The problem is that if you do not have any scientific evidence for the efficacy of Ruggiero’s “treatment” (and no, the plural of anecdote is not evidence) and the probability that the treatment is effective compared to the background knowledge is extremely low, then it is irrational to promote it, even as “supportive therapy”.

    The bars are high for new treatments, but that is to exclude the risk of using ineffective treatments with potentially harmful side effects. Even alternative or complementary medicine has side effects, such as heavy metal poisoning from various eastern traditional products.

    I do not deny your experience, but what I do want to point out is that when taking alternative treatments as an individual, the scientific checks are not in place to prevent things like confirmation bias (remembering the hits, but forgetting the misses) or regression to the mean. Individuals with chronic issues have fluctuating good days and bad days and tend to turn to alternative medicine more frequently when experiencing bad days, so it is important to try and separate the natural return to the average experience of a chronic condition from the potential effects of an alternative treatment.

    All the best.

  • I do not see that he is promoting this as a substitute for Arv’s – he is not . Read carefully. Margaret Keckler assured everyone , based on respectable scientific ‘promise’ that we would have a vaccine for AIDS within two years, decades ago. A rather ludicrous scientific hypothesis given that ‘HIV’ is supposed to be so mutative. I don’t support this theory , having followed it a long time.Many unrelated reasons why and I won’t air them here. But he has put this out in the discourse as an early intervention after a HIV diagnosis before initiation of Arv’s. So he is aiming it at a specific profile – with one intention : to repopulate the gut with healthy bacteria . That is all. He has selected specific bacteria to work with and study their long term effects on the rehabilitation of the Gut. We know the gut is involved in Immune dysregulation, there are many events in the chain that make up the syndrome we call AIDS. If anything Marco is approaching this entire profile of AIDS with a more vigilant attitude than the mainstream medical model who advocated ‘wait and see’ for so long – “wait until your cd4 count drops to this number or that number and then we will give you arvs – there is nothing else you can do “. I don’t think you know quite what a red flag that is to someone who has been handed a diagnosis slash classification like this . That is not to advocate throwing out the whole current medical model. I don’t – I take my arv’s. But I also find that in order to tolerate them I take (paid for by myself) pro and pre biotics, Silica Gel, Psyllium seed jelly, Bromelain,Glutathione,Beta Glucans, Vit C, D, Bs and many simple food groups because I cannot eat what ‘normal’ stomachs digest any longer – due to medications. I don’t know how other people cope when they have limited access in urban environs to good foods..we are now in the age of both food poverty and fuel poverty in supposedly rich economies . Marco advocates self care and teaches a simple tool to empower people to take active roles in their own health maintenance. As an exercise from that perspective it is very valuable and as he offers it in an experimental mode before a person is eligible for any state funded medications it is less harmful than indiscriminate dosing with antibiotics – human weed killers.They are becoming a bigger problem for human eco system than we have been allowed to realise..

  • I noted in an earlier comment on this article that even if we, for the sake of argument, accepts that he does not discourage people from taking ARVs, promoting an untested alternative treatment that has little or no side effects will have the functional result of promoting an ineffective and ludicrous treatment over ARVs. If you come to believe that the new treatment works in any sense, then they will start using it over ARVs because ARVs will have more side effects than yogurt. Even if intentions happen to be good, results can be bad.

    It is true that Margaret Keckler, a politician, said that there would be a vaccine in just a few years at that conference. However, politicians and scientists can be wrong, especially in a time when knowledge of HIV was minuscule. Today, we know that HIV hides inside cells and have an extremely high mutation rate. These factors contribute to the difficulty of developing an HIV vaccine, although literally thousands of scientists around the world work with trying to circumvent these problems.

    It is true that the gut plays a role in the immune system, but the spread of HIV does not primary occur across the gut epithelium, but through things like unprotected intercourse, IV drug use, contaminated blood supply, mother to child transmission etc. so it is unclear why adding more bacteria to the gut would do anything beneficial.

    It is also not clear why you are taking about treating people that have not progressed to AIDS with antibiotics. HIV is a virus and if the person who is not on ARVs is far from having detectable viral load, then it is unclear why it would be needed.

    It is great that you take an active role in your own health maintenance, but those that sell complementary and alternative medicine that is either untested or have been tested but failed is not doing you a favor. In fact, a lot of CAM products are sold by large, multinational corporations making billions of dollars a year. Pharmaceutical companies do they same, but their products tend to actually do what they say they do in clinical trials.

  • Yes I read your language and as an insider I understand it s circularity well, it is a language and I do often wonder at languages inability to convey what is real ,whether ‘truth’ is a fact or a fiction…often. But I won’t air that here either as I would not want to confuse some naive frightened internet surfer into making a knee jerk decision – throwing the baby out with the bath water. ie: the whole paradigm..and refusing any treatment because they cant find the ideal.. Aids the syndrome is real. I don’t ‘believe or disbelieve’ this , I think there is adequate correlation between certain lab markers and vulnerability to viral bacterial and fungal infections, and some cancers, inflammations and so on. Heinrich Kremer explains this very well in his book . Repeatedly. Its over many heads, it speaks the same language as mainstream but in a far less sexually politicized way less hysteria less branding and less resentment to the construct , more dignity , more gravitas even . The world wide safe sex hyper campaigns in some strange way put the patient and the illness in the passenger seat or the headlights but never the driver seat except to accuse of sexual improprieties and child murder, it seems . There is a muddling of agendas instead of a holistic approach to health, self care, extra environmental issues. It creates anxiety in populations who are left with only this ” There is no cure unless we say so” ” There is N O T H I N G except A R V S” This is wrong. It is offensive . It strips hope away from people – for what ? An Agenda. This agenda treats human populations as if they were simply herds of beasts, with no independent critical reasoning. Telling people who have no access to arvs that there is no cure and they will die without arvs is obscene. It is arrogant. It is immoral. Sorry . My very personal but well worn view. In many many outposts of Africa, India and beyond there are nutritional trials, where there are no possibility of arvs. There are trials in homeopathy – legitimate funded by NIH etc . Delve. They are there. If they are why are we in the West being held ransom to this ideology .? It is an ideology – that there is only one treatment model , system , pathway. We do not know that unless we try others. I think that most people who enter this know that if their lab results don’t indicate correct conventional trends they are not to consider this a ‘cure’, or close their minds to arvs and the mainstream maintenance model. We should take the word ‘cure’ out of the vocabulary of disease /illness. It is too emotive. Instead we learn to cohabit and accommodate changes and monitor and manage them.

  • I think the idea of beginning some kind of maintenance therapy – that is what ruggiero was proposing i understand- when the cd4 count is still above the cut off for beginning treatment is to see if it can help maintain the cd4 count at that level or even improve it….or delay beginning arvs.

  • Ruggiero said very specifically that his intention – one of – was to see if they could play some role in maintaining the cd4 level according to conventional laboratory standards. And to see how long they could do that .

  • Different factors do effect cd4 levels – percent and absolute along with other s cd8 NKs etc. He looks at all of that and advocates that people continue to go to their clinics and have blood tests and act accordingly – ie : if they drop , if they are declining to below 150 – follow doctors orders.

  • But he also explores the theory that the eco system of the gut can be improved and that this will improve functioning – so he is offering a ‘functional ‘ treatment , a curative therapy .I think the language is misunderstood and fear blinds people – they hype up the original hypothesis into something more than he intended.

  • I dont know I think people are over reacting to what he offers on both sides of the fence. But I think that happened on a way bigger scale in initial search for curative therapies – public demand holds the scientist to ransom in a way . I hope there is an abating of this two way hysteria as it does create casualties , both sides .Ok gotta go study.

  • 1. On the contrary, it is immoral and vile to deny access to ARVs based on pseudoscientific ideology. There is nothing wrong with saying that ARVs are effective since it has been shown in scientific studies.

    2. The reason NIH (ore more precisely NCCAM) is funding homeopathy trials is not because they are testing a secret treatment for HIV/AIDS, but rather because political ideology has come in the way of good science. NCCAM is to a large degree a waste of money that should go to testing promising treatments, not water.

    3. Why would the addition of symbiotic bacteria reduce the drop in CD4+ T cell count? The reason it drops is because the virus helps killing these important immune cells. How are symbiotic bacteria going to prevent that? In fact, delaying starting ARVs can be very harmful in the same way that patients not taking their ARVs as they should.

    4. Safe sex is promoted because condoms prevent the spread of most sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV. There is nothing inherently wrong with having sex. But there are steps one could take to reduce the spread of these STIs. Of course we should not resent or blame the victims of HIV/AIDS, but if we are serious about reducing the spread of STIs and the prevalence of unwanted pregnancies, we should promote safe sex.

  • this page is a totally “bullshit”,there are bitches(emil karlsson) collecting money for avoid the investigation and get to promote the debate.

  • Actually, I make no money from this website. It is a personal WordPress blog without advertisement and I write on my spare time. As the custom domain costs about 26 USD per year, I am technically losing money by having this blog.

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