Peter H. Duesberg (born December 2, 1936 in Münster, Germany) is a professor of molecular and cell biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He is known for his cancer research and for his central role in AIDS denialism as an early and vocal proponent of the belief that HIV does not cause AIDS.
Duesberg received acclaim early in his career for research on oncogenes and cancer. With Peter Vogt, he reported in 1970 that a cancer-causing virus of birds had extra genetic material compared with non-cancer-causing viruses, hypothesizing that this material contributed to cancer. At the age of 36, Duesberg was awarded tenure at the University of California, Berkeley, and at 49, he was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. He received an Outstanding Investigator Grant (OIG) from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in 1986, and from 1986 to 1987 was a Fogarty Scholar-in-Residence at the NIH laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland.
Long considered a contrarian by his scientific colleagues, Duesberg began to gain public notoriety with a March 1987 article in Cancer Research entitled "Retroviruses as Carcinogens and Pathogens: Expectations and Reality". In this and subsequent writings, Duesberg proposed his hypothesis that AIDS is caused by long-term consumption of recreational drugs and/or antiretroviral drugs, and that HIV is a harmless passenger virus. The scientific consensus is that HIV is the causal pathogen that leads to AIDS; Duesberg's HIV/AIDS claims have been rejected as incorrect and disproven by the scientific community. Reviews of his opinions in Nature and Science asserted that they were unpersuasive and based on selective reading of the literature, and that although Duesberg had a right to a dissenting opinion, his failure to fairly review the evidence for HIV causing AIDS meant that his opinion lacked credibility.
Duesberg's views on HIV/AIDS are cited as major influences on South African policy under the administration of Thabo Mbeki. Duesberg served on an advisory panel to Mbeki, convened in 2000. The failure of South Africa to provide antiretroviral drugs in a timely manner, due in part to the influence of AIDS denialism, is thought to be responsible for hundreds of thousands of preventable AIDS deaths and HIV infections. Duesberg disputed these findings in an article in the journal Medical Hypotheses, but the journal's publisher, Elsevier, later retracted the article over accuracy and ethics concerns as well as its rejection during peer review. The incident prompted several complaints to the University of California, Berkeley, which began a misconduct investigation of Duesberg in 2009. The investigation was dropped in 2010, with University officials finding "insufficient evidence...to support a recommendation for disciplinary action."
Duesberg continues his research on cancer in both Berkeley and an alternative lab in Germany, as well as his activities within the AIDS denialist community.
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