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HIV sceptics beyond stupid, says top scientist

THE man jointly credited with discovering HIV has blasted the Supreme Court of South Australia for wasting time hearing a case that questions the existence of the killer virus.

Robert Gallo, the American scientist who established the link between HIV and AIDS in 1984, appeared for the prosecution yesterday in the application for an appeal by an HIV-positive man convicted of exposing three women to the virus.

"I can't believe that it occupies the time of the court - it is that absurd," Professor Gallo said.

Defence witnesses - medical physicist Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos and emergency doctor Val Turner - have testified that the science behind HIV is flawed, that the virus has not been purified, that tests for it are indirect and unreliable, and that it is not sexually transmitted or the cause of AIDS.

They appeared for Andre Chad Parenzee, 36, who was convicted in February last year on three counts of endangering life.

Professor Gallo said he had reviewed much of the defence testimony and rejected it as "misunderstanding" at best, and "misrepresentation" of HIV and AIDS research, at worst.

He called on numerous medical fields and his vast research experience to describe HIV, its first laboratory isolation in the 1980s, its attack on the immune system, and the success of treatments and blood screening.

Professor Gallo's testimony was a coup for prosecutors, who have fought Parenzee's application in more than three weeks of hearings since March last year.

Professor Gallo gave evidence by satellite, appearing in the corner of an office at his research institute in Baltimore, Maryland, about 9pm Baltimore time. He described the defence testimony as "beyond stupid", "sad", "deeply nonsensical" and "extremely wrong".

He suggested the defence witnesses, members of the HIV dissident study circle the Perth Group, were using the case as "a ploy" to advance their theories.

He lost patience with defence lawyer Kevin Borick's "provocative" questioning of the accuracy of HIV tests.

"You are driving me nuts with this ... for God's sake," he said.

Claiming "no one knows more about HIV testing than me", he said his work had contributed to the cleansing of HIV from Australia's donor blood supply in the late 1980s. "I don't expect a thankyou but I don't expect to be provoked to that degree," he said.

Since 1996, Professor Gallo has led the Institute for Human Virology, which employs more than 100 scientists researching chronic viruses, including HIV.

He was the most-cited scientist between 1980 and 1995. In the past 20 years he has been rated third in the world in "impact factor", which measures scientists' influence outside their field.

He has 27 honorary degrees and has twice won the Albert Lasker Award in Medicine, the most recognised award for biomedical science in the US.

But it was possible his appearance backfired yesterday, when he appeared to take exception to the court inquiring into the science of HIV and AIDS. He was asked by prosecutor Sandi McDonald to consider the defence's proposition that HIV does not cause AIDS. "That's a silly comment ... It is a sad commentary," he said, prompting judge John Sullan to comment: "Not everybody would say that."

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