This article is from the AIDS FAQ, by Dan Greening with numerous contributions by others.
Jakob Segal's theory is that HIV was formed from visna (a sheep virus)
and HTLV-I (Human T-cell Leukemia Virus) by US army biological
research labs in 1977 or 1978. The virus supposedly escaped
accidentally after being tested on prisoners.
Robert Strecker's theory is that HIV was formed from visna and BLV
(Bovine Leukemia Virus) by the US in the 1970's after 30-40 years of
work. The virus was supposedly tested on populations in Africa and was
deliberately introduced into the US homosexual community through the
hepatitis B vaccination program.
The alleged evidence to support this theory:
* Visna is very similar to HIV. HIV can be formed by combining the
genes of visna and BLV or HTLV. HIV is not similar to primate
viruses. The government was interested in biological warfare and was
planning to make an immune-system destroying virus. In particular, the
DOD Appropriations for 1970 Hearings, 91st Congress, Part 6, p 129
There are two things about the biological agent field I would like to
mention. One is the possibility of technological surprise. Molecular
biology is a field that is advancing very rapidly, and eminent
biologists believe that within a period of 5 to 10 years it would be
possible to produce a synthetic biological agent, an agent that does
not naturally exist and for which no natural immunity could have been
Mr. Sikes. Are we doing any work in that field?
Dr. MacArthur. We are not.
Mr. Sikes. Why not? Lack of money or lack of interest?
Dr. MacArthur. Certainly not lack of interest.
[MacArthur provides the following information:]
The dramatic progress being made in the field of molecular biology led
us to investigate the relevance of this field of science to biological
warfare. A small group of experts considered this matter and provided
the following observations:
* All biological agents up to the present time are representatives of
naturally occurring disease, and are thus known by scientists
throughout the world. They are easily available to qualified
scientists for research, either for offensive or defensive purposes.
* Within the next 5 to 10 years, it would probably be possible to make
a new infective microorganism which could differ in certain important
aspects from any known disease-causing organisms. Most important of
these is that it might be refractory to the immunological and
therapeutic processes upon which we depend to maintain our relative
freedom from infectious disease.
* A research program to explore the feasibility of this could be
completed in approximately 5 years at a total cost of $10 million.''
* HIV is a new disease that appeared suddenly in the late 1970's without a
* HIV could have been easily synthesized in a laboratory in the 1970's.
The evidence is overwhelmingly against these theories. The key problem
with these theories is they arose in the early 1980's, before SIV
(simian immunodeficiency virus) was discovered and before the relevant
viruses were sequenced. The genetic sequences clearly show:
* HIV is much closer to SIV (simian immunodeficiency virus) than HIV is to
visna, BLV, HTLV or any other known virus.
* HIV can't be formed from splicing together parts of other known viruses.
Viral genetic sequences can be ftp'd from ncbi.nlm.nih.gov in
To summarize the other arguments against Strecker and Segal's theories:
* The military testimony described a future study to see if making a
new agents was feasible, not to actually produce it. More importantly,
they are looking for an agent refractory to immunological processes;
this means something resisting immunological processes. The quoted
testimony and other parts of the testimony state they are looking for
a new agent for which people do not have natural immunity; this is
entirely different from an agent that destroys the immune system. It
is also much easier than producing something like HIV.
* Most scientists believe HIV evolved from SIV or a close
relative. HIV did not suddenly appear in the late 1970's, but has been
found in preserved blood samples from the 1950's.
* Biotechnology was not sufficently advanced in the 1970's to produce
something like HIV, and it is debatable that it would be possible even
now. Since the details of HIV are not understood even now, it is
inconceivable that someone could have deliberately designed HIV in the
Strecker's claim that HIV was introduced via hepatitis B vaccinations
is extremely doubtful. McDonald et al, Lancet, 1983 Oct 15,
2(8355):882-4 state the incidence of AIDS in unvaccinated sexually
active homosexual men was _higher_ than in vaccinated men, although
the rates were too low for statistical significance. Stevens et al,
JAMA, 1986 April 25, 255(16):2167-2172 tested blood samples from the
beginning of the vaccination program and found that 6.6% were already
HIV-positive. Therefore, HIV couldn't have been introduced via the
While evaluating these theories, I recommend treating Segal's and
Strecker's literature citations with extreme skepticism, as they are
both rather casual about the connection between their claims and the
contents of the papers. In particular, Strecker provides quotes that
do not appear in the cited papers.
Finally, since both theories allege a coverup of the connection
between visna and HIV, a clear explanation of their relationships may
be helpful. The viruses described above are all
retroviruses. Retroviruses have three subfamilies: Oncoviruses,
Lentiviruses, and Spumaviruses. HTLV is a oncovirus, while the
remainder are lentiviruses. The analysis of genetic sequences gives
strong evidence for the evolution of lentiviruses. They apparently
branched into the primate lentiviruses (HIV-1, HIV-2, and SIV), and
the nonprimate lentiviruses (visna, BLV, EIAV, FIV, CAEV, etc.) Thus,
HIV and visna have many similarities since they are both lentiviruses,
but HIV and SIV are much more similar. (See Fields Virology for more
information on retrovirus classification and "The Emergence of Simian
Human Immunodeficiency Viruses", Myers et al, AIDS Research and Human
Retroviruses, 8(3), 1992 373-386 for more information on lentivirus