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The CIA and AIDS

Part I- Explaining the Conspiracy Theory:

Conspiracy theories are well known throughout many cultures. Whether these theories be used to explain some weird occurrence, or used to show that the government is trying to kill us all and are hiding certain things, these theories seem to pop up in almost every aspect of life. The moon landings were faked, 9/11 was manufactured by the U.S. government to have an excuse to invade the Middle East, Elvis isn’t really dead; all these are conspiracy theories that help to explain weird occurrences that people don’t understand or can’t explain. In this paper, the conspiracy theory asserting that the CIA manufactured AIDS and used it to kill off homosexuals will be explored.

In order to understand this conspiracy theory, an explanation of AIDS as a disease must first be provided. First, one must understand that AIDS is really just a late stage of the HIV infection, where one’s immune system can no longer function properly and has incredible difficulty fighting off any sort of other disease or infection. AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. Acquired points to the fact that you can’t inherit AIDS from your parents, it is something you get after birth, normally from contact with the bodily fluids of someone who already has the disease, such as blood or sexual fluids. Immuno includes all of your body’s immune system and all the organs and cells that fight off disease within your body. Deficiency explains how you get AIDS, when your immune system isn’t working properly, or is deficient. And finally, syndrome helps to explain how AIDS is not just a single disease, but rather a collection of symptoms and signs, it is a complex disease with several complications and symptoms that could appear[1]. One can be infected with the disease by having sexual intercourse with someone who has HIV, or by sharing needles, syringes, or any other equipment having to do with injections with someone who already has HIV. Symptoms of AIDS include rapid weight loss, recurring fever, extreme tiredness, diarrhea, and sores in the mouth, anus, and genitals.

 cia aids 01
This image shows the symptoms one experiences while
infected with AIDS (Image courtesy of Wikipedia article on HIV/AIDS)

It is a nasty disease that has killed more than 25 million people worldwide. Even today, over 33.4 million people are living with HIV/AIDS worldwide[2].

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This map shows the effects of AIDS worldwide. (Image courtesy of:

The sudden appearance of AIDS in the 1980s in the United States led to much debate about where the disease originated. AIDS still exists today, but it was an illness that, when it first appeared, doctors knew very little about, and struggled to find ways to explain its origins. Random occurrences of AIDS started appearing in homosexual men in the U.S., with completely unexplained origins. Now, many scientists agree that HIV/AIDS originated in primates, with the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus having incredibly similar traits to HIV/AIDS, a disease that very easily could have mutated and jumped from primate to human, possibly through the consumption of the meat of infected apes or monkeys[3]. However, many don’t believe these scientific theories, and point to much more sinister origins of the disease. Many believe that the CIA manufactured AIDS in a laboratory, then purposely infected several homosexuals with the disease in the 1980s. They believe it was a ploy by the CIA and the U.S. government to get rid of the homosexual population in the United States, infecting and killing them all off with some unknown, and therefore untreatable, disease. It is said that the CIA put AIDS into experimental hepatitis B vaccines, an experiment that took place in Manhattan, that many gay men signed up to participate in, these experiments taking place in the fall of 1978. Shortly thereafter the first few cases of AIDS were reported to the CDC, all in young gay men in Manhattan in 1979[4].

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This image shows an ad put out by the New York Blood Center (Image courtesy of:, 2003)

There were even allegations by the Russians in 1986 that AIDS was developed at Fort Detrick, where the U.S. Army’s biological warfare unit was stationed[5]. Many categorize these allegations as simply ‘infectious propaganda’, but those who believe this conspiracy theory take these claims to heart.

There are several people who fully believe this conspiracy theory and claim that the origins of AIDS were in government sponsored laboratories. Former South African president, Thabo Mbeki, denies the allegations that the disease originated in Africa, and claims the U.S. government manufactured this disease in their labs. Mbeki is a well-educated politician who had studied internationally, but his views on AIDS while in office caused much international controversy, and it is believed his opinion on AIDS stopped medication from reaching those who needed it most, killing almost 300,000 people from AIDS in his country[6]. Although very well educated, his stance on AIDS could be propagated by the fact that Africa is his home continent, as well as his policies on pharmaceutical drugs, banning them in hospitals during his presidency, could all explain his belief that AIDS was created by the U.S. government and did not originate in Africa. Another strong believer of this theory is a man named Alan Cantwell. Cantwell is a well-known dermatologist who studied skin lesions, in particular Kaposi’sarcoma, skin lesions that appear very often when one had AIDS[7]. Cantwell believes that the government is hiding a lot of information about the AIDS epidemic, and argues that his research on Kaposi’s sarcoma was ignored during this AIDS epidemic because the government was trying to hide or cover up this outbreak of this disease[8]. Cantwell has also written several books arguing for the creation of AIDS by the U.S. government, using relatively strong evidence and arguments to support his claims.

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This image shows the book cover of one of Alan Cantwell’s books
supporting this conspiracy theory. (Image courtesy of:, 2003)

Based on his background in dermatology, and his beliefs about the government, it makes sense that Cantwell believes in this conspiracy theory. Kary Mullis is also another believer in this conspiracy theory. A Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, and inventor of the Polymerase chain reaction, he did work setting up analytic routines for HIV. During this work, he found, upon wanting to cite the scientists who had discovered the disease, that no one could tell definitively who that person was[9]. Because no one could point to a single person who had discovered the appearance of AIDS in the United States, Mullis was skeptical about the accepted hypothesis about AIDS. He is now a member of the Group for the Reappraisal of the HIV-AIDS Hypothesis, advocating for the reexamination of the cause of AIDS. With this theory being backed by high standing political officials, as well as prestigious members of the scientific community, with no true explanation as to the origin of AIDS in the United States, it is understandable that so many believe the theory that AIDS was created by the U.S. government to eradicate the homosexual population.

Part II- Analyzing the Theory

Shreds of Truth

In all conspiracy theories, there are some aspects to the theory that are true, normally strange events, weird coincidences, or unanswered question that help to explain and back up the conspiracy theory itself. With the CIA and AIDS theory, there are certain aspects to the conspiracy that do make sense, and have actually happened. For example, it is believed that the U.S. government created AIDS not only to eradicate the homosexual population, but also to use it as a biological weapon. In a Senate testimonial given by Dr. Donald MacArthur, a high-level Defense department biological research administrator, he mentions a biological weapon that could plausibly be created that is very similar to AIDS. Dr. MacArthur states, “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 when we depend to maintain our relative freedom from infectious disease.”[10]

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This image shows the front page of the Congressional hearing where a biological
weapon similar to AIDS was mentioned. (Image courtesy of: Philfam Committee, 1998)

AIDS is a disease that breaks down your immune system, causing your body to be unable to fight off infectious diseases, just like Dr. MacArthur described. It would not be unlikely for the U.S. government to come up with such a biological weapon, as even today they spend close to $50 billion on biological weapon research[11]. Another shred of truth to this conspiracy theory is the experimentation of Hepatitis B vaccines on young gay men in New York. Several young gay men agreed to participate in experiments with this new Hepatitis B vaccine in 1978, and by 1979 the CDC was receiving its first few reports on cases of an unknown strange virus, AIDS[12]. These shreds of truth within this theory help to explain and prove this theory that the U.S. government created AIDS in their labs, however, most of these occurrences are simply coincidences that happened separate from each other.

Logical Fallacies

Within conspiracy theories, there always tends to be certain logical fallacies that appear in order to propagate and prove the theory. A logical fallacy is a “flaw in thinking where something doesn’t make sense or doesn’t follow logically”[13]. Within the conspiracy theory of the U.S. government creating AIDS, there are quite a few logical fallacies. The first logical fallacy is called false cause. This fallacy has to do with a theory perceiving a relationship between two things that means one caused the other[14]. There is false cause in the connection between the Hepatitis B vaccine experiments, and the appearance of AIDS in young gay men just a year later. Because these men were vaccinated with an experimental Hepatitis B vaccine, and a year later some of them contracted AIDS, does not necessarily mean that AIDS was put in these vaccines by the government to eradicate the gay population. It is simply a strange coincidence that is used to back up this conspiracy theory, it is a false cause. Another logical fallacy in this theory is an anecdotal fallacy. An anecdotal fallacy can be defined as a fallacy where one “used a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence”[15]. In the example of Kary Mullis believing that the U.S. government created HIV/AIDS due to the fact that no one could point to one single scientist who discovered the origins of AIDS, he is using an anecdotal example to prove his theory. Because he had this experience, his theory must be true. While it is strange and suspicious that the origin of AIDS in the United States still has no research on the topic, and is still not fully understood by scientists, one anecdotal example is not enough to prove an entire theory. While there is much evidence and support for this conspiracy theory, these logical fallacies in the arguments supporting this theory show that these arguments do not follow logically, and therefore are weak or false arguments in support of this theory.

Falsehoods or Fabrications

Within conspiracy theories, there always tend to be falsehoods or fabrications that are used to back up and prove the theory. Conspiracy theorists tend to cite as fact things and occurrences that aren’t necessarily the truth, or make absolute connections between two occurrences that really have no connection at all. The false connection fabrication is a prevalent argument in the U.S. government and AIDS conspiracy theory. As cited in the logical fallacies section, the connection between the Hepatitis B vaccine experiments on young gay men in New York, and the appearance of AIDS a year later in young gay men in New York, are not absolutely linked. There is no evidence to suggest that these two occurrences are linked directly, as there is no evidence or proof to suggest that the same young gay men who participated in these experiments, also contracted AIDS a year later. This unproven connection is used as a concrete argument for the U.S. government putting AIDS into these vaccines, thereby showing that the U.S. government wanted to eradicate the homosexual population in the U.S.. There is no undeniable proof behind the argument, and it is simply a weird coincidence, showing that this argument is a falsehood and a fabrication.

Biases of Theorists Promoting the Conspiracy

Theorists who promote and agree with conspiracy theories sometimes have biases that cause them to support these arguments. The theorists previously talked about who believe and support the CIA and AIDS conspiracy theory have some biases, however, their reasons for believing this theory seem to be drawn more from actual personal belief of the theory. In terms of Alan Cantwell, by writing several books on this theory, he has made a significant amount of money, pointing to the fact that he may just be promoting this theory to help him financially. However, based on many interviews and publications of his own work, it seems that he deeply and truly believes in this theory, dedicating most of his life’s work to promoting this idea. Kary Mullis had no real biases either, as his reasons for believing in this theory all stem from a lack of knowledge among scientists about the origins of the disease, with no real gain for him in believing in this theory. The same can be said for Thabo Mbeki, as his views on AIDS created an incredibly unpopular opinion of his presidency, even causing the death of thousands of people within his own country. Most believers of this theory have very little to gain from promoting this idea that the U.S government created AIDS, and so the potential biases of these theorists that are promoting this idea are very few.

Questions About the Theory

In looking at conspiracy theories, there are certain questions that must be asked in terms of the logistics of the theory, the benefits, exposure and plausibility of conspiracy theories. In terms of this certain conspiracy theory, some of these questions must be asked. First, one must look at why certain people within the U.S. government, who worked on creating AIDS and infecting these young gays with the disease, haven’t come out and said that the government created this horrible disease. One would assume that people who supposedly worked on the disease may have been fired or left the research for certain reasons, therefore it makes no sense that those certain people haven’t come forth and told the public that the government explicitly created this disease. AIDS has infected and killed thousands of people worldwide, and one would think someone’s conscience must have flared up, causing them to reveal the evil truth behind the origins of the disease in the U.S.. Another question to consider is in terms of exposure of this theory. If the U.S. government was really working on a project this sinister, why haven’t other rival countries come out and exposed the truth to the public. It is true that the Russians claimed that the U.S. government was manufacturing AIDS in Fort Detrick, but this allegation was rescinded once U.S. relations with Russia were improved. Why then, if the U.S. was working on such a sinister project, haven’t rival intelligence agencies not come out and told the public what the U.S. was doing? It makes no sense that creating such a horrible disease to intentionally kill off certain groups of people can be kept a secret for so long. If the U.S. government really created a project to engineer a horrible disease that has killed thousands, and used it to eradicate the homosexual population within the U.S., it doesn’t seem to add up that a rival intelligence unit, or even someone working on the project itself, hasn’t come out and exposed the U.S. government for their actions. Such a sinister project as this would eventually come to light, and the American people would have done something to stop their government from taking such horrible and drastic actions.

Propaganda Techniques

Conspiracy theories use many different persuasive techniques and messages to persuade people of their argument. They use propaganda techniques in order to show just how credible and truthful the argument they are making is. This conspiracy theory dealing with AIDS is no different. The first propaganda technique that can be seen within this conspiracy is the fear appeal. In many arguments and testimonials given by those who believe and promote this theory that the U.S. government created AIDS, one will notice that these theorists seem to want the general public to be afraid of their government. They are using a fear appeal to show just how strong and sinister the government really is, if they are truly able to carry out such a horribel project without anyone finding out about it. Even Alan Cantwell, in many of his writings on this topic, promote fear of the government, showing just how sinister they can be. Also, by using the Senate testimonial given by Dr. MacArthur as proof of this theory, a fear of the government, its power, and the projects it creates, is created. Along with the fear appeal, testimonials are used as a propaganda technique. By having very high political officials, such as the former president of South Africa, and several prestigious scientists, such as winner of the Nobel Prize Kary Mullis, believing in this theory, it must be true. This theory uses the testimonials of these people who seem to be credible and high up in society as proof and argumentation for the support of this argument. Just like having a celebrity telling the audience about how great a weight-loss program was for them, having the former president of South Africa and a winner of a Nobel Prize for chemistry advocating for the belief of this theory, it creates some sort of credible support for the theory.


Conspiracy theories from what happened during 9/11, to the assassination of John F Kennedy, are all prevalent in today’s society. Everyone has heard of at least some sort of conspiracy theory throughout his or her life. Whether these theories are true or not, they add to our society and understanding of certain events or occurrences in our day-to-day life. The conspiracy theory that suggests that the U.S. government and the CIA created AIDS, and used this manufactured biological weapon to try and eradicate the homosexual population, may or may not be true, however in understanding and learning about this theory, one can come to fully appreciate the horrible disease that is HIV/AIDS. It has killed thousands of people worldwide, and whether or not the U.S. government created it, doesn’t subtract from its horrible history of infection and death. The theories and arguments made in support of the CIA creating AIDS are somewhat convincing, and the fact that the origin of AIDS in the U.S. cannot be explained, all add to the speculation and belief of this interesting theory.

[1] “What Is HIV/AIDS?” N.p., 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.- All of the information provided about AIDS came from this source.

[2] “What Is HIV/AIDS?” N.p., 29 Apr. 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[3] “HIV Was Invented to Get Rid of Black People and Homosexuals.” Anova Health Institute, 2014. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.- This source is an online resource hoping to drive healthy media by providing people access to research done on certain topics in the media

[4] Cantwell, Alan. “The Man-Made Origin of AIDS: Are Human and Viral Experiments Responsible For Unleashing The HIV Holocaust??” N.p., 21 Nov. 2003. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.- This source publishes a lot of Alan Cantwell’s work, pointing to the assumption that whoever the creator of this website is heavily believes in Cantwell’s work, therefore believing in this certain conspiracy theory

[5] Cantwell, Alan. “The Man-Made Origin of AIDS: Are Human and Viral Experiments Responsible For Unleashing The HIV Holocaust??” N.p., 21 Nov. 2003. Web. 10 Nov. 2014.

[6] “Conspiracy Theories- The CIA and AIDS.” Time. Time Inc., 20 Nov. 2008. Web. 11 Nov. 2014.- This article is part of a series done by Time examining different conspiracy theories throughout history. They provide an objective third party explanation of these theories.

[7] “Alan Cantwell, MD On The ManMade Origin Of AIDS.” Interview by John Le, 7 Feb. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[8] “Alan Cantwell, MD On The ManMade Origin Of AIDS.” Interview by John Le, 7 Feb. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[9] Mullis, Kary. “Viewpoint by Kary Mullis- Duesberg on AIDS.” Introduction. Inventing the AIDS Virus. By Peter H. Duesberg. N.p.: n.p., n.d. N. pag. Viewpoint by Kary Mullis- Duesberg on AIDS. Regnery Publishing, INC, 1996. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.- The author of this book, Peter Duesberg, believes in this conspiracy theory about AIDS, and had Kary Mullis, another strong believer and supporter of this conspiracy theory, write an introduction for his book to show further support for the theory that the CIA created AIDS

[10] Treis, Michael. “AIDS: ‘The Man Made Plague'” N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.- All of the information about the Congress hearings come from this source. This source is also a website all about explaining conspiracy theories, and “what really happened” in certain weird situations.

[11] “American Experience: TV’s Most-watched History Series.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[12] “Alan Cantwell, MD On The ManMade Origin Of AIDS.” Interview by John Le, 7 Feb. 2007. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[13] Richardson, Jesse, Andy Smith, and Sam Meaden. “Your Logical Fallacy Is False Cause.” Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[14] Richardson, Jesse, Andy Smith, and Sam Meaden. “Your Logical Fallacy Is False Cause.” Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.

[15] Richardson, Jesse, Andy Smith, and Sam Meaden. “Your Logical Fallacy Is Anecdotal.” Thou Shalt Not Commit Logical Fallacies. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Nov. 2014.



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