Letter: Aids was not 'hidden agenda'

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THE POLITICAL nature of the debate about whether HIV is the cause of Aids is illustrated in Steve Connor's latest attack on our coverage ('Paper accused of Aids 'distortion' ', 9 January). I spent three hours with Father d'Agostino at his office, a further two hours at his hospice, and took him and his assistant to dinner. I told them that I was investigating claims that HIV was devastating Africa, and it was in that context that he told me that contrary to predictions, only one of his HIV-positive babies had died and the others appeared to be thriving; of how, against his expectations, he was having to make plans for the children's schooling; and of the damage done when 'people think a positive test means no hope.'

Yet he now asks us to believe that I kept the HIV/Aids issue as a 'hidden agenda', and says he has no doubt that children infected with HIV will eventually succumb to Aids. What can cause such a dramatic change of position? Three more babies have died, out of a total of 55, one from carditis, which is not an Aids-notifiable disease. Father d'Agostino would not tell me the cause of death in the other two other than to declare his belief that it was HIV.

Father d'Agostino is a fine doctor and I am sorry that he should be caught up in the politics of an issue that desperately needs scientific examination.

Neville Hodgkinson

The Sunday Times, London E1

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