Letter: Aids was not 'hidden agenda'

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The Independent Online
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