In the Eighties, a lie was circulated worldwide that the HIV virus had been created in a lab by the American army.
The Soviet Union made it up. They wanted to discredit the US and disprove the official theory that AIDS had originated in Africa as a virus passed between humans and monkeys.
At the time the Cold War was raging and there was great political tension between East and West. Propaganda was a powerful weapon and the Soviet Union’s state security agency the KGB used AIDS to slander America. They said the HIV virus was created as a biological weapon in the US Government’s medical laboratory at Fort Derrick, Maryland in the late Seventies.
The KGB didn’t work alone. They had the support of their Eastern Bloc allies, the STASI in East Germany and the Bulgarian Secret Police. Together they promoted the falsehood as fact.
The lie gained credibility when well-respected scientists came onboard and published papers of their ‘findings’. One of the most prolific was Jakob Segal, a biology professor from East Berlin and a Soviet Union citizen. He and his doctor wife Lilli wrote a report claiming Americans had created HIV by combining two existing viruses.
Acting on the KGB’s orders, East Germany’s STASI spread Segal’s ‘facts’ far and wide. First they were published in the Communist press and then they were smuggled into Western newspapers.
Despite protests from the American embassies, including one in Moscow where the conspiracy theory started, Segal’s comments became increasingly popular.
They were reported in serious Western journals and he was interviewed by the left-wing German newspaper, Taz. He appeared on television and even toured America. The lie that was started by the KGB was now accepted worldwide and the basis of ‘factual’ documentaries.
During the Cold War many African countries were sympathetic to the USSR and held anti-American views. So when the Soviet Union insisted America had hidden their own involvement in creating AIDS and blamed the virus on the developing world, the African press lapped it up. In Zimbabwe a leaflet entitled: ‘AIDS: Its Nature and Origins’ was circulated.
The Soviets continued to whip up hatred by claiming America had grown the lethal virus in a bid to destroy African Americans. When AIDS spread into America’s homosexual circles, the propaganda continued and it was said the army wanted to kill off the gay population.
It wasn’t until the Nineties, after the end of the Cold War, that ex- KGB and STASI officers confessed that these ‘facts’ were lies; simply propaganda intended to slander America.
And it is only now, with the opening of KGB and STASI archives, that more details emerge. A new report entitled: ‘AIDS Conspiracy: STASI and KGB campaign of de-information about AIDS’.’ questions whether the now–deceased Segals were fully aware that they were KGB tools. Although we may never know for sure, historians are inclined to think they co-operated and were paid for spreading lies.
Despite the fact the Soviet Union came clean, the damage had been done. To this day some leaders of African countries, including South Africa’s former president Mbeki and Namibia’s ex president Nujoma, maintain AIDS was the creation of Western countries and was nothing more than a tool with which to fight Africa.
AIDS should not be a political weapon that pits one nation against another. The whole world must unite to fight AIDS. The raTrust is working to educate everyone about the dangers of AIDS and how to stay safe. Ignorance is dangerous and we need your help and donations to spread the right information to friends and loved ones.
Dominika Rejmer – Director and founder, The raTrust.