This article contains hypotheses not currently accepted by the majority of the scientific community. For the majority view within the scientific community, see History of HIV/AIDS.
Various alternative theories have arisen to speculate about the origins of HIV/AIDS, ranging from suggestions that AIDS was the inadvertent result of experiments in the development of vaccines to claims that human immunodeficiency virus was developed by scientists working for the U.S. government. Speculations notwithstanding, the current scientific consensus is that AIDS originated in Africa in the mid-1930s from the closely related Simian Immunodeficiency Virus.
In the 1999 version of his OPV AIDS hypothesis, Edward Hooper proposed that early batches of the oral polio vaccine (OPV) grown in cultures of chimpanzee kidney cells, infected with a chimpanzee virus, were the original source of HIV-1 in Central Africa. A vial of the batch most strongly implicated by Hooper was found in storage in the UK, and analysis found no HIV/SIV sequences or chimpanzee cellular components, but did find traces of macaque mitochondria. Analysis of five samples of OPV in storage at the Wistar Institute, including one from a batch used in the Belgian Congo between 1958 and 1960, found no chimpanzee DNA. Other molecular biology and phylogenetic studies also contradict the hypothesis, and scientific consensus regards it as disproven. The journal Nature has described the hypothesis as "refuted".
Nobel Peace Prize laureate and environmental activist Wangari Maathai was asked by a Time magazine interviewer if she stood by a previous alleged claim that "AIDS is a biological weapon manufactured by the developed world to wipe out the black race". Maathai responded, "I have no idea who created AIDS and whether it is a biological agent or not. But I do know things like that don't come from the moon. (...) I guess there is some truth that must not be too exposed." Maathai subsequently issued a written statement in December 2004: "I neither say nor believe that the virus was developed by white people or white powers in order to destroy the African people. Such views are wicked and destructive."
Jakob Segal, a former biology professor at Humboldt University in then-East Germany, proposed that HIV was engineered at a U.S. military laboratory at Fort Detrick, by splicing together two other viruses, Visna and HTLV-1. According to his theory, the new virus, created between 1977 and 1978, was tested on prison inmates who had volunteered for the experiment in exchange for early release. He further suggested that it was through these prisoners that the virus was spread to the population at large. After the end of the cold war however the former KGB agents Wassili Nikititsch Mitrochin and Oleg Gordijewski revealed independently of each other, that the Fort Detrick hypothesis was a propaganda operation devised by the KGB's First Chief Directorate under the codename "infektion". Later it was also supported by the section X of East Germany's Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung as admitted by its officer Günther Bohnensack. It is not entirely clear whether Segal pursued the hypothesis independently on his own accord or whether he was simply following orders. Segal himself always denied the latter and kept pursuing the hypothesis even after the operation had been canceled and the cold war had ended. It is known that Segal was in close contact with Russian KGB officers and Mitrochin mentioned him as a central asset of the operation.
Alan Cantwell, in self-published books entitled AIDS and the Doctors of Death: An Inquiry into the Origin of the AIDS Epidemic and Queer Blood: The Secret AIDS Genocide Plot, says that HIV is a genetically modified organism developed by U.S. Government scientists and that it was introduced into the population through Hepatitis B experiments performed on gay and bisexual men between 1978–1981 in major U.S. cities. Cantwell claims that these experiments were directed by Wolf Szmuness, and that there was an ongoing government cover-up of the origins of the AIDS epidemic. Similar theories have been advanced by Robert B. Strecker, Matilde Krim and Milton William Cooper.
Leonard G. Horowitz, author of the self-published works Emerging Viruses: AIDS & Ebola. Nature, Accident or Intentional? and Death in the Air: Globalism, Terrorism and Toxic Warfare, advances the theory that the AIDS virus was engineered by such U.S. Government defense contractors as Litton Bionetics for the purposes of bio-warfare and "population control."
In 1987 there was some consideration given to the possibility that the "Aids epidemic may have been triggered by the mass vaccination campaign which eradicated smallpox". An article in the Times suggested this, quoting an unnamed "adviser to WHO" with "I believe the smallpox vaccine theory is the explanation to the explosion of Aids". It is now thought that the smallpox vaccine causes serious complications for people who already have impaired immune systems, and the Times article described the case of a military recruit with "dormant HIV" who died within months of receiving it. But no citation was provided regarding people who did not previously have HIV. (HIV is now considered to be a contraindication for the smallpox vaccine - both for an infected person and their sexual partners and household members.) Some conspiracy theorists propose an expanded hypothesis in which the smallpox vaccine was deliberately 'laced' with HIV.
In contrast, a research article was published in 2010 suggesting that it might have been the actual eradication of smallpox and the subsequent ending of the mass vaccination campaign that contributed to the sudden emergence of HIV, due to the possibility that immunization against smallpox "might play a role in providing an individual with some degree of protection to subsequent HIV infection and/or disease progression". Regardless of the effects of the smallpox vaccine itself, its use in practice in Africa is one of the categories of un-sterile injection that may have contributed to the spread and mutation of the immunodeficiency viruses.
Alternative ideas regarding causation, origin or treatment
The Duesberg hypothesis promoted by biologist Peter Duesberg argues that AIDS is not caused by HIV, but rather that HIV is a harmless passenger virus, and that AIDS is caused by non-infectious agents like illegal drug usage. According to Peter Duesberg despite the fact that HIV causes AIDS, we only find HIV antibodies in patients. Furthermore he states that in patients dying of AIDS, HIV is present in less than 1 out of the 500 T-cells that become infected. Furthermore, he points out that there is yet no vaccine, no prevention, and not one single AIDS patient has been cured. Also, HIV is said to be the cause of the 26 AIDS defining diseases yet they can also occur without HIV. The scientific consensus is that the Duesberg hypothesis has been discredited.
Thabo Mbeki, former President of South Africa, along with other prominent members of the ruling African National Congress party, has argued that AIDS is the result of poverty, chronic disease, malnutrition and other environmental factors. Mbeki based his views on the discredited beliefs of AIDS denialists, especially Peter Duesberg. It has been suggested that the ANC leadership adopted this position as a political expedient, intended to deflect criticism that the ANC had not done enough to fight AIDS in South Africa. In 2000, two statements by government spokespeople, (one later retracted), placed the financial cost of treating pregnant HIV positive women and the subsequent cost to the state of raising the child as central in the decision of whether to provide anti-retroviral drug treatment. Also in 2000, the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian reported that in a leaked text for a speech Mbeki was to give to an ANC caucus, Mbeki claimed that the CIA and Western drug companies were secretly promoting the view that HIV causes AIDS in order to increase sales of anti-HIV drugs.
An anonymous telephone survey in the United States was conducted to identify the conspiracy beliefs regarding HIV and AIDS that are the most prevalent. The survey found that the majority somewhat or strongly believed that “a lot of information about AIDS is being withheld from the public” and over half somewhat or strongly believed that “there is a cure for AIDS, but it is being withheld.” Almost 60% disagreed that, "the government is telling the truth about AIDS." Over 40% somewhat or strongly agreed that, "people who take the new medicines for HIV are human guinea pigs for the government."  According to Phil Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute in Los Angeles, conspiracy theories are becoming a barrier to the prevention of AIDS since people start to believe that no matter what the measures they take are, they can still be prone to contracting this disease. This makes them less careful when engaging in practices that put them at risk because they believe there is no point.
^Worobey M, Santiago M, Keele B, Ndjango J, Joy J, Labama B, Dhed'A B, Rambaut A, Sharp P, Shaw G, Hahn B (2004). "Origin of AIDS: contaminated polio vaccine theory refuted". Nature428 (6985): 820–820. doi:10.1038/428820a. PMID15103367.
^Andrew, Christopher; Vasili Mitrokhin (1999). The Sword and the Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB. Basic Books. p. 319. ISBN0-465-00310-9.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)
^Duesberg, P; Koehnlein, C; Rasnick, D (2003). "The chemical bases of the various AIDS epidemics: recreational drugs, anti-viral chemotherapy and malnutrition.". Journal of biosciences28 (4): 383–412. doi:10.1007/BF02705115. PMID12799487.
^Duesberg, Peter, Claus Koehnlein, and David Rasnick. "The chemical bases of the various AIDS epidemics: recreational drugs, anti-viral chemotherapy and malnutrition." Journal of Biosciences. 28.4 (2003): 383-412. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <http://link.springer.com/content/pdf/10.1007/BF02705115>.