Zoe Corbyn reports in today’s Nature.com, that “…The University of Florence has launched an inquiry into the teaching activities of an academic who assisted on a course that denies the causal link between HIV and AIDS, and supervised students with dissertations on the same topic.” You can read the article here.
The Truth Barrier reached Dr. Ruggiero today and interviewed him about the details of the situation. It turns out that an anonymous complaint against him has indeed been filed with the University, but to date he has heard nothing from the University about it, and has himself taken the matter to court.
Professor Ruggiero has filed a libel case in a criminal court, against the anonymous entities who wrote the letter, which includes “falsehoods and defamation,” including, he told TTB, that he “solicited patients over the Internet,” and is responsible for many deaths by dissuading them from ARV treatment. (TTB looked up the source of the anonymous attack letter claiming that Ruggiero had “contacted” HIV patients over the Internet, and it showed that his work was discussed on a forum, QuestioningAIDS.com, he was asked questions, and he replied to them.)
“They called me a criminal and a charlatan and all these things. In Italy defamation of this kind is a criminal offense, punishable by up to one year in prison. I sued them immediately,” Ruggiero told TTB today in a telephone interview.
The writers of the letter are anonymous, did not give their names, and the website “HIVForum.info,” is registered, Ruggiero says, by a “dummy corporation called DomainsByProxy–a service often used for online frauds, spam, phishing and cybersquatting.”
“We have efficient police here in Italy and they will immediately discover the source of this. They will trace the computer,” Ruggiero said. He added that his attorney is very confident about the case and “wishes all his cases were this clear cut.”
Here is some background on the situation as of today:
The Rector of The University of Firenze has received:
a) An anonymous letter with no names, from “a group of citizens and patients, associated in the HIVForum.info, a forum for people infected by HIV and others concerned about HIV/AIDS…”
Here is that letter, which came to Ruggiero’s attention when both the Italian original and the English translation were published in the comments section of an online periodical, by somebody calling him or herself “Dora.”
The Rector has also received:
b) This Letter to the Rector by HIV informa, signed by 8 persons (signatures omitted here, but are on the original copy) all HIV positive, expressing their ardent support of Dr. Ruggiero’s work and research, and stating that they are “…totally willing to collaborate in the research concerning the immunotherapeutic approach,” that Dr. Ruggiero has pursued–which relates to gut flora restoration, and has been published and presented in numerous papers as well as conferences, including the XVIII AIDS Conference in Vienna, 2010, and the Sixth International AIDS Society Conference in Rome, 2011. HIVInforma states in its letter that this “smear campaign” is “fueled by associations like NadirOnlus, and NpsItalia, adding that these “charitable” organizations receive pharmaceutical funding. (TTB checked their references and found evidence of pharmaceutical funding.)
c) This Researcher’s letter from a fellow PhD researcher, concerned about the strange and vague accusations against his colleague. He ends his letter thus: “The truth is crystal clear to me and many scientists and lay people.”
Ruggiero supplied TTB with documentary evidence that none other than the International AIDS Society (IAS) has praised his “great contribution,” invited him to contribute to their journal, help elect their members, and present his work at their conferences. In the University’s ranking systems, both from the Faculty of Biology and the Faculty of Engineering, Ruggiero has consistently ranked close to the top or in the # 1 position in some cases. (He provided screen shots of the results.) He documented also that in the past 16 years, he mentored 60 theses, all of which were discussed and approved by a commission of up to 11 professors and one of which received a coveted award.
As recently as Feb 24, 2012, The Ministry of University and Research nominated Ruggiero as reviewer of research projects and singled out his competence and research in the field of HIV/AIDS. In addition, The Public Health Service of Tuscany has defined Ruggiero’s research as “important Florentine research on HIV” and reports on it at the site of the Center for research and documentation of AIDS and Addictions.
It begs the question what exactly these nameless inquisitors imagine when they demand that the University Of Firenze “disassociate” from Ruggiero’s “science and activities.”
Ruggiero told TTB that as of today, March 19, he has received no communication whatsoever from the University, but is confident the Rector will review all the letters and handle the matter justly.
The Truth Barrier has requested of Professor Ruggiero the full exchange that took place between himself and Nature reporter Zoe Corbyn. If we receive it, we will have a better understanding of the esprit of today’s Nature.com article, and its origins.