Wolf Szmuness (1919 - June, 1982) was a Polish epidemiologist who has been accused of targeting the release of the HIV/AIDS virus among gay men in America. He is featured prominently in AIDS conspiracy theories about the origin of the HIV virus.
Szmuness was born to Jewish parents in Poland in 1919. He was studying medicine in Lublin in eastern Poland when the Nazis attacked in 1939. Poland was partitioned by Germany and Russia, and Szmuness was sent to Siberia as a prisoner while his family in western Poland were killed by the Nazis.
After release from detention in 1946 he was allowed to finish his medical education in Tomsk in central Russia. He married a Russian woman and specialized in epidemiology.
In 1959, the Soviets allowed him and his family to return to Poland where he worked as an epidemiologist in municipal and regional health departments.
During this time, he told Aaron Kellner that he applied to the authorities for a vacation at a rest home. Szmuness shared a room with a Catholic priest, Karol Wojty?a, and began a longtime correspondence with him. Karol Wojtyla became Pope John Paul II. John Paul II's statements about the sinfulness of homosexuality, his hostility to gay rights causes, and his support for the controversial Opus Dei are seen as significant to the conspiracy minded.
In 1969, the communists allowed Szmuness and his wife and daughter to attend a scientific meeting in Italy. Although it was Soviet policy to hold some family members behind in Russia, to discourage defection, Szmuness had already been orphaned by the Nazis. Upon arriving in Italy, Szmuness defected.
He arrived in Manhattan. Through the intervention of Walsh McDermott, Professor of Public Health at New York Hospital - Cornell Medical Center, Szmuness became a "lab tech" at the New York City Blood Center. Doctors and researchers from abroad are not accredited in the United States, and it is not very unusual for them to work in laboratories. It is also not unusual for such persons to quickly establish credentials in the United States and gain positions. However, those who propound a conspiracy theory regard Szmuness's placement as suspicious.
Within a few years, Szmuness was given his own lab, and a separate department of epidemiology at the Center was created for him. Some see the speed of his climb as suspicious, although it is a feat that has been replicated by other immigrant researchers, especially senior ones. He became a full professor at the Columbia University School of Public Health.
He designed hepatitis B vaccine trials that utilized only promiscuous gay men as the subjects. He did this because hepatitis B is rapidly transmitted by sexual contact, and he felt that promiscuous gay men were an ideal target for such a vaccine. Those who support the conspiracy theory point out that this was also the group who were first afflicted with AIDS.
Szmuness died of lung cancer in 1982.
The conspiracy theory holds that Szmuness was responsible in some way for infecting gay men in New York City with HIV, although the presence of HIV in his lab, the presence of a "Patient Zero," or a mechanism for this introduction have not been given.
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