Interview with HAROLD FOSTER, PhD

Harold Foster, PhD


Andrew W. Saul Interviews AIDS Researcher


Introduction by Abram Hoffer, MD, PhD:

"What can one say about a scientist as accomplished, as brilliant, as knowledgeable as Harry Foster? I am delighted I have known him for so may years as a friend and colleague. His scientific writing is superb. He has a remarkable ability to examine all the data and to draw from that data conclusions that are going to be of the greatest value to mankind. I know of no one who has a better grasp of the relation between the soil that nourishes us and the diseases we get when that soil is not nourishing enough, and/or contains toxic elements. His four "What Really Causes" books (on Schizophrenia, AIDS, Multiple Sclerosis, and Alzheimer's Disease, free downloads at ) are superb and ought to be required text books for medical students due to their insights and for the therapeutic potential that arises from them.


"I am especially excited bout his AIDS book which proves that while HIV plays an important role in the causation of AIDS, it is only one factor, and perhaps least important, since it only attacks in the absence of the essential components of glutathione peroxidase, especially selenium, the key variable. Much as the addition of niacinamide in 1942 to white flour by the US government eradicated pellagra from the South East United States, so will the addition of selenium to our staple foods lead to the eradication of AIDS. The virus may still spread and attack, but in the presence of ample amounts of selenium and three amino acids in the body it will do little harm. His work must be taken very seriously and followed up."


(Editor's note: Years from now, when your great-grandson perches on your knee, when the final history of AIDS has been written, I think it will show that the turning point in AIDS research was nutrition; that the pioneering figure was Harold Foster, and that the key was his book, What Really Causes AIDS.)


Now on to the interview, conducted April, 2005.


DOCTOR YOURSELF NEWS: Dr. Foster, you appear to be an increasingly controversial figure. How do you get along with the faculty at your University?


DR. FOSTER: Every person who can think, write or lecture logically is going to be controversial, since so much that society is doing is illogical. The faculty is like society. It is made up of individuals with different viewpoints and biases. Some faculty see me as very intelligent while others view me as a trouble-making idiot. In between are those who cannot make up their minds. I am trying to tell the truth, and help solve society's problems; not curry favor, nor run for public office.


DY NEWS: Questioning the fundamental cause and medical treatment of AIDS is often regarded as the kiss of death for many a scientist. What keeps you going?


FOSTER: I stand midway between the conventional viewpoint held by those who signed the Durban Declaration (that HIV alone causes AIDS) and the unconventional viewpoint(s) (that HIV does not exist, or does not cause AIDS). That is, I believe that HIV causes AIDS by creating four major nutritional deficiencies. This means that I get shot at from both sides. I do not know of any rational debates about the possible causes of AIDS. This is exceptionally unfortunate because unless things change, this is the way the world ends: no bang, just a whimper. I expect one billion cases of HIV/AIDS by 2015. Conventional science and medicine is clearly failing in its war against the viruses that encode for glutathione peroxidase. More than one-third of the planet's population has been infected by one or more of them. My own approach to the debate now is to provide the key nutrients to dying AIDS patients in Africa and demonstrate that these reverse their symptoms. At the very least, I can save hundreds of lives with the help of a few dedicated supporters.


DY NEWS: What kind of support do you need and seek, specifically?


FOSTER: I need the support of people who act. Discussion is not enough. I would, for example, like to see church groups paying for and using the key nutrients in their African mission parishes to reverse the symptoms of AIDS. I would like to see one rich benefactor with the foresight to promote alternative treatments (including mine) for HIV/AIDS. It is even more obvious now than it was when I wrote "What really causes AIDS" that there will be no effective vaccine, and that drug resistance will soon make anti-retrovirals useless. I would also like to find a documentary film-maker willing to record the recovery of a group of AIDS patients receiving the appropriate nutrients. The documentary could be shown internationally. Obviously, somebody will have to fund this.


DY NEWS: Any helpers so far from inside the medical/research professions?


FOSTER: Some. Four are establishment doctors from Canada, five are African physicians, several are university students, one is a small Canadian charity, a few are recovered AIDS patients and some are interested members of the public or University faculty.


DY NEWS: How did you come to write your book on AIDS, and now one about Alzheimer's?


FOSTER: I had authored or edited numerous books and a hundred or more scientific papers on disasters and health, and realized that they were rarely read by the people who needed the information the most. So I decided to write a series of books, each one focusing on one specific disease that I felt I knew how to prevent and/or treat. I started with AIDS because I considered it the world's worst problem. I still do. I put "What Really Causes AIDS" online so that anybody with access to the Internet could freely read my ideas. Books on schizophrenia and Alzheimer's disease have followed. So long as I am able, I intend to write one "What Really Causes" book each year. Multiple sclerosis will be the focus of the next one.


DY NEWS: Tell us what in particular motivated you to decide to make them free downloads, or even free in print, by mail, at your expense?


FOSTER: I pay for the typing, typesetting and publication costs for each book and also mailing costs to those who I really feel should read a particular book. This is not a good way to make money. I am a poor businessman. I would sooner save a life.


DY NEWS: As you, a distinguished professor of geography, are not a physician, what was it that brought you to epidemiological research in the first place?


FOSTER: I was established as a disaster planner whose book, "Disaster Planning: the Preservation of Life and Property" was used as a textbook in numerous universities. Someone very near to me then developed cancer and I decided to find out what caused it and how it could be prevented. My approach is called medical geography.


DY NEWS: Are there other medical geographers, or are you pretty much the lone the trailblazer?


FOSTER: There are many other medical geographers, especially in China. I am, perhaps, the most outspoken. Very few write as holistically as I do.


DY NEWS: Have you published what you found out about cancer?


FOSTER: Yes, I have published several papers on cancer. I also wrote the book "Reducing cancer mortality: A geographical perspective" published in 1986 by the Western Geographical Series.


DY NEWS: How did you happen to meet Dr. Abram Hoffer?


FOSTER: Abram treats his patients a few miles away from where I teach at the University of Victoria, BC. I started going to his local lectures and he to mine. We found that we had a great deal in common and our friendship grew from there.


DY NEWS: How did come to be?


FOSTER: My youngest stepson Dan is a great videogame fan. Some new game was coming out and I bribed him into creating a website for me in exchange for the game. The site cost me about $75. Yes, I know, slave labour! He is now at art school in Vancouver. When he comes home in the holidays he updates the site for the price of a trip to the movies.


DY NEWS: When did your website go up?


FOSTER: I guess it's been on line for about five years. Several thousand people have downloaded one or more of the books.


DY NEWS: Could you share some feedback from your readers and website visitors?


FOSTER: Here is some e-mail from a doctor using my nutritional treatment for AIDS. He works in an African hospice were patients go to die. "I have been having some remarkable results from the selenium plus amino acids combination. One patient has taken it for three months now and her CD4 count has jumped from 53 to 213 end of November. Clinically, she has shown tremendous improvement having been bedridden with PCP, hair changes and neuropathies but is now up and about. She has not been on any other medication except some antibiotics. Even most of her other blood parameters have moved."


DY NEWS: What is PCP that the African physician refers to?


FOSTER: In Africa, PCP usually means pneumocystic pneumonia. This often occurs in AIDS patients and can kill them.


DY NEWS: How about other feedback?


FOSTER: There have been many such stories from recovering HIV/AIDS patients who have downloaded "What Really Causes AIDS" at . One Dutch reader, who was particularly interested in schizophrenia, paid for the translation and publication of my book "What Really Causes Schizophrenia" in Holland.


DY NEWS: What's new at Foster Labs?


FOSTER: A charity has paid for the manufacture of enough nutrients to conduct a 200 HIV/AIDS patient clinical trial in Africa. We are also working with a company that is producing a vegetarian nutritional product to treat HIV/AIDS in India and sub-Saharan Africa.


DY NEWS: As I have been to West Africa myself, may I ask exactly where the clinical trial is being conducted?


FOSTER: There are powerful organizations that do not want to see a cheap, nutritional treatment for AIDS or any other disease for that matter. For that reason, I think it better to be cautious and decline an answer at this time.


DY NEWS: Has a foundation, corporation or non-profit organization been set up to receive donations, or is donation to your work informal (and not tax-deductible)?


FOSTER: I am one man who already works full time teaching hundreds of students each term. As yet there is no foundation to back my work. It would be wonderful if one of the thousands of foundations already out there would consider doing so.


DY NEWS: As the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine's newly appointed Associate Editor, would you like to comment on the Journal's not being indexed by the National Library of Medicine's Medline?


FOSTER: It is a big loss to Medline and damages its credibility. Some brilliant work has been published over the years in the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. (Nearly 40 years’ worth is available for free reading at


DY NEWS: As the people closest to us are sometimes the most resistant to change, how "hip" to natural nutrition is your family?


FOSTER: Initially, none of them took nutrients seriously. One by one, they have changed. When the eldest boy comes to visit, the first thing he does is swipe my nutrients.


DY NEWS: What steps have you personally taken to increase selenium intake, and your the intake of other nutrients you recommend?


FOSTER: I have taken 200 micrograms of selenium daily for 20 years. I also take a comprehensive multiple nutrient preparation and 6,000 milligrams of vitamin C and extra vitamin B complex. My aim is to make sure that I am never deficient in any of the known nutrients. I also buy a wide range of nutrients for family use.


DY NEWS: You are taking more nutrients than what most dietitians say you need to prevent deficiency. Would you please comment and expand on this?


FOSTER: Yes, I am taking far more vitamin C, for example, than the RDA. This is because I believe that the RDA is illogical. I am not just trying to avoid scurvy but to achieve optimum health. There are about 4,000 animals that make their own vitamin C. As far as I know, they all make it a levels much higher per kilogram of body weight that the RDA for humans. Why should our requirements be so different? Abram Hoffer and I are writing a book, at the moment, on why most people need high levels of niacin.


DY NEWS: What do you eat?


FOSTER: In addition to supplements, I try to eat a healthy diet. I emphasize fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish and chicken. I eat very little red meat or dairy products.


DY NEWS: What parts of your books are your critics attacking you over, specifically?


FOSTER: I would say my most controversial idea is that a group of viruses (HIV-1 and HIV-2, Coxsackie B and Hepatitis B and C are members) can cause diseases indirectly by depleting the human body of specific nutrients. This implies that, if you boost the intake of these nutrients, you can reverse the disease symptoms. This paradigm is contrary to current clinical drug approaches to such viral infections and is considered a stupid idea by virologists. Nevertheless, it works.


DY NEWS: Could you please elaborate on the cause and cure of Hepatitis B and C, about which I receive many readers' questions?


FOSTER: Dr. Will Taylor and colleagues at the University of Athens, Georgia have shown that there is a group of viruses that encode for glutathione peroxidase. This means that as they are replicated, they remove the four key nutrients that lie at the core of this enzyme (selenium, cysteine, glutamine and tryptophan) from the human body. Eventually they can cause severe deficiencies of these nutrients and kill their hosts. Included in this group of viruses are Hepatitis B and C, Coxsackie B and HIV-1 and HIV-2. Anyone infected by one or more of these viruses needs elevated selenium, cysteine, tryptophan and glutamine to remain healthy. Think tapeworm! That is, a parasite-induced functional deficiency.


DY NEWS: You have at least one other controversial idea. Please tell us about road salt and cancer. (Foster HD. Road-deicing salt and cancer: the need for further study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1993 Oct 6;85(19):1603-5.)


FOSTER: In 1986, I published the book, "Reducing cancer mortality: a geographical perspective." It was essentially a major statistical study of 4.6 million cancer deaths in the USA, comparing them with the geographical distribution of 219 variables. To cut a long story short, the geography of cancer in the USA, and indeed globally, suggests that cancer is most common where there is a deficiency of selenium and calcium, and high exposure to road salt and soil mercury. Since 1986, I have been suggesting that road salt should be tested to see if it really is very carcinogenic before we dump enormous quantities onto our roads each year. For this absurd idea, I have been vilified for many years. Fortunately, Canada has recently added road salt to its list of toxic substances and is beginning to reduce its use in this country. Of course, road salt is not just sodium chloride but often includes sodium ferrocyanide which gives off the poisonous gas hydrogen cyanide when exposed to acid rain and sunlight.


DY NEWS: I am unaware that your books have been reviewed in major news outlets. Where may the public find and read media reviews of your work?


FOSTER: My "What Really Causes..." books have been reviewed in the alternative press, in publications like the Townsend Letters for Doctors and Patients, Nexus, and the Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. Interestingly, I have written three articles for Nexus following positive reviews. This has been very useful because, beyond English, this magazine appears in a wide variety of languages. They have published my work, for example, in Polish and Italian.


DY NEWS: Aside from publicity and distribution, what do you feel are the biggest obstacles to your pioneering work?


FOSTER: There are two major roadblocks to human progress: closed minds and greed. Fortunately, as Doug Gwyn pointed out "The truth is not determined by majority vote." Beyond an inability or unwillingness to innovate, there are many people doing very well out of the status quo. They will generally protect it, regardless of the truth. Unfortunately, unless we alter our dominant HIV/AIDS paradigm, these weaknesses will spell total disaster for our species.


DY NEWS: What specific goals would you have, would you like to see, in the next year?


FOSTER: I would like to raise enough funds to pay for three clinical HIV/AIDS trials in Africa. In addition, "What Really Causes Multiple Sclerosis" has been added to my website for free downloading. ( I am now almost finished writing the next book "What Really Causes Sudden Infant Death Syndrome." Typesetting and printing will probably be completed by the end of August, so I expect to see it on-line in September, 2008.


DY NEWS: I can't restrain my curiosity. What will be your next topic?


FOSTER: I have not made up my mind. I could, for example, write on Parkinson's disease, digestive cancer, or diabetes type II.


DY NEWS: Do you have some take-action suggestions for interested readers?


FOSTER: Yes. Take responsibility for your own health. Exercise, eat well and take your nutrients. No smoking and no drinking! Also support those who dare to stand up for the truth. You owe them more than passive agreement.


DY NEWS: What is your most important, most enduring message?


FOSTER: Actions speak louder than words. A great deal louder.


Follow-up interview, March 2006:  

DY NEWS: Dr. Foster, how many nutritional AIDS studies do you now have underway, and in what African nations?  

FOSTER: There are, or have been, numerous small open nutritional trials, involving anywhere from two to forty HIV/AIDS patients, run by individual doctors or nurses, conducted in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Kenya and Uganda. In addition, there are two larger, more scientific clinical trials currently ongoing in Uganda (300 patients) and Zambia (approximately 30 patients). These two trials involve T-lymphocyte testing and glutathione peroxidase measurement. The results from these two trials should be ready for publication late in 2006. The Ugandan study began in May, 2005. The Zambian study started just before Christmas, 2005. There are two more trials ready to get of the ground, in South Africa and Kenya, if I can raise the funds for them.

DY NEWS: Total number of participants; approximate percent success?  

FOSTER: Keeping track of statistics from volunteers in Africa is no easy matter. We have provided nutrients to somewhere close to 500 HIV/AIDS patients. So far I know of no failures with the most expensive, complete nutritional treatment. There are several cases of AIDS patients ,even those bedridden with dementia, rapidly recovering their health after taking these nutrients. I would think the success rate, even including those given the very cheap version of the nutrients, has been about 85%. This is better than it seems since, in addition to AIDS, these patients sometimes have advanced TB and/or syphilis.

DY NEWS: The specific nutrients given, and doses of each, and frequency of dose? 

FOSTER: This is an impossible question to answer because there is no one-size-fits-all dose. What needs to be done with HIV/AIDS patients is to raise their selenium, cysteine, tryptophan and glutamine levels back to normal. The ideal treatment then depends on what they previously have been eating. In sub-Saharan Africa, most patients are very selenium deficient and are given 600 micrograms of this trace element daily for the first month. This then drops down to 400 micrograms daily. They also tend to eat too much maize and are, therefore, very tryptophan deficient. They get 540 mg 5-HTP each day to deal with the tryptophan deficiency.

DY NEWS: Who is paying for the supplements? Any grants at all?  

FOSTER: In all the initial small trials, I paid for all the nutrients. The expenses incurred in shipping were often as high as the cost of the nutrients. The two current trials in Uganda and Zambia are being funded by small Canadian charities. In both cases, members of their boards saw the amazingly beneficial impacts of these nutrients on viral diseases for themselves and were convinced.

DY NEWS: About how many physicians have reported in to you? Do you have their comments to share with us? 

FOSTER: I was given the Orthomolecular Doctor of the Year Award (2004-2005) and so must have ISOM's support. Especially keen supporters in that organization are Drs Abram Hoffer and Brad Weeks. Dr Jim Sparling has been a tower of strength in Uganda and Dr Alan Russell has been a strong Canadian supporter, as has Dr Bill Panton. In a review of "What really causes AIDS," published in The Medical Post, a Canadian conservative medical newspaper, Dr Russell wrote: "The genetic code of HIV includes a homologue for the essential seleno enzyme glutathione peroxidase. To replicate HIV must compete with the host for selenium, cysteine, glutamine and tryptophan. Perhaps this is a leap, but I hate to think of the world dying of viral genocide due to an outdated concept on the mechanism of viral illness." 

DY NEWS: What scientists have allied themselves with you so far? Let's drop some names, in a positive and encouraging sense. 

FOSTER: I am getting more support lately from geneticists, biochemists and some experts in selenium. I will refrain from naming them. They do not need the hot water.

DY NEWS: Any other dietary or life style recommendations that seem to help? 

FOSTER: The Earth's soils are becoming very mineral depleted and toxic. As a result, food is less nutritious. Eat organic food, if you can afford it, and make sure you take ample supplements.

DY NEWS: Which drugs are worst for fighting HIV-AIDS? 

FOSTER: This is a tough question to answer. I don't need Big Pharma's lawyers attention. However, antiretrovirals are generally associated with serious side effects, especially liver damage. They also promote viral mutation. Their key weakness, however, is that they cannot pass through the blood-brain barrier, so HIV continues to destroy the brain in all HIV/AIDS patients getting antiretrovirals as a treatment. In short, they inevitably create a type of pseudo-Alzheimer's patient with increasing memory loss over time. 

DY NEWS: If you can, please talk about the hot water you are in at your university, or in the media.  

FOSTER: Most of the covert criticism of my work has come in the Canadian newspapers and on CBC radio. I have frequency been accused of spreading false hope, even by the local Member of Parliament, an MD. Much of what has been published about my work has been deliberately false. To illustrate, I am frequently portrayed as believing that HIV does not cause AIDS. This is absolutely untrue. I have simply discovered how HIV causes AIDS. Under the heading "AIDS Nonsense," The National Post, a Canadian daily newspaper, published a letter from an Ottawa civil servant that began "Letter-writer Professor Harold D Foster's hypothesis is troubling and inaccurate. His reference to AIDS as a series of 'nutritional deficiencies' is ludicrous and does nothing but trivialize a global epidemic. Furthermore, the hypothesis he presents is little more than a conspiracy theory, which incorrectly suggests that the scientific communities are not working together to help find a cure for this disease." After that, his letter began to get nasty. Of course, the paper had no interest in publishing a reply. 

(end of interview)


What Really Causes AIDS is a book that provides an original theory for the causes and therefore the treatment of AIDS. It also describes a strategy to halt the AIDS pandemic. A full-text .pdf download of What Really Causes AIDS is available, free of charge, at



Harold D. Foster's Papers indexed by the National Library of Medicine's MEDLINE:


Foster HD. Host-pathogen evolution: Implications for the prevention and treatment of malaria, myocardial infarction and AIDS. Med Hypotheses, Vol. 70(1), p 21-25, 2008.


Foster HD. A role for the antioxidant defense system in preventing the transmission of HIV. Med Hypotheses, Vol. 69(6), p 1277-1280, 2007.


Foster HD. How HIV-1 causes AIDS: implications for prevention and treatment. Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(4):549-53. Review.


Foster HD, Hoffer A. Schizophrenia and cancer: the adrenochrome balanced morphism. Med Hypotheses. 2004;62(3):415-9. Review.


Foster HD, Hoffer A. The two faces of L-DOPA: benefits and adverse side effects in the treatment of Encephalitis lethargica, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Med Hypotheses.



Foster HD. Why HIV-1 has diffused so much more rapidly in Sub-Saharan Africa than in North America. Med Hypotheses. 2003 Apr;60(4):611-4.


Hocking M, Foster HD.  Upper respiratory tract infections among airline passengers. JAMA. 2002 Dec 18;288(23):2972; author reply 2972-3.


Foster HD. Why the preeminent risk factor in sporadic Alzheimer's disease cannot be genetic. Med Hypotheses. 2002 Jul;59(1):57-61.


Foster HD. Coxsackie B virus and myocardial infarction. Lancet. 2002 Mar 2;359(9308):804.


Foster HD. Landscapes of longevity: the calcium-selenium-mercury connection in cancer and heart disease. Med Hypotheses. 1997 Apr;48(4):355-60. Review.


Foster HD, Zhang L. Longevity and selenium deficiency: evidence from the People's Republic of China. Sci Total Environ. 1995 Aug 18;170(1-2):133-



Foster HD. Road-deicing salt and cancer: the need for further study. J Natl Cancer Inst. 1993 Oct 6;85(19):1603-5.


Foster HD. The iodine-selenium connection: its possible roles in intelligence, cretinism, sudden infant death syndrome, breast cancer and multiple sclerosis. Med Hypotheses. 1993 Jan;40(1):61-5. Review.


Foster HD. Reply to the letter of L. C. Clark and G. F. Combs, Jr. J Nutr. 1989 Jun;119(6):950.


Foster HD. Suicide and mortality from diabetes. Am J Psychiatry. 1988 Feb;145(2):272.


Foster HD. Selenium and cancer prevention. J Nutr. 1988 Feb;118(2):237-9.


Foster HD. Disease family trees: the possible roles of iodine in goitre, cretinism, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases and cancers of the thyroid, nervous system and skin. Med Hypotheses. 1987 Nov;24(3):249-63. Review.


Foster HD. Diabetes mellitus and low environmental magnesium levels. Lancet. 1987 Sep 12;2(8559):633.


Interview and comments copyright 2009, 2006, and 2005 by Andrew W. Saul.


Andrew Saul is the author of the books FIRE YOUR DOCTOR! How to be Independently Healthy (reader reviews at ) and DOCTOR YOURSELF: Natural Healing that Works. (reviewed at )


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