23. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the Soviet Union1

8385. Subject: Countering Soviet Active Measures: AIDS.

1. Confidential entire text.

2. At his request, Soviet Embassy First Secretary Sergei Gurov requested to meet with State personnel January 7 to discuss U.S. bilateral and multilateral cooperative efforts in AIDS research. The discussion with Gurov suggested that the USSR may be interested in approaching other governments on the question of bilateral or multilateral AIDS research. In view of this and the upcoming US–USSR joint committee meeting on health cooperation scheduled for April,2 and considering recent Soviet expressions of interest in cooperation with the U.S. in AIDS research,3 Embassy should convey the following message to the MFA and Health Ministry at the appropriate levels.

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3. The United States Government has long been concerned about the distortions and blatant fabrications concerning the origins of the AIDS virus that have appeared in various forms in Soviet media. Ambassador Hartman expressed U.S. concern in two letters to the editors of Literaturnaya Gazeta and Sovietskaya Kultura last year.4 As Ambassador Hartman noted, the editors of the articles in question seemed ignorant even of Soviet scientists’ views on AIDS. Leading Soviet immunologists have stated that evidence indicates the disease originated in central Africa, that it may be related to a similar virus found in monkeys, and that it may have existed for several hundred or even several thousand years, or may have evolved from another virus. This position is consistent with that of the international medical and scientific community that the AIDS virus appeared first in nature and was not man-made. Moreover, there is overwhelming scientific evidence that humans have been infected with the AIDS virus at least since the early 1970s in more than one region of the world.

4. During the last six months, the United States has welcomed recognized Soviet researchers to our country to discuss AIDS research with various U.S. Government health officials. We have also welcomed Soviet expressions of interest in cooperating on AIDS research expressed to U.S. Government officials visiting Moscow, especially during the visits of Surgeon General Koop and NIH Director Wyngaarden last October and November.5 Soviet distortions and fabrications concerning the origins of the AIDS virus have nevertheless continued.

5. The United States Government welcomes continued Soviet expressions of interest in combatting the worldwide spread of this dreaded disease. Continuation of the Soviet disinformation campaign, however, is clearly inconsistent with any joint efforts on AIDS research. Therefore, in the interest of making our joint contributions to halt the spread of the AIDS virus a valuable one to global health, we urge the Soviet Union to cease its blatantly false allegations concerning the origin of the AIDS virus. In view of the unfortunate allegations that have appeared in the Soviet press, we believe it would be appropriate for the Soviet Government to acknowledge in public the facts concerning the origin of the AIDS virus. These facts are recognized by all [Page 59] serious AIDS researchers around the world, including senior Soviet immunologists.

6. Minimize considered.

  1. Source: Department of State, AIDS, 1984–1987, Lot 89D137, Untitled. Confidential; Priority. Sent for information to Leningrad. Drafted by Sell and Hertzberg; cleared in INR/ID, AID/AF, NIH, OES/ENH, and HHS/PHS; approved by Parris.
  2. In telegram 145458 to all diplomatic and consular posts, May 13, the Department reported on the meeting held in Washington, April 14–16. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D870368–0436)
  3. In telegram 399814 to Moscow, December 30, 1986, the Department transmitted the text of letters between Zhdanov and Dr. Fauci regarding assistance with the study of AIDS patients. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D870001–0446)
  4. See Document 19 and footnote 2 thereto.
  5. In telegram 17690 from Moscow, October 14, 1986, the Embassy reported on U.S.–U.S.S.R. health discussions during Koop’s visit, including a proposal to send Soviet researchers to the United States for collaborative AIDS research. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D860780–0750) In telegram 2525 from Leningrad, November 21, 1986, the Consulate reported on Wyngaarden’s visit. (Department of State, Central Foreign Policy File, D860893–0861)