I had to chuckle when I read Jon Jeter trying to quote South African President Thabo Mbeki ["Mbeki vs. AIDS Experts," front page, May 16]. Jeter undoubtedly was overwhelmed by Mbeki's understanding of some of the controversial scientific issues surrounding HIV and AIDS. Mbeki is quoted as asking, "Does such phosphoral relation take place?"

The "phosphoral relation" that Jeter heard was probably "phosphorylation," a word not familiar to many journalists and perhaps pronounced with a South African accent by Mbeki. Phosphorylation is a biochemical reaction that describes the addition of a phosphate group to another molecule. This is a required reaction that must occur for the drug AZT to have any antiretroviral effect.

AZT is administered as a "pro-drug," meaning that it must be activated by the body before it can have its desired effect. In this case, activation is achieved by phosphorylation. When AZT was first approved it was assumed that the body would be capable of performing this activation step. But in the late 1980s, research began to show that the human body was nearly incapable of this phosphorylation, casting serious doubt on AZT's biochemical ability to perform as advertised.

-- Todd E. Miller

The writer is assistant scientist in the Department of Molecular and Cellular Pharmacology at the University of Miami School of Medicine.

Jon Jeter's May 16 article dismisses all of Thabo Mbeki's questions about AIDS causes and treatments by referring to Mbeki's source for his decision to question AIDS as "an obscure but oddly absorbing" Web site.

Nowhere in the article does Jeter give credence to any of the world-class scientists whose work and ideas are available on the Internet at www.virusmyth.com, scientists who are Nobel winners and members of the National Academy of Science. Instead, he quotes lesser-credentialed physicians who do not address the serious shortcomings in AIDS "science" but instead attack and question Mbeki's motivations.

In the article, Mary Crewe of Pretoria University AIDS Research is quoted as saying, "We don't have the luxury of this debate." I would counter that we don't have the luxury of not having this debate, when so many lives are at stake concerning what is and is not known about AIDS causes and treatments.

-- Rex Poindexter