Rense.com has a 2005 essay describing an AIDS conspiracy theory. In particular, it describes the "Special Virus-Cancer Program":

The Virus Cancer Program had it roots in 1964 when Congress provided funds to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for intensive research into the possible role of viruses in leukemia. In 1968 the Program, then titled the Special Virus-Cancer Program, was enlarged to encompass all types of cancer. On July 1, 1973 the Special Virus Cancer Program was renamed The Virus-Cancer Program (VCP) "to integrate the Program's research activities into the framework of the new National Cancer Plan."

The testimony for House of Representatives 15090 is relevant because it describes proposals for government funding for new microorganism development, and the technical feasibility of doing so.

Did the SVCP/VCP exist and what did it do?

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    The document isn't a "House Resolution", it is testimony before a subcommittee of the House appropriations committee. Appropriations for the department of defense are being discussed, which is a separate department from the health department. The Special Virus Cancer Program was part of the health department.
    – DavePhD
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 17:50
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    Mustang, you're getting closer to what the document really is by adding the word "testimony", but it is testimony concerning house bill H.R. 15090, 91st congress. The "R" does not mean "resolution", it means "representatives". govtrack.us/congress/bills/91/hr15090/text
    – DavePhD
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:04
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    Perhaps you should ask a separate question about the meaning/significance/validity of the image of H.R. 15090. It is not at all evident that it has anything to do with the SVCP. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 15:45
  • Well I'm blocked from adding questions.
    – D J Sims
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 15:46

3 Answers 3


Yes, the Special Virus Cancer Program (no dash) did exist. It was intended to identify cancer-causing viruses, with the aim of preventing and curing human cancers. It was in some ways a failure, in other ways a success.

It's described in a number of places, including this 1971 article in Science (24 Dec 1971:Vol. 174, Issue 4016, pp. 1306-1311 DOI: 10.1126/science.174.4016.1306):

Special Virus Cancer Program: Travails of a Biological Moonshot

Quoting from that article:

... a uniquely ambitious attempt at targeting basic research toward a specific goal,the Special Virus Cancer Program (SVCP) of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The SVCP, now in its eighth year ... seems to have come within reach of a major goal, the isolation of viruses presumed to cause cancer in man. ... The program was launched in 1964, largely on the strength of the association then coming to light between the African cancer known as Burkitt's lymphoma and the herpes-type virus named after Epstein and Barr.

To put that in context, in the 1950s and 1960s the discovery of cancer-causing viruses in animals (especially chickens) led many scientists to hypothesize that all cancers, including human cancers, were caused by viruses. If so, then this offered a possible cure or prevention for cancer. This led to world-wide intense research into links between viruses and cancer, of which the SVCP was one research program.

As it turned out, some cancers are caused by viruses, but they are a minority of human cancers. The basic research did turn out to be very useful in understanding how cancers can form and progress, as well as in basic virology, and there has been some progress (the vaccine for human papillomaviruses is an indirect outcome of the program), but overall the hypothesis was wrong, and the overall approach of a massive "moon-shot" program was probably misguided.

Without reading the conspiracy theorist, I assume they're claiming the program was aimed at causing cancer in humans, which is of course 100% backwards.



  1. Special Virus Cancer Program evolved from the original Solid Tumor-Virus Program in 1968 under the direction of National Cancer Institute.

Because of the growing significance of the Solid Tumor-Virus Program Segment, the SVLP was changed to the SVCP (Special Virus Cancer Program) Source: NIH.

  1. The purpose of the SVCP was to find viruses in human cancer cells and relate them to specific cancers.

NCI directed SVCP within the intramural laboratories from 1964 to 1980. After 1980, the work of SVCP was incorporated into NCIís broader National Cancer Plan. Source: United States General Accounting Office

  1. Gene amplication techniques such as the PCR and reverse transcriptase technology for development of transgenic viruses had not developed to the fullest capacity during the period of Special Virus Cancer Program.

The entire premise is flawed here-- a bioweapons program in 1962-1974 wouldn't have the capability to develop transgenic viruses from nucleic acids alone because a critical gene amplification technique (PCR) wasn't even invented until 1983. Furthermore, it's not possible to do that kind of sophisticated research before that time period because a separate critical component, reverse transcriptase, wasn't even discovered at all until 1970. Without knowledge of reverse transcriptase, it's not possible to understand why a virus like SIV is an interesting bioweapons candidate. Source: User cryoshon from Reddit


  1. HIV strains existed before the start of Special Virus Cancer Program in 1964.

HIV-1 was found in blood samples of an African man who died in 1959. (Zhu, Tuofu et al. ìAn African HIV-1 Sequence from 1959 and Implications for the Origin of the Epidemic,î Nature 391, no. 6667 (1998): 594-97.) HIV-1 was likely transferred to humans before 1955 from a subspecies of chimpanzees infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). (Korber, Bette et al. ìTiming the Ancestor of the HIV-1 Pandemic Strains,î Science 288, no. 5472 (2000): 1789-96.) Source: United States GAO

  1. HIV-1 group M was found before 1960 in Leopoldville/Kinshasa which was well before the start of Special Virus Cancer Program in 1964.

Molecular epidemiological studies have indicated that most, if not all, of the early diversification of HIV-1 group M likely occurred in the area around Kinshasa, then called Leopoldville. All of the known HIV-1 group M subtypes were identified there, as well as additional lineages that have remained restricted to this area (Vidal et al. 2000). Leopoldville was also the place where the earliest strains of HIV-1 group M were discovered (Zhu et al. 1998; Worobey et al. 2008). Genetic analysis of infected blood and tissue samples collected from residents of Kinshasa in 1959 and 1960, respectively, revealed that HIV-1 had already diversified into different subtypes by that time. Source: Origins of HIV and the AIDS Pandemic

  1. Molecular clock dating techniques estimate times of HIV-1 group lineages well before the start of Special Virus Cancer Program in 1964.

As a result of the discovery of SIVcpz lineages that are very closely related to HIV-1 groups M and N, we were able to investigate when HIV-1 groups M and N shared a most recent common ancestor (MRCA) with an SIVcpz lineage. Prior to our study, there existed one estimate of this date for HIV-1 group M and SIVcpz at 1675 (1590–1761); however, this date was obtained using only two SIVcpz sequences, neither of which lies directly basal to HIV-1 group M. Our env analysis suggested that HIV-1 group M and the SIVcpz sequence that lies immediately basal to it shared an MRCA in 1853 (1799–1904), and HIV-1 group N and its sister SIVcpz shared a MRCA in 1921 (1885–1955). These dates represent the maximum age for the introduction of HIV-1 groups M and N into humans. Source: Dating the Age of the SIV Lineages That Gave Rise to HIV-1 and HIV-2

Research also notes that the date of HIV-1M MRCA settled at 1926.

Clearly the transfer of SIV to humans in SE Cameroon (about 1876 according to recent analysis Wertheim JO, 2009) substantially predates the MRCA of HIV-1M (1920s). Thus, the original SIV infection in humans lingered for as much as 50 years (1876-1926) and mutated without producing a pandemic while evolving into the HIV-1 clade. Through the 1920s many persons from SE Cameroon with HIV-1 likely visited Leopoldville (Kinshasa) via the Sangha River (see the reports of Louise Pearce concerning African sleeping sickness dating from 1921). The MRCA of HIV-1M subsequently arose in Leopoldville as a result of some unique mutations (not shared with HIV-1O or other HIV-1 groups). The date of this unique transformation has been the subject of several studies and according to Faria et al. (page 60) if subtypes B and C (which obviously evolved later) are eliminated from the dataset, the molecular clock is more appropriately calibrated and the date of the MRCA of HIV-1M settles at 1926. Source: HIV epidemiology. The early spread and epidemic ignition of HIV-1 in human populations

  • "HIV-1 was found in blood samples of an African man who died in 1959." What does this mean? The virus? The genome? Certainly not.
    – D J Sims
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 12:32
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    Leopoldville/Kinshasa is assumed to be the origin of the AIDS pandemic. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:00
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    Added the second point to further refute your "certainly not" claim. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:08
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    The sources mentioned confirm "most, if not all" contrary to your claim of " only a few sequences suggestive of it". Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:15
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    Let us continue this discussion in chat. Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:19

According to Departments of Labor, and Health, Education, and Welfare Appropriations for 1971: Hearings Before a Subcommittee of the Committee on Appropriations, House of Representatives, Ninety-first Congress, Second Session

A special $10 million appropriation by Congress in FY 1965 launched the initial Special Virus Leukemia Program, the main objectives of which were: (1) To determine whether viruses comparable to those known to cause leukemia or lymphoma in many laboratory and domestic animals are causative agents of human leukemia or lymphoma, and (2) to develop a vaccine or other means of control of human leukemia and lymphoma when such agents are found. As evidence accumulated indicating that viruses are associated with other types of cancer, additional funds were appropriated and the program was expanded to the Special Virus Cancer Program having the same main objectives for all types of cancer.


The document added to the OP is a portion of page 129 of Department of Defense Appropriations for 1970: Hearings before a Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee: House of Representatives, Ninety-First Congress, first sesssion

Dr. Donald M. MacArthur, Deputy Director (Research and Technology), Office of the Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Department of Defense, is testifying as a witness before the subcommittee.

This testimony is unrelated to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare which was a different department from the Department of Defense. The Special Virus Cancer Program was part of the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

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