HIV/AIDS Skepticism

Pointing to evidence that HIV is not the necessary and sufficient cause of AIDS

Archive for December, 2008

HIV/AIDS and parapsychology: science or pseudo-science?

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/30

Burden of proof: on this point, “HIV/AIDS” fits a commonly postulated criterion for recognizing pseudo-science [“Science Studies 102: Burden of proof, HIV/AIDS ‘science’, pseudo-science”, 22 July 2008]: the proponents insist that there’s overwhelming evidence on their side while being unable to cite a manageable number of specific publications containing definitive proof; for example, publications that demonstrate that a positive “HIV”-test means that active virions of “HIV” are present in the patient (as opposed to taking cellular material from the patient, incubating it with a whole mess of pottage, and then finding miscellaneous proteins or bits of nucleic acid that are presumed to come from virions — something one could never know without having had in hand, at one time or another, some actual certifiable virions derived directly from an AIDS patient [what used to be called “isolation” --- and still is, except by retrovirologists]).

There are a couple of related generalities that would also classify HIV/AIDS as pseudo-science: the significance of large amounts of claimed evidence, and the strength of evidence needed to establish a case. Defenders of HIV/AIDS theory — for example, several of the expert witnesses in the Parenzee case — assert incessantly that there are innumerable publications proving that “HIV” causes “AIDS”, while conceding that there is no single one that does so and while failing to cite even an exemplary handful. That’s reminiscent of arguments over parapsychology (the study of extrasensory perception or psychic phenomena).

Proponents of the value of parapsychological studies point to a vast literature reporting happenings that are explicable only by some mechanism that appears to work in a way not known to contemporary science: various forms of extrasensory perception such as remote viewing (clairvoyance, seeing things not in the range of sight), successful predictions or prophesies, psychokinesis (producing tangible physical effects simply by intending to), and more. The cited evidence includes not only anecdotes but a host of laboratory studies where the controls and statistical approaches are, in recent decades, as rigorous as in any social science. For example, a number of studies have concluded that “the sense (feeling, hunch) of being stared at” appears to be correct more often than chance would allow; and in so-called Ganzfeld experiments, the percipient attains information, again more often than chance would allow, while totally isolated from sensory input (blindfolded, ears muffled, in a separate room that’s often electromagnetically shielded). The Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) group used computerized equipment with elaborate checking of base-lines, inerasable recording of results, etc., and still obtained above-chance results.

What have the skeptics had to say about all this?
First of all, that no individual study has proven to be fully reproducible at will. For instance, although PEAR almost always gets above-chance results, they are not always above chance to the same degree, and in independent multi-lab replications, different aspects of the data were above-chance in the various labs.

Well, how reproducible are HIV/AIDS experiments? No better than in parapsychology. Consider the matter of sexual transmission, where probabilities are often cited while one of the best studies found no transmission at all during the lifetime of the study [Padian et al., American Journal of Epidemiology 146 (1997) 350-7]. Consider the belief that “HIV” kills CD4 cells, the more so, the more “HIV” there is: yet Rodriguez et al., (JAMA 296 [2006] 1498-1506) found that the level of “viral load” didn’t predict the course of CD4 depletion; and many studies have found that “virologic failure” doesn’t go hand-in-hand with “immunological failure” and that neither goes reproducibly with clinical condition.

A standard explanation to which HIV/AIDS researchers take recourse for such problems is to remind us that “HIV” mutates at unprecedented speed, and is diabolically clever in other ways as well. Of course, there’s no independent evidence for those ad hoc explanations, any more than for the parapsychological excuse that, like all human abilities, extrasensory perception isn’t perfectly controllable.

Just as parapsychology points to a vast literature, albeit no single paper or handful of papers that gives uncontestable proof, so HIV/AIDS points to a vast literature, albeit no single paper or handful of papers that gives uncontestable proof. To parapsychology, skeptics like to respond that an overwhelming amount of poor evidence, lacking controls and the like, doesn’t add up to even a smidgeon of sound evidence, elaborate meta-analyses notwithstanding (and when proponents of parapsychology do suggest the most probative results, they fail to agree among themselves what those are [see discussions in Zetetic Scholar 6 & 11, available at www.tricksterbook.com/truzzi/ZeteticScholars.html]). Similarly, AIDS Rethinkers and HIV Skeptics say to HIV/AIDS proponents: stop talking about 120,000 articles, overwhelming evidence, and so on; just cite those specific publications that you believe establish the case.

When it comes to establishing such a case, a standard demand by critics of parapsychology (and UFOs, and the like) is that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof” *. That’s perfectly applicable to HIV/AIDS, which makes truly extraordinary claims for the unique characteristics that it attributes to “HIV”: killing CD4 cells by some not-understood mechanism (it isn’t direct, we know that — perhaps it’s the same mechanism as in extrasensory perception or in psychokinesis?!); mutating incessantly, all the while remaining pathogenic; changing its preferred victims and preferred mode of transmission while remaining pathogenic and killing by (presumably) the same not-understood mechanism. The death rate attributed to “HIV” fell more than 5-fold in the United States from 1982 to 1996, before there was any really satisfactory treatment available; and then fell by only half from 1997 to 2004, when truly lifesaving treatment, HAART, had supposedly been available. And the median age at which people died of “HIV” disease increased by about 11% during the pre-HAART era, and by the same amount in the HAART period. Extraordinary indeed! To establish such claims, one might ask at the minimum to be given samples of actual particles of this miraculous agent; but they are as unavailable as the poltergeists and apparitions that constitute some of the more exotic claims made by some parapsychologists.

A related point about evidence and proof: There’s all the difference in the world between “this is consistent with theory Z” and “this proves theory Z”. The innumerable articles cited by HIV/AIDS proponents as “overwhelming evidence” for HIV = AIDS don’t PROVE it, they merely report things that might be interpreted as consistent with HIV/AIDS theory; even though in a number of cases, like the Padian and Rodriguez studies cited above, to interpret them as consistent with the theory is perverse (although the authors didn’t shy away from attempting to do so in the Parenzee case). By contrast, Rethinkers have offered a number of falsifications of HIV/AIDS theory: actual proofs that “HIV” isn’t infectious, that “HIV” doesn’t correlate with “AIDS”, and that mortality from “HIV disease” has varied in synch with changing definitions of “HIV/AIDS”, which is thereby seen to be an artefact.

So there’s quite a good case to be made for “HIV/AIDS” as a model example of pseudo-science: something that claims to be science but isn’t.

FOOTNOTE:

This saying is often attributed to Carl Sagan, though Marcello Truzzi said it earlier. As with so many aphorisms, it can be traced much further back. For a thorough tracing-back of sayings akin to, “If I’ve seen further than others, it’s because I’m a pygmy (or dwarf) standing on the shoulders of giants”, see Robert Merton, On the Shoulders of Giants: A Shandean Postscript (University of Chicago Press, 1993).

Posted in HIV absurdities, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Cognitive dissonance: a human condition

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/26

I’ve been kicking myself because it took so long to appreciate what Martin had been telling me [“The debilitating distraction of ‘HIV’”, 21 December 2008]. That I didn’t grasp it was not because Martin could have expressed it more appropriately or clearly, but just because my mental apparatus somehow wasn’t ready to absorb it.

That experience helps me gain a little empathetic insight into the frequent illustrations of cognitive dissonance displayed by proponents and defenders of HIV/AIDS theory. The misguided, misleading unconscious connotations of “HIV” made it hard for me to recognize some obvious aspects of clear facts, most significantly, that what defines being “a person with AIDS” doesn’t define who dies from “HIV disease” — even “knowing” that “HIV” doesn’t cause “AIDS”, I’d slipped into thinking that there’s a meaningful, functional, connection between those “things”. How much more difficult it is for people who firmly believe HIV=AIDS, to draw unbiased inferences from the plain data, to see things as they really are.

For example, look at recent exchanges between Chris Noble and me. I look at the mortality numbers (M) and the death-age numbers (D), and what I see is this: D has increased at almost the same rate for the whole period 1982 to 2004 (“almost linearly”, according to the National Center for Health Statistics at the pdf link supplied by Noble); M, by obvious contrast, has changed anything but steadily — about constant from 1982 to 1986/87; 1986/87 to 1992, drops by nearly half; 1992 to 1993, drops by nearly 1/3 in a single year; drops by another half over the next FOUR years; drops by half in a single year, 1996/97; then takes SEVEN years to drop by another half. To me, as I just said, that’s anything but a steady decline, it’s distinct phases. Yet Chris Noble says “the mortality rate has steadily decreased while the median age at death has steadily increased”. I suppose this is what Thomas Kuhn called “incommensurability”: adherents to the conventional view simply cannot see, mentally speaking any alternative interpretation of the data.

Again, Noble asks me repeatedly to calculate how age of death ought to correlate with mortality. I repeat that I start with the data on both and try to see what relationship, if any, exists between them. Noble insists that I can’t know that there’s no functional relationship, unless I first predict what it should be! I haven’t the foggiest idea what he means; if two things aren’t related, how should they be related? But Noble’s mind is fixed in the belief that whatever defines “PWA” also defines death while a PWA, so he can’t “see” the contradictory data.

These examples illustrate why critical comments to my blog seem always to have developed in much the same way. Fulano de Tal, Köpek Burun, and others begin with substantive comments on a specific point. For a while, the exchanges remain to that point — and have served to make me clarify things and to re-examine the data or to seek more. And then, when the data and my interpretations seem to have withstood the original critique, the criticisms veer off into side-tracks, trivialities, off the main point; and they also change in tone. At first there’s a suave, sophisticated, above-the-fray manner; then that disappears as matters are argued in an increasingly aggressive manner (“Why can’t you answer a simple question?”; “I’m being polite, damn you!”); and when the critique hasn’t won out, what I say gets ignored and the tone descends into personal abuse and accusations of guilt by association (“You don’t know what you’re talking about”; “Learn some math”; “Who could believe anyone who takes Loch Ness monsters seriously”; etc.).

That typical course reflects the fact that cognitive dissonance is not only an intellectual fact of human life, it’s also powered by emotion: wanting to “be right”, wanting to “win an argument”. Both emotion and intellect are also at the mercy of conflicts of interest, and many defenders of HIV/AIDS orthodoxy have substantial stakes in it: jobs for “activists” and social workers, grants and career advancement for researchers, and so on.

It’s ever so much easier to understand what’s being said in argument against us when we’re arguing with people we already know as friends and have come to trust. Friendly rivalries can be just that, friendly. I relish the achievements and honors and successes and good luck that have come to friends of mine, I don’t feel jealous of them or competitive with them. The brasher, more dogmatic opinions I held in youthful days were much modified, and much for the better, because two close friends held very different political and social views, and because we were able to argue uninhibitedly with one another — we were aiming to get closer to understanding things, not trying to best one another.

By stark and sad contrast stands what goes on in so much of the blogosphere (and also in all-too-many mainstream venues), especially when it comes to issues like HIV/AIDS. AIDStruthers are out for blood, PERSONAL blood. They want President Mbeki held responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. They seem uninterested in carrying on discussions that focus on substance and in which friendly opponents can help one another to see things ever more clearly by shredding away the curtains of preconceived notions and ideological commitments. They want people fired for disagreeing with them. (I treasure the fake concern of the disguised AIDStruther who told me s/he was worried about how my HIV/AIDS activities might affect my employment — ignorant, apparently, of what “emeritus” means.)

I have no satisfactory answer to offer, unfortunately, for how AIDStruthers could be brought to useful mutual discussion. Matters of personal psychology are clearly important, but that doesn’t entail that psychologists could help us fashion a suitable approach. I‘m always reminded in this connection of one of the many things I learned about people and academics while I served as a Dean of Arts & Sciences. One of the few tenured faculty members whom we discharged for cause (refusal to carry out teaching assignments) had been on the faculty for more than a dozen years. The formal hearings that led to his eventual discharge revealed with extraordinary clarity that the person was paranoid — several of us independently recognized the stunning similarities with Captain Queeg’s court appearance in “The Caine Mutiny”. The irony is that the ill person was a member of the psychology department; none of his colleagues had diagnosed his illness during all the years he had been with them. Physicians, as they say, can’t heal themselves.

Here’s a criterion for whether a discussion is genuinely substantive or not, directed at clarification and increased understanding: no personal comments adorn the to-and-fro. If B appears not to understand what A is saying, then A looks for other ways of presenting the case, A doesn’t simply keep repeating the same assertions spiced with “Why can’t you…?”, and the like. [Added 28 December: Another hallmark of the non-substantive comments is that the commentator not only keeps harping on the same thing but does so by return e-mail, leaving no time to consider what s/he is replying to; see Burun's admission of suffering from that failing.]

One lesson from experience is that the aim of Rethinkers cannot be to convince the AIDStruthers. It soon becomes a sheer waste of time to attempt to argue substance with them; a waste of time because you can’t learn anything from them, and they are incapable of learning anything from you. Rethinkers and Skeptics should address the bystanders, onlookers, the unengaged “silent majority”. There seem always to be with us some people who cheerfully continue to believe that the Earth is only about 6,000-10,000 years old, and many other things that most of us judge to be utterly disproved by factual evidence. One of my friends has been striving for more than two decades to educate those who remain convinced of the merits of Immanuel Velikovsky’s writings, and I judge his progress to be at or close to zero. As Max Planck said about quantum theory, the diehards don’t get convinced: progress comes as they die off. Even after the wider public has recognized that HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, the AIDStruthers won’t admit they were wrong. Rather, Mark Wainberg and J P Moore and Fulano and Köpek Burun and their ilk will treat us to elaborate re-writings of history to show that they were always in line with the facts as known with any certainty at any given moment. Rethinkers, they will let it be known, may have happened to be right but it was for wrong reasons, for non-scientific reasons, whereas AIDStruthers just happened to be temporarily wrong, but for the right reasons, they were always guided by then-known facts, as is proper in science.

At any rate, AIDStruthers are not the audience to be courted. Their arguments must be countered with answers directed to the media and the general public in terms that are understandable by and clearly convincing for unengaged observers. That means the points cannot be too technical.

That’s why I’ve continued to look for “smoking guns”. The epidemiology of “HIV” tests shows “it” isn’t infectious, and isn’t correlated with the illnesses dubbed “AIDS” in the early 1980s. That’s a blatantly smoking gun, but it requires people to slog through a large mass of accumulated data to appreciate it. I think the significance of the death statistics is more readily understandable. Look at all the people who have been officially classified as “living with AIDS” over the years. Their mortality (rate of death) has gone since 1982 from 65% to 3% — not steadily, but in distinct phases, about 5 of them. What’s different about each phase is how “living with AIDS” was defined. So mortality depends on how the disease is defined, not on what “it” “is”, or how “it” is treated. That obviously means, there’s something wrong with the definition. And, by the way, could you think of any other disease whose definition has changed like this? And furthermore, any disease whose definition is different in different countries?
(Yes, I know: psychiatric illnesses. See above, what I said about psychology. Maybe I should add that some of my good friends, and indeed valued members of my family, have been and are psychologists. But it isn’t a science, not even a medical science.)

Posted in experts, HIV absurdities, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, HIV tests, HIV transmission | Tagged: , , | 18 Comments »

The debilitating distraction of “HIV”

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/21

Every now and again, Martin chides me for writing about “HIV” (which doesn’t exist), “infection” (which doesn’t occur), and the like. My standard response has been that I don’t know how to write about HIV/AIDS doings without using the terminology that everyone’s familiar with. In my book, I tried to address the issue by saying that by HIV I would always mean, “Whatever it is that HIV tests detect”, but that repeating this every time, or always putting scare quotes around “HIV”, would get tiresome, for readers as well as the writer. I also used “F(HIV)”, for “frequency of positive HIV-tests”, instead of “the prevalence of HIV” so as not to entrench belief in the existence of an infectious agent.

In principle, I’ve recognized that Martin is right in pointing out that it’s not just terminology, because with every use of the terms (HIV, infection, AIDS, etc.), we absorb as well as disseminate something of the mistaken view. In practice, I haven’t known how to avoid doing this.

I’ve come to appreciate even more the force of Martin’s essential point through grappling, the last few months, with the interpretation of data on deaths from “HIV disease”. The difficulties I was having owed, to an appreciable degree, from having my mind infected with a subterranean notion that “HIV” means something, indeed something  specific — even as I was, on the conscious level, describing “HIV-positive” as being analogous to a fever and not meaning anything specific.

That analogy with fever, for which I’m grateful to Christian Fiala, is indeed an excellent one, concise and easy for people to grasp immediately without further explanation. Like all analogies, though, it isn’t more than an analogy, and can’t encompass all the characteristics of “HIV” — most particularly, that while fevers signal something out of the ordinary, even if not necessarily a serious health challenge, “HIV-positive” may signify nothing at all out of the ordinary, in the sense that “HIV-positive” may not be worth thinking or worrying about any more than, say, having a cold, waking up with an aching joint, just having been vaccinated against flu, or being pregnant.

My research into HIV-associated matters had been stimulated by the unbelievable assertion cited by Harvey Bialy, that in the mid-1980s teen-aged females applying for military service tested HIV-positive as frequently as their male peers. My book recounts what I found about the demography of positive “HIV”-tests: the regular variation with sex, age, race, and geography demonstrates that “HIV-positive” isn’t contagious or infectious. The variations between social groups demonstrates that “HIV-positive” has something to do, at least sometimes, with health challenge, or immune-system reaction, albeit not necessarily any serious threat to health — in groups where one expects to find relatively poor health or manifest illness, the average frequency of positive “HIV”-tests tends to be greater . I even suggested that “HIV-positive” might mean something different with different people: since only a few of the “HIV” proteins, and not always the same ones, are required for the test to be pronounced “positive”, perhaps there are some hidden specificities — maybe “HIV-positive” for gay men is detecting different substances than “HIV-positive” among pregnant women, say (and in neither case are those detected substances necessarily a cause for concern, anything “out of the ordinary”).

I hadn’t looked seriously into death statistics until about a year ago, when Sharon Stone told Larry King that  AIDS is “the fourth leading killer of women in America”. Of course that isn’t the case, it isn’t even in the top ten — World Aids Day: Sharon Stone on Larry King, sharing urban legends (or celebrity facts) , 22 December 2007. However, the data revealed some interesting variations by race and age, so I looked at that in more detail [“HIV Disease” , 28 December 2007;
How to test theories (HIV/AIDS theory flunks), 7 January 2008]. I noticed the peculiarity that black Americans are both more prone to test “HIV-positive” but also to survive that condition to a greater age than white Americans . Though I recognized that as another count against HIV/AIDS theory, I was mind-infected by “HIV signifies something” and didn’t take this to the conclusion that now seems so obvious.

Periodically I would come back to the remarkable fact that people aged around 35-45 always test HIV-positive more frequently than older  as well as younger adults or teenagers, and cite it as confirmation of the demographics that show “HIV” isn’t an infection [for example, “HIV demographics further confirmed: HIV is not sexually transmitted”, 26 February 2008]. I re-emphasized that “’HIV’ and ‘AIDS’ are two separate things” [Unraveling HIV/AIDS, 8 March 2008] — thereby illustrating the mind-infection that Martin kept warning me about; I ought to have remained aware that “HIV” isn’t “a thing” at all. By a few weeks later [“HIV Disease” is not an illness, 19 March 2008], I had come to realize that the death statistics in themselves show that “HIV disease” isn’t an illness, because the greatest risk of death is among 35-45-year-olds whereas all other illnesses, diseases, and “natural causes” too bring the greatest risk of death at older ages, the risk increasing about exponentially with age from the teens or twenties upward. I even recognized an implication of the fact that the age distributions of “HIV-positive” and of “HIV disease” deaths virtually superpose — the implication I recognized being that there’s no “latent period” and no evidence that HAART has been of benefit, or rather evidence that HAART has NOT been life-extending. But I didn’t grasp this further reminder that “HIV” isn’t “a thing”.

I’ve even commented on cognitive dissonance [for example, "HIV/AIDS illustrates cognitive dissonance", 29 April 2008] — in others, that is, while not seeing what was staring me in the face, because I was mind-infected with the term “HIV”, as though “HIV” were a “thing”. I’d even been warned against that sort of mistake in many encounters with philosophers, for whom “reification” is a well-recognized fallacy: imagining there is “a thing” just because a name, a term, has been invented.

It was the egregious claim that HAART had saved millions of life-years that brought me back to looking at death statistics [HIV/AIDS scam: Have antiretroviral drugs saved 3 million life-years?, 6 July 2008]. I noted the peculiarity that all this life-saving and life-extending had left the average age of death from “HIV disease” at around 40 — but apparently I wasn’t yet able to tie this in with the fact that “HIV” isn’t “a thing”. I wasn’t yet able to see that the disjunction between low mortality and average age of death [More HIV/AIDS GIGO (garbage in and out): “HIV” and risk of death, 12 July 2008] is obviously to be expected, because “HIV” isn’t “a thing”.

I returned to the strange fact that the age of maximum likelihood of testing “HIV-positive” is always about the same as the age of maximum likelihood of dying from ”HIV disease” [How “AIDS Deaths” and “HIV Infections” vary with age — and WHY, 15 September 2008] and was finally set on a productive line of thought through noticing the stark disjunction between mortality from “HIV disease” and average age of death “from ‘HIV disease’” [HAART saves lives --- but doesn’t prolong them!?, 17 September 2008]. But I was still in the mind-frame of arguing against latent periods and HAART benefits [No HIV “latent period”: dotting i’s and crossing t’s, 21 September 2008].

A re-statement of these matters in “Poison in South Africa” [26 October 2008] aroused comments from defenders of the HIV/AIDS faith that spurred me to carry out some laborious calculations that I’d been procrastinating about. The age distribution of people living with AIDS was like that of people tested for HIV and like that of deaths among PWAs. Finally I recognized that the disjunction between mortality and age of death is because both are based on “HIV” but “HIV” isn’t “a thing”, and you can’t classify PWAs or deaths on such a basis.

Take ANY group of people, apply “HIV” tests, and the frequency of positive tests will be at a maximum in the age range 35-45 or so. There are indications that the range may be a bit different for females as for males, and for people with different racial ancestries, but those differences — if indeed there are any — seem to be small.
Take ANY group of people, HEALTHY OR ILL, do “HIV” tests, and the frequency of positive tests will be at a maximum in the age range 35-45 or so. I had pointed this out in my book, with data from blood donors, gay men, heterosexuals at STD clinics, soldiers, sailors, marines, in the Job Corps, in all racial groups, in both sexes . . . . In other words, “HIV-positive” has nothing specifically to do with illness or with death.
That can be difficult to bear in mind, in part because of the habit of thinking of “HIV” as “a thing”; in part because the likelihood of positive “HIV”-tests does vary with physiological condition, and some illnesses are associated with a high probability of “positive” “HIV” tests. But never forget that many non-illnesses, like pregnancy, are also associated with a high probability of “positive” “HIV” tests: “HIV-positive” has nothing specifically to do with illness or with death.

The confusion came about because Gallo et al. were looking for things that might be common to victims of AIDS, who were very ill people (high likelihood of “positives”) and happened to be of average age in the mid-to-upper thirties (in any group, maximum probability of “positive” tests). What they came up with was an artefact; a sort of thermometer that is particularly prone to detect fever in certain physiological conditions, and that is also particularly likely to read “fever” by mistake, in certain other physiological conditions and especially with people aged about 35-45.
It’s hard to ingrain that firmly in one’s thinking, and keep it at the forefront of one’s mind, after being used to imagining that “HIV” is “a thing”.

So it took me “longer than otherwise necessary” to grasp what the disjunction of death ages and mortality rates illustrates: mortality rates are reported for the population of “people with AIDS”, but that has nothing specifically to do with illness or death, because inclusion in the group has as sine qua non a positive “HIV” test, which signifies nothing specifically about illness or risk of death. I kept thinking about “the median age of death” as pointing to a particular life expectancy, a lack of benefit from HAART, generally a conundrum for HIV/AIDS theory — while the straightforward meaning is simply this:
Take ANY group of people, apply “HIV” tests, and the frequency of positive tests will be at a maximum in the age range 35-45 or so.
Take those people who have been mistakenly diagnosed as infected by “the ‘HIV’ thing”, and the frequency of positive tests among them will be at a maximum in the age range 35-45 or so.
Take ANY group of people who have just died FOR ANY REASON, carry out “HIV” tests on the cadavers, and the frequency of positive tests will be at a maximum in the age range 35-45 or so.

It’s just meaningless to compare median age of death, in any group categorized by “HIV tests”, with mortality among that group, because “HIV” has nothing to do with risk of death. That’s why the attempt to compare those things revealed a stark disjunction, with different “relationships” between death age and mortality at different times — up to 1986/87, from then to 1992, discontinuity at 1992/93, different again to 1996, another discontinuity at 1996/97, different “relationship” again after that.

—–

So, Martin: thanks for your periodic reminders, thanks for not giving up on me. I think I may finally have grasped the point. Not that it will necessarily make it easier to write about this stuff without using misleading terms, but maybe I’ll be able to make the meanings of what I write less misleading.

Best holiday wishes!

Posted in HIV absurdities, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV risk groups, HIV skepticism, HIV tests, HIV varies with age, HIV/AIDS numbers | Tagged: , , | 14 Comments »

NATURE leads — in censorship and illogic

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/15

NATURE honored World AIDS Day with an editorial, “The cost of silence?” [4 December, 456: 545], that’s classically AIDStruthian. It cites the Chigwere et al. claim of lives lost in South Africa as a result of failure to provide antiretroviral drugs [for deconstruction of that claim, see “Poison in South Africa”, 26 October 2008]. The AIDStruthiness of the piece is underscored by its citation of a Nattrass article that managed to reach the same conclusion as Chigwerde et al.

NATURE’s illogic is stunningly exemplified by the editorial’s concluding paragraph:
“In retrospect, the [Mbeki advisory] panel, constituted as it was, should never have been supported. Yet several of the country’s key scientific institutions explicitly endorsed its establishment, and also desisted from criticizing Mbeki. Along with his cabinet, they bear some culpability for the consequences that have now been documented. There is a moral to this tragic tale that may prove relevant in other contexts. In a young democracy with a historically hierarchical culture, and with attitudes often hardened by a colonial past, scientific institutions need not only to guard their independence fiercely but also to make their reasoned voices heard above the fray of political sycophancy” [emphasis added].

The editorial writer evidently thinks that scientific institutions are fiercely guarding their independence only when they take a stand congenial to the editorial writer, in other words, when they parrot the mainstream consensus. I prescribe a short course in history of science, with special emphasis on the role of unorthodox views in the progress of science [start perhaps with references 24, 25, 35 in “Science Studies 101: Why is HIV/AIDS 'science' so unreliable?”, 18 July 2008].  As history of science knows, the mainstream consensus always opposes the most striking progress.

(Note too that “young democracy with a historically hierarchical culture” is not only condescending, it implies that there’s no need, in OUR aged democracies which have no hierarchical structure, to worry about political sycophancy. Course work in social and political science as well as in science studies is evidently needed quite badly by NATURE’s editorial staff.)

NATURE’s exclusion of claims that promise striking progress was summed up nicely by Nobelist Paul Lauterbur: “You could write the entire history of science in the last 50 years in terms of papers rejected by Science or Nature” [cited by Michael Goodspeed, “Science and the Coming Dark Age”, rense.com, accessed  10 October 2004].

Gordon Stewart has experienced NATURE’s censorship perhaps as much as anyone (see “A paradigm under pressure: HIV-AIDS model owes popularity to wide-spread censorship”, Index on Censorship (UK) 3; http://www.virusmyth. net/aids/data/gsparadigm.htm), yet he has continued to offer the magazine the opportunity to live up to scientific ideals of open discussion. Most recently, he sent a calm and measured response to the “Cost of silence” editorial, and was rewarded by an instant rejection by return of e-mail:

“Dear  Dr Stewart
Thank you for your Correspondence submission, which we regret we are unable to publish.  Pressure on our limited space is severe, so we can offer to publish only a very few of the many submissions we receive.
Naturally, I am sorry to convey a negative response in this instance.
Thank you again for writing to us.

Yours sincerely

Jayne Henderson, Correspondence, Nature”.

Stewart then enlisted Christian Fiala, Etienne de Harven and me and re-submitted under our joint signatures. The rejection came again by instant return e-mail, though this time signed (though not necessarily in person, of course) by the chief executive editorial honcho:

“Dear Dr Stewart
Thank you for your letter. We are not prepared to reconsider your Correspondence submission. No doubt you will be able to publish your and your colleagues’ views on AIDS transmission in parts of Africa and elsewhere in the world in some other publication after peer-review, but Nature Correspondence is not an appropriate place for such reports.

Yours sincerely, Maxine Clarke, NATURE”

Here’s the text of the rejected letter:

(00 44) 0131 552 2648                        29/8 Inverleith Place,
Gs2648@aol.com                        Edinburgh  EH3 5QD, UK.

7th December, 2008.
resubmission, 15th December.

To: Dr Philip Campbell,  Editor-in-Chief, NATURE,
By email to nature@nature.com            Confirmatory copy in postal mail.

Response to THE COST OF SILENCE?  Editorial.  NATURE 2008; 456; 545.

The allegations and recent updates in your Editorial about avoidable deaths due to HIV/AIDS in South Africa certainly require attention, but need also to be corrected. In AIDS, of all diseases, silence is surely the wrong word. But noise, in local and increasingly in international medical journals and lay Media, was loud, resonant and viciously ad hominem in the year 2000 when ex-President Mbeki welcomed about fifty international experts to join what NATURE now refers to as “The infamous Presidential advisory panel”. I was invited in 1999 to join that panel in company with Professors Luc Montagnier, Peter Duesberg, Zena Stein, Etienne de Harven, scientists from the US NIH, physicians from the US CDC, the team from Perth (Australia) and experts from severely-affected locations in Africa, South America and elsewhere, and from main centres in South Africa.  Dr Robert Gallo of the US NCI was invited to join but did not do so.

The infamous panel held meetings, at first in Pretoria and then in Johannesburg, chaired by a Canadian Judge, and taped. Observers from local and international Media were admitted to some meetings. Additional American experts, nominated by President Clinton, attended sessions and interviewed panelists individually and confidentially. The Minister of Health and the Chief Medical Adviser to the President attended all sessions, were available, with their staffs and other government officials and local academics, for consultation about transcripts and records, and to enable proposals made by members to be implemented, e.g. for ad hoc surveys and validation of tests. We were encouraged to visit clinics, laboratories, hospitals and, notably, old and new settlements at Soweto, Gauteng and MEDUNSA. To-and-fro activities on this basis continued through personal contacts and on the internet through 2006 when they were abruptly terminated by the sudden death of Professor Sam Mhlongo [footnote 1], who had been coordinating them. For this reason and because of fundamental and often sharp differences within the Panel, the outcome was, as Nature says, inconclusive, to which we would add a third word disappointing, because metropolitan facilities and expertise for investigation were impressive especially when in 2001 Dr Makgoba published a detailed report by the SA Medical Research Council. But their data and conclusions were found to be based [footnote 2] on records which were obsolete or incomplete. Do the recent reports to which Nature now refers correct this fault?

From 2000 onward, the noise increased internationally because seroprevalence of HIV and projections of symptomatic AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) were reported by UN AIDS, all major journals and health authorities as being the highest in the world (1-3). This was indubitable in continental comparisons but, within Africa, there were wide differences between the 50/51 countries where the data recorded in Sentinel Surveillance by WHO (2) showed a mean cumulative seroprevalence [footnote 3] of 126/100,000, higher than in any other continent or region. But this mean ranged from 39/100,000 (median 30) in 37, mainly northern countries, to a mean of 313/100,000 (median 268) in 16/50 countries in SSA, probably the highest in the world even with allowance for “Titanic” exaggerations and other errors, some of which were accepted as “Deliberate” by Nature (447;531-2) in their review in 2007 of disclosures (3) by James Chin, former Chief of AIDS for WHO before he retired to be a professor at UC Berkeley, CA. In South Africa, however, the mean was only 30/100,000. At all levels, these figures included doubts about incidence and projections based upon serotests, raised originally by Harvard field workers (4) in Africa and endorsed by Professor Mhlongo in SSA and in a communication to an open meeting on HIV/AIDS in Africa convened by and at the European Parliament in December, 2004.. However, as in other countries, and not only in Africa, validated data on sensitivity, specificity and consistency are still awaited. The massive registrations in tribal, borderline and backward regions are based largely on the infamous Bangui definition devised by WHO (5) for diagnosis of HIV/AIDS in places where there are no facilities for sampling, surveillance and testing, or even for recognizing and purifying dirty water.

High seroprevalence is not necessarily followed by increase in mortality or decline in population. In Uganda, formerly featured as the epicenter of the projected pandemic of HIV/AIDS, there was an unprecedented increase in population due to a slight decrease in mortality accompanied by a stable and higher birth rate over the period reviewed by the Infamous Panel (10).

These differences within Africa and between Africa and everywhere else require clarification as well as correction. When this was done in UK, USA and other developed countries, registration data from 1986 onward showed beyond reasonable doubt that the main determinants of symptomatic AIDS were and are high risk behaviours and preferences in sex, life styles and drugs (6-9), mainly in males, with transfer to female consorts bisexually and perinatally. In some other countries and especially in Africa, this transfer is complicated and extended (1,3,7,8) by abuse of women and girls in deeply unhygienic settings where all the STD’s and many other diseases  (1,3,7-10) besides HIV/AIDS are endemic, often lethal and difficult or impossible to differentiate by the Bangui definition in the field or even in hospital, especially in infants.

Irrespectively of these desiderata, your editorial asserts that President Mbeki and his Minister of Health lost credit and support primarily because they had implied that HIV did not cause AIDS. Neither did Professor Montagnier in a paper (11) written with collaborators in 1990 and on other occasions ( before and since that important year).

REFERENCES

1    UN AIDS. International Registrations of HIV/AIDS. See also AIDS in Africa. EC Meeting, Brussels, Dec 8th, 2004; and Stewart, GT.   AIDS and hepatitis Digest No 83; 2 (PHLS)
2    WHO: Sentinel Surveillance and wkly epidemiological reports. Geneva,1985-date
3    Chin J   The AIDS Pandemic.  Oxford, Radcliffe: 2007. See also Nature 200
4    Kashala O, Marlink H, Ilunga M et al. J Inf Dis. 1994; 169; 296,
5    The Bangui reclassification of AIDS. WHO, Geneva: 1985.
6    Stewart GT. Uncertainties about AIDS and HIV.  Lancet 1989; 335; 1325.
7    Stewart GT Changing the case definition of AIDS.  Lancet 1992: 340; 1414.
8    Bebe Loff   Africans discuss ethics of biomedical research. Lancet 2002; 359; 956.
9    Stewart GT. Uncertainties about AIDS and HIV. Lancet 1989; 336; 1325
10    Uganda Bureau of Statistics 1995 and 2000-2001. Population Census 2002. …………..
11    Lemaitre M, Henin L, Montagnier L, Zerinal A et al. Res Virology 1990; 141; 5-16.
12    AIDS in Africa. The European Parliament, Brussels, December 2004.
13    See also Bauer HH The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory. Jefferson NC and London. McFarland Publishing: 2007.
14    De Harven E, Roussez JC. Ten Lies about AIDS. Victoria, BC., Canada. Trafford Publishing: 2008.
15    Other references and correspondence are profusely available, on request.

Footnotes:
1    See obituary, BMJ 2007.
2    See Fiala C et al  Lancet 2001; 358; 1381 and correspondence with Department of Error.
3    Rounded to nearest whole number

Authors, with details for Editor:

Gordon Thallon Stewart, M.D., Emeritus Chair of Public Health at the University of Glasgow. Former consultant physician (Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine), NHS-UK., also to New York City, WHO, AMREF.; Emeritus Fellow, Inf Dis Soc of America and member, Editorial Board.

Etienne de Harven, M.D. Emeritus Professor of Pathology, University of Toronto. Formerly electron microscopist, The Rockefeller University, New York City.

Christian Fiala, M.D. Obstetrician-Gynaecologist in Vienna and Uganda.

Henry H Bauer,  Ph.D. Dean Emeritus of Arts & Sciences, Professor Emeritus of Chemistry &
Science Studies, Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, Blacksburg, VA, USA.

Posted in experts, HIV skepticism, HIV/AIDS numbers, prejudice | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Conflicts of Interest in the Nobel Committee for Physiology and Medicine

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/12/12

Stefan R. sent the link to this item in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung (“New Zurich News”), 11 December 2008, which I translate freely and somewhat fallibly from the German:

“Nobel Prize in dubious light: Connection between drug company and members of Nobel Committee

Personal connections exist between the Nobel Committee and a drug company. The Swedish government attorney responsible for ferreting out corruption is considering whether to begin formal investigation.

Byline: Ingrid Meissl Årebo, Stockholm

Last preparations are in full swing for the festive award of the Nobel Prizes next Wednesday afternoon and for the associated celebration “above all other celebrations”, the glamorous Nobel Banquet in Stockholm’s Town Hall. At the same time, Swedish Radio broadcast less splendid news: the chief attorney for the Agency against Corruption is enquiring whether to begin investigation of the Nobel Foundation.

According to Attorney-General Christer von der Kwast, connections between the drug company  Astra Zeneca  and individuals associated with the Nobel Foundation might offer grounds for criminal proceedings. The British-Swedish company holds patents for both vaccines against human papillomavirus (HPV), which is capable of causing cervical cancer.

German virologist Harald zur Hausen was nominated for half of the Nobel Prize in medicine for discovering HPV. This illustrious approbation could lead more countries to add HPV-vaccination to their routine vaccinations, and  Astra Zeneca would profit thereby.

In the pay of Astra Zeneca
This week, Swedish Radio (SR) reported that Astra Zeneca has been the chief sponsor of two of the Nobel Foundation’s subsidiaries, Nobel Media (which controls and markets media rights for the Foundation) and Nobel Webb (responsible for the website nobelprize.org). The content of the contract with the sponsor is secret. The drug company may provide the two subsidiaries with support to the tune of millions.

According to the revelations by SR, several individuals involved in the award of the Nobel Prize for Medicine receive remuneration from Astra Zeneca: Bo Angelin, member of the Nobel Committee, sits on the board of Astra Zeneca. In addition,  Bertil Friedholm, representative of the  Nobel Committee at the Karolinska Institutet, held two consulting contracts with the drug company in 2006.

Angelin responded that he was not aware that Astra Zeneca could profit from the award to zur Hausen; he didn’t participate in the recommendation. The Secretary of the Nobel Committee, Hans Jörnwall, explained that Angelin’s connection to the drug firm was known and discussed. Now it may be necessary to clarify whether the right decision was made or whether future organizational changes might be called for.

Trips might be bribes
The Swedish Attorney-General will look into trips to China taken by  several members of Nobel Committees, where the expenses were paid by the hosts. The Department of Justice is looking into the possibility of bribery or attempted bribery. According to the Institute against Bribery, officials of the Nobel Foundation are obliged, under official Swedish ground rules, to cover those expense themselves.”

Clark Baker has already noted this situation on his blog.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, Legal aspects | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

 
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