HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Archive for December, 2011

2011 in review

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/12/31

Even though this is self-advertising by the WordPress people, I thought readers might be interested in which posts brought the greatest number of views, and which brought the greatest number of comments — not the same ones!

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2011. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Posted in HIV does not cause AIDS | 11 Comments »

HAART is toxic: Mainstream concedes it, in backhanded ways

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/12/30

Just as it’s rare to find “HIV” mentioned without the add-on of “AIDS” or “the virus that causes AIDS”, so it’s rare to see antiretroviral drugs mentioned without the adjective “life-saving”. Yet the technical mainstream literature is replete with backhanded admissions that antiretroviral drugs are highly toxic.
What do I mean by backhanded? Making the admission in such a way that it seems like not an admission.
For example, in what the Journal of Infectious Diseases  labeled a “Major Article”, Walensky et al. calculated “The survival benefits of AIDS treatment in the United States” (194 [2006] 11-19) without claiming any survival benefit for the use of AZT from its introduction up to its approval in 1994 for prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Yet when mainstream researchers are confronted with dissident statements about the lack of life-saving benefit of AZT and its toxicity, they resist ferociously by every conceivable evasive maneuver.

I’ve just come across another choice example of admitting in one context what in other contexts is not admitted. The activist gurus of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) have long castigated President Mbeki and others for not providing the life-saving benefits of antiretroviral drugs to South Africans. But now the very same self-appointed experts, in collaboration with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) have asked the Gates Foundation  not to support a clinical trial in which the relative benefits of tenofovir are to be compared with stavudine at 20 mg dosage — because stavudine is so toxic!
Mbeki was President of South Africa from 1999 to 2008. Had he bowed to TAC activists, he would have been providing this highly toxic stavudine to his fellow country-people, because stavudine has been one of the staples of antiretroviral treatment since the mid-1990s. It was approved for adults in the middle of 1994, and for children in the latter part of 1996. In 1998 it was recommended for antiretroviral treatment at dosage of  40 mg for body weights > 60 kg and 30 mg for <60 kg (MMWR 47, RR-5, 24 April). The Treatment Guidelines issued by the National Institutes of Health have sanctioned use of stavudine as first-line or alternative ever since, despite the pleas by the World Health Organization cited  in the TAC/MSF letter to the Gates Foundation.
The letter says, “In 2004, stavudine was removed from the list of preferred first-line antiretroviral drugs recommended by the US Department of Health and Human Services”. That might mislead unwary readers into thinking that stavudine had been removed from all recommended uses, whereas in fact it continues to be listed in the Treatment Guidelines as an available alternative. Thus the Guidelines of 1 December 2009 include the following:
“The 2NN trial compared efavirenz and nevirapine, both given with stavudine and lamivudine, in treatment-naïve  patients. Virologic responses were similar for both drugs, although nevirapine was associated with greater toxicity and  did not meet criteria for noninferiority compared with efavirenz”, illustrating that stavudine was by no means regarded as beyond the pale.
Note too the mention of toxicity of nevirapine. Dissidents have long protested the use of nevirapine and AZT as the standard procedure recommended to avoid mother-to-child prevention of transmission of “HIV”, whereas vigilantes like the TAC gurus have consistently supported these uses of these drugs — see for example “Nevirapine, TB, and HIV/AIDS”  and “Nevirapine — P.S.”
Of course the Treatment Guidelines do acknowledge the toxicity of stavudine:

— at least in combination with lamivudine. But “Not recommended as initial therapy [emphasis added]” is not at all the same as “Should not be used”.
The 2009 Guidelines also warn that “combined use of didanosine and stavudine as a dual-NRTI backbone can result in a  high incidence of toxicities, particularly peripheral neuropathy, pancreatitis, and lactic acidosis . . . . This  combination has been implicated in several deaths of HIV-infected pregnant women secondary to severe lactic acidosis  with or without hepatic steatosis and pancreatitis . . . . Therefore, the combined use of didanosine and stavudine is not recommended”. Again, “not recommended” is not synonymous with “should not be used”.
Furthermore, “NRTI Substitutions (e.g., changing from zidovudine or stavudine to tenofovir or abacavir): This may be considered for a patient who has no history of viral resistance on an NRTI-containing regimen” (p. 74) illustrates that both zidovudine (= AZT) and stavudine continued, in 2009, to be standard components of antiretroviral cocktails.
Beyond that, the dangerous combination of didanosine and stavudine continues to be recommended as a possible last resort:


or if patients already have renal or hepatic insufficiency (= kidney or liver disease):


Perhaps the reasoning is that they’re dying anyway, maybe the stavudine will help them along?

So by 2009 there were certain caveats to the use of stavudine, by contrast to the “strong recommendations” for its use in earlier years, even in the deadly combination with didanosine:
In February 2001, the Treatment Guidelines “strongly recommended” stavudine “for initial treatment of established HIV infection”, in combination with “didanosine or lamivudine plus efavirenz or indinavir”.
Again in July 2003, The “Recommended Combination  Antiretroviral Regimens” included  “Efavirenz + (zidovudine or tenofovir or stavudine)  + lamivudine as preferred initial NNRTI-based  regimens (except for pregnant women)”.
In  October 2005, it was downgraded to ordinary, not strongly recommended:
“NNRTI-Based Regimens —  Efavirenz + (didanosine or abacavir or stavudine) + (lamivudine or emtricitabine) (except during pregnancy, particularly the first trimester, or in women  with high pregnancy potential)”. However, it was still lauded for efficacy: “The most experience with efavirenz, demonstrating  good virologic responses, has been shown in  combination with 2-NRTI backbones of lamivudine plus zidovudine, tenofovir, stavudine, abacavir, or  didanosine”. “Alternative PI-based regimens may include: . . . all used in  combination with zidovudine or stavudine or  tenofovir . . .”.
For “Selection of Dual Nucleoside ‘Backbone’  as Part of Initial Combination Therapy” the recommendation was “(Zidovudine or tenofovir) + (lamivudine or emtricitabine) as the 2-NRTI backbone of choice  as part of some combination regimens. . . . (Stavudine or didanosine or abacavir) + (lamivudine or emtricitabine) may be used as  alternative 2-NRTI backbone combinations”.
“It may be necessary to prescribe alternative NRTIs for some patients because of side effects of these agents, such as bone marrow  suppression with zidovudine and the increasingly reported toxicities including lipoatrophy and  symptomatic lactic acidosis with stavudine”.
A backhanded admission that AZT/ZDV suppresses the bone marrow — an admission that was not made, of course, when Duesberg said it and pointed out that this kills the immune system, so that the drugs produce the very disease they are supposed to treat.
Given the acknowledged toxicities, why are antiretroviral drugs continuing to be administered?
Because of  their supposed effectiveness — effective in lowering “viral load”, that is: “Both the tenofovir + lamivudine combination and stavudine + lamivudine combination  are highly and durably effective when used in  combination with efavirenz, with data up to 144 weeks . . . .  In this study, patients randomized to the stavudine + lamivudine arm experienced more adverse effects including peripheral neuropathy and  hyperlipidemia”.  “The combined use of didanosine and stavudine as a 2-NRTI backbone can  result in a high incidence of toxicities, particularly peripheral neuropathy, pancreatitis, and lactic acidosis . . . .This combination has been implicated in  several deaths in HIV-1 infected pregnant women  secondary to severe lactic acidosis with or without hepatic steatosis and pancreatitis . . . . In general, a  combination containing didanosine and stavudine should be avoided unless other 2-NRTI combinations have failed or have caused unacceptable toxicities, and where potential benefits outweigh the risks of toxicities”.
“Avoided unless” once again falls far short of condemning the use.
Evidently the “operation” is a success if it kills “HIV”, even if the patient also dies in the process.
Note the shameless evasion or disclaiming of responsibility in weasel-expressions like “where potential benefits outweigh the risks of toxicities”. How might one practice that? By spelling out what the risks actually are and what the benefits are supposed to be — what are the odds ratios? For absolute risk and absolute benefit? Does anyone do that for patients?
Note too that “not recommended” is the Treatment Guidelines’ backhanded way of acknowledging dangerous toxicity. Stavudine went from “strongly recommended” merely to “not recommended” and “alternative” when other things don’t seem to work. Yet the TAC/MSF letter cites copious evidence that stavudine is so toxic that it shouldn’t be used even at half the original dosage, even in a clinical trial where incipient adverse events would be closely monitored. That’s because “For good reason, tenofovir has become the gold standard for today’s first-line antiretroviral  therapy”.
That surprised me, since I had blogged about the toxicity of tenofovir already 4 years ago: “To avoid HIV later, damage your kidneys and liver now”; “Tenofovir and the ethics of clinical trials”; “Kidney-disease denialism (a special case of HAART denialism)”: “increasing exposure to tenofovir was associated with a higher incidence of CKD [chronic kidney disease] . . . . Nephrolithiasis was seen in up to 27% of patients treated with indinavir . . . and there are numerous studies . . . demonstrating that tenofovir is associated with impaired kidney function”.

Not that I claim to have discovered the toxicity of tenofovir — it’s noted in government sources:


as well as by the manufacturers:


To summarize:
Stavudine was highly recommended for antiretroviral treatment for about a decade and is still in use, though it was soon found to be so toxic that TAC/MSF describes it as unacceptably toxic — by comparison to tenofovir, which has been known for years to cause serious liver damage  and lactic acidosis, both potentially fatal. But then, as noted in the manufacturer’s warning above, these toxicities are associated with all nucleoside analogues (NRTIs).

How many people were killed or maimed by stavudine during the decade or so when it was strongly recommended and used routinely?

TAC/MSF are correct: “There is therefore no good reason why a properly  informed patient should want to enrol in this study” [of tenofovir vs. 20 mg stavudine]. But they ought to have made that more general:

A properly informed “HIV-positive” patient
would refuse antiretroviral drugs altogether.

The TAC/MSF letter stretches over 4 pages and is a cornucopia of other deficiencies. To support their claim of tenofovir’s superiority, for instance, they cite an article just published “ahead of print” — when anyone who understands science knows that no just-published claim is to be taken seriously until others have confirmed it. The letter refers to the “Serious adverse event” of mitochondrial toxicity, without acknowledging that this serious adverse event is characteristic of ALL antiretroviral drugs. That’s been known for a long time: “Hidden in plain sight: The damage done by antiretroviral drugs”.

I’m left with a curiosity about the social psychology of all this. What could stimulate this group of people to compose so pompous and unwieldy a petition whose only purpose is to give preference to one highly toxic drug over another highly toxic drug?
I think this illustrates how addled brains become when they have been so indoctrinated as to lose the ability to weigh the actual evidence.
Or, as I’ve mused before, behold what cognitive dissonance does to true believers.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, clinical trials, experts, Legal aspects | Tagged: , , , | 20 Comments »

Recognizing REAL pseudo-science — Details, distinctions, and pundit Ben Goldacre

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/12/26

Quite some time ago I had occasion to lambaste columnist Ben Goldacre, MD, for his culpably uninformed comments about Christine Maggiore; see “Scientifically illiterate science pundit: Ben Goldacre”. I put his book, Bad Science, on my reading list but at low priority in the expectation that it would be an unpleasant chore necessary as a prelude to writing a critical review. Finally got around to reading the book, and find that I need to urge others to read it, in particular for its sound discussions of how the media’s coverage of science is generally misleading; how misleading too is the way in which statistics are disseminated by drug companies and the media; and how the drug companies are not to be trusted. And there are various interesting tidbits of information:
   →   Goldacre is spot on about the mess that the media make of covering scientific matters, and how disastrous is the ignorance of those in power (Chapter 11: How the media promote the public misunderstanding of science). He cites a dictionable* word, churnalism, credited to journalist Nick Davies and referring to the uncritical rehashing of press releases as news.
   →   Chapter 12, “Bad Stats”, is generally sound and informative about how statistics can be misused and misrepresented, though the presentation is not very well organized. I don’t agree, for example, that “natural frequencies” are the only sensible way to communicate risk, though I agree that they should always be included. I would also have liked prime emphasis on correlation never proving causation and high probability never equaling certainty.
   →   The book acknowledges that serious flaws in clinical trials are quite common (pp. 44-5).
   →   The drug companies are properly given short shrift, e.g. p. 184 ff.
   →   Specific details show how clinical trials can be deliberately biased to favor drug approval, and other flaws in the process (pp. 189-206).
   →   The detailed debunking of British charlatans, though directly pertinent only for British readers, are well worth reading because similar situations with similar characteristics are present on this side of the Atlantic.
   →    There are interesting tidbits of information about early German research into smoking and lung cancer (footnote, p. 218) and data indicating that episodes of fear of vaccination have been regional.

On the negative side:
   →   Goldacre appears to believe that mainstream medicine is evidence-based (pp. x, 316), when most of it isn’t. Later he cites anecdotal evidence that 50-80% of treatment decisions are evidence-based, but only 13% of the treatments themselves are evidence-based with another 21% are “likely to be beneficial” (p. 182). In other words, doctors who properly rely on the evidence available to them from drug companies and official agencies are, about half the time, relying on unsound evidence.
Throughout, the book insinuates that mainstream medicine can be trusted even when admitting that it often cannot be, e.g. at p. 99 when referring to the Cochrane Collaboration.
In this vein, Goldacre misleads about John Ioannidis’s work (p. 219), implying that it reveals the unreliability of brand new studies. But Ioannidis has actually shown that widely and long accepted mainstream treatments are based on flawed early trials presented by drug companies.
   →   Goldacre is far too blithely dismissive of the harm done to “a very small number of people” by any medical intervention or “any human activity” (p. 298). “Whenever we take a child to be vaccinated”, Dr. Goldacre writes, “we’re aware that we are striking a balance between benefit and harm, as with any medical intervention” (p. 313). Nonsense. Statisticians and researchers may understand this, but most of the rest of us trust the advice our doctors give us — particularly when we have no choice but to sign the “informed consent” forms if we want to be treated. We just hope that our trust is warranted, we don’t balance benefits against risks. Goldacre may not understand this because he doesn’t deal with patients.
   →   A pervasive strand of Goldacre’s bravado is denigration of “humanities graduates” by contrast to scientists, among whom he seems, wrongly, to include doctors; see “Doctors aren’t scientists, and medicine isn’t science”.
   →   The book implies that glucosamine can do nothing against arthritis (p. 155). A judicious evidence-based assessment says otherwise **.
   →   Goldacre is quite wrong about HIV/AIDS (p. 88) when even common sense ought to have warned him: if Botswana really has a 48% prevalence of what’s supposedly a fatal disease, the country ought to have been depopulated long ago. Antiretrovirals are described as life-saving (p. 184), but they are the opposite.
   →    Goldacre denigrates Linus Pauling for cherry-picking (p. 98) — the Pauling who is widely regarded as the greatest chemist of the 20th century, the founder of molecular biology, winner of two Nobel Prizes, who urged the importance of dietary anti-oxidants (and was maligned for doing so) long before it became the conventional wisdom. This is only one example of Goldacre’s outsized ego, hubris, self-confidence, and inability to see himself as others see him. The book’s style may turn some people off for this reason; Goldacre is just too full of himself.

On several points, I’m not sure how sound the coverage is:
   →   Goldacre parrots the mainstream condemnation of Andrew Wakefield who warned that multiple vaccinations might be a cause of autism. I’ve read only enough about this affair to conclude that legitimate questions remain. Goldacre notes the irony that there is a definite correlation between maternal rubella infection while pregnant and autism in the later-born child; but surely this makes plausible Wakefield’s belief that exposure to rubella vaccine at an early age might act similarly? In some babies at least?
Since most or all vaccines harm a few individuals, surely it is always worth keeping a mind open and studying possible reasons for that, looking for characteristics that might identify people particularly likely to react badly to a specific vaccine.
   →   David Horrobin is described as marketing by dubious means remedies that turned out to be ineffective (p. 157 ff.). The details Goldacre presents seem sound, though he admits that Horrobin may not have been guilty of actual deceit. This picture does not jibe with the David Horrobin who founded Medical Hypotheses and published sensible articles about peer review and the like, as well as the fascinating book, The Madness of Adam and Eve (Bantam 2001).

Bad Science and the many columns Goldacre has written illustrate two absolute truths:
1. There are no general principles or guidelines that can serve as short cuts for deciding whether any given controversial claim is worth attending to. There is no sound way to pronounce something “good science” or “bad science” without digging comprehensively into the evidence and the arguments pro and con; see Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies.
2. Any given individual or book can be sound on some general matters and on some specific instances and yet quite wrong about other instances and generalities. The degree to which Goldacre is sound on any given point correlates with the amount of detail with which he is familiar.

Quite generally, compendia of “pseudo-science” are likely to be wrong about some of the topics, because the compilers of such lists simply haven’t had the time to look in sufficient detail at all the topics they cover. Recent examples include science journalist Specter’s Denialism (2009), which is uninformed and wrong about HIV/AIDS among others. A much better book is physicist Friedlander’s At the Fringes of Science (1995), but it remains uninformed and wrong about UFOs and cold fusion, for instance. Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, too, is good about some topics and biased on others. Various older compendia and debunkings of supposed pseudo-science are cited in Science or Pseudoscience: Magnetic Healing, Psychic Phenomena, and Other Heterodoxies. The mid-20th century classic in this genre is Martin Gardner’s Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science (1952/57). It is detailed and instructive about some outlandish claims but fails to let the reader know that chiropractic and osteopathy have overcome their cranky birth in one person’s hunch and developed into pragmatically useful healing techniques, superior to mainstream medicine in handling lower-back pain, for example.
All compendia have one thing in common: the authorial claims to base judgments on general principles or assessment of specific evidence are rationalizations; what is labeled as sound is what happens — for whatever reason — to strike the author as sound, and anything the author finds unbelievable — for whatever reason — is labeled pseudo-science. Readers have this choice: accept the author’s personal opinions, or dig into the evidence for themselves and arrive at an informed opinion.

Caveat lector.

_________________________________________________
* “dictionable”: worthy of being in a dictionary but not yet included. Another worthy is “tritto”, to describe repetition beyond “ditto”.

** Donal O’Mathuna & Walt Larimore, Alternative Medicine — The Christian Handbook, Zondervan 2001. Although several early chapters are addressed specifically to Christians, the assessments of specific claimed remedies are entirely empirical and evidence-based.

Posted in experts, uncritical media | Tagged: , | 17 Comments »

0.1% prevalence of “HIV” “infection” — Cause for great concern

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/12/21

The Lehrer News Hour tonight (Wednesday 21st December 2011) had a segment on imams in Morocco being trained to “educate” their flocks on the danger posed by HIV and how best to avoid it — a delicate task in a Muslim country where any form of extramarital sex is not to be talked about.

The prevalence of “HIV” in Morocco is 0.1% (~23,000 in a population of 30 million).

Strikes me as an outstanding tribute to the efforts of the international HIV/AIDS industry, to stimulate so massive an “educational” campaign in a region where there is hardly a trace of a reason for concern. How much time and money was expended, I wonder, to get this program going?

And of course the news program made no comment on the discrepancy between negligible prevalence and massive initiative.

 

Posted in experts, HIV absurdities, HIV risk groups, uncritical media | Tagged: | 7 Comments »

Evidence-based medicine: No HIV/AIDS epidemic

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/12/17

Evidence has long been overwhelming against the hypothesis that HIV caused and causes AIDS; see The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory  and many earlier books listed there and at virusmyth.com, and see a number of blog posts with more recent material, for example “Doctors, nurses, dentists: Why no risk from HIV?” or “Medical students in Italy need not fear ‘HIV’ when dissecting cadavers”. Those of us who were attracted to science decades ago, believing it to be truth-seeking and evidence-based, are perpetually astonished that the evidence has been so persistently brushed aside as the mainstream bandwagon rolls on.

A recent summary of salient points has been published by Duesberg et al.: “AIDS since 1984: No evidence for a new, viral epidemic – not even in Africa”, Italian Journal of Anatomy & Epidemiology  116  (# 2, 2011) 73 – 92.  Salient points made there include the discrepancies between population growth and “HIV-positive” rates, between predicted deaths and actual deaths, and between actual deaths and rates of “HIV-positive”. Furthermore, the virtually unchanging numbers of “HIV-positive” Americans (for three decades)  and of “AIDS” deaths (for well over a decade) is incompatible with an epidemic of an infectious pathogenic agent. An important section of this article cites some of the sad evidence for the toxicity of antiretroviral drugs, illustrating that the failure to provide these drugs to all Africans may have saved countless lives.
The epidemiological data are consistent with Duesberg’s long-standing view that HIV is a passenger virus similar to cytomegalovirus or adenoviruses.

As several entries on this blog have noted, the facts are also consistent with non-existence of an exogenous human immunodeficiency virus, since “HIV” tests have never been validated against an authentic sample of pure virions. Indeed, non-existence seems the plausible explanation for the decades-long failure of attempts to develop anti-HIV vaccines or preventive microbicides. As Etienne de Harven has pointed out, products stemming from circulating DNA and human endogenous retroviruses (HERVs) could explain positive reactions on “HIV” tests — see “Human Endogenous Retroviruses can resolve HIV/AIDS puzzles”.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV skepticism, HIV tests, HIV/AIDS numbers | Tagged: | 2 Comments »

 
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