HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

A billion here, a billion there . . . .

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/04/19

Senator Everett Dirksen is credited with the remark, about Congress’s habitual tendency to spend taxpayers’ money on all sorts of projects, that “A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon it adds up to real money”. One wonders what he would have said about HIV/AIDS, which gobbles up far more for research per patient death ($180,000) than cancer ($10,000) or cardiovascular disease ($2600) (STOPPING THE HIV/AIDS BANDWAGON—Part II, 1 February 2008; data from http://www.fairfoundation.org/factslinks.htm).

But in addition to billions spent on research, further billions are spent on treatment:

HHS Awards $1.1 Billion for HIV/AIDS Care, Medications

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt has announced grants of more than $1.1 billion to provide primary care, medications and services for low-income and underinsured people living with HIV/AIDS.

Funded under Part B of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, the grants are awarded to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Also receiving grants are the U.S. Pacific Territories of American Samoa and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands; and the Associated Jurisdictions of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Republic of Palau. HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) manages the Ryan White program.

“These Ryan White HIV/AIDS Part B grants help ensure Americans, especially those in rural and underserved communities, affected by HIV/AIDS get access to the care they need through quality health care and support systems,” Secretary Leavitt said. “These grants strengthen community, city and state capacities to care for those with HIV.”

The majority of the funding, $774 million, supports state AIDS Drug Assistance Programs (ADAPs) that provide prescription medications for HIV/AIDS patients. In 2006, close to 158,000 ADAP clients were served through state ADAPs.

Part B awards also include formula base grants that can be used for home and community-based services, insurance continuation, ADAP assistance, and other direct services. Fourteen states will also receive Emerging Community (EC) grants based on the number of AIDS cases over the most recent 5-year period.

“Ryan White Part B awards reflect the urgent need for life-saving medications for those living with HIV/AIDS,” said HRSA Administrator Elizabeth Duke. “Today we are thankful and proud that all ADAP waiting lists have been eliminated.”

Every year, the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program helps more than 530,000 people access the care and services they need to live longer, healthier lives. Information on all domestic, Federal HIV/AIDS programs is available at http://www.aids.gov. HRSA, part of the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the primary Federal agency for improving access to health care services for people who are uninsured, isolated, or medically vulnerable. For more information about HRSA and its programs, visit http://www.hrsa.gov.”

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“Socialized medicine” is a cuss-word (cuss-phrase?) in the United States. There is strenuous opposition to any suggestion of a “one-payer” health-care system. But an exception is made for HIV/AIDS, because the story was successfully sold that it is so dire a threat to everyone. Two decades of a non-spreading “epidemic” have not yet modified that belief.

3 Responses to “A billion here, a billion there . . . .”

  1. It would be interesting if some economists attempted to estimate the cost of the AIDS war the way the cost of the Iraq occupation has been estimated recently.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/business/7304300.stm

    Actual total money spent on Iraq is around US $500-700 billion, but this does not factor in other costs, such as medical care and disability benefits for veterans who return with multiple health problems, higher energy costs, value of lost lives (estimated using actuary science), lost productivity (National Guard troops who left their civilian jobs), higher energy prices for consumers, interest on borrowed debt, and so on. Estimation of these costs generates considerable controversy, as all such calculations are based on certain assumptions and the topic itself is politicized. Nevertheless, cases can be made for various estimates.

    A similar estimation for AIDS is possible, but would involve even more contentious assumptions, including scientific assumptions. For example, someone who rejects the HIV hypothesis will factor in the actuarial value of lives lost directly to antiretroviral therapy and lost productivity of tens of thousands of researchers whose time could have been spent on other projects (although it’s dubious whether someone who has “succeeded” in the AIDS industry for 20 years could have contributed well to anything, kind of like estimating the lost “productivity” of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz if they had diverted their “energies” elsewhere…).

    They will also factor in opportunity costs differently, for instance they might estimate the benefit that could have been purchased by spending AIDS money fighting poverty, malnutrition, and endemic diseases (“More than 2 billion people do not have access to adequate sanitation, and about 1 billion lack clean water… more than one-third of child deaths and 11 percent of the total disease burden worldwide are due to mothers and children not getting enough to eat — or not getting enough nutritional food):

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22726852/

    Then there are all the costs associated with related projects in the AIDS bureaucracy — thousands of activist organizations, advocacy groups, propaganda campaigns, social agencies, and so on around the world:

    http://dir.yahoo.com/health/diseases_and_conditions/aids_hiv/organizations/
    http://www.avert.org/hiv_usa.htm

    And don’t forget to adjust these costs for inflation (which must be taken into account considering a 25-year period!):

    http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

    The major obstacle to overthrowing AIDS orthodoxy is apathy on the part of the general public. “This doesn’t affect me…”, “Why should I care?”. Tabulating and emphasizing these costs may be an effective way to overcome many people’s apathy. (It’s sad that simple appeals to right and wrong are often ineffective.) Of course, just as with Iraq, there are incalculable “moral costs”, which should also be highlighted.

    I tend to agree with Charlie Thomas, the AIDS war will end when the funding dries up. That day may be sooner than we expect. Columnist Mark Shields was very candid about Iraq recently:

    “MARK SHIELDS: I think, Jim, reality is always, you know, a major player in these. I think we’re delusional, we, the United States, are delusional. There’s no way that we can stay there for any kind of indefinite period.

    JIM LEHRER: No matter what happens on the ground?

    MARK SHIELDS: No matter what happens. I mean, the readiness of the United States military — I’m talking about talking to military people. They know we’re stretched thin to the point of breaking. It is that bad.”

    It’s simply financially impossible for the US to sustain its efforts in Iraq and HIV much longer. Both of these “conflicts” have been financed largely by foreign investment. Eventually you have to pay the piper.

  2. heja said

    [Responding to Darin]

    Welfare analysis in economics, as you indicate, rests on some assumptions that are as heroic as the HIV one, so I am not sure it is worth deploying a complicated methodology to get an obvious answer. What works well (in economics proper too) are the simple numbers such as the statistic that spending on “HIV death” is 18 times the spending on “cancer death”. This and the stagnant statistics on “prevalence” should convince any rationally thinking person that the structure of spending must be sub-optimal, to say the least. What is strking is that there is more and more spending on something that, even through the mainstream lens, looks less and less serious over time. Yet this illustrates very well that these kinds of public spending structures do not have the public interest in mind!

    Another potential analogy with Iraq strikes me, though. Not every country is spending as much on ‘HIV’ (as % of their public resources), which must also reflect a different perception of ‘risk’. Perhaps this is where some major international public debate can start and lead to an international overturn of the dogma. Well— in fact, it has already happend with different definitions of the ‘syndrome’ across countries …

  3. Martin said

    Unfortunately, the only important person outside the USA who protested was Thabo Mbeki. The AIDS establishment with only their self-interests at heart, roundly criticised and ostracised him. As long as the public perception of AIDS is that of a cureless contagious disease (unlike starvation, cancer, heart disease), AIDS will continue to be funded. The idea is to keep the general public as ignorant as possible about statistics, data fraud, bad survey research, quack epidemiology, etc. It’s amazing that those with statistical know-how or even understanding of its implications haven’t seen through the “curtain”.
    But maybe the most public, expensive vaccine failure lately may give the ones who control the purse strings a pause and hopefully the hard questions may soon be coming forth.

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