HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

AIDS in China

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2009/02/19

Louis Hissink alerted me to the claim that

“AIDS has become China’s deadliest infectious disease for the first time, the government says. It says figures show that at least one person died every hour, on average, in the first nine months of last year.
AIDS overtook tuberculosis and rabies as the country’s number one disease killer in 2008, the health ministry said in a report released on Tuesday. Although full-year figures were not released, the ministry said the 6,897 people who died from AIDS from January to September made it the deadliest infectious disease. It said 34,864 people had died from AIDS since it was first detected in China in the 1980s. A total of 264,302 people were confirmed to have contracted the HIV virus that leads to AIDS, the report said. However those figures are a vast underestimate of the true picture, as the tally refers only to confirmed incidents of the condition. China actually had an estimated 700,000 HIV/AIDS carriers in 2007, with an estimated 85,000 people infected that year, according to the ministry.”

Not long after that, David Crowe sent a pertinent dispatch that he allows me to post (slightly edited):
“Someone seems to want to make AIDS a big issue in China, as evidenced by this article which has  some interesting numbers and statements. Although this made a big splash in the newspaper (full color covering all of page 7), the article was not mentioned on the home page of the newspaper for that day.
The article claims that ‘one-to-one education…is 100 percent effective’… Yet a team funded by Asia Development Bank, Chinese Preventive Medicine Association, Humana People to People and the Yunnan Poverty Alleviation and Development Office ‘visited about 500,000 households, workplaces and schools’… But only ‘offered advice to an estimated 250,000 people’. Were the people not home? Did they slam the door in their face? And, more important, ‘More than 2,000 have already been persuaded to take VCT [voluntary counselling and testing]’. Maybe the counselling is effective, but it doesn’t seem like most Chinese want to be counselled. And how voluntary is the counselling. One volunteer quoted at the top of the article says that ‘she sometimes had to resort to confrontational tactics to help break down people’s barriers’ … ‘it can take one or two months of visits before someone finally opens up their heart to me’…’Only friends can share their intimate moments, and by becoming their friend and showing them they can trust me I can convince them to take voluntary testing’. This sounds like desperation to me. Weeks of confrontation, begging and pleading before one person can be convinced to get tested. Another interesting number is that this project has 2,000 village volunteers to put on shows in markets, but so far only 10,000 people have seen these shows, that’s 5 people per volunteer.
There are some statistics claiming that HIV is now the leading infectious killer in China, although the statistics are so poorly reported that it is impossible to know if they are cumulative or annual, refer to all of China or just to a region.
I think that somewhere behind this there must be a Chinese CDC report. Obviously they are trying to open up a new front in this war, convincing the Chinese that this is a big health problem.
What are the real health problems in China? Well, clearly air quality (respiratory disease) and contaminants in water and food. For example, in the same issue, was a story about children experiencing kidney stones due to milk previously deemed to be ‘safe’ by authorities. Yet there is an epidemic of kidney stones (or worse) in consumers of one brand of formula. Obviously Chinese parents, experiencing prosperity, are making the disastrous choice to not breastfeed their children. This problem alone has left over 300,000 children with kidney ailments according to the China Daily (which is unlikely to exaggerate the problem).
Yet the supposed 7,000 deaths this year due to ‘AIDS’ get bigger headlines.”

8 Responses to “AIDS in China”

  1. Dave said

    According the CIA Factbook, China has about 1.3 Billion people.

    So, how many people die per year? About 7 per 1,000 — which roughly equates to slightly more than 9 million deaths per year.

    And AIDS killed 7,000.

    No disrespect intended to anyone, but these are negligible numbers. In the USA, which is only 1/4 the population of China, 500,000 people die of cancer each year. AIDS deaths are about 15,000.

    How can anyone in good conscience call this an epidemic? What wouldn’t be an epidemic with numbers these low.

    AIDS: All the hype, all the money, but not much of the action.

  2. LaVaughn said

    I just saw something about this on Huffington Post. Coincidentally, I also noticed this item on the front page of the Huffington Post, under the headline “China Goes Bargain Shopping.” From the New York Times.

    With the world suffering through a tight credit market, China has suddenly gone shopping.

    . . .

    Flush with cash and eager to take advantage of weak commodity prices, China is once again on the hunt for global energy and resources to power its growing economy. But this time, China is being welcomed as an investor overseas.

    Think there could be some connection? Nah… No one could be that cynical… could they?

  3. Dave said

    Here’s the CIA Factbook on all “HIV/AIDS” deaths by country:

    Notice how the information is, well, not so high quality. No mention if it is yearly deaths or cumulative deaths. No mention of death rates. No mention of populations of countries.

    Then, look at how all the top 10 countries are dark-skinned folks, while all the bottom 10 countries (Denmark, Austria, Belgium, Ireland) each have suffered a whopping total of 100 AIDS deaths.

    I guess White Europeans ain’t having sex anymore or using drugs.

  4. MacDonald said

    I have also noticed this sensational story, mostly because it is a textbook example of uncritical reporting, and how to make an epidemic manifest out of thin air. This from Reuters:

    “BEIJING (Reuters) — The AIDS virus became the top deadly infectious disease in China last year for the first time, killing 6,897 people in the first nine months of 2008, the official news agency Xinhua said on Tuesday. The number of people infected with the HIV/AIDS virus doubled during that period, Xinhua said, citing a report posted on the Ministry of Health website.” (1)

    According to BBC:

    The numbers are increasing dramatically – China’s Ministry of Health say that until three years ago, fewer than 8,000 people altogether had died from HIV/Aids.
    By last year, the total had risen to five times that many.
    ” (2)

    Let’s repeat that for AIDstruth: The number of HIV positives in China DOUBLED IN NINE MONTHS!

    The cataclysmic figures obviously represent an epidemic in testing and reporting, and probably new “improved” computer models.

    Well, no, not if you ask whoever supplies the BBC’s journalistic stenographers their talking points:

    This latest news comes as the spread of HIV in China has entered a dangerous new phase. Initially it was concentrated in high-risk populations, injecting drug users in particular.
    Infection from contaminated blood transfusions was also common. But now the main cause of transmission is thought to be unsafe sex. China is still a deeply conservative society — but it is also going through a period of rapid social change.
    ” (2)

    Rapid indeed, within the last 9-10 months the “still deeply conservative” Chinese society has turned into one big love-fest.

    Interestingly, the period in which the Chinese HIV/AIDS epidemic has supposedly exploded is the exact same period in which public awarenes and education about the disease have improved:

    Data on HIV in China are still unreliable. Official reporting of cases does seem to have improved. The central authorities seem more willing to recognise HIV as a public health crisis and address it with education campaigns.” (2)

    One can only conclude that in this case ignorance is bliss.

    (1) http://uk.reuters.com/article/healthNews/idUKTRE51G5B420090217

    (2) http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/7896133.stm

    Note: Unfortunately it seems the Chinese Ministry of Health is so busy persuading the Chinese population to take HIV tests that they haven’t gotten around to translating their website into English. It would have been interesting to see the breakdown of their HIV/AIDS statistics.

  5. Matt said

    The same thing is happening in China that happened in the early days of AIDS in the States. The orthodoxy presented a graph with HIV rising from virtually unknown in 1980 to an epidemic in the late ’80s. This represents an increase in the number of HIV tests done, not HIV prevalence. The trouble is that most people are impressed with statistics, but they fail to realize that statistics are VERY easy to manipulate. Any statistician/mathematician knows this.

  6. Joe said

    “since it was first detected in China in the 1980s.” This also does not fit with the idea of a sexually transmitted disease. Just how many Westerners or Africans were visiting China in the 1980s? Where was the ‘promiscuous’ sex culture that would allow infected people to pass on the disease?

    As a gay man I’ve travelled to many countries in the last 20 years, and I was in major Chinese cities only 5 years ago. I saw less evidence of a gay sub-culture in China than anywhere else I’ve ever visited. Even the tiny city of Galway in (the then very anti-gay) Ireland had evidence of a gay sub-culture 15 years ago. International guides to gay cruising (such as Spartacus) did not have any information at all on places like Beijing 20 years ago. Such gay guides were basically created by locals or tourists documenting where cruising took place. They used to include information on bars and on cruising areas such as parks and toilets.

    In the West we’ve also had gay newspapers since the 1970s, allowing people who were even in non-metropolitan areas to make contact with others. Admittedly there are gay-contact web-sites that cover China now, but I believe the presence of people from mainland China using those sites was almost non-existent 7 years ago. (My husband is half-Chinese, and I’ve had an interest in such sites for the last 10 years or so).

    There are bound to be some cruising areas all over China, in public toilets and parks (as the film “East Palace, West Palace” shows), but those kinds of ‘facilities’ would be extremely unconducive to penetrative sex. I would estimate that most probably users would indulge in masturbation or oral sex in such places. Another thing I noted when in China was just how few public toilets there were (the whole of the Bund riverside in Shanghai reeks of urine). So I don’t even think that there can be that many places where such activity would take place.

    To my mind, that China would have cases of AIDS in the 1980s just doesn’t fit with the whole idea of an infectious ‘HIV’, when in the rest of the world (among non-Africans) it is gay men and injecting drug users who are the principal victims. Unless of course HIV is not the necessary and sufficient condition for AIDS.

    It also seems extremely odd that China is undergoing an AIDS epidemic when in June 2008 the World Health Organization admitted there would be no epidemic for heterosexuals outside of Africa. Are we to conclude that, all across rural China, men are having anal sex with other men or that in these villages and towns lots of people are shooting up heroin?

    The most cynical interpretation of this is that pharmaceutical companies are sponsoring such reports in an attempt to find new markets for their products. Having seen the junkets and gifts that they shower on medical doctors in countries like Thailand, I would put nothing past such companies. One doctor friend of mine in Thailand gets free international holidays (‘conferences’) almost monthly, always staying in 5* hotels, paid for by the pharmaceutical companies.

    Colour me cynical.

  7. Martin said

    That was an excellent analysis of the China AIDS problem — a problem manufactured out of whole cloth. The questions I have are: What is the distribution of who is getting a positive result on the ELISA (do they use the Western Blot as well in China?). What is the distribution of diseases the “infected” are acquiring? Are they the classic syndromes we all are familiar with: Pneumocystis, Kaposi, Candidiasis (thrush)?
    The xenophobic and closed Chinese society probably doesn’t have much in the way of statistics on who is gay — the USA doesn’t either for that matter.

  8. Marcel said

    As I have pointed out before, in places like rural China, getting a positive test is a very different experience than getting one in San Francisco.

    The San Francisco gay man is sophisticated and often blase about his diagnosis. He perhaps even welcomes it, as it is such a powerful symbol of gay identity.

    The people in China don’t want to get tested for a very simple reason — they know the test will kill them if it is positive. They know that they will become untouchables with neither friends nor future.

    An example of what might be considered the rural Asian reaction to HIV can be found in this article from Vietnam: http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/showarticle.php?num=01SUN261008

    A quote from it:

    “Thanh and her group also assist patients outside the realm of medical care, opening a shop for male patients to repair motorbikes and teaching female patients to knit wool hats and handkerchiefs.

    But very few people want to buy products or have their motorbikes repaired by people with HIV, so Thanh often has to sell the items herself, often bringing them to conferences on HIV/AIDS.”

    See, in rural Asian societies, people think they are going to catch AIDS by wearing a hat knitted by a person with HIV, or riding a motorbike repaired by a HIV-infected person.

    Mass-producing suicides and untouchables — that’s what the HIV tests do in Asia.

    As far as what combination of tests are being used in China, I haven’t researched this, but I do know that a few years ago when I researched the issue in Thailand, people were getting diagnosed positive based on only screening tests — a “Rapid” test and an Elisa, with no “confirmatory” Western Blot unless the two screening tests were discordant. If they were discordant, the WB would be brought in as a “tiebreaker” (note the sports metaphor — it’s all a big game to AIDS Inc.) It would not surprise me at all if the same lax, invalid testing protocols are being used in China and nearby underdeveloped countries.

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