Picking cherries in South Africa
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/01/13
When Rethinkers cite the many published peer-reviewed mainstream reports of the toxicity of HAART, or demonstrating the lack of any direct evidence for sexual transmission of “HIV”, or showing the lack of correlation between “AIDS” and “HIV”, a common riposte from the AIDS groupies and vigilantes is to accuse us of cherry-picking the literature, in other words ignoring an allegedly much larger amount of literature — not cited, however — that supposedly says something different.
Of course the riposte is intellectually invalid, because it takes only one good study to disprove a theory, no matter how many flawed or incomplete or inconclusive ones had seemed to support that theory. It’s entirely normal in science that theories are inferred from early studies and that they are later overturned as better or more sophisticated studies are reported.
In any case, when it comes to cherry-picking the literature, mainstream HIV/AIDS researchers are certainly in their element and could serve as role models. Even the specialist computer modelers are honest about the flaws in their models (Sexually Transmitted Infections 80, Suppl. 1, 2004), and retired mainstreamers like James Chin or retiring ones like Kevin de Cock acknowledge that official statistics are grossly inflated and that there’s never going to be a sexually transmitted HIV epidemic outside Africa or the Caribbean or perhaps African-American communities; yet the HIV/AIDS literature continues to be replete with claims and reports that ignore the lack of validity of the models and the lack of evidence for epidemic spreads.
South Africa is an outstanding example. Nearly a decade ago, Rian Malan exposed the errors of UNAIDS models that claimed “AIDS” deaths to be a multiple of what they actually were. Duesberg et al. (cited by Chigwedere & Essex, AIDS Behavior, 14  237-47) pointed out that for about a decade Statistics South Africa has reported AIDS deaths at about 15,000 per year while UNAIDS computers would have the number at about 300,000. Yet cherry-picking “AIDS” “activists” and mainstream camp-followers keep insisting on this unfounded, absurd number, which entails ascribing something like half of all deaths in South Africa to AIDS as well as multiplying the official numbers from Statistics South Africa by 20.
For some reason, the professionals at South Africa Statistics have been unmoved by this nonsense. Their latest published report on “Mortality and causes of death in South Africa, 2008: Findings from death notification” (P0309.3, released 18 November 2010) notes that the completion of reporting of deaths has been at around 80%, and that deaths from “AIDS” or “HIV disease” were a little over 15,000 in 2008, ranking 7th among causes of death, responsible for just 2.5% of all deaths. The UNAIDS model is once more officially declared to be wrong by a factor of 20 or so.
The director of Statistics South Africa, Lehohla (2005; cited in Galletti & Bauer) has explicated the errors committed by those who rely on the UNAIDS models, for example by using long chains of inferences based indirectly on a host of doubtful claims that jump to farfetched conclusions based on changes in the age distributions of deaths and ignoring rises in political and criminal violence that account for those changes. By contrast, Chigwedere and other mainstream doom-purveyors have simply cherry-picked the invalid UNAIDS numbers and ignored the official Statistics South Africa reports. Those who attempted to defend the UNAIDS numbers coould only assert, without a shadow of evidence, that causes of death must have been misreported to the extent of almost half of all deaths; yet they have not even attempted to show how or why Statistics South African is wrong about its estimate of 80% completeness of counts and accuracy of reporting.
Among the mainstream culprits is the Medical Research Council (MRC) of South Africa itself. For details of the sleight-of-evidence used to multiply by a factor of 20-25 the numbers reported by Statistics South Africa, see “The impact of HIV/AIDS on adult mortality in South Africa” by Dorrington, Bourne, Bradshaw, Laubscher & Timaeus (September 2001; Burden of Disease Research Unit, Medical Research Council). Even as it concedes that reporting of adult deaths around 2000 covered 89% of cases , it then asserts that deaths of children are under-reported (p. 5), and asserts the ASSA 600 model (p. 6) to be “largely consistent” with empirical data. It even ventures the extraordinary claim that “statistical modeling of epidemiological and mortality data adds a fifth component to the art of diagnosis” (p. 3).
That would be arguable in any case, but here the modeling and statistics are demonstrably unsound, not to be used for any purpose at all. That ASSA 600 model had claimed 143,000 AIDS deaths in 1999. Rian Malan had pointed out that this was an improvement over MRC’s earlier Epimodel which had estimated 250,000 deaths in that year, but that “Towards the end of 2001, the vaunted ASSA 600 model was replaced by ASSA 2000, which produced estimates even lower than its predecessor: for the calendar year 1999, only 92,000 Aids deaths in total” (Malan, “Africa isn’t dying of Aids”, The Spectator [London], 14 December 2003).
So just a few months after Dorrington et al. of the MRC were using ASSA 600, the MRC was abandoning that model and issuing estimates lower by some 36%, having earlier abandoned a pre-ASSA-600 model and reducing estimates by 43%.
Malan also cited computer-modeled estimates of 9.5% “HIV-positive” for college students at Rand Afrikaans University when a large sample of them (nearly 1200) tested poz at only 1.1%; and a computer-modeled estimate of bank employees at 12% when actual testing of 29,000 employees revealed a rate of only 3%.
The model is thoroughly discredited, in other words — as its own creators have admitted forthrightly (Sexually Transmitted Infections 80, Suppl. 1, 2004).
Still, the MRC released a report (by Bradshaw et al.) for South Africa’s province of Gauteng asserting that 33% of deaths in 2000 were owing to HIV/AIDS, some 35,000 in total. Now Gauteng’s population is about 1/5 of South Africa’s, whose TOTAL number of deaths from HIV/AIDS in 2000 was reported by Statistics South Africa as 10,500: thus MRC’s estimate is exaggerated by at least an order of magnitude, probably by a factor of about 20.
To provide a perfect illustration of cherry-picking, this report about matters in Gauteng relies on — cites — data from Statistics South Africa about population numbers, yet fails to cite and contradicts blatantly, by an order of magnitude or more, what Statistics South Africa says about AIDS deaths.
Perhaps “cherry-picking” is too kind a description for the persistent, continuing promulgation of numbers based on a computer model that the issuing agency itself abandoned because of its obvious disagreement with the facts, disagreement by an order of magnitude of more.
However, HIV/AIDS activities in South Africa are supported by copious funds from other countries and from drug companies, so HIV/AIDS research and HIV/AIDS activism are very desirable means of “earning” a living in a country where the unemployment rate is so high (in Gauteng in 2000, 36% of those between 15 and 64 years of age).
If these HIV/AIDS camp-followers and groupies weren’t picking cherries, what could they be doing for a living?