Duesberg and AIDS deaths in South Africa
Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/03/31
The previous post noted that “the critique by Duesberg et al. of unfounded claims of huge numbers of AIDS deaths in South Africa” had passed expert peer review for presentation at the Italian Conference on AIDS and Retroviruses held this month. The text of the abstract, published in the Springer journal Infection, is copied below, as is the actual poster exhibited at the meeting and some photographs of the poster displays. Here is a brief reminder of the substantive issue dealt with in Duesberg’s critique:
Chigwedere et al. had published in JAIDS (49  410-5) the assertion that >300,000 South Africans had died annually of AIDS during 2000-5. That number originated in computer-modeled estimates that had already been thoroughly discredited by Rian Malan (“AIDS in Africa: In search of the truth”, Rolling Stone Magazine, 22 November 2001; “Africa isn’t dying of Aids”, The Spectator [London], 14 December 2003). Even more strikingly, those extraordinary assertions by Chigwedere et al. exceeded by a factor of about 20 the official counts of ~15,000 annual AIDS deaths published by Statistics South Africa.
JAIDS refused to publish a corrective comment by Duesberg et al.
An expanded version of that correction was accepted by Medical Hypotheses and published on-line in advance of print publication.
AIDS vigilantes associated with AIDStruth.org protested to Elsevier, publisher of Medical Hypotheses, and asked the National Library of Medicine to stop abstracting Medical Hypotheses. The National Library snubbed the protesters, but Elsevier caved in and withdrew the article as “potentially damaging to global public health” (PMID 19619953), without consulting the journal’s Editor, or its Editorial Board, or allowing the authors of the article to respond to the criticisms. Elsevier went further, sacking the Editor and replacing him with someone so ignorant as to claim it feasible to “not to get into controversial subjects” but still “publish radical new ideas” (Martin Enserink, “New Medical Hypotheses Editor promises not to stir up controversy”, ScienceInsider, 25 June 2010).
Oddly enough, having sought to hide Duesberg’s critique from public view, the vigilantes have continued to draw attention to it by publishing responses, for instance in a journal edited by one of the leading vigilantes (Chigwedere & Essex, “AIDS Denialism and Public Health Practice”, AIDS and Behavior 14  237-47) and in a social-science periodical (N. Nattrass, “Defending the boundaries of science: AIDS denialism, peer review and the Medical Hypotheses saga”, Sociology of Health & Illness, 2011 Feb 11. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9566.2010.01312.x. [Epub ahead of print]).
The vigilantes’ obsession with the Duesberg critique is fully warranted, of course, because the critique is sound enough to withstand disinterested expert peer review, as illustrated by its recent acceptance at the Conference on AIDS and Retroviruses. Here is the text of the abstract:
META-ANALYSIS AND UPDATE ON THE GENERAL AIDS EPIDEMICS PREDICTED FOR AFRICA
P. H. Duesberg , D. Mandrioli , A. McCormack , J. M. Nicholson [ 2], C. Del Popolo* , D. Rasnick , C. Fiala , C. Koehnlein , H. H. Bauer 
 University of California, Berkeley, USA;  Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA;  Department of Anatomy, Histology and Forensic Medicine, Florence, Italy;  Oakland, California, USA;  Gynmed Ambulatorium, Vienna, Austria;  Internistische Praxis, Kiel, Germany;  Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, USA
Since the discoveries of a presumably new AIDS virus in 1984 and of millions of asymptomatic carriers in subsequent years, no general AIDS epidemic has occurred in the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia by 2010. Recently, however, Chigwedere et al. ‘‘estimated’’ that between the years 2000 and 2005, the new AIDS virus, now called Human Immunodeﬁciency Virus (HIV), had killed 1.8 million South Africans at a steady rate of 300,000 per year, based on information from the World Health Organization (WHO) (J Acquir Immune Deﬁc Syndr, 2008). Here we investigate the evidence for these claims in view of the paradoxes that (1) HIV would cause a huge epidemic in Africa, but not in any other continent despite global prevalence since 1985, and that (2) it would cause a steady rather than a classical bell-shaped epidemic, self- limited by immunity like all other new pathogenic viruses. Surprisingly, we found that the WHO does not even list any South African AIDS case from 1996 until 2007, and that Statistics South Africa attributed only about 10,000 deaths per year to HIV between 2000 and 2005, and thus 30-fold less than those reported by Chigwedere et al. In a further effort to find independent evidence for the reportedly new AIDS epidemic, we searched for losses of lives in South African population growth curves. Surprisingly, we found that South Africa had increased by 3 million between 2000 and 2005 extending a steady growth rate of 500,000 per year, based on statistics from South Africa, the US and the World Bank. This gain was an integral part of a monotonic growth trajectory from 29 million in 1980 before the AIDS era to 49 million in 2008. During the same time Uganda increased from 12 to 31 million, and Sub-Saharan Africa as a whole doubled from 400 to 800 million, despite high prevalence of antibodies against HIV. We deduce that the predicted epidemiological pattern of a new killing virus never showed up in Africa, and that HIV cannot be considered a killer virus from the demographic point of view.
Here is the poster itself (click on it for full view):
Here is a picture of the poster on display:
and here are photographs giving a sense of the ambience:
Heartfelt thanks to Professor Marco Ruggiero and his colleagues and students for their efforts in preparing for the Conference, for their work at the Conference, and for providing these illustrations