HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

HPV insanity

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2014/03/23

Number of Americans living with HPV: 79,100,000 (M and F about equally)
Number of new HPV infections annually: 14,100,000
(for 2008, cited in CDC Fact Sheet “Incidence, Prevalence, and Cost of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States”, February 2013)

In 2010 (the most recent year numbers are available)
11,818 women in the United States were diagnosed with cervical cancer.

So the risk of developing cervical cancer if infected with HPV is roughly 12,000 out of ~40 million (only women get cervical cancer)
In what sense can it be said meaningfully that HPV causes cervical cancer, if that happens to one HPV-infected woman in every 3000?

* * * * * * * *

Not only is the incidence of cervical cancer low compared to most other cancers, it has also declined steadily for many decades: from 14.79 per 100,000 in 1975 to 6.71 in 2010 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2010). Between 2001 and 2010, incidence decreased steadily at 1.9% per year (Gynecologic Cancers).

Despite the steady decrease in incidence of cervical cancer, official recommendations are that pre-puberty girls be vaccinated — a practice that carries more risks of harm than possible benefit:
CDC mongers fear and hawks deadly vaccineGardasil and Cervarix: Vaccination insanity

* * * * * * * *

“HIV” may be a role model for wrong inferences based on mistaken confusion of correlation with causation. (Refresher: Correlation never proves causation.)
Because “HIV-positive” is found in a great variety of conditions, “HIV” is being blamed for an increasing range of ailments, many of which are actually caused by antiretroviral drugs, for example heart failure — see The Case against HIV,  sections 3.2, 4.3, 5, 6.1
So HPV too is being credited with causing more and more things.
First there was a campaign to treat boys as well as girls with anti-HPV vaccine so that they would be less likely to suffer from genital warts, a practice whose risk/benefit ratio is even less desirable than for women and cervical cancer. Bear in mind that, once again, all that’s known is that there appears to be a correlation between some strains of HPV and genital warts.
Then “studies” have found that “HPV also has been associated with . . . vaginal, vulvar, penile, anal, and some head and neck cancers” (The Link Between HPV and Non-Cervical Cancers).

Here’s another pertinent fact about statistics and correlations. The typical criterion of significance used by sociologists and medical researchers is p < 0.05, meaning that there is a 5% chance or less that the apparent correlation has no significance. Very roughly speaking, that means 5 of every 100 apparent correlations are purely random, chance occurrences.
Look at that another way. Assume there are a number of variables, and each is tested against each of the others to see whether there is a correlation. Purely by chance, 5% of all the tests will appear to show a correlation that is, however, spurious.
In other words: If a study tests 100 possible correlations and finds 5 statistically significant correlations, then all 5 are most probably spurious.
One trouble is that research articles report their “statistically significant” correlations, but don’t alert the reader to how many possible correlations were considered.

“HPV is a group of more than 100 related viruses” but only 2 — HPV 16 and 18 — are said to cause cervical cancer, or rather “about 70 percent of all cervical cancers”.
If just 40 strains of HPV had been tested for possible correlation with cervical cancer, purely by chance there would appear to be 2 correlations, spurious correlations.

Once an unwarranted theory has become mainstream, further research will turn up any number of intriguing things — intriguing because they make no sense. With HPV, for example, because there are so many strains one can come up with really mind-boggling results clearly demanding further research and research grants (HPV vaccines may be less effective in African American women, researchers find):
“Among women with mild cervical dysplasia, or early precancerous cells:
African American women: HPV types 33, 35, 58, 68
White women: HPV 16, 18, 56, 39, 66
Among women with moderate to severe cervical dysplasia, or advanced precancerous cells:
African American women: HPV types 31, 35, 45, 56, 58, 66, 68
White women: HPV 16, 18, 33, 39, 59”.

Since the presumption is that “mild cervical dysplasia, or early precancerous cells” lead to “moderate to severe cervical dysplasia, or advanced precancerous cells” on the way to actual cervical cancer, isn’t it intriguing (= makes no sense) that not the same sets of strains are “associated” with the first conditions as with the second?

What are the odds that these findings will be repeatable?
More likely, later studies will find equally spurious correlations with other strains.

And by the way: What inspiration was behind the hypothesis that cervical cancers would be caused by different strains of HPV in white women and in African-American women?

* * * * * * * *

I had been stimulated into this sidetrack into HPV and associated vaccines by something that popped up on my Goggle HIV Alert:

HIV drug used to reverse effects of virus that causes cervical cancer

This seemed so bizarre that I followed the suggestion that “For further information, please contact Alison Barbuti, Media Relations Officer | Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences | The University of Manchester Tel: +44(0)161 275 8383 Email: alison.barbuti@manchester.ac.uk”

An immediate response came that since I was not a journalist, my request had been forwarded to the authors. One of them e-mailed immediately that the material would be sent as soon as they were back home. That was a month ago. My paranoia is showing again: maybe they looked at my website and didn’t like my attitude toward HIV and antiretroviral drugs?
After all, for lopinavir (LPV) — the “HIV drug” of the title of the press release —one finds in the literature that all protease inhibitors have the following “side” effects (Table 13 in Treatment Guidelines, updated 12 February 2013):
Bleeding events
Cardiovascular disease
(Associated with MI and stroke in some cohort studies. . . .) . . . LPV/r: PR interval prolongation. Risks include structural heart disease, conduction system abnormalities, cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, and coadministration with drugs that prolong PR interval.
Gastrointestinal (GI) effects
GI intolerance (e.g., diarrhea, nausea, vomiting); Diarrhea: . . . LPV/r > DRV/r and ATV/r
Hepatic effects
All PIs: Drug-induced hepatitis and hepatic decompensation (and rare cases of fatalities) have been reported with all PIs to varying degrees
Lipodystrophy
Trunk fat increase . . . ; however, causal relationship has not been established.
Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS)/ toxic epidermal necrosis (TEN)
. . . LPV/r . . . : Reported cases

For LPV specifically (Lopinavir + Ritonavir LPV/r)/Kaletra:
“GI intolerance, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea; Pancreatitis; Asthenia [weakness]; Hyperlipidemia (especially hypertriglyceridemia); Serum transaminase elevation; Hyperglycemia; Insulin resistance/diabetes mellitus; Fat maldistribution; Possible increased bleeding episodes in patients with hemophilia; PR interval prolongation; QT interval prolongation and torsades de pointes have been reported; however, causality could not be established”.

Again with “HIV” as role model, the idea appears to be to administer dangerous drugs in absence of any substantial and proven risk.

12 Responses to “HPV insanity”

  1. realpc920 said

    There was a recent post about AIDS on a “skeptic’s” blog, saying what a wonderful success HAART has been. It said that homosexuals were dying in droves in the 1980s, but now AIDS patients can live almost normal lives.

    I tried hard to explain various problems with the research to them — assuming causation from correlation, relying on simulation models, making various unwarranted and unscientific assumptions.

    Their response was, generally, that thousands of expert AIDS researchers can’t possibly all be wrong. These experts can’t be making the stupid mistakes I accused them of.

    The blog author finally posted a link to a study that compared life expectancies for HIV patients who started HAART in 2000 to those who started in 2009. The earlier group had a higher death rate than the later group, and the death rates were used to estimate life expectancies. What?? The estimated life expectancy of the later group was about 70 years, much higher than it had been for HIV patients in the past. So this was extrapolated to the assumption that soon AIDS patients will have normal life spans.

    There was something wrong with the reasoning at every step. You can’t estimate longevity by the death rate that occurs during the first year of HAART, for one thing.

    And there are various possible reasons for the declining death rate. Maybe HIV testing has increased, so more healthy people are being treated, for example.

    Nothing was said in the article about the health status of the patients, and only HIV and CD4 levels were considered. Everything rested on the basic assumption that HIV causes AIDS by destroying CD4 cells, and that ARV drugs restore health by destroying HIV.

    That chain of reasoning has not been established by evidence, as far as I know.

    When I complain about the poor quality of the research, the “skeptics” say that all the poor quality research adds up and converges to support the theory.

    I said that if homeopaths used this kind of research to support their treatments, the “skeptics” would laugh at them. I was told that is because there is no known mechanism for homeopathy. There is, they said, a known mechanism for AIDS.

    Yes, they do think they know the mechanism for AIDS. But how and why? The research seems to start with the assumption that the theory is true, instead of testing the theory.

    What it all comes down to is faith in experts, and faith in the scientific consensus. All those smart researchers can’t be wrong.

    I tried to explain that once a consensus has formed it can be nearly impossible to go against it. Anyone who tries is mobbed and ostracized and deprived of funding.

    Of course no one believed me.

    There are thousands of AIDS studies constantly being published, all of them claiming to support the consensus. How can anyone work as an AIDS researcher year after year and never see any of the obvious confounds and logical errors?

    • Henry Bauer said

      realpc920:
      Your experience is all too familiar to me, yet I am still amazed at the way the mainstream does business as usual.
      I think I understand fairly well intellectually: cognitive dissonance; conflicts of interest; over-specialization, no one re-thinking fundamentals; statistical illiteracy; too many MDs doing research when they’re not trained for it, e.g. ignorance of statistical basics…
      But emotionally I still don’t grasp it. I as doing science and publishing it for a couple of decades, up to the late 1970s, and there was nothing like HIV/AIDS or human-caused global warming. I saw careerism, of course, and lots of mediocrity, but no such enormous consequential long-lasting blunder.

  2. Benedetto said

    Dear Prof Bauer,

    commenting on a “mainstream” post dealing with HPV and cervical cancer, I too have recently pointed out in a comment that correlation doesn’t prove causation, and that, furthermore, in the case of HPV this purported correlation is far from being a strong one, for what it means.
    I then was responded – many times! – that “since cervical cancer, like any other cancer, is a multifactorial disease, you don’t have to expect to find the virus in all the cases!” (implying that the virus is to be found only in those tumors that are induced by HPV!!)
    I replied that It sounded a bit of circular reasoning to me, a priori reasoning, and a short-cut to fulfil the 1st Koch postulate.. then they said that Koch postulates cannot be applied when dealing with multifactorial diseases! Koch postulates were thought to establish a one-to-one link between one cause (a bug) and one disease.
    now I am confused..

    Henry, what do you think about that.. how would you have responded to them?

    • Henry Bauer said

      Benedetto:
      In my rather long experience, it is not useful, not productive, to argue with mainstream people who take that sort of viewpoint.
      Every ailment is multifactorial: they all become more serious as we get older, and when our immune system is not at its best, and if we are in a bad mental state….
      BUT we don’t usually say that getting older CAUSES an ailment. In my opinion, it is not rational to call every conceivable factor a CAUSE. “Cause” should mean something like “SUBSTANTIALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR AND NEEDS ALWAYS TO BE PRESENT”
      There are cervical cancer cases without HPV, so to my mind HPV cannot be said to be a significant cause of cervical cancer. Don’t forget that the same reasoning of correlation = causation made the CDC in 1993 declare cervical cancer to be an “HIV disease”, i.e. they said HIV caused cervical cancer….

      I have almost never continued to respond to that sort of mainstream proponent for a very long time. I continue correspondence only with people who seem interested in learning new things by looking at evidence.

  3. Hi Henry,

    My comment will address the last part of this post, where you describe the announcement of the work by the Hampsons of the University of Manchester.

    The title of the link that you give, “HIV drug used to reverse effects of virus that causes cervical cancer,” is not quite accurate, or at least misleading. (Did you you come up with this title, or google?) The announcement describes a study where application of the drug reverses actual symptoms of the disease (cervical cancer). It says nothing like, “reduces risk of disease,” which seems to be what you’re implying in your closing sentence, where you say, “Again with “HIV” as role model, the idea appears to be to administer dangerous drugs in absence of any substantial and proven risk.”

    So far as I could tell from the announcement, drugs were administered only to people showing both HPV positivity and cervical cancer disease. Regardless of whether or not HPV positivity has anything to do with the disease (I grant you your skepticism there), the study showed a regression of symptoms (i.e. recovery) after application of the drug. I don’t see anything to be skeptical about there (unless you think the authors are lying). What would be more interesting going forward, is to see whether this treatment might be successful with a wider sample of women suffering from cervical cancer, not just the ones positive for HPV. (which would then provide further evidence of your thesis that HPV has nothing to do with cervical cancer, i.e. that the drug functions in some manner other than interfering with HPV.)

    Finally, you list all the nasty side-effects of the drug used, implying that these women were at risk of these side effects in treatment. But the way that the drug was administered, by hand for a limited period of time, directly to the cervix tissues, is surely completely different from the way it is usually taken, which is orally for an extended period of time. Who knows what the side effects are of this novel application of the drug? Perhaps there are nasty side effects indeed. But your use of the published side effects of orally taking the drug appears disingenuous to me here, because the women did not take the drug orally.

    Sorry for the criticism. I’m a fan of your work generally, but your position on this particular announcement seems weak to me!

    Boris

    • Henry Bauer said

      Boris:
      I’m skeptical that the changes they describe are actual cervical-cancer disease or what are believed to be pre-cancerous changes.
      I agree as to possible side-effects, they will not necessarily be the same, though to be effective the drug must be absorbed and may migrate elsewhere.
      I copied the title, I hope verbatim, from the press release.
      No need to apologize for critiques, the only way I can learn is if mistakes are pointed out.

      • It would be good to follow up on this paper after it is published, look at the details (photographs they mentioned), to obtain more clarity on what the results actually mean. In the meantime, if you wanted to contact the authors again, see if they would send you a preprint, and gently suggest that follow-on studies might do well to include a broader sample of women showing cervical cancer symptoms (i.e. to include HPV negative women). The results would be interesting at least, and possibly beneficial to a much broader range of women.

        thanks,

        Boris

      • Henry Bauer said

        Boris:
        I agree…

  4. Silly me, I see that the link title came straight from the top of the announcement!

    In re-reading one more time, I also see that throughout the article, the _assumption_ is that the drug acts on the HPV virus. This is odd, because no part of the actual treatment experiment shows this. It just shows that the drug acts on the disease symptoms. In other words, there is no statement like, “women became HPV negative after the treatment.” Nor is it demonstrated that the treatment does NOT work on HPV negative women who have cervical cancer. This is work that should be done.

  5. David Crowe said

    Boris, please don’t say “disease”. The drug was just reversing cellular changes that are believed to be associated with the development of cervical cancer, it was not reversing any symptoms that could be called “illness” or “disease”. The press release is stunningly dishonest because it starts off talking about ” Kenyan women diagnosed with HPV positive early stage cervical cancer” (which is probably where you drew your conclusion) but then admits that they are talking about non-cancerous cells in the next paragraph, “The study looked at 40 women with both high and low-grade pre-cancerous disease of the cervix”. Apparently “early stage cervical cancer” is not cancer. I think we’re back in 1984. In my conversation with Peter Gøtzsche in one of my radio show episodes (http://prn.fm/infectious-myth-mammography-031214/) this appeared to be a serious terminology problem, in that there is no consistent terminology to talk about things that are not cancerous, but have some appearances of cancer, such as a lump that forms, stabilizes or regresses, and is clearly not growing as a cancer. But if you call it a “cancer” then the patient assumes it is a rapidly growing malignancy, a very profitable assumption that patients are pre-seeded to make when triggered.

    I think that the only benefit of this study would be if the drug was proven to reduce the risk of the development of cancer in the future. Otherwise it is just a way to drug people without a disease. And when they don’t get the disease they never had in the future, doctors can pat themselves on the back, and says, “What good boys we are”. And the patients will be convinced that their lives were saved when in fact they were given a useless or damaging drug.

  6. lukas said

    I was curious to know if the “the typical criterion of significance of 5%” can be applied at the following case:I was curious to check the impact of the former Gallo retrovirus HTLV on population and i have found some numbers so ridicously low to make me impossible to realize how such a story could have entered into textbooks: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22973265 :The abstract quote that where htlv is endemic a percentuage of 7% man and 2-3% women infected will get luekemia.Applying the 5% statistical incident laws it becomes more spurious.If one picks whatever virus and match it with whatever disease he will get probably that numbers(and leukemia affect mostly people in their 60es so latent period gives the impression to work…

    • Henry Bauer said

      lukas:
      “the typical criterion of significance of 5%” refers to a test of statistical significance, not to incidence percentages

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