HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘Anthony Fauci’

Antiretroviral therapy has SAVED 3 MILLION life-years

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/07/01

It used to be understood, at least by statistics gurus and the few statistically literate observers, that there are “Lies, damned lies, and statistics”, because the data can be arranged so easily to serve any desired mis-interpretation; just as survey researchers and social scientists know that they can get any desired result from a poll by phrasing suitably the questions they ask. Nowadays, however, the preferred way to fool the public is by means of computer models [HIV NONSENSE: TODAY AND EVERY DAY, 22 November; HIV/AIDS: NUMBERS THAT DON’T ADD UP, 29 November 2007].

A brother-in-law of mine years ago had been one of several vice-presidents of a major corporation. One of the VPs always succeeded in getting what he asked for in the way of annual budget, but none of the others did. Eventually those others asked the successful one for his secret. He explained that he always presented his request to the Budget Committee of the Board in the form of a computer print-out. Who would have the temerity to argue with that? Computers don’t lie, do they?

Far too many people are far too easily misled by computer outputs. Computers don’t think. They are more gullible than any human being. They believe whatever you tell them, no matter how absurd or how obviously wrong. Hence

GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out.

But only computer gurus and the few computer-literate users know that. Most people dissolve in obeisance when presented with something spewed out by a computer.

More illustrations pop up all the time of commentariat, media, and policy makers accepting conclusions based on computer models instead of on happenings in the real world. Yet those computer outputs are no better than the assumptions and uncertainties fed into the computer in the first place. Computers can only say, “IF this is so, then that follows”—PROVIDED WE UNDERSTAND EVERYTHING ABOUT ALL THE PROCESSES INVOLVED.
IF!
PROVIDED!
If even one assumption in the model is wrong, then the model’s output is worth not even as much as an informed guess; it will likely be totally misleading.

HIV/AIDS has offered innumerable illustrations of Garbage Out, in the form of computer-model estimates of HIV and AIDS numbers issued for two decades by UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and in peer-reviewed articles. Several insiders have recently been forced to acknowledge that those estimates were wildly off the mark—so wildly that predicted epidemics never happened, and rates of “HIV-positive” have had to be revised drastically downwards across the globe [WHO SAYS that WE’VE BEEN VERY WRONG about HIV and AIDS? (Clue: WHO = World Health Organization), 10 June 2008].

Recently I came across an outstanding specific example of computer-model nonsense, the assertion that through antiretroviral therapy, “at least three million years of life have been saved in the United States alone” (Anthony S. Fauci, “Twenty-five years of HIV/AIDS” (Op-Ed), Manila Times, 29 May 2007) . Op-Ed pieces don’t bother giving citations, but Googling for that assertion immediately revealed its source: “The survival benefits of AIDS treatment in the United States”, Walensky et al., Journal of Infectious Diseases 194 [2006] 11-19; abstracted, unsurprisingly enough, among the News items on the website of Fauci’s Institute.

The raison d’être for the Walensky effort was that, since the US Government was allocating $21 billion to HIV/AIDS activities in 2006, questions might well be raised about what benefit the United States was getting in return.

Here’s some back-of-the envelope arithmetic. The Walensky calculation is for life-years saved through 2003. Funding began at zero in 1981 and rose steadily. If the increase was linear, then by 2003 roughly $225 billion would have been spent to save 3 million life-years, in other words, about $75,000 per life-year. Given an average lifespan of 75 years, that works out at well over $5 million per human life.

I personally don’t much care for such calculations. I think comparing lives and dollars is rather like comparing dogs and rocks. But I recognize that insurance companies, lawyers, and similar realities of modern life do need to make such calculations, and for their purposes, $5 million per life might not seem out of whack. Unless, of course, one thinks not of the rare court cases that make headlines but of all citizens. In terms of pay, benefits, and compensation for injuries, we certainly don’t compensate most members of our armed forces at $75,000 per life-year or $5 million per life. And if 300 million Americans are each worth $5 million, then our population’s total value is more than a thousand trillion dollars — 1015 —, which seems a bit high. After all, our annual Gross Domestic Product per capita is about $45,000, which on a human-capital investment of $5 million represents an unattractively low yield of less than 1%.

So if you must value people in dollar terms, the Walensky calculation suggests that we are spending significantly too much on HIV/AIDS. Of course neither the Walensky article nor the Fauci commentary made this sort of calculation. They left it at trumpeting millions of life-years saved, which the unwary might easily confuse with millions of actual LIVES saved. But at a lifespan of 75 years, 3 million life-years represents 40,000 lives, not quite so impressive a number. After all, by 2003 there had been more than 520,000 AIDS deaths in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report for 2003, vol. 15). The Walensky calculation therefore amounts to a claimed saving of only about 7% of AIDS victims (40,000 out of [520,000 + 40,000] patients; 40/560 = .071) .

Again, I don’t myself care to calculate like this, because I think every life is literally invaluable. But if one insists on cost-benefit calculations to justify expenditures, as Fauci and Walensky et al. do, this 7% success-rate is somewhat less than impressive—especially for treatment that they like to describe as lifesaving, as having converted a fatal illness into a chronic, manageable one.

But perhaps one should consider only the HAART era, beginning in 1995, with the really successful treatment by “cocktail” or “combination” antiretroviral therapy?

From 1996 to 2003, Walensky et al. calculate 2.35 million life-years saved. At 75 years per life, that yields about 31,000 lives, compared to about 200,000 reported AIDS deaths during that period. So “lifesaving” HAART actually saved the lives of 13% of AIDS patients. That’s much better than 7%, of course, but not exactly what most people would understand by “lifesaving”.

Consider again costs and benefits: To save the lives of 13% of “AIDS” victims, we apparently need to spend $21 billion annually. Therefore to save all the victims, we would presumably need to spend about $160 billion a year.

————————-

I do apologize if some readers find this rather flippant, tongue-in-cheek commentary offensive. For my part, I find offensive this propaganda about millions of life-years saved when the reality is so much less impressive. The article begins by citing expenditures as the reason for calculating benefits, but then fails to compare costs and savings. As sketched out above, such a comparison indicates that the savings have been bought at a very steep price; one that society would probably be reluctant to pay were it given the choice—especially if the information were also provided about how disproportionate are these expenditures on HIV/AIDS in comparison to funds aimed at the major causes of death, cancer and heart disease [STOPPING THE HIV/AIDS BANDWAGON—Part II, 1 February 2008]. Moreover, under the Ryan White Care Act, the government acts as payer of last resort and “provides some level of care for around 500,000 people a year and, in 2004, provided funds to 2,567 organizations. The Ryan White program also funds and provides technical assistance to local and state primary medical care providers, support services, healthcare provider and training programs” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ryan_White#Ryan_White_Care_Act, where the pertinent official source documents are cited). HIV/AIDS is a unique instance of government-funded socialized medicine in the United States.

The Walensky et al. article is also technically incompetent and dishonest in several respects, as will be discussed in a later post.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, Funds for HIV/AIDS, HIV/AIDS numbers | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

ANTHONY FAUCI EXPLAINS RACIAL DISPARITIES IN “HIV/AIDS”

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/06/03

(Several references below — euphemism, minority, macacas — are more fully explained in the earlier post, HIV/AIDS IS INESCAPABLY RACIST, 19 May 2008 ).

Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, has appeared often on the public-radio Diane Rehm show. For example, on 27 November 2007, he was introduced thus (“HIV/AIDS Worldwide”, transcript by Soft Scribe LLC):

“Racial and ethnic minorities continue to be disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic here in the U.S. New figures show that African Americans are among those who are most at risk. Here in Washington, D.C. 1 in 20 residents is thought to have the HIV, and 1 in 50 to have AIDS.”

Once again (see HIV/AIDS IS INESCAPABLY RACIST), that euphemism “minority”. Already the following sentence shows that actually meant is black. (In Washington, DC, blacks comprise a majority of the population.)

Fauci said that “in the District, about 37 – 39 percent [of ‘HIV-positive’ results from] heterosexual transmission, 20-some-odd percent men who have sex with men, and about 14 percent injection-drug users. . . . [This] resembles in some respects . . . what we see in third world countries. And the confluence of an inner city area with poverty, lack of healthcare access, injection-drug use which keeps a core of infection in the city, and then that’s spread heterosexually and then from there you get secondary and tertiary heterosexual spread” [emphasis added].

Once more: “complex social mixing patterns” (see HIV/AIDS IS INESCAPABLY RACIST) are postulated in these “minority” communities whose conditions happen to resemble those in Third-World countries (euphemism for sub-Saharan Africa).

Another remark by Fauci illustrates how content the mainstream is to assert as fact what cannot be known: “there is a disproportional amount of transmission from people who do not know that they are infected”.
STOP.
THINK.
They don’t know they’re infected. No one told them. Why not? Because no one else knows, either.
What Fauci asserts could only be assumed, not actually known; and it is also and first assumed that there’s a short period of undetectable infection but high infectivity just after being infected; because that’s the only way to cope with the undeniable fact that the average probability of apparently transmitting the “HIV-positive” condition is only about 1 per 1000 acts of unprotected intercourse, far too low a probability to sustain any sort of epidemic (14 May 2008, SEX, RACE, and “HIV”).

(“Don’t know they’re infected” reminded me of the study that found “Nine in 10 students who experienced hazing . . . did not think they had been hazed”; Chronicle of Higher Education 21 March 2008, p. A21)

Fauci again: “disproportional amount, more of poverty, lack of access to medical care, a lack of access to counseling for prevention, proximity in locations in inner city for example where there are pockets of injection-drug use . . . . among blacks … being gay and having gay sex is not as accepted … as it is in the society as a whole”.

Again: it’s so but it ain’t “their” fault.

More Fauci: “a misconception that because women get infected in this community that they are leading promiscuous lives. That’s certainly not the case in general. Very often it’s someone who is being monogamous with someone who happens to be infected”.

“Very often”: How often must a monogamous woman have sex with an infected partner to become positive, when the probability is about 1 per 1000? James Chin, epidemiologist, says the contrary. To produce the alleged levels and rapidity of spread, 20-40% of people must be engaged in multiple concurrent relationships with frequent partner change (4 March 2008, B***S*** about HIV from ACADEME via THE PRESS). Doesn’t that qualify as quite promiscuous?

Over and again, Fauci pretends to believe that it’s not their fault, it’s their culture — “very often women want their male sexual partner to use a condom, but they won’t do it. And in certain cultures it is not easy for a woman to assert herself and say, ‘No, this is the way it’s going to be. We don’t have a condom, I’m not having sex.’ They can wind up getting abused as it were. Those are the kind of cultural barriers that we need to overcome” (emphasis added).
(1) How does Fauci know that this happens “very often”?
(2) Again it’s those macaca cultures, which are apparently ensconced just as powerfully in Washington, DC, among people whose ancestors left Africa many generations ago, as among those still now living in Africa.

Fauci: “68 percent of the infections in the world occur in southern Africa. . . . it has to do with cultural and other factors. Poverty, dissolution of the family units, post-colonization where people would leave the family and go and work in mines, go on the trucking routes, get exposed to commercial sex workers, bring the infection back to their family, infect their wives, lack of prevention modalities. . . . some very good studies about sexual activities that in certain cultures, including those in Southern Africa there is what’s called overlapping concurrent multiple sexual partners. If you have a society that has sequential sexual partners, it is much less likely to have explosive transmission than when you have people who have simultaneously multiple sexual partners that you share.

there is a degree of disenfranchisement . . . There is discrimination . . . communities in which there is crime, there is murder . . . .”

Once more, it’s those other cultures that do sex differently than “we” do; and those cultures in Washington DC and in southern Africa share the common factor of people with dark-hued skin. As documented in my book, The Origin, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, Native Americans suffer even more than African Americans from violent crime and disenfranchisement and abuse of alcohol and drugs, but their rate of testing “HIV-positive” is far below that of blacks and not much higher than among whites. It’s the biological race that matters, not the “minority” “culture”.

Note once again the asserting, as fact, matters that are speculative. “Overlapping concurrent multiple sexual partners” have been postulated to explain spread of “HIV” among heterosexuals. I await citation of those “very good studies” that actually found that sort of situation which — recall James Chin’s calculations (14 May 2008, SEX, RACE, and “HIV”) — require 20-40% of adults to be behaving in this fashion if “HIV” is to spread. Such a rate of promiscuity would be evident to the most casual observer, yet it has not been reported by any observers.

Fauci virtually confessed his belief that race and cultural determinants of sexual behavior go together:

FAUCI: it’s very difficult when you have societies whose cultural approach to life has been going on for centuries that you are going to all of a sudden change sexual practices.
REHM: But I don’t think we ought to single out sub-Saharan Africa.
FAUCI: No, not, of course not, anywhere.
REHM: I mean, here in Washington —
REHM: — that kind of promiscuous sex —
FAUCI: Right, and —
REHM: — is going on.
FAUCI: Right, exactly.

*************

Anthony Fauci and many others, including those who speak for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appear willing to ascribe racial disparities in “HIV-positive” to “cultural” factors, even though those disparities transcend all social milieus and all geographic boundaries and all age groups and are seen in both sexes. Would they also ascribe to “cultural” factors characteristic of Caucasians that whites always test “HIV-positive” anywhere from 50% to 300% more often than Asians? Could it be that Caucasians are inherently more given to “multiple concurrent sexual relationships” than Asians are?

Posted in experts, HIV and race, HIV risk groups, HIV transmission, HIV/AIDS numbers, prejudice, sexual transmission | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

WHAT “HIV” IS NOT: IT’S NOT SEXUALLY TRANSMITTED

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/01/06

If one thing is certain about HIV/AIDS, it is that “HIV” is not a sexually transmitted agent.

I can be certain about that because I’ve examined the reported evidence for myself.

Not all of the evidence, of course, because no one could possibly do that; but I have gathered the published data about HIV tests in every HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); every pertinent article in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report; and hundreds of articles reporting HIV tests in JAMA, New England Journal of Medicine, and other medical-scientific journals. I used PubMed to find many relevant articles and to guide me from one article to related ones.

The data represent more than 50,000,000 tests. Several social groups have been tested routinely–applicants for military service, active-duty military personnel, blood donors, Job Corps members–and the results from those groups comprise an unparalleled resource for identifying trends: unparalleled because the tests were carried out on essentially all members of those groups, so that there are none of the uncertainties associated with sampling that often leave interpretation of statistical medical and social data less than certain.

The regular trends in those data are nothing less than astonishing. Whether “HIV” tests concerned newborns or their mothers, or military personnel, or blood donors, or gay men or people injecting illegal drugs, several things are always the same:
—The geographic distribution of positive HIV tests is the same. Even though the average rate of testing HIV-positive varies by a factor of 100 or more between drug users and blood donors, within each group the geographic distribution is the same: highest in the North-East and South-East, lowest in the North Central regions, higher in the South than in the West.
So unvarying a geographic distribution across social groups is not found with syphilis, gonorrhea, or other known sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
—This geographic distribution of positive HIV tests has remained the same throughout the AIDS era: it was the same in the early 1980s as in the late 1990s. That’s certainly not like a contagious disease, and certainly not like an STD that spread across the country from New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco since the 1970s.
—Among the low-risk groups–excluding gay men and drug injectors, in other words–, the frequency of positive HIV tests varies with age and sex in the same manner in every tested group:

agevariations.jpg

With genuine STDs, it is typically adolescents who are at greatest risk, not middle-aged people; and newborns and young children are not infected with STDs at rates comparable to those among adults; yet “HIV-positive” is as common among newborns as among the most highly “infected” middle-aged adults in low-risk groups.

* * * * * *

If you have unprotected sex with someone who has gonorrhea or syphilis, your chance of catching that infection yourself is something like 50:50 (anywhere from 10% to 90%).

If you have unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person, what are the odds that you will become HIV-positive yourself?

About 1 in a 1000.

* * * * * *

Why believe what I’ve just written, when the media are full of official statements warning that everyone is at risk, that condoms should always be used, that sex is the main way that “HIV” is transmitted?

You shouldn’t believe anything just because I say so. And you shouldn’t believe anything just because others say so, either, even if they are a Director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, or because they have won a Nobel Prize or other prizes, or because they have been acclaimed for discovering something. You should believe something only if you have the good reason of having seen for yourself that the evidence supports the statements made.

One of the things I learned through doing science is that anyone can be wrong; and I learned the more difficult lesson that I myself can be wrong. I’ve been wrong through accepting what others said, and through misinterpreting data, and because there were totally unknown and unsuspected factors involved, and I’ve been wrong through just plain making mistakes because of muddle-headedness or tiredness or ignorance. So I’m wary of saying I’m certain about something, and especially wary when “everyone” knows something different.

It took me months to come to terms with the data showing that “HIV” is not sexually transmitted, and I reached the conclusion simply because there is no other way to explain the data. If you want to make up your mind about this, you may have to look at all the data for yourself. Ideally you should start from scratch, gather whatever data you can find about HIV tests, and tabulate the results by age and geography and sex and date and anything else that you think might be relevant. Then look to see whether there are any regularities to be explained.

A second-best way would be to look at my collection of the data and discussion about them, and to check my sources: make sure I haven’t misquoted or omitted, and search the literature for things I overlooked and that might contradict my analysis.

A not-very-good way to make up your mind would be to judge that I’m sincere and to trust that I’ve done what I say I’ve done. But that would be no worse than believing what you read in the newspapers, or believing that gurus in white coats are always right. In fact, believing the white coats or the media may be the worst possible way of making up your mind about anything important.

* * * * * *

From where did I get that “1 chance in 1000” for sexual transmission of HIV? I looked hard into the literature but found no study that claimed more than a few per 1000. Chapter 4 of my book, The Origins, Persistence and Failings of HIV/AIDS Theory, http://www.failingsofhivaidstheory.homestead.com/ cites a score of publications that all arrive at about the same 1-per-1000 odds, and it cites the doctors and biostatisticians who concluded that “the transmission probabilities presented are so low that it becomes difficult to understand the magnitude of the HIV-1 pandemic” (Chakraborty et al. AIDS 15 [2001] 621-6).

I found in Robert Gallo’s memoirs an acknowledgment that HIV is “distinctively difficult to transmit” (p. 131, “Virus Hunting”, 1991).

* * * * * *

Gonorrhea and syphilis, transmitted quite efficiently at about 1 chance in 2, cause local outbreaks periodically, but they don’t bring about worldwide epidemics. With HIV/AIDS, we are being asked to believe that something transmitted 100 times less efficiently than gonorrhea or syphilis is producing epidemics all over the world. Seems like a good time to offer some more Brooklyn Bridges for sale.
Gisselquist and colleagues have published a number of articles arguing, on the basis of observed sexual behavior as well as lack of transmission efficiency, that sexual transmission cannot explain the African epidemic of “AIDS” (“Not investigating HIV riddles puts lives at risk”, Business Day [Johannesburg], 4 October 2007; “How much do blood exposures contribute to HIV prevalence in female sex workers in sub-Saharan Africa, Thailand and India?” International Journal of STD & AIDS 18 [2007] 581-588; Gisselquist et al., “HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa not explained by sexual or vertical transmission”, 13 [2002] 657-666; “Running on empty: sexual co-factors are insufficient to fuel Africa’s turbocharged HIV epidemic” ibid. 15 [2004] 442-452; Brewer et al., “Mounting anomalies in the epidemiology of HIV in Africa: cry the beloved paradigm”, ibid. 14 [2003] 144-147).

Pillars of the orthodoxy have offered specious arguments running about like this: “Sure, on average it’s only 1 per 1000, but there may be special circumstances when it’s much higher, say just after infection when the virus is replicating madly”. The sufficient but not only basis for calling that suggestion specious is that epidemics require an average, overall “reproduction ratio” appreciably greater than 1. You cannot have an epidemic unless, on the whole, on average, every infected person infects more than one other person within a rather short space of time. A score or more of specific studies, in Africa and Haiti as well as the United States, tells us that with “HIV” this does not happen.

* * * * * *

This was known long ago. Already in 1988, Anderson & May (Nature, 333: 514-9) guessed that there might be some special period of high infectiousness because the average apparent transmission rate is too low to bring about an epidemic. Reporters for the Wall Street Journal recognized in 1996, from CDC sources, that “for most heterosexuals, the risk from a single act of sex was smaller than the risk of ever getting hit by lightning” (Bennett and Sharpe, “AIDS fight is skewed by federal campaign exaggerating risks”, 1 May, pp. A1, 6). Fumento (“The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS”, 1990) among others pointed out that AIDS never spread into the general population outside Africa and the Caribbean. But the white-coated gurus who uphold the mistaken HIV/AIDS theory continue to do their best to obfuscate these facts. Take what Anthony Fauci said on the Diane Rehm show (“HIV/AIDS”, 17 August 2006, PBS Radio, transcript by Soft Scribe LLC).

Fauci admitted that “it is not a one to one ratio by any means. It’s not you have one sexual contact, and therefore you’ll get infected. It’s a relatively low efficiency”–but he failed to acknowledge that it’s about 1 per 1000, a vast and misleading difference from “not one to one”. And Fauci went on to venture this: “since there is so much sexual activity . . . , when you compound all of the sexual contacts among people, . . . , then you get the infection rates that we just spoke about where you windup getting five million new infections per year. There has to be a lot of sexual contact for that to occur. But, in fact, there is a lot of sexual contact going on everyday in the world”.

But that probability of 1 per 1000 applies only when one of the sex partners is already HIV-positive. UNAIDS puts the average global infection rate at about 1%: on average, if you choose your sexual partner at random, you have 1 chance in 100 of getting an HIV-positive one. So your overall risk is 1 in 100 multiplied by 1 in 1000, in other words 1 in 100,000. That, Fauci would have us believe, is capable of producing 5,000,000 new infections in the world each year.

And all that sexual activity Fauci conjures up somehow fails to spread gonorrhea or syphilis while disseminating something that is 100 times less infective.

So, I suggest, don’t believe everything that Dr. Anthony Fauci says, even about matters on which he is supposed to be expert.

But, of course, as I said, don’t believe what I say, either.

Just look at the evidence for yourself. That’s the smart thing to do.

Posted in HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV tests, HIV transmission, sexual transmission | Tagged: , , , , , , | 30 Comments »

HISTORY OF AZT

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/01/01

In FIRST: DO NO HARM! (19 December), I wrote, “The toxicity of AZT was known long before its introduction as an antiretroviral drug: it had been found too toxic to be used in cancer chemotherapy”. A knowledgeable correspondent informed me that AZT failed to qualify for cancer chemotherapy not because it was too toxic but because it wasn’t effective.

As always, I’m grateful for the comment; I do wish to be as accurate as possible, and can’t check everything that I’ve absorbed from a lot of reading, not all of which I can recall in any detail. A very positive benefit of being set straight is that when I try to learn more in order to correct errors, it sometimes leads to unsuspected new grist for the dissident mill; for instance, Sharon Stone’s assertion about AIDS deaths among women (WORLD AIDS DAY, 22 December) caused me to look at the official statistics for AIDS deaths and to discover the category of death-causing “HIV DISEASE” (28 December). Those death statistics will be featured again in later posts, for the way they vary with age is yet another illustration of the vacuity of HIV/AIDS theory.

Back to AZT and toxicity and cancer. Looking further into it, there seems to be some doubt about the matter. AIDS WIKI says this:
“AZT was originally intended to treat cancer, but failed to show efficacy and had an unacceptably high toxicity profile. (Note: There is some dispute over whether a high toxicity profile contributed to the shelving of AZT. Horwitz himself appears to have given conflicting testimony in various interviews.)”

I came across a confirmation that AZT had been found useless against leukemia in mice by Horwitz in 1964, but had shown possible promise against breast cancer (Science News, 28 June 1997, 151 #26, p. 397, citing a June 15 article in Cancer Research).

At any rate, AZT was known to be highly toxic at the time it was tried against AIDS. For a very readable account of the intrigues and machinations that led to its approval, read Bruce Nussbaum’s “Good Intentions: How Big Business and the Medical Establishment Are Corrupting the Fight Against AIDS” (1990, Atlantic Monthly Press).

Nothing about that book’s title and sub-title has become obsolete in the nearly two decades since it was written. Nussbaum is hardly a radical, and he isn’t a dissident who questions whether HIV causes AIDS. He was an investigative reporter and is now a senior editor at Business Week. His book describes “the puppet master, the brilliant Dr. David Barry, Burroughs Wellcome’s chief strategist; Dr. Tony Fauci, who grabbed control of the government’s AIDS research program only to squander $1 billion without developing a single new drug. . . . An old-boy network of powerful medical researchers dominates in every disease field . . . . They control the major committees, they run the most important trials. They are accountable to no one. despite the billions of taxpayers’ dollars that go to them every year, there is no public oversight. Medical scientists have convinced society that only they can police themselves” (from the jacket blurb).

That’s a pretty good summary of what dissidents are still up against today.

It’s not just that there’s a powerful medical establishment, it’s also that HIV/AIDS theory has tentacles reaching not only into medical practice but also into several different fields of research—epidemiology, immunology, virology. The epidemiologists have recognized that the observed rates of apparent sexual transmission of HIV are far too low to cause epidemics; but they don’t dare stand up and tell the immunologists and virologists and physicians that they are wrong, because they imagine that those people know what they are doing within their own areas of expertise. So the epidemiologists leave their observations as anomalies to be cleared up at some future time and speculate about special circumstances that might somehow make transmission more efficient—when it’s not being observed, of course. The immunologists are happy to have as an excuse for getting nowhere with vaccines, the virologists’ assertions that HIV mutates in an unprecedented fashion. Physicians can only treat their patients with what they are told to try by those whom they must trust to have carried out proper studies. There’s nothing unusual about this general state of affairs: scientists in closely related fields tend not to question what their colleagues in those other fields tell them, and apparently unexplainable anomalies are shoved aside in the belief that later on they will become explicable. That’s what Thomas Kuhn described in his much cited and little understood “Structure of Scientific Revolutions”, and it fits the realities much better than Karl Popper’s suggestion that contradictory evidence at once falsifies a theory; as Imre Lakatos pointed out, the mainstream belief is continually propped up by subsidiary ad hoc hypotheses made up more or less on the spur of each bit of contradictory evidence. If science really is self-correcting, it often takes its own good time about it—like 4 decades over the laws of heredity.

At any rate, that so many different specialties are involved in HIV/AIDS underscores why I’m so grateful when others check what I write, because one can hardly say much about HIV/AIDS without touching on questions of immunology, epidemiology, virology, and more.

Just now, what I would very much like to understand is, what criteria are used in the trials of potential vaccines? I know there’s been controversy over whether “HIV antibodies” represent a successful or potentially successful reaction against a retrovirus. I’ve learned that there are several different sorts of antibodies. I’ve learned that vaccinology often makes use of “adjuvants”, which stimulate the immune system in a non-specific fashion. What I’m curious about is this: The standard way of detecting infection by HIV is via tests for antibodies; but aren’t vaccines designed to stimulate the generation of antibodies?

That’s a genuine plea for explanation, not a rhetorical question.

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, vaccines | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 16 Comments »