HIV/AIDS Skepticism

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

Posts Tagged ‘HIV and the law’

Ignorance about HIV and AIDS

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2011/03/21

“[C]ontinuing, unaddressed public ignorance
about the routes and actual risks of HIV transmission
informs policy making at every level and
burdens the lives of people living with HIV”.

That, you might think, was said by a Rethinker, but it wasn’t. It comes from Rene Bennett-Carlson, managing attorney at  the Center for HIV Law and Policy (CHLP) in New York City: “This young man may lose 15 years of his life to a prison cell for being HIV positive. If he hadn’t gotten an HIV test he wouldn’t be facing these penalties.”
Bennett-Carlson’s appropriate comments were stimulated by the case of a Missouri man charged with “recklessly and knowingly exposing some one to HIV” — because he is alleged to have bitten a police officer (“Advocates alarmed by spike in Missouri HIV prosecutions — Contrary to medical evidence, Missouri law makes biting a felony”).
The Michigan advocates properly cast aspersions at Missouri laws that are based on ignorance about HIV. But they are blind to the mote in their own eyes: “Michigan’s law . . . criminalizes only sexual behavior without disclosure of an HIV-positive status” — which is also based on ignorance of the fact that “HIV-positive” has never been shown to be transmissible by sexual behavior any more than by biting.


Possibly the most serious ignorance among adherents to HIV/AIDS theory is about the high prevalence of false-positive HIV test-results — many physiological conditions can deliver “HIV-positive” results: pregnancy and other conditions that are not unhealthy, and also tuberculosis and many other conditions that bespeak ill health. In other words, “HIV-positive” may indicate ill health for some reason or it may not, and the “not” probably corresponds to something like half of all reported “positives” (Medical students in Africa need not fear HIV; REPRINT of Galletti & Bauer).
[I am using “false-positive” here in this sense, that the “positive” does not reflect any sort of health threat. As I’m often reminded, all “HIV-positive” results are false in the sense that they do not demonstrate the presence of an AIDS-causing agent or the presence of an active retroviral infection.]
The virtually universal ignorance about the high frequency of false-positives on “HIV” tests undermines the credibility of a great deal of the technical literature. Since about half of all “HIV-positive” results are likely to be false-positive in every sense of that term, the statistical evaluation of possible correlations will be invalid in many instances; variables described as “HIV-associated” may actually be false-positive- associated; and correlations not statistically significant may turn out to be statistically significant.
Take the higher incidence of bone-density-loss and bone fracture among “HIV-positive” people. An awareness of the false-positive frequency would require a closer investigation of all the factors that could lead to bone loss and bone fracture and that might at the same time conduce to a false-positive “HIV”-test. Consider the most recent publication on “HIV-associated” bone fracture — Young et al., “Increased rates of bone fracture among HIV-infected persons in the HIV Outpatient Study (HOPS) compared with the US general population, 2000-2006”, Clinical Infectious Diseases, 10 March 2011 [Epub ahead of print] PMID: 21398272 (annoyingly cited incorrectly as “2010;52:1061-1068” on Endocrine Today).

The main point about the need to consider false positives is this:
If all the bone fractures occurred among the “HIV-positive” individuals whose positive test reflected some sort of health threat, then the rate of fracture among those health-threatened ones would be twice that reported here, and associations doubtfully significant might well be statistically significant.
Thus, according to the text of the article, there was no observed association between risk of fracture and “ART exposure”, which presumably corresponds to “ARV exposure” in the table above (extracted from the article’s Table 4) — no significant association with exposure among the 3856-4087 exposed or not known to be exposed. Yet there is an almost statistically significant association among the 3749 exposed to HAART.
Almost all the ARV-exposed were also HAART-exposed — 3749 out of between 3856 and 4087 — so it cannot be true that the association with ARV is so drastically different from the association with HAART.

This illustrates that the data, statistics, and inferences in this article are much less than confidence-inspiring for reasons beyond the neglect of false-positives. However, the data do clearly suggest that bone fracture is HAART-associated: there is a statistically significant association with diabetes, which is a known risk of HAART, and an almost statistically significant association with peripheral neuropathy, also a known risk of HAART. In any case, risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture were also found to be HAART-associated in earlier studies (HIV: It can do anything, everything . . . or nothing?); and  HAART components are known to cause osteonecrosis (bone death), see NIH Treatment Guidelines, 29 January 2008, pp. 23, 30, 67, 69, 80, 84, 101, 102.

The median age of the people studied by Young et al. was 40, far too young for any appreciable incidence of diabetes or peripheral neuropathy in absence of HAART. Note too that anti-depressants and proton-pump inhibitors and drugs used to treat diabetes II also show hints of contributing to the risk of bone fracture. Being diagnosed as “HIV-positive” is, of course, a strong reason why a person might be being subjected to treatment with anti-depressants.

Note further that there is a positive association of fractures with lower CD4 counts, but no association with viral load: yet HIV/AIDS theory demands that CD4 counts and viral load be strongly correlated. (That they are not was already shown by Rodriguez et al. — JAMA, 296 [2006] 1498-1506 —, something conveniently forgotten or ignored or invalidly explained away by true believers.)


The ignorant belief that a positive HIV-test demonstrates infection, “having HIV”, continues to bring criminal charges against people who have sex, e.g. “Help available for victims of HIV-positive Vermilion [Ohio] man”.
The same ignorant belief underlies scare stories like “HIV infection passed via donated kidney: U.S. Report — Donor screening didn’t use most sensitive test, leading to infection of recipient, researchers say”: once again, “researchers” are cited about supposedly sensitive tests, which cannot be known in absence of a gold-standard test; and higher sensitivity is in any case produces a higher rate of false-positives on any test, in this case entirely non-health-threatening “positives”.

It’s often said that ignorance of the law is no excuse; but

Is there an excuse for laws that are ignorant of science?

Is there an excuse for researchers
who are ignorant of central facts pertinent to their research?

Is there an excuse for medical practitioners
who are ignorant of central facts
pertinent to their practices?

Is there an excuse for clinical laboratories
that issue reports of “HIV-positive” without pointing out
that this does not constitute a diagnosis of infection?

Posted in antiretroviral drugs, experts, HIV tests, HIV transmission, Legal aspects, sexual transmission, uncritical media | Tagged: , , | 10 Comments »

The case against criminalization of HIV transmission

Posted by Henry Bauer on 2008/09/23

That’s the title of a “Commentary” in JAMA, 300 (2008) 578-81, by Scott Burris, JD (affiliated with a Center for Law and the Public’s Health) and Edwin Cameron, MA (Supreme Court of Appeals in South Africa, and author of Witness to AIDS). It reminded me of a fierce argument I had long ago: we agreed on what a particular policy should be, but we were at complete odds over WHY! (It was about 1957, and we were agreed that tests of nuclear weapons should be halted. I argued on empirical, practical, utilitarian grounds. John Bochel, a socialist Scot from Nairn, argued on ideological and moralistic grounds. My disagreement with Cameron & Burris reflects a similar division.)

HIV transmission should not be criminalized, in my view, because it’s never been shown that HIV exists; nor that, if it exists, it can be transmitted; nor that, if it exists and can be transmitted, that it’s harmful.

Cameron & Burris, however, accept that HIV causes AIDS and is transmissible, yet they insist that “Evidence and experience compel the conclusion that criminalization of HIV is inconsistent with good public health and respect for human rights”; they oppose criminalization for reasons of “empirical evidence, practical experience, and positive values” — which, however, they fail to specify: What evidence? What experience? What “positive” values? Who judges whether a value is “positive” or not?

Burris & Cameron deplore, as do I, that “criminalization has become a facet of policy throughout the world” including, in 9 countries that legislate against “’transmission of HIV virus through any means by a person with full knowledge of his/her HIV/ AIDS status to another person’ regardless of whether the actor had any intention to do harm”. They cite cases that I also deplore: “that a person unaware of his infection but aware that a past partner had HIV was properly convicted of negligent transmission of HIV for having unprotected sex with a later partner”; “statutes . . . directed against individuals who expose others by sharing syringes”; “a 2008 case in which the HIV-positive defendant received 35 years in prison for spitting at a police officer”.

Cameron & Burris object to people being treated as criminals for “conduct that seems normal to many —ie [sic], sex without protection despite the presence of risk”; I ask, does that really seem normal to many people? “Every day, millions of individuals have unprotected sex with partners they must assume might be infected”; I ask, why MUST they assume so? How do Burris & Cameron know it’s millions every day?

This type of special pleading also pervades Cameron’s Witness to AIDS. It’s easy to understand Cameron’s fraught frame of mind and to sympathize with his dilemmas, but still it’s inappropriate for a jurist to argue so illogically. He and Burris argue that there should be no penalties if there is no “intention to harm”; would they make the same argument against convicting people of manslaughter when they accidentally, without intent, kill someone?

“Conduct that seems normal to many” certainly includes having “just one or two drinks” before driving. Should there be no penalties for driving under the influence? I don’t know whether it’s “millions” “every day”, but surely a lot of people drive while using pain medications and anti-allergy medications whose directions warn against driving, so they “must” assume that there’s a certain risk attached, not to speak of those who drive under the influence of marijuana or alcohol. There are enough of the latter among prominent individuals, “a tip of the iceberg”, that we may be sure that the numbers cannot be small, since it’s unlikely that every instance is found out and publicized.

Perhaps the most surprising is that.

That  “there is after more than 25 years no credible evidence that HIV criminalization protects individuals or society” is perhaps the strangest point offered in this farrago of special pleadings from scholar-practitioners of the law. Where is the credible evidence that there’s less burglary, assault, murder, or any other crime because of any particular criminal statute? Arguments have raged for decades, if not centuries, over whether the death penalty deters the actions for which that penalty is prescribed. In recent times in developed countries,. the chief justification for criminalizing anything is for the purpose of deterrence, since we have abandoned the notion that we should exact vengeance or that a God has commanded us to chop off hands for burglary, say. We “punish” — or usually claim to — not for the sake of punishing but so that others might be deterred.


Let me repeat, I agree that there should be no criminal penalties for transmitting HIV, or for having sex with someone while HIV-positive, or for sharing a needle with someone while HIV-positive. I do so because HIV can’t be transmitted, and “HIV-positive” is a measure and not a cause, it’s like a fever and not an indication of pathogenic infection.

But if I agreed with Cameron that HIV causes AIDS, and that this meant either death or lifelong medication with substances whose “side” effects are anything but pleasant, then I would be all in favor of criminal statutes against people who expose others to a risk of “catching” HIV, just as I concur with statutes against driving under the influence, burglary, assault, and anything else that causes harm to “individuals or society”.

HIV/AIDS beliefs have nurtured a host of absurdities. The labored, self-deceptive sophistries of Burris and Cameron furnish a truly sad example of the intellectual contortions that are made necessary by dogmatic belief in something that isn’t so.

Posted in HIV absurdities, HIV does not cause AIDS, HIV transmission, Legal aspects, sexual transmission | Tagged: , , , , | 12 Comments »