Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

I am Nicolaus Copernicus, and I approve of this blog

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Qualified outsiders and maverick insiders are often right about the need to replace received wisdom in science and society, as the history of the Nobel prize shows. This blog exists to back the best of them in their uphill assault on the massively entrenched edifice of resistance to and prejudice against reviewing, let alone revising, ruling ideas. In support of such qualified dissenters and courageous heretics we search for scientific paradigms and other established beliefs which may be maintained only by the power and politics of the status quo, comparing them with academic research and the published experimental and investigative record.

We especially defend and support the funding of honest, accomplished, independent minded and often heroic scientists, inventors and other original thinkers and their right to free speech and publication against the censorship, mudslinging, false arguments, ad hominem propaganda, overwhelming crowd prejudice and internal science politics of the paradigm wars of cancer, AIDS, evolution, global warming, cosmology, particle physics, macroeconomics, health and medicine, diet and nutrition.

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Many people would die rather than think – in fact, they do so. – Bertrand Russell.

Skepticism is dangerous. That’s exactly its function, in my view. It is the business of skepticism to be dangerous. And that’s why there is a great reluctance to teach it in schools. That’s why you don’t find a general fluency in skepticism in the media. On the other hand, how will we negotiate a very perilous future if we don’t have the elementary intellectual tools to ask searching questions of those nominally in charge, especially in a democracy? – Carl Sagan (The Burden of Skepticism, keynote address to CSICOP Annual Conference, Pasadena, April 3/4, 1982).

It is really important to underscore that everything we’re talking about tonight could be utter nonsense. – Brian Greene (NYU panel on Hidden Dimensions June 5 2010, World Science Festival)

I am Albert Einstein, and I heartily approve of this blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.   As I once remarked, the further the spiritual evolution of mankind advances, the more certain it seems to me that the path to genuine religiosity does not lie through the fear of life, and the fear of death, and blind faith, but through striving after rational knowledge.   Certainly the application of the impulse toward blind faith in science whereby authority is treated as some kind of church is to be deplored.  As I have also said, the only thing ever interfered with my learning was my education. My name as you already perceive without a doubt is George Bernard Shaw, and I certainly approve of this blog, in that its guiding spirit appears to be blasphemous in regard to the High Church doctrines of science, and it flouts the censorship of the powers that be, and as I have famously remarked, all great truths begin as blasphemy, and the first duty of the truthteller is to fight censorship, and while I notice that its seriousness of purpose is often alleviated by a satirical irony which sometimes borders on the facetious, this is all to the good, for as I have also famously remarked, if you wish to be a dissenter, make certain that you frame your ideas in jest, otherwise they will seek to kill you.  My own method was always to take the utmost trouble to find the right thing to say, and then to say it with the utmost levity. (Photo by Alfred Eisenstaedt for Life magazine) One should as a rule respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways. – Bertrand Russell, Conquest of Happiness (1930) ch. 9

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BMJ was misled, apologizes to Dr Rath

September 28th, 2006


But who fed the BMJ false information?

Sleazy actions abound in defense of weak HIV∫AIDS paradigm

Vitamin booster and somewhat loopy world savior Dr. Matthias Rath is still in South Africa, and taking on all comers, even though leading HIV∫AIDS dissenting scientist Dr David Rasnick has returned to the USA, having understandably found him impossible to work for.

Only two weeks ago, Rath leveled a law suit against the British Medical Journal for slander, and today he got results. BMJ backed down, withdrawing the story from its site and issuing an apology.

However, it is not clear at all what the specific falsehoods were, since the original story is gone and they are not specified in the apology, and there is no mention yet of the affair on Rath’s site, which now claims that Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were reacting to Rath’s prediction of pharmacollapse with their recent global charity initiatives (a two year graph shows how many visits from Microsoft the site has collected).

Here’s how the story was described by Knowledgespeak, in its story two weeks ago, “Dutch doctor takes BMJ to court with libel charges – 15 Sep 2006:

Titled ‘Vitamins promoter goes on trial for fraud’, the article is about an alternative medicine doctor, who is blamed for the death of a nine-year-old boy with bone cancer. According to the story, the doctor is sent on trial for fraud in Germany for convincing the boy’s parents to reject conventional medical treatments, and use a ‘miracle cure’ rich in vitamins. The story, which was available online until recently, has been removed on legal advice.

Dr. Matthias Rath of the Netherlands has reportedly filed a lawsuit against BMJ Publishing Group for having published a story in the British Medical Journal, which he alleges is defamatory. He is seeking compensation of over £300,000 for the article published in the July edition of the journal. He has also sought an injunction to prevent any repetition of the allegations.

Titled ‘Vitamins promoter goes on trial for fraud’, the article is about an alternative medicine doctor, who is blamed for the death of a nine-year-old boy with bone cancer. According to the story, the doctor is sent on trial for fraud in Germany for convincing the boy’s parents to reject conventional medical treatments, and use a ‘miracle cure’ rich in vitamins. The story, which was available online until recently, has been removed on legal advice.

Following Dr. Rath’s publicity campaigns, several people have reportedly been giving up antiretroviral drugs to opt for vitamin supplements.

Seems that the BMJ were advised by their lawyers to back down in a hurry, and now they have done so.

Here is the page at BMJ where they have also removed the offending libel – the vanished article page – and here is
28.09.2006″>the BMJ Rath apology page
.

Oh, good, we see it does give the false allegations:

In a news item published in the 22 July 2006 issue of the BMJ (2006;333:166) and on the bmj.com website, it was reported that Dr Matthias Rath had gone on trial in Hamburg “for fraud.”

In this context we suggested that Dr Rath stood accused of the serious crime of fraud in relation to the death in 2004 of Dominik Feld, a 9 year old boy with bone cancer; that he was culpably responsible for Dominik Feld’s death; and, in particular, that he had improperly pressured Dominik Feld’s parents into refusing to allow hospital doctors to amputate the boy’s infected leg in an effort to save him.

We now accept that the allegations we published were without foundation, and in the circumstances the BMJ wishes to set the record straight and to apologise to Dr Rath for publishing these allegations.

Sites such as Health-e which wrote stories based on the BMJ report have also withdrawn the story and apologized to Rath. A search for cached versions on Google shows that most or all of them have been removed.

Defending science with personal smears

Well, fine. A rather unexpected victory, given the circumstances, and the tendency for courts to credit ruling paradigms and conventional medicine as gospel truth, which makes one think the law will never give medical mavericks a fair shake. Whether Dr Rath has the right idea or the wrong idea, or even the right idea for the wrong reasons (we think more the latter), he should not be libelled.

But the residual important question is, who fed the BMJ the wrong information? Could it have been the South African activists who have been trying to drum him out of town? Was John Moore of Cornell involved in any way?

And will Moore et al’s scurrilously misleading AIDS information site, AIDSTruth also now carry this news item?

Poison pen letters as a weapon of science

Just how far are the sleazy group of second tier paradigm defenders prepared to go in combating their rivals on non-intellectual grounds? We note with interest that they indulge in sending letters to the employers of dissenters, hoping to silence them that way. This is a trick which most decent men and women wouldn’t think of, but which has been tried recently in three cases we know of.

Luckily in each case the employer didn’t take very long to work out why he or she was in receipt of such a puerile and perfidious attempt at backstabbing. After all, any sane person immediately recognizes how weak a scientific position has to be, if it must be defended with political means, especially with such ungentlemanly and crude capers.

It reminds us of a letter we were shown years ago by an MIT professor who had offended a certain Nobel prize winner by objecting to his joining the faculty. A libelous piece of trash written behind his back, it had taken a year for him to hear about it.

This kind of behind the back detraction is a standard ploy among the second rate who manoever for position which they do not merit. Scientists who are above board because they deserve their prizes and the respect and position they have earned often have no idea what is going on, and can hardly credit it when they are told.

One known perpetrator in HIV∫AIDS is John Moore of Cornell, and there are others, such as Nancy Padian, and Richard Jefferys, who have defended the paradigm in this way. But of course with Dr Anthony Fauci of NIAID censoring scientific or media review of the conventional wisdom from the very beginning of the HIV∫AIDS era twenty two years ago, perhaps they are merely following his lead and feel that their truth is a Holy War in which the Geneva Convention rules may be ignored.

Smokers, quit or you’ll likely be HIV positive

September 28th, 2006


Smokers often score positive, another baffling paradigm mystery

Could it be the obvious? Not in HIV∫AIDS dreamland

While in the aftermath of the last post we can all contemplate the AIDS industry embarking on an “exciting” and no doubt expensive search for a reason for CD4 counts to go down other than HIV “viral load”, we can add one more possible reason why positive HIV tests may not mean what we think they mean.

Seems smokers (watch out, Martin!) are more like to be “at risk of HIV” than the rest of us, notes the newspaper of HIV∫AIDS record.

The study, which appears in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, says it is not clear why smokers would be more likely to become infected with the virus, H.I.V., than nonsmokers.

The difficulty the researchers have in explaining their finding is clear. Apparently their “broad review of earlier research” didn’t include calling up the Perth Group or reading their copious papers on test cross reactions.

They stumble from one speculation to the next, as they ignore the elephant in the room.

The study was based on a broad review of earlier research that looked at the relationship between smoking and H.I.V. or AIDS. The authors, led by Dr. Andrew Furber, a British researcher, said they had found a “striking” consistency in the evidence that smokers were more likely to become infected. They did not, however, find strong evidence that smoking made AIDS worse.

The whole performance reeks of the basic intellectual corruption of the entire field, which is never, ever question the basic premises of the paradigm, in this case that the tests reliably indicate the presence of “the virus that causes AIDS”.

We would suggest quite simply on the basis of everything else that has been established in correcting the HIV∫AIDS paradigm in every respect that there is some reaction that goes on in the body of a smoker which triggers a positive response on the few parameters involved in an HIV test. But heck, what do we know, before reading the paper, and seeing how much more often smokers score positive, which the Times item forgets to mention.

Only that the Perth Group has written papers counting as many as sixty sources of cross reaction leading to a false positive, and we do know for example that pregnant females tend to score positive much more often. In fact we suspect that simply being young and female sends scores up in South Africa, judging from the numbers they give us.

That pregnancy cross reaction is one of the factors that makes a mockery out of the WHO extrapolations of prevalence of HIV from a few neonatal clinics in Durban and Johannesburg to the entire population of the sub-Sahara, according to critics such as Rian Molan and the Perth Group, among others, whom we believe.

Just how reliable HIV tests really are is a topic worthy of expansion here, but we have to sign off at this moment.

The least we can say is, come on guys, wake up. Isn’t it obvious why smokers should rate positive more often, without any other correlation with “AIDS”? Either the tests aren’t accurate, or HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, or both.

The New York Times

September 26, 2006

Vital Signs

At Risk: Smoking Tied to Increased Risk of H.I.V.

By ERIC NAGOURNEY

Researchers have found that smokers may be at higher risk for becoming infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

The study, which appears in the journal Sexually Transmitted Infections, says it is not clear why smokers would be more likely to become infected with the virus, H.I.V., than nonsmokers.

But the authors pointed to growing evidence that smoking increases the risk of all types of infections, perhaps by changing the structure of the lung or weakening the immune system. They also noted that tobacco use tended to be higher among the groups of people most likely to get AIDS, like prostitutes.

AIDS and tobacco use, the study said, are the only two major causes of death that are on the rise, with tobacco projected to play a role in perhaps eight million deaths in a little over a decade.

The study was based on a broad review of earlier research that looked at the relationship between smoking and H.I.V. or AIDS. The authors, led by Dr. Andrew Furber, a British researcher, said they had found a “striking” consistency in the evidence that smokers were more likely to become infected. They did not, however, find strong evidence that smoking made AIDS worse.

“It may be the case,” they wrote, “that smoking contributes little to the risk of developing AIDS. This may be because the immune mechanisms that smoking affects are less relevant in progression to AIDS than in acquiring the infection in the first place.”

JAMA confirms HIV load doesn’t govern CD4 loss

September 27th, 2006


Lynchpin falls out of paradigm

No explanation yet from Dr Fauci, and we think we know why

Interesting JAMA story moving on the UPI ticker just now: HIV measurement is questioned. Seems viral load has little to do with CD4 loss in untreated HIV + patients.

Dr. Benigno Rodríguez of Case Western Reserve University and colleagues conducted a study to estimate the extent to which presenting blood levels of HIV can account for the rate at which CD4 cells are depleted among an untreated HIV-infected population of patients.

The researchers found only a small proportion of the rate at which CD4 cells are lost could be explained by plasma HIV RNA level, suggesting more than 90 percent of the determinants of CD4 cell decline are not reflected in the amount of virus in blood.

So don’t hurry to take HAART just because your HIV count is high. Is that right?

If so, where does that leave the paradigm and Anthony Fauci’s assurance that HIV causes depletion of CD4 cells, directly, indirectly and some other mysterious way as yet undefined but characterised by the paradigm defense team’s head man, Zvi Grossman, as a “conundrum”.

Seems we don’t even have to work out what the conundrum is. HIV doesn’t correlate with CD4 loss, period. Not in untreated patients. Not before HAART messes with your constitution.

Ah well, it’s late, maybe we got it all wrong. But looks to us as if the paradigm is failing on every front. Viral load doesn’t govern CD4 loss. That’s a problem to explain, unless you are a dissenter, ie someone with a few working brain cells left in this field.

Is it time for Gallo et al to pack for Rio? He should buy his ticket, the way things are crumbling.

Still, since Fauci presumably has been forewarned, he probably has an answer for us tomorrow, and Larry will let us know at the Times.

UPDATE: here is an AMA rundown of the paper:

“These findings represent a major departure from the notion that plasma HIV RNA level is a reliable predictor of rate of CD4 cell loss in HIV infection and challenge the concept that the magnitude of viral replication (at least as reflected by plasma levels) is the main determinant of the speed of CD4 cell loss at the individual level. The clinical implications are that in the majority of cases, an individual patient’s plasma HIV RNA level at the time of presentation for clinical care cannot predict, to a significant extent, the rate of CD4 cell decline that he or she will experience over the subsequent years and is therefore of limited clinical value in shaping the decision to initiate antiretroviral therapy,” the researchers write.

(JAMA. 2006;296:1498-1506.)….

“The second and potentially more exciting implication of the findings of Rodriguez et al is that future improvements in the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS may result from improved understanding of the 90 percent of CD4 cell depletion that remains enigmatic,” they write. “A better understanding of the immunologic and genetic factors that drive HIV-associated CD4 cell loss may translate to novel therapeutic approaches that could favorably shift the pathogen-host balance.

So 90 per cent of CD 4 depletion is not driven by HIV? But… but… Dr. Fauci, come to our rescue here. We were under the impression that HIV caused AIDS by depleting CD4 cells. You told the audience that when you appeared in New York with Mathilde Krim and Larry Kramer at the New School to celebrate “AIDS after 25 Years”. Help us here.

Did Dr Fauci censor himself on HIV∫AIDS flaws?

Why was this paper not flagged at NIAID before it could be published? The answer to that question also seems enigmatic. Maybe it was because Dr Fauci thought there might be something in our previous nomination on his behalf for recognition from Stockholm (Dr Fauci finds solution to AIDS – it’s HIV; NAR nominates him for Nobel) on the grounds that he had discovered that HIV actually increased CD4+8 proliferation, and therefore was an antidote to itself.

Readers may note that at the bottom of that post is a Comment by Robert Houston which points out that Dr Fauci himself in a review of HIV∫AIDS quoted from a paper he himself forwarded to the National Academy of Sciences that showed that a huge rise in HIV load of 5,560% resulted in a negligible change in CD4 count of -6%, at the same time as boosting CD8 count 20%.

Is it possible that Dr Fauci is aware of the fact that HIV load has no great influence on CD4 count, and even wrote about it for the information of the medical community, on the basis of a paper he forwarded to the National Academy, and somehow forgot to tell government officials, health workers and the public?

Surely it would be too cynical to imagine that the director of NIAID would censor himself in this way, after censoring the media for twenty two years?

Surely a public servant of the well paid and important kind that Dr Fauci is would never withhold information from members of the public who pay his salary who might then be misled into taking drugs with horrendous side effects for no good reason?

Surely a public servant of the stature of Dr Fauci would not freely acknowledge a flaw in the paradigm which has brought so much funding to his institution among colleagues, and yet somehow neglect to tell the public?

If he did, then it behooves us to wonder just how flawed does Dr Fauci think the HIV∫AIDS paradigm really is. Are there other flaws which he has quietly recognized in chats and talks to his peers in the medical policy fraternity, but has omitted to acknowledge in public?

It already seems clear that his answer to Robert Houston at the “AIDS after 25 Years” panel on how HIV killed CD4 cells was misleading. He repeated the same old claims that there was direct killing and indirect killing which have not only been revealed as specious by mainstream papers which he must have read himself, but he knew himself from his own review and paper that HIV load has very little to do with CD4 count changes.

So today’s revelation in JAMA is nothing new to him, and we don’t really expect him to help us to understand it. Dr Fauci’s policy on informing the public seems to be this: however many reasons there are to doubt that HIV is “the virus that causes AIDS”, it is important not to undermine public confidence by acknowledging them in public.

But it is fine to talk and write about them among colleagues.

We wonder what all the haplessly gullible gays now staggering about with wrecked and ugly bodies, and the ghosts of their dead, will have to say about it when they finally come to their senses?

Maybe they will take up Larry Kramer on his suggestion for a latter day Nuremburg Trial, and put Dr Anthony Fauci in the dock.

AMA rundown:

Libraries

Medical News

Keywords

HIV, CD4 CELLS, IMMUNE RESPONSE

Contact Information

Available for logged-in reporters only

Description

Preliminary research indicates that the initial HIV RNA level in untreated HIV-infected patients appears to have little value in predicting the rate of CD4 cell count decrease, potentially limiting its clinical value concerning the decision of when to begin antiretroviral therapy for an individual, according to a study in the September 27 issue of JAMA.

Newswise — Preliminary research indicates that the initial HIV RNA level in untreated HIV-infected patients appears to have little value in predicting the rate of CD4 cell count decrease, potentially limiting its clinical value concerning the decision of when to begin antiretroviral therapy for an individual, according to a study in the September 27 issue of JAMA.

Depletion of CD4 cells is a characteristic of progressive human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease and a powerful predictor of the short-term risk of progression to AIDS, according to background information in the article. Blood levels of HIV are also thought to predict HIV disease progression risk. In addition to their role as predictors of the clinical outcomes of HIV infection, CD4 cell count and plasma HIV RNA level are commonly used as markers of the success of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). Until this study was completed, however, the degree to which blood levels of HIV could predict the rate of CD4 cell loss in HIV-infected individuals with similar demographic characteristics to those seen in clinical practice was unclear.

To address this question, Benigno Rodríguez, M.D., of Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and colleagues conducted a study to estimate the extent to which presenting blood levels of HIV can account for or “explain” the rate at which CD4 cells are depleted among an untreated HIV-infected population of patients including women and ethnic minorities. The study included repeated analyses of 2 multicenter groups, with observations beginning in May 1984 and ending in August 2004. Analyses were conducted between August 2004 and March 2006. The participants included antiretroviral treatment–naïve, chronically HIV-infected persons (n = 1,289 and n = 1,512 for each of the 2 groups) who were untreated during the observation period (6 months or greater) and with at least 1 HIV RNA level and 2 CD4 cell counts available. Approximately 35 percent were nonwhite, and 35 percent had risk factors other than male-to-male sexual contact.

The researchers found that only a small proportion of the rate at which CD4 cells are lost (only 4 percent – 6 percent) in a given individual patient could be explained by presenting plasma HIV RNA level, suggesting that in chronic untreated HIV infection over 90 percent of the determinants of CD4 cell decline are not reflected in the amount of virus in blood at the time of initial medical evaluation.

“Our findings confirm previous observations that the magnitude of HIV viremia [the presence of a virus in the blood stream], as defined by broad categories of presenting HIV RNA level, is associated with the rate of CD4 cell loss and extend this observation to patient populations comprising both men and women. Despite this association, however, only a small proportion of the interindividual variability in the rate of CD4 cell decline can be explained by plasma HIV RNA level, even after accounting for the effect of measurement error,” the authors write.

“These findings represent a major departure from the notion that plasma HIV RNA level is a reliable predictor of rate of CD4 cell loss in HIV infection and challenge the concept that the magnitude of viral replication (at least as reflected by plasma levels) is the main determinant of the speed of CD4 cell loss at the individual level. The clinical implications are that in the majority of cases, an individual patient’s plasma HIV RNA level at the time of presentation for clinical care cannot predict, to a significant extent, the rate of CD4 cell decline that he or she will experience over the subsequent years and is therefore of limited clinical value in shaping the decision to initiate antiretroviral therapy,” the researchers write.

(JAMA. 2006;296:1498-1506. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://www.jamamedia.org.)

“The second and potentially more exciting implication of the findings of Rodriguez et al is that future improvements in the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS may result from improved understanding of the 90 percent of CD4 cell depletion that remains enigmatic,” they write. “A better understanding of the immunologic and genetic factors that drive HIV-associated CD4 cell loss may translate to novel therapeutic approaches that could favorably shift the pathogen-host balance.

Editor’s Note: This work was supported in part by the Case Western Reserve University Center for AIDS Research and NIH grants. Please see the article for additional information, including other authors, author contributions and affiliations, financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

Editorial: Explaining, Predicting, and Treating HIV-Associated CD4 Loss – After 25 Years Still a Puzzle

In an accompanying editorial, W. Keith Henry, M.D., of the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; Pablo Tebas, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia; and H. Clifford Lane, M.D., of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Md., discuss the findings concerning HIV RNA levels and CD4 cell loss.

“The study by Rodriguez et al may have several important clinical implications. The first and more straightforward is that baseline measurements of viral load alone should have less of a role in driving decisions on when to start antiretroviral therapy for an individual patient; these initial viral load levels cannot predict how rapidly the disease will progress. … The seemingly useful practice of combining a CD4 cell count and plasma HIV RNA levels to assess an individual patient’s prognosis for AIDS progression or response to highly active antiretroviral therapy needs reexamination.”

“The second and potentially more exciting implication of the findings of Rodriguez et al is that future improvements in the treatment of HIV infection and AIDS may result from improved understanding of the 90 percent of CD4 cell depletion that remains enigmatic,” they write. “A better understanding of the immunologic and genetic factors that drive HIV-associated CD4 cell loss may translate to novel therapeutic approaches that could favorably shift the pathogen-host balance. … Discovering and developing therapies that target key nonviral factors has the potential over the decades ahead to build on the success of antiretroviral therapy and expand access to sustainable effective therapy.”

(JAMA. 2006;296:1523-1525. Available pre-embargo to the media at http://www.jamamedia.org.)

Editor’s Note: Please see the editorial for financial disclosures, funding and support, etc.

HIV measurement is questioned

CLEVELAND`, Ohio, Sept. 26 (UPI) — Preliminary U.S. research indicates the HIV RNA level in untreated HIV-infected patients has little value in predicting the rate of CD4 cell count decrease.

Researchers say that potentially limits HIV RNA’s clinical value concerning the decision of when to begin antiretroviral therapy.

Until the new study was completed, the degree to which HIV blood levels could predict the rate of CD4 cell loss was unclear.

To address the question, Dr. Benigno Rodríguez of Case Western Reserve University and colleagues conducted a study to estimate the extent to which presenting blood levels of HIV can account for the rate at which CD4 cells are depleted among an untreated HIV-infected population of patients.

The researchers found only a small proportion of the rate at which CD4 cells are lost could be explained by plasma HIV RNA level, suggesting more than 90 percent of the determinants of CD4 cell decline are not reflected in the amount of virus in blood.

The research appears in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

UPDATE: Nick Bennett Replies on his site Viral load paradigm shift? Not really.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Viral load paradigm shift? Not really.

An interesting study came out recently (I managed to get a copy of the article from one of the authors) on the predictive value of viral load. It’s well known (at least among those who bother to read and understand the literature) that those people with higher viral loads tend to progress faster, as was shown by John Mellors back in the mid 1990s using the large Multicenter AIDS cohort study (MACS).

This study took things one step further. They replicated the original findings of Mellors by showing again that viral load roughly predicted how fast AIDS occurred in another large cohort composed of people from 3 seperate study sites. For example, in this new paper people with viral loads less than 500 had an average loss of CD4 cells of 20 per year whereas those with viral loads over 40,000 had an average loss of 78 a year (with a smooth change for values inbetween). Basically this data proved that viral load was a reasonable predictor of rate of progression! They compared this analysis with the original MACS cohort and it looks practically identical!

But then they tried to look at the individual rate of progression of each member of the cohort. Unsurprisingly they found that the rough-and-ready estimates of progression rate within a subgroup varied from one individual to another. When they ran complex statistical analysis on the effects of viral load on THIS data they found that only about 5-6% of the inter-individual variation can be explained by the initial viral load. In another words, while viral load predicts that you WILL lose CD4 count, and you can give an AVERAGE loss of CD4 cells per year based on that count, you can’t say for sure what the ACTUAL loss will be for any one person very accurately.

Well, duh. Nothing amazing there.

Now, what’s sad about this whole thing is that is appears as if the dissident websites have jumped all over the mass-media coverage of this without bothering to read the paper. They are assuming that this somehow negates the usefullness of viral load measurements. Ironically if a paper showing that viral load predicted 100% of the CD4 T cell loss (an impossible thing) relied on complex statistical analysis I’m sure they wouldn’t accept it with anything like the same level of naivity!

This is nothing new – we’ve known for years that various other factors can play into AIDS progression, from nutritional status to immune makeup, depression, and viral genetics. We’ve known for years that overall T cell losses include uninfected as well as infected cells, that immune hyperactivation leads to apoptosis but a lack of renewal – both things that are only indirectly due to HIV infection, but not direct cell killing. What we haven’t done before is put a number on anything – to say roughly HOW much influence these things can have on an individual level.

It should also be noted that this should lay to rest any idea that mainstream science is simply laying back and accepting the current paradigm without question. If that were the case, why was this large, comprehensive, complex study performed? Is it because that when dissidents say that scientists ARE sitting back on the current paradigm they are…*gasp*…lying??! And, SHOCK HORROR, this was supported by an NIH grant, the very same NIH that the dissidents are trying to claim is horribly corrupt and under the thumb of pharmaceutical sponsors!

Ahh, is that the sound of cherries being picked?

Anyhow, I will quote from the paper:

“Our findings confirm previous observations that the magnitude of HIV viremia, as defined by broad categories of presenting HIV RNA level, is associated with the rate of CD4 cell loss and

extend this observation to patient populations comprising both men and women.”

In other words, viral load predicts rate of progression to AIDS.

If the dissidents are trying to twist this paper to say anything else, they are managing a feat of astonishing deception. Is there more to the story? Of course! No-one, except the dissidents, is saying anything else. They also state that “In humans, the predictive value of immune activation level on HIV disease course, independent of plasma HIV RNA levels, can be demonstrated even when measured during early infection”, which goes back to what I said above.

And I refer the reader to my older post on HIV pathogenesis.

It should also be mentioned that viral load isn’t used as a clinical criteria for starting treatment unless the load is very high and the CD4 counts are equivocal. Viral load is almost exclusively used for monitoring response to therapy on the individual level, so inter-individual variability isn’t an issue anyway.

This result is very important in that it highlights the need to investigate other factors important in triggering or controlling rate of progression to AIDS, but it won’t really change the current paradigm in terms of understanding AIDS pathogenesis, nor will it change current treatment guidelines, because neither depends on the idea that HIV viral load is the be-all and end-all of AIDS.

Except of course, that it is in the minds of the dissidents.

Which is (one reason) why they’re wrong.

posted by Bennett at 11:18 PM

0 Comments:

Comment: Bravo, Bennett, for defending the paradigm against what looked like a nasty finding judging from the first reports. Now we too have the actual paper in hand, we can see that the point Dr Bennett makes is perfectly correct, this was a paper dealing with variations between individual experiences, not with the overall correlation between the two measures of HIV and CD4 for all the patients in the study. Naturally there can be many other factors accounting for variations in individual experience, as there are many reasons for contracting AIDS symptoms, and reasons for vulnerability.

But he entirely overlooks the thrust of the paper, which demonstrates that the authors are unable to discern what those causes of variation might be. They explored the possibilities that sex, risk factor and/or presenting HIV RNA stratum might be the answer and found nothing that could predict the rate of CD4 loss. In fact, Bennett’s reassurance that everything is fine in HIV∫AIDS la la land is merely the same old reflex denial of the big black headline over the AMA comment by W. Keith Henry, which is that “Explaining, Predicting and Treating HIV-Associated CD4 Cell Loss (is) After 25 Years Still a Puzzle.

Henry et al note that the report “challenges the notion that, at the individual level, a limited number of HIV measurements over a short period of time provide meaningful prognostic information regarding the rate of CD4 cell decline and by extension the risk of opportunistic infections.” Of course, if the medical fraternity would take off their NIAID provided glasses with “HIV is behind everything” etched onto them they would have known this in the first place. If they bothered to read their own literature (or this blog) or even think clearly they would know that it is just as likely that CD4 counts are lower at rest and higher when activated, than vice versa, as Dr Fauci has recently touched on in his extensive review. Moreover, the level of active virus in the blood of patients without AIDS symptoms in the long “latent period” is utterly negligible. It is hard to conceive it has anything at all to do with changes in CD4 count, compared with myriad other influences on the immune system.

The result of the study is in fact utterly predictable, and the only surprise it holds is for those who imagine that the simple minded mechanism of HIV causing AIDS imagined in the first place over two decades ago – HIV killing CD4 cells dirctly – is still part of the paradigm. This includes Dr Fauci, it appears, who doesn’t read his own medical literature according to his public statement at the New School on the ways HIV kills CD4 cells, which repeated this now outmoded idea, as well as the cell suicide theory of “indirect killing”, when both are rejected by his top theoretical thinker Zvi Grossman, who has retreated to the conclusion that how it all happens is a “conundrum”.

What is really the study’s only novel usefulness is its demonstration yet again that no one has any idea how HIV can possibly govern the loss of CD4 cells that is held to be cause of AIDS, and that the obvious alternative – that HIV is merely an opportunistic infection, and rather than governing CD4 count, it is CD4 count that governs the rise and fall of HIV viral load, as CD4 numbers are affected by other factors – the poisons and other assaults that may bring on AIDS symptoms.

It puts yet another nail in the coffin of a paradigm that has never been able to demonstrate its central premise.

Institute slams FDA on drug safety

September 23rd, 2006


Musical chair leadership has left agency in disarray

How about AIDS? Maybe IOM should look at NIAID too?

Hot news two days in a row in the Times: the FDA is on the hot seat, accused of dereliction of duty and letting unsafe drugs onto the market in a damning report it paid the Institute of Medicine $3 million for, following the Merck arthritis drug Vioxx debacle. In this case, the FDA bureaucrats have been poorly rewarded for their patronage, since the IOM has roasted them, demonstrating the problems are systemic.

The report’s conclusions are often damning. It describes the Food and Drug Administration as rife with internal squabbles and hobbled by underfinancing, poor management and outdated regulations.

“Every organization has its share of dysfunctions, unhappy staff members and internal disputes,” the report said. But panel members said that they were deeply concerned about the agency’s “organizational health” and its ability to ensure the safety of the nation’s drug supply.

Gardiner Harris’ story Study Condemns F.D.A.’s Handling of Drug Safety has been moved from the Business Section of the Times yesterday to the front page top right and expanded today (Sat Sep 23), so it is unlikely to be missed by anyone important in Washington or New York City.

The New York Times

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September 23, 2006

Study Condemns F.D.A.’s Handling of Drug Safety

By GARDINER HARRIS

WASHINGTON, Sept. 22 — The nation’s system for ensuring the safety of medicines needs major changes, advertising of new drugs should be restricted, and consumers should be wary of drugs that have only recently been approved, according to a long-anticipated study of drug safety.

The report by the Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, is likely to intensify a debate about the safety of the nation’s drug supply and the adequacy of the government’s oversight. The debate heated up in September 2004 when Merck withdrew its popular arthritis drug Vioxx after studies showed that it doubled the risks of heart attacks.

Several senators have already proposed significant changes, some of which the report seems to endorse.

The report’s conclusions are often damning. It describes the Food and Drug Administration as rife with internal squabbles and hobbled by underfinancing, poor management and outdated regulations.

“Every organization has its share of dysfunctions, unhappy staff members and internal disputes,” the report said. But panel members said that they were deeply concerned about the agency’s “organizational health” and its ability to ensure the safety of the nation’s drug supply.

The report made these recommendations, most of which would require Congressional authorization:

¶Newly approved drugs should display a black triangle on their labels for two years to warn consumers that their safety is more uncertain than that of older drugs.

¶Drug advertisements should be restricted during this initial period.

¶The F.D.A. should be given the authority to issue fines, injunctions and withdrawals when drug makers fail — as they often do — to complete required safety studies.

¶The F.D.A. should thoroughly review the safety of drugs at least once every five years.

¶The F.D.A. commissioner should be appointed to a six-year term.

¶Drug makers should be required to post publicly the results of nearly all human drug trials.

In a telephone conference with reporters on Friday, top F.D.A. officials struck an awkward balance between thanking the institute for its work and defending their own leadership. They said they needed to study the report before deciding which of its recommendations to endorse.

“While considerable work has been done over the past two years to improve our approach to drug safety, work still needs to be done,” said Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach, the acting commissioner of the agency and the nominee for commissioner.

An internal e-mail message sent Friday to agency staff members by Dr. Sandra L. Kweder, deputy director of the Office of New Drugs, was blunter, bemoaning the report’s criticism of what it described as the agency’s dysfunctional culture.

“It is a long, inflammatory section of the report that will certainly generate the most public attention and hit our people hard,” Dr. Kweder wrote, according to a copy provided to The New York Times.

Agency critics were elated.

“The new report validates what the watchdog community has been saying for the last two years,” said Senator Charles E. Grassley, Republican of Iowa, who as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee has overseen investigations into drug safety problems. “Problems are systemic, and solutions must reflect a new mind-set by the agency leadership.”

The drug industry, through its trade organization, reacted warily. “Though there is always room for improvements, it would be a mistake to accept the notion that the F.D.A. drug safety system is seriously flawed,” said Caroline Loew, senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

The Institute of Medicine is a nonprofit organization created by Congress to advise the federal government on health issues. The report was issued by the Committee on the Assessment of the United States Drug Safety System, led by Sheila P. Burke, deputy secretary and chief operating officer of the Smithsonian Institution.

The report described fierce disagreements between those who approve drugs and those who study their effects after approval, disputes that repeated F.D.A. efforts have not resolved. Indeed, managers’ failure to address such disagreements competently “has played an important role in damaging the credibility” of the agency, it said.

Critics of the food and drug agency have long been divided into two warring camps. Some say the agency fails to approve life-saving medicines quickly enough, while others say that it is so intent on rapid approvals that it fails to ensure the safety of the drugs.

The institute’s report champions the latter view by calling for greater caution. It suggests that one of the agency’s biggest problems is a deal struck in 1992 between Congress and the drug industry in which drug makers agreed to pay millions in fees to speed reviews. This deal has increased pressures on drug reviewers to act quickly, and it has limited “the ability of reviewers to examine safety signals as thoroughly as they might like,” the report said.

“Some also have serious concerns that the regulator has been ‘captured’ by industry it regulates, that the agency is less willing to use the regulatory authority at its disposal,” the report said, criticizing the agency’s regulatory tools as “all-or-nothing.”

“The agency needs a more nuanced set of tools to signal uncertainties, to reduce advertising that drives rapid uptake of new drugs, or to compel additional studies in the actual patient populations who take the drug after its approval,” it said.

The pharmaceutical industry is likely to fight at least some of the proposals, said Charlie Cook, a Washington political analyst.

“One should never underestimate the influence of the drug industry,” Mr. Cook said. “But I would think that at least the outlines of many of these recommendations would have a decent chance of getting through Congress.”

Senators Michael B. Enzi, Republican of Wyoming and chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the committee, have jointly proposed a bill that would undertake at least some of the changes advocated by the report.

Another bill, sponsored by Senator Grassley and Senator Christopher J. Dodd, Democrat of Connecticut, offers similar proposals.

There is little chance that Congress will act on any of these proposals before next year, when it must reauthorize the 1992 financing deal with the drug industry. Negotiations between the drug industry and agency about the parameters of that deal are already under way.

Despite its fierce criticisms, the report may bolster the confirmation prospects of Dr. von Eschenbach. A Senate committee approved his nomination on Wednesday, but two Republican senators have vowed to block it.

Over the past 10 years, no commissioner has served more than two years, though the term is open-ended. The report deplored this “lack of stable leadership.”

“Without stable leadership strongly and visibly committed to drug safety, all other efforts to improve the effectiveness of the agency or position it effectively for the future will be seriously, if not fatally, compromised,” the report states.

It recommends that the commissioner be nominated for a six-year term, but such a change may not solve the problem of early exits. President Bush has nominated two past commissioners. The first left for another job within the administration; the second left amid accusations of financial improprieties.

The report recommends that Michael O. Leavitt, the secretary of health and human services, appoint an independent board to advise the commissioner “to implement and sustain the changes necessary to transform” the agency’s culture.

It rejects suggestions by Mr. Grassley and others that the F.D.A. create a center for drug safety to monitor drugs after approval.

“Achieving a balanced approach to the assessment of risks and benefits would be greatly complicated, or even compromised, if two separate organizations were working in isolation from one another,” the report concludes.

The F.D.A. asked the Institute of Medicine to review its drug safety system shortly after the Vioxx withdrawal in 2004, and the agency has agreed to pay $3 million for the study.

The original had this nice paragraph in it, subsequently cut but only to expand the point and drive it home:

Couched in formal language and careful footnotes, the report’s boring exterior belies an incendiary heart. With each page, it paints a devastating picture of a dysfunctional agency that is unable to ensure the safety of the nation’s drug supply.

Also it appears that Gardiner has now come into possession of a frantic email from one of the FDA’s cats in the hot seat, responding to the report.

An internal e-mail message sent Friday to agency staff members by Dr. Sandra L. Kweder, deputy director of the Office of New Drugs, was blunter, bemoaning the report’s criticism of what it described as the agency’s dysfunctional culture.

“It is a long, inflammatory section of the report that will certainly generate the most public attention and hit our people hard,” Dr. Kweder wrote, according to a copy provided to The New York Times.

One of the arrangements which has made the FDA and the industry it is meant to watch all too cosy is a deal from 1992 where the drug companies pay millions to hurry their permits through:

…one of the agency’s biggest problems is a deal struck in 1992 between Congress and the drug industry in which drug makers agreed to pay millions in fees to speed reviews. This deal has increased pressures on drug reviewers to act quickly, and it has limited “the ability of reviewers to examine safety signals as thoroughly as they might like,” the report said.

Nice understatement, very discreet. This rather blatant fee setup is under review right now but nothing is likely to be done until next year. Here are the main recommendations of the report on ways to tighten up the reins, which the industry lobbyists now have six months to undermine:

¶Newly approved drugs should display a black triangle on their labels for two years to warn consumers that their safety is more uncertain than that of older drugs.

¶Drug advertisements should be restricted during this initial period.

¶The F.D.A. should be given the authority to issue fines, injunctions and withdrawals when drug makers fail — as they often do — to complete required safety studies.

¶The F.D.A. should thoroughly review the safety of drugs at least once every five years.

¶The F.D.A. commissioner should be appointed to a six-year term.

¶Drug makers should be required to post publicly the results of nearly all human drug trials.

The one we like best is this one: “¶The F.D.A. should thoroughly review the safety of drugs at least once every five years.” Yes, sir. Maybe whenever our federal watchdog shapes up again and gets its bite back it will do more than give the HIV∫AIDS drug companies a free pass, as it has for twenty years, riding on the scientifically blind gay activist support for untested drugs and itself blindly willing despite all signs of trouble to go along with clinical trials that have not once included a placebo controlled, ARV free group.

Or has the FDA now abandoned all oversight to the NIAID, which as Harper’s glaringly exposed in Celia Farber’s stunning article in March this year Out of Control: AIDS and the corruption of medical scienceis in bed with the drug companies with the lights out?

Drugs are key to HIV∫AIDS’ heart of worms

Certainly someone should reexamine the regulatory performance with regard to HIV∫AIDS drugs, whoever retains any responsibility in this regard, since now more than one study indicates that ARV drugs kill at least half the AIDS patients who die in the first year of medication with HAART, instead of rescuing them from sickness and death.

In fact, the atrocious performance of the drugs in AIDS is the key to exposing the clay feet of the paradigm, as Harper’s intimated and we will demonstrate in our next post.

Given that it is the NIAID who bears the responsibility for the way ARV trials have been conducted, and even for rewriting and even reversing their results, as Harper’s reported, maybe the FDA could redeem itself by spending the money for a review and calling on Celia Farber as a highly paid expert consultant, since she has amassed a pile of damning material in this regard, and still hasn’t been paid properly for her twenty years of public service in this regard. NIAID off-and-on employee Harvey Fishbein could also be a consultant, if Dr Fauci can be persuaded to let him.

Come on guys, pay the IOM another $3 million for an independent study on that topic, if you are still on speaking terms after this, which we hope you are. After all, the IOM report was exceedingly polite about your talents:

The Committee believes the staff of the Food and Drug Administration, and of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research in particular, to be a dedicated and talented group of public servants who currently lack the organization and resources to address all of the challenges before them and perform their crucial role of advancing and protecting public health in an increasing complex environment. We believe that the Congress needs to ensure that the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research is given the authority and assets (human, financial, technological, etc.) it requires. The Center’s leaders have to be prepared to address the underlying cultural problems that divide and impair the optimal functioning of Center staff and effectively use the existing and new authorities and resources to achieve the Center’s public health and regulatory mission.

Sooner or later, the abysmal state of HIV∫AIDS medication, which is a can of worms which cannot be hidden away in the technical literature forever, and which itself reveals the horrendous truth behind the scenes in this disgraceful chapter in US science and medicine, will be brought to light. So why not cover yourselves with glory and do it now?

Oh, you would prefer not to grasp the nettle just now, thank you? We understand.

Well, NAR stands ready to shoulder the burden. Next post coming up, and we’ll make it a brief summary of the report that the Institute of Medicine would do if only NIAID director Anthony Fauci was not staring them down and waving the bureaucratic equivalent of a baseball bat.

Here is where the text of the report The Future of Drug Safety: Promoting and Protecting the Health of the Public can be read on line.

Here’s a good quote, straight from the introduction, emphasizing how important it is to the drug industry itself that public confidence in the safety of drugs should be high:

Almost every morning’s newspaper and each evening’s television newscasts include a new and more disturbing episode of pharmacological crisis and medical mayhem in the United States” (Markel, 2005). “. . .

The FDA has become synonymous with drug safety. In a sense, `FDA approved’ is the brand that the entire $216 billion U.S. drug market is founded upon. Dilute the confidence of the public in the agency, and many billions of dollars in current and potential sales vanish overnight. That’s exactly what’s happening right now in the wake of the biggest drug withdrawal ever” (Herper, 2005).

The recent highly-publicized controversies surrounding the safety of some drugs have contributed to a public perception that the drug safety system is in crisis. It seems fair to say that this perception has created an opportunity for a thorough evaluation of the U.S. drug safety system.

News media coverage and congressional examination of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research’s (CDER) handling of safety concerns have raised questions about the review and approval process and whether it has become so accelerated that adequate attention may not be given to safety, and about the completeness and timeliness of risk communication to the public.

Questions also surfaced about the independence of the scientific expertise relied on by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) (i.e., conflict of interest on the its advisory committees) and about the possibility of undue industry influence related to CDER’s increasing dependence on Prescription Drug User Fee Act (PDUFA) funding.

Test everybody – CDC’s answer to AIDS apathy

September 21st, 2006


If it comes, it might have interesting consequences

Test everybody! Find out if you or I are positive! This is the brave idea whose time has come, according to the CDC and one of its admirers, A. David Paltiel, a health policy expert at the Yale University School of Medicine.

“I think it’s an incredible advance. I think it’s courageous on the part of the CDC,” said A. David Paltiel, a health policy expert at the Yale University School of Medicine.

So down the slippery marketing slope we go with the CDC to the bottom at last, which we welcome with two cheers.

One cheer is for the possibility that more than several superrich and savvy guys’ son or daughter is bound to be positive and then he may pay for a wholesale frontal attack on the NIAID media censorship battlement around the paradigm, or at least a court challenge to the HIV testers to produce an isolated virus, as Martin Kessler suggests in Comments.

The other loud cheer is for the possibility that everybody’s mother and grandmother will prove positive too, just as Dr Harvey Bialy, author and incendiary revolutionary leader of the HIV/AIDS insurgents at the top level of the debate, suspects, as we laid out in our earlier post Ask Mama – a typically novel Bialy initiative, which explained why this research should be done forthwith, by anyone heterosexual who is HIV+ – test your mother and your grandmother immediately, for positively dramatic results.

Federal health officials Thursday recommended regular, routine testing for the AIDS virus for all Americans ages 13 to 64, saying an HIV test should be as common as a cholesterol check.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are aimed at preventing the further spread of the disease and getting needed care for an estimated 250,000 Americans who don’t yet know they have it.

“We simply must improve early diagnosis,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding.

Nearly half of new HIV infections are discovered when doctors are trying to diagnose a patient who has already grown sick with an HIV-related illness, CDC officials said.

“By identifying people earlier through a screening program, we’ll allow them to access life-extending therapy, and also through prevention services, learn how to avoid transmitting HIV infection to others,” said Dr. Timothy Mastro, acting director of the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS prevention…

The recommendation, if fully implemented, could mean testing for to 100 to 200 million Americans, said Ron Spair, chief financial officer of Pennsylvania-based OraSure Technologies, one of three companies that sell rapid-result HIV tests in the United States.

200 million tests at $15 each, that would be $3 billion.

So is CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding (pic) planning an exit to some grateful drug company? Such a thought would never come up in responsible circles. But it is the duty of blogs to mention the unmentionable.

PS: For third loud cheer, see Hank Barnes’ Comment below.

For ref here’s the item, first signalled by McKiernan in Comments today: CDC Backs HIV Test for All Between 13-64

SF Gate Return to regular view

CDC Backs HIV Test for All Between 13-64

– By MIKE STOBBE, AP Medical Writer

Thursday, September 21, 2006

(09-21) 18:20 PDT ATLANTA (AP) —

Federal health officials Thursday recommended regular, routine testing for the AIDS virus for all Americans ages 13 to 64, saying an HIV test should be as common as a cholesterol check.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines are aimed at preventing the further spread of the disease and getting needed care for an estimated 250,000 Americans who don’t yet know they have it.

“We simply must improve early diagnosis,” said CDC Director Dr. Julie Gerberding.

Nearly half of new HIV infections are discovered when doctors are trying to diagnose a patient who has already grown sick with an HIV-related illness, CDC officials said.

“By identifying people earlier through a screening program, we’ll allow them to access life-extending therapy, and also through prevention services, learn how to avoid transmitting HIV infection to others,” said Dr. Timothy Mastro, acting director of the CDC’s division of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Although some groups raised concerns, the announcement was mostly embraced by health policy experts, doctors and patient advocates.

“I think it’s an incredible advance. I think it’s courageous on the part of the CDC,” said A. David Paltiel, a health policy expert at the Yale University School of Medicine.

The recommendations aren’t legally binding, but they influence what doctors do and what health insurance programs cover.

However, some doctors’ groups predict the recommendations will be challenging to implement, requiring more money and time for testing, counseling and revising consent procedures.

Some physicians also question whether there is enough evidence to expand testing beyond high-risk groups, said Dr. Larry Fields, the president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

“Are doctors going to do it? Probably not,” Fields said.

But the recommendations were endorsed by the American Medical Association, which urged doctors to comply. The CDC said it’s difficult to predict how many doctors will.

Previously, the CDC recommended routine testing for those at high-risk for catching the virus, such as intravenous drug users and gay men, and for hospitals and certain other institutions serving areas where HIV is common. It also recommended testing for all pregnant women.

Under the new guidelines, patients would be tested for the AIDS virus as part of the standard tests they get when they go for urgent or emergency care, or even during a routine physical.

The CDC recommends everyone get tested at least once, but annual testing is urged only for people at high risk.

Consent for the test would be covered in a clinic or hospital’s standard care consent form. Patients would be allowed to decline the testing. The CDC’s guidelines say no one should be tested without their knowledge.

An American Civil Liberties Union official protested the CDC’s idea of dealing with HIV on standard consent forms, and the agency’s de-emphasis of pre-test counseling.

“By eliminating these safeguards, what they’re calling ‘routine testing’ will in practice be mandatory testing,” said Rose Saxe, a staff attorney with the ACLU AIDS Project.

The cost of the new policy is not clear. A standard HIV test can cost between $2.50 and $8, public health experts say.

New rapid tests cost about $15. If an initial result is positive, confirmatory tests can cost another $50 or more. Treatment for HIV can cost more than $10,000 a year.

WellPoint, the Indianapolis company that owns 14 Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans across the country, has not yet taken a position on the CDC guidelines.

It also hasn’t estimated what it will cost to expand HIV testing for its 34 million members, but it traditionally covers tests recommended by the CDC, said WellPoint spokeswoman Shannon Troughton.

The recommendation, if fully implemented, could mean testing for to 100 to 200 million Americans, said Ron Spair, chief financial officer of Pennsylvania-based OraSure Technologies, one of three companies that sell rapid-result HIV tests in the United States.

The other companies are MedMira Inc. and Trinity Biotech. Standard HIV tests are done through both public health labs and private and commercial labs.

“This certainly expands the rapid HIV testing market,” Spair said.

Identifying more HIV patients will place an added burden on public health programs that pay for such care, some of which are facing potential cuts under a proposal before Congress. But more diagnoses may help win bolstered funding, said John Peebles, an assistant branch chief over HIV programs at the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Resources.

“If you don’t know what you need, you can’t make the argument for resources,” Peebles said.

The CDC has been working on the guidelines for about three years, and got input from more than 100 groups, including doctors’ associations and HIV patient support groups.

___

On the Net:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

www.cdc.gov/mmwr

URL: Test everybody

©2006 Associated Press

NAR wins Clinton’s ear for a moment

September 21st, 2006


Exchange in MOMA establishes Bill is no puppet of NIAID

His actively critical position same as Jim Watson’s: the drugs work don’t they?

Always willing to plunge into the fray on behalf of our faithful readers, we followed the master plan announced on NAR yesterday and a) attended the showing of “Pills, Profits and Protest: Chronicle of the Global AIDS Movement” at CUNY and b) won the ear of President Clinton for a moment, which, even though we were surrounded by a press of rival admirers clamoring for the blessing of his attention, succeeded in prompting a remarkable exchange on the dread topic of the Virus and its powers.

At CUNY, the little publicised event attracted about thirty people, almost all women, to this showing of an hour long video by co-directors Ann-christine d’Adesky, Shanti Avirgan and Ann Rossetti on the successes of virtuously motivated activists in Brasil and elsewhere in winning access to damaging drugs at a cheaper price than before.

Afterwards there was a panel consisting of Shanti Avirgan (pic, right – click photos twice to make much larger), who is with the Department of Anthropology at New York University, Shirley Lindenbaum (left) a bright and fluently appreciative academic professor from the Anthropology department of CUNY and Jennifer Klot of the HIV/AIDS Program, Social Science Research Council, a lady well versed in the intellectual extrapolations of AIDS activist politics. The predictable theme of the comment was congratulations all round for the tireless efforts of all in this cause, particularly women, tied to their concern for domestic violence, and the need to pursue the same objective tirelessly in places the film had not treated, like Eastern Europe and Thailand. Brasil came in for particular honor for its early move to make the drugs available to all.

Two facts were of special interest to us: a) the expert anthropologists had neglected to consider the anthropology of medicine and science, and had no idea at all that the human motivations and behavior of medical and scientific authorities might be the same old game as that of the drug companies, who came in for universal suspicion and condemnation for their desire for profits for their shareholders. They could understand that drug companies might be motivated by profit but that doctors and scientists might be motivated by self interest to cut corners or worse as a permanent tendency of their respective tribes seemed to be beyond their consideration. Perhaps it was too far away from the ivory tower to be noticed.

But secondly and more importantly b) there was present a classic example of the drug taking patient who by his very existence seems to contradict the fears of the dissenters in HIV∫AIDS, since he had been taking, he claimed, more than the normal amount of HAART drugs for over ten years at the behest of his doctor who favored an aggressive level of treatment. According to his friends present, who included the academics who had mounted the show, he had been in hospital and at death’s door, and the arrival of HAART had saved him. Now he appeared full of vigor and full cheeked, saying he had suffered fat displacement in the past but that the phase had passed and he now felt as full of energy as he ever had.

All we can say in line with the fears of the AIDS critics is that we once again had that familiar sense that he reeked of germs, which we fancy we detect through smell and through a sensation in the back of our nose and throat, admittedly a subjective response, but frequent when we have enountered AIDS patients over the years. But in behavior our new friend was confident, energized and happy to credit the drugs with keeping him alive and well.

We will fill out the above report later and follow up on both aspects with further checking.

Extraordinary exchange with Clinton

It was bearing that anecdotal, contradictory evidence of the man’s vigor in mind anew that we then dropped in on the party at MOMA, to see if by chance we could somehow connect with either Clinton and Gates, and get them to take us seriously enough to give us the name of a staff member to send information to as to what is really going on behind the scenes in HIV∫AIDS, and what the literature actually tells us about the viability of the paradigm.

Sampling the barbecued rib and the tuna at a table in the thick of the crowd we chatted to an FT reporter about our purpose, and to our surprise – perhaps in a spirit of devilish experimentation at no cost to himself – he encouraged us to do it. So armed with this unexpected support from a fellow Englishman, we plunged into the scrum of assiduous supplicants surrounding Clinton nearby and succeeded in winning his attention and broaching the topic.

“Mr President”, we said, we have “something very important to tell you, and would like to have an email address or the name of one of your staff to send it to, and be sure you get it!” “Really?” said the great man – indeed he is great in stature, seemingly about six foot six – “What is it about?” So we told him. And to our amazement, he was hooked by the issue. Instead of physically slipping away from the idea like a startled fish, which is the way of almost all politicians and political players in this game that we have encountered in public, he actually addressed the topic.

At first, he had the predictable reflex response that no, he had fully considered the alternative, and was convinced there was nothing in it, because it was simply too clear that those who took the anti-HIV drugs did so much better than those who did not. For some reason on some basis, however, which we will fill in later from our notes of the exact words used, he didn’t lose interest so we continued the exchange by telling him that we thought he was misled, that there was every reason to think that Mbeki was right and that we would send him something on it. One thing he did say – he was convinced that the drug trials were rotten. Could he have been reading Harper’s?

What was significant in all this was the fact that our President emeritus averred he had indeed looked into the issue very carefully, and had come to his own conclusions about it. In fact, we renewed the interchange for a moment after he had moved on by gripping him on the arm and telling him appreciatively that “at least you are a thinking politician, well done!” This got him to turn back to us yet again and assure us enthusiastically that indeed he had studied it carefully himself and not simply taken the advice of a staff member. Surely this is a remarkable statement by someone who is also the consummate politician – Clinton’s Rhodes scholar mind is as alive as ever and he is in the prime of life. No wonder he is moving mountains with his global causes.

Clinton then moved on to engage other much more distinguished greeters and we stood there for a minute contemplating him in admiration too – surely there is no man of his political stature who has combined such genuine charisma with a Rhodes scholar level of mental attention to ideas taken by all too many people as beyond their ken, curtained off in the “science” department, and here he was literally in the rosy pink of good health, emanating vibrancy and the joy of purposeful existence from every pore.

Change the constitution!

No wonder the pretty women flocked around wideyed with their digital cameras, and the personable and sleek suited men were anxious to shake his hand. Later, at the nearby Papillon Bistro Bar where the press were corralled, a tall reporter standing next to me as Clinton came downstairs and halted in the entrance area, once again surrounded by and intensely engaged with one supporter after another, exclaimed that it was a very great shame for this country that this man is prevented from running again for an office that he could now fill with so much more experience and skill than anyone else around.

And indeed, this live Clinton encounter showed us what television and the press cannot – that this is a man of almost heroic distinction in a group of dimensions – personality, political skill, celebrity flair, intellectual alertness and address, and applied idealism in the cause of human need on a global scale – probably not matched by any other in memory, at least in our experience of encountering public figures in person.

The excitement and full bodied distinction of the Clinton Global Initiative event, of the presidents of corporations and countries who have flocked to participate in his event and his cause, and the quality and energy of the personnel who now man his organization, were all immediately apparent to the visitor, and they all clearly stem from the physical charisma and eternally attentive mind of an extraordinary man.

If anything will ever change in HIV∫AIDS, it is clearly most likely if Clinton can be persuaded to review the matter again in the light of what the literature actually says, and not what he believes it says. So we intend to send him a letter outlining why he should do so, just as soon as the event is over. For today, we return to see if we can buttonhole Jimmy Carter or Bill Gates with equal success, however unlikely that may be, since Gates has in fact apparently decamped.

Unreality with Clinton at the Sheraton

September 20th, 2006


Powerbroker summit heralds billions for poor, suffering – we hope

But will anyone listen to the only literate politician?

(President Bill Clinton presented a Certificate of Commitment from the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) to recognize the Unitus-ACCION Alliance for India on Saturday, September 17, 2005 in New York City. Unitus vice chair Elizabeth Funk and board member Steven Funk accepted the certificate on behalf of Unitus)

Bill is busy as master of ceremonies again at his Clinton Global Initiative bash at the Sheraton today thru Friday, handing out certificates of commitment, waffling and cheerleading strictly along the lines of mainstream wisdom, gathering plaudits and admirers and generally adding his showbiz flair to his post-Presidency race for chief global do gooder, in which Jimmy Carter now seems reduced to an also ran because he does the same thing with much less fanfare and business savvy.

Here’s an admiring Fortune article from a couple of weeks ago if you can stand it – well, it’s not too sycophantic:

Bill Gates has the money. But no one motivates people and moves mountains like Bill Clinton. He’s even got Rupert Murdoch onboard. A look at how the former President has borrowed from the business world to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and other scourges…

Clinton says he spends more than half his time on the foundation, and he’s trying to get to the point where that’s all he does. “I don’t see how we could have exploded this any faster and had more impact that we have,” he says. “We started with me, a handful of people, and $10 million in debt.” When asked if he has any fear of failure, he says, simply, “No.” Then he offers a line that you might hear from a motivational speaker. “If you try enough things and are ambitious enough, you’re going to fail at some. The thrill of this is trying to do it.”

Fortune Magazine: The Power of Philanthropy

Fortune Magazine

Date: September 7, 2006

Bethany McLean

Bill Gates has the money. But no one motivates people and moves mountains like Bill Clinton. He’s even got Rupert Murdoch onboard. A look at how the former President has borrowed from the business world to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa and other scourges.

(Fortune Magazine) — When the black SUV crested the hill and stopped near a cluster of low buildings in the desolate Rwandan village of Rwinkwavu, a crowd of people cheered and the cameras started to roll. Showtime. Paul Kagame, the tall, cave-chested President of Rwanda, alighted from the driver’s seat, and Bill Clinton, thinner than he used to be and ruddy in a brightly checked shirt, emerged from the passenger’s side.

They were there to visit a hospital that treats people with HIV/AIDS, and Clinton was … still Clinton. The former President was midway through a nine-day, seven-country African sprint meant to showcase the work of his William J. Clinton Foundation: conferring with the American ambassador to Chad at 5 A.M. on a runway in N’Djamena; talking politics with reporters in a Johannesburg hotel until his eyes, which these days have deep-black half-moons under them, were bleary; celebrating Nelson Mandela’s 88th birthday; launching a development initiative in Malawi with President Bingu Wa Mutharika; and visiting a clinic with Bill and Melinda Gates in Lesotho, where Clinton was knighted last year.

Soon it would be on to Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Liberia, but now he was in Rwinkwavu, making the rounds with Dr. Paul Farmer – a hero in the world of medicine for his work treating AIDS patients in Haiti. Last year Clinton persuaded Farmer and his Boston-based organization, Partners in Health (PIH), to bring their methods to Rwanda.This hospital was the result, and now it was time to show it off.

What seemed like half the village followed Clinton and Farmer from room to room, along with the obligatory horde of reporters and some very zealous Rwandan security guards. “Make sure you meet this guy,” said Clinton, gesturing toward an embarrassed Farmer. “You’ll be able to say you shook the hand of the guy who won the Nobel Peace Prize.” The group made its way to a ward where mothers and their sick children were huddled three to a bed; Clinton tried to make a connection with them. A bit later, outside, he effortlessly changed tone, joking with a young woman: “I’ll let you be President if you’ll let me be 20 years old again. No one would take that trade.”

As the crowd swirled around him, one petite American woman in a simple black suit chose to stay out of the spotlight. Beth Collins spent 17 years in the corporate world-director at Walt Disney Theatrical Productions, vice president at Universal Pictures, CFO of Talk Media – before giving up the business life in 2004 to become the Clinton Foundation’s Rwanda country director. Now 45, she says she had always felt the call of service but made the decision to answer it (and take a humongous pay cut) only when she came across a book about the genocide in Rwanda – and realized that because she’d been traveling the world nonstop for Disney (Charts), she didn’t even know there had been a genocide in Rwanda. A colleague put her in touch with Clinton, who has always regretted that he didn’t do more as President to stop the genocide. Collins says she never had a moment’s doubt about swapping one life for another.

And so, with the support of the Rwandan government, she and Farmer came to Rwinkwavu and set about rebuilding the dilapidated clinic, a onetime Belgian colonial hospital built to service a tin mine. In 1994, the year that an estimated 800,000 Tutsis were slaughtered by Hutu militia, the hospital was abandoned and became a place where people hid and were killed. Now, thanks to funding from Clinton, Unicef, and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, it is a hospital again, with a small, clean white room stacked with lifesaving antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that hold AIDS at bay.

In 2004, Collins helped the government place Rwanda’s first orders for those drugs. Roughly 1,700 Rwandans receive ARVs through the program, which trains regular people to deliver and administer meds. “I’ve never loved a job more than this one,” Collins says. “Now I can use my business experience to really do something.”

The un-funded foundation

Welcome to the world of the Clinton Foundation – which, it should be said at the outset, is not a foundation at all in the traditional sense, because it has no money of its own. What it does have, of course, is Bill Clinton and all he brings with him: what Dr. Richard Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund, calls his “personal bully pulpit”; what Bob Carson, outgoing chairman of the American Heart Association, calls his “mind-boggling convening power”; what Doug Band, who began as Clinton’s personal aide in the White House and now carries the title of counselor, calls his “ability to motivate people and move mountains.”

The people he motivates are an odd but potent mix of longtime allies and FOBs, doctors and activists, and executives ranging from the unknown and enormously dedicated (Beth Collins) to the high-profile and frankly improbable (longtime nemesis Rupert Murdoch, who is bankrolling a global-warming initiative).

“We take a lot of cues from the business world,” says Clinton, who these days can sound more like a CEO than a politician. “We have very entrepreneurial people and a very entrepreneurial process. We identify a problem, we analyze it, and we move.” Much of his staff comes from business, and he says using business practices “allows us to do a lot with relatively small resources.”

Overseas assignments don’t come with a car and driver or first-class airfare. “Your job satisfaction is not my main concern,” policy chairman Ira Magaziner, an FOB for almost 40 years, likes to tell the staff. “You can sit in coach for ten hours.” The foundation’s 2006 budget is just $30 million; next year it will roughly double.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, by contrast, has a $30 billion endowment. “Yeah, I’d like to have his money,” says Clinton of Gates. “But I think our way adds value. It’s kind of a pain to always ask for financing, but perhaps it forces you to look closely.” “We have a culture of getting s**t done. It is very empowering and very unforgiving,” says Anil Soni, a former McKinsey consultant who is now COO of Clinton’s HIV/AIDS initiative. “Ira and Clinton will say, ‘People are going to die tomorrow if we don’t do this.’ And it’s true.”

The foundation doesn’t have a clearly defined hierarchy or a detailed business plan. Its tentacles sprout from need, opportunity, and passion rather than design. “We don’t have committees, we don’t have processes,” says foundation CEO Bruce Lindsey, who has been with Clinton since Arkansas. “If a decision needs to be made, we make it. If we can help, we help now, not tomorrow.”

The foundation operates a bit like a management consulting firm – burrowing into and improving the work of larger organizations – albeit one that is out to rescue the world from the dark threats of poverty, AIDS, climate change, and childhood obesity. “The scale and ambition were startling,” says Mala Gaonkar, a hedge fund manager at Lone Pine Capital who gives money to Clinton. “I’m an analytical person.The foundation is very good at saying, ‘Here are the outcomes, here are the metrics, here’s how we’ve done.’ “

Since we’re talking about Bill Clinton, you’ll also hear criticisms. His foundation is just a way to keep the cameras and the crowds coming. He’s just doing it to help his wife. He overpromises and underdelivers. He grabs credit for the work of others. He’s searching for redemption. There’s probably some truth to all of them.

Certainly nobody soaks up the spotlight like Clinton – of course he got together with Madonna to discuss what they might do to save Malawi. And inevitably, all the showmanship can make you wonder about the substance. But to criticize is also to acknowledge that the bar is higher for Clinton than for anyone else. Instead of joining corporate boards, he’s attacking many of the world’s most intractable problems.

He is not going for the quick hits; he’s going where others haven’t. And he agrees that the bar should be set high: “I believe a lot should be expected of me because I was given an astonishing life.” He also says he has opportunities now that he didn’t have as President. “The raw power [of the presidency] can be way oversold. There are limits to it.”

Unique as it is, the Clinton Foundation also stands for something larger than itself. “I am trying to do this in a way that will inspire other people,” he says. “I hope the way we do things will become more the norm.” Like the Gates Foundation and Robin Hood, the Clinton Foundation is part of a new turn in philanthropy, in which the lines between not-for-profits, politics, and business tend to blur. In this hardheaded philanthropic world, outcomes matter more than intentions, influence isn’t measured in dollars alone, and you hear buzzwords like “scalability,” “sustainability,” and “measurability” all the time. As Clinton says, “It’s nice to be goodhearted, but in the end that’s nothing more than self-indulgence.”

AIDS initiative

On Aug. 14, more than 24,000 people from 160 countries gathered in Toronto for the biennial International AIDS Conference. In a cavernous convention center, attendees waited for hours to cram into a room the size of several football fields to hear Bill Clinton and Bill Gates talk about their work on HIV/AIDS. Where Gates discussed his long-term search for an AIDS vaccine, Clinton described a more immediate goal. “What I wanted to do was to stop people from dying,” he said. “I thought we could do something no one else was doing, and so I did it as best I could.”

The Clinton HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI, for short) is illustrative of the foundation’s work for its businesslike approach, its fearlessness, and its knack for promotion. CHAI’s model-act like a for-hire blue-chip consultant and attempt to change the structure of a market rather than just dole out money – has become a blueprint for the foundation as a whole. CHAI employs 491 of the foundation’s roughly 570 employees, about half of them volunteers. It’s also where the whole enterprise got its start.

When Clinton left office, he didn’t have a master plan. There were only a handful of people working on raising money to build his library and a lot of requests. “Every board, every bank, every hedge fund wanted him,” says Band. “But he is not a corporate animal. He’s a public servant.” After leaving office some $10 million in debt, in the past five years Clinton has made over $30 million giving speeches and more than $10 million as an advance for his book, My Life; a deal with businessman Ron Burkle could yield him tens of millions more.

In 2002, Clinton went to Barcelona for that year’s International AIDS Conference, and Dr. Denzel Douglas, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, told him, “We need your help.” Douglas said that if the destruction being wrought by AIDS wasn’t stopped, any other effort to alleviate poverty would be useless. “I didn’t have a clue what I was agreeing to,” Clinton said in Toronto. “We had a total of 12 people in Harlem, and we couldn’t even answer the mail.”

The problem is immense. In sub-Saharan Africa, where perhaps 70% of the world’s infected people live, in some countries more than 20% of the adult population is HIV-positive. The health-care infrastructure is minimal to nonexistent in many places, and annual incomes are less than $200 a year. As recently as the late 1990s, the prevailing attitude toward the explosion of HIV/AIDS was that it was basically hopeless.

Antiretrovirals cost upwards of $10,000 a year. The multinational pharmaceutical companies that owned the patents on these drugs were reluctant to lower their prices. “For the first 20 years of the known epidemic, from 1981 to 2001, we did very little,” says Feachem, head of the Global Fund. “We denied, we minimized, we grossly underfunded.” As President, Clinton admits, he defended for too long the patents of Big Pharma companies against cheap competition from generics. But he rejects widespread criticism of his administration’s HIV/AIDS efforts, arguing that he was stymied by the GOP-controlled Congress. “I think I did do a good job,” he says.

The dismal global picture had begun to change well before 2002, when Clinton got involved. No one in the deeply politicized global AIDS community will ever agree on the impact of any given initiative, but certain things indisputably happened.

In no particular order: Activists, particularly Nobel Prize-winning Doctors Without Borders, began to protest the high price of drugs. Indian generic-drug makers, led by Cipla, began to make cheaper generic ARVs. The major pharmaceutical companies agreed to provide their drugs at what they say is no profit to the poorest of countries. In 2001 the Global Fund was started, and its billions provided major purchasing power. In January 2003, George W. Bush announced that the U.S. would commit $15 billion over five years to “turn the tide against AIDS in the most afflicted nations of Africa and the Caribbean.”

Clinton decided to take on the price of ARVs and dispatched his longtime aide Magaziner to look at the problem. By 2002 the most common ARV, the three-in-one pill that patients took twice a day, was being sold for as little as $250 to $500 per person per year, and for much more in some places. Magaziner thought that was all “outrageously expensive.”

Magaziner and Clinton were Rhodes Scholars together. A former management consultant, Magaziner became a key architect of Hillarycare, and after that blew up, he pretty much disappeared from public view. But these days he seems to be everywhere. With his intense eyes and rumpled olive-green suits, and usually fresh from a 20-hour flight in coach, he has something of the mad scientist about him. “He’s not a charmer and not a politician, but he’s the genius,” says Basil Stamos, a doctor whose family helps fund the foundation.

Magaziner called in a network of volunteers, some of them donated by McKinsey, and had them dissect the supply chain for ARVs. “There are a lot of little things that come naturally to someone with a business background,” says Magaziner. As it turns out, much of the cost of the drug is the raw materials. He first went to Big Pharma to discuss how they could reduce their costs, but he says they weren’t interested. (“Ira came to see us to offer to help us work through our supply chain,” says one pharmaceutical executive. “We had already scrubbed the numbers. We understand our supply chain.”) So Magaziner turned to India.

Generic-drug makers like Cipla were already starting to crack Big Pharma’s monopoly. Magaziner’s team got all the suppliers to agree to lower their prices to the point where they would lose money in the first year. They did so in part because CHAI guaranteed them certain volumes. In late 2003, CHAI announced that it would make the most common AIDS drug available for less than $140 a year via agreements with four generic-drug companies.

In Toronto, Clinton described CHAI’s accomplishment this way: “Four years ago, first-line generics cost about $500 a person a year. So we set out to organize a drug market to shift it from a high-margin, low-volume, uncertain payment process to a low-margin, high-volume, certain payment process…. We were able to lower the price to just under $140 a person a year.” He also said that over 400,000 people in almost 60 countries are now getting ARVs under his foundation’s agreements. The foundation has also negotiated price reductions for pediatric drugs and HIV tests.

Within the global AIDS community, however, there are often complaints that headline numbers and press releases present too rosy a view. The Clinton Foundation is not immune to this criticism. At a meeting of generic-drug makers in 2005, discussion turned to Clinton. “He is a very good talker,” said Cipla CEO Dr. Yusuf Hamied, according to a transcript. It’s true that the $140-a-year price comes with a long list of conditions that weren’t included in CHAI’s press release, and that the 400,000 figure includes patients whose drugs-and doctors-are paid for by others. (CHAI doesn’t break out the number of people whose drugs it actually pays for.)

When Clinton says, “We reduced the price from $500,” that’s a royal we-it includes the contributions of drugmakers like Cipla and groups like the Global Fund. In response to such criticism, the Clinton Foundation provided Fortune with a spreadsheet showing that between 2003 and the present, it arranged for the purchase of $72 million worth of ARVs, at an average price of less than $140 for the most common three-in-one combination. Nor does that number tell the whole story. As Cipla’s Dr. Hamied puts it, “Clinton has played a major role in giving companies like Cipla credibility, for which I will always be grateful.”

Other key players agree. “Our folks have gone out and looked very closely,” says Joe Cerrell, director of global health advocacy at the Gates Foundation. “There’s no question that the work and the accomplishments have been dramatic.” The Gates Foundation has already given Clinton $750,000 and is evaluating two more grants. “We’re fundamental believers in the model,” says Cerrell.

You’ll also hear that the publicity Clinton generates is disproportionate to the size of his work and obscures the contributions of others-although this may be inevitable, given who he is, and may do more good than harm, since he aims the spotlight on such worthy causes. In Toronto, Stephen Lewis, the UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, recounted how he went to Magaziner “almost begging him to intervene” in Lesotho, a tiny, landlocked kingdom that is surrounded by South Africa and has one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS. “Within one month-I repeat, within one month-the Clinton Foundation had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Health,” said Lewis, contrasting CHAI’s urgency with other organizations that moved “with supernatural acceleration from inertia to paralysis.”

Sir Bill

In addition to funneling low-cost ARVs to Lesotho, the foundation has helped pay for the refurbishment of a pediatric clinic near Maseru, the capital. In gratitude, King Letsie III last year dubbed Clinton a Knight Commander of the Most Courteous Order of Lesotho. In July the Maseru airport – which can be used only during daylight because the landing strip has no lights – was festooned with banners for Clinton’s arrival.

What you wouldn’t know from all the hubbub is that others are working in Lesotho too. For instance, back in 1999, Bristol-Myers Squibb (Charts) announced it would donate $100 million over five years to five African countries, including Lesotho. In December 2005, BMS, along with the Baylor College of Medicine, opened a pediatric clinic that’s also in Maseru.

When the Secret Service did their advance work in Lesotho before Clinton’s visit, they chose the BMS-Baylor clinic as the place to have doctors on standby if Clinton should fall sick. “No one has star power like Clinton,” says Dr. Mark Kline, president of the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative. “But the casual observer might be led to believe that no one else is doing anything, and that may draw resources away from others. They’re doing great stuff, but they’re one of a number of groups that are doing great stuff.”

In Toronto, Clinton also announced that his goal was “universal access [to ARVs] by the end of the decade.” It is almost impossible to comprehend the enormity of that goal – the billions that would be needed to pay for drugs, delivery, training, and infrastructure. In one small instance, Dr. William Bicknell, a professor at Boston University who also works in Lesotho, calculates that Lesotho will be able to treat up to 45,000 people a year with the roughly $9 million it is expected to have available. But upwards of a quarter-million people in Lesotho will need treatment by decade’s end.

That Clinton would even say “universal access” may hint at his messianic streak, but it’s also a measure of how much things have changed in a very short time. “There was anger and recrimination,” says Feachem. “Now there is hope and ambition.” Everyone agrees that what has made the difference is access to treatment. Old prejudices, such as the notion that poor people couldn’t be trusted to take their pills regularly, have been proven false. As Clinton said in Toronto, “They’ll live if you give them the tools to live.” But even Clinton acknowledges that treatment alone will never be enough. “I think it will be a rocky road until we have a vaccine or a cure,” he told the crowd in Toronto.

At a small dinner party last year in London, a dapper, goateed Scottish entrepreneur named Sir Tom Hunter found himself seated next to Clinton. Hunter, who sold his sneaker empire for $500 million in 1998 and is now the richest man in Scotland, soon found himself in Africa. After late-night discussions about the intertwined nature of the forces that make poverty such an intractable problem-Does health care help people who don’t have clean water? Does clean water help someone who is starving?-the two decided to launch an integrated development program in Rwanda and Malawi. The goal of the Clinton-Hunter Development Initiative, or CHDI, which even Clinton admits is “pretty brassy,” is to double per capita income within ten years. Hunter is committing $100 million over a decade; Clinton is lending his name and the manpower. Already, Magaziner has had people out riding the trucks that distribute fertilizer in order to figure out how best to reduce the cost, just as they did with ARVs. “Clinton speeds things up,” says Hunter. “We don’t have to wait to see if someone takes our call. Our goal is to take the dependency out,” he adds. “We absolutely want to put ourselves out of business.”

In addition to his physicians, saints, and Scottish entrepreneurs, Clinton also has his Wall Street supporters, including money management firm Sterling Stamos. Sterling Stamos, which manages over $3 billion, is set up so that 10% of the general partners’ profits go to charity. Chris Stamos, a partner in the firm, says he decided to commit money to Clinton when, along with Tom Hunter, he accompanied Clinton to Africa. The defining moment came in Rwanda, when a local reporter asked Clinton about his administration’s failures during the 1994 genocide. “It didn’t happen under my administration,” Clinton replied. “It happened under me.”

“It was so unpolitical,” says Stamos.

Just a few weeks after Clinton returned from his 2006 trip to Africa, he was at a press conference-yes, another one-in Los Angeles. Accompanied by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, he announced his latest initiative: an attempt to tackle global warming by working with the world’s 20 largest cities to help them reduce emissions and buy energy-friendly products such as efficient lighting more cheaply. The $3 million in funding is coming from three donors: Anson Beard (one of the retired Morgan Stanley executives who played a role in ousting CEO Phil Purcell), Barbra Streisand-and Rupert Murdoch. “I’m quite sure it’s the only time that Rupert Murdoch and Barbra Streisand have done anything together!” says Clinton. Few have been tougher on the Clintons than Murdoch’s New York Post, but recently the camps have been cozying up; Murdoch even hosted a fundraiser for Hillary. Murdoch “has the same right to his opinions that I have to mine,” says Clinton. “It would be hypocritical of me if I weren’t willing to work with people who have opinions different than mine.” He laughs. “It was said of me when I was governor that I’d never remember who I’m supposed to hate one day to the next.”

What with global warming and the worldwide HIV/AIDS pandemic, you might think Clinton has his hands full. Then you meet Bob Harrison, a former Goldman Sachs partner who now spends most of his days in a cramped room in Clinton’s Harlem office. The little space is dominated by a giant posterboard that says ALLIANCE FOR A HEALTHIER GENERATION. After Clinton’s quadruple-bypass surgery in the fall of 2004, the American Heart Association called to see if he’d do a public-service announcement. Clinton responded that he wanted to do something that had measurable results, and in May 2005 his foundation and the AHA announced the alliance, which has as its grand goal stopping the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity by 2010. It’s a personal issue for Clinton-he battled his weight as a child, and his ongoing struggles with diet have been exhaustively chronicled-but it is more than that. Childhood obesity could cause this generation of Americans to be the first in history with a shorter life expectancy than their parents. The economic consequences are staggering.

Like most of Clinton’s projects, the alliance is both immensely ambitious and embryonic. This spring Clinton held-surprise!-a press conference to announce a deal he had struck with the beverage industry to limit the amount of sugar and calories in drinks sold in schools. Harrison is now negotiating a similar deal with snack-food makers, and other parts of the plan, such as helping health-care providers better treat obesity, are underway. “This is as intense and urgent as almost any period of time at Goldman Sachs,” says Harrison, who worked for the John Kerry campaign after leaving the firm. He does not take a salary.

Clinton’s beverage deal has already come under fire from a wide range of activists, lawyers, and academics, who say he simply swiped the groundwork laid by a grass-roots movement, and that he has been used as a handy public relations tool by soda companies desperate to avoid the very real threat of litigation. When you look closely at the agreement, it’s all voluntary. States such as Connecticut have passed legislation that goes further. “Industry went looking for someone like Clinton to make it look like they were doing something good, when in reality they were being forced into it,” says Kelly Brownell, the director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale who was recently named one of Time’s 100 most influential people for his work on childhood obesity. “I’m not surprised that Bill Clinton would do something to grab the spotlight,” says Michelle Simon, the founder of the Center for Informed Food Choices.

The deal with the soda companies showcases another key tenet of the Clinton Foundation-its determination to work with, not against, industry. “The foundation’s approach is to be very conscious of economic realities. We’re not trying to put anyone out of business or even do damage,” says Harrison. Says Clinton: “I never ask any business to lose money. What we need most in AIDS, in climate change, in health care, is for them to reexamine the premises on which they operate.” He cites Wal-Mart’s move to a greener business model as a key example of doing well by doing good. The alliance’s work may help test the limits of that old saw.

Everyone who works for the Clinton Foundation insists that “no” is part of the vocabulary-after six months of research, for instance, they decided they didn’t have the resources at this particular time to fix the world’s water and sanitation problems. But you can’t help wondering about their level of self-awareness when Band says, with apparent sincerity, “We believe we’ll have way more impact if we focus on a few things specifically rather than a lot of things broadly.” They seem to be spread thin, but from their perspective, maybe they’re being incredibly selective. Band, with his ever buzzing BlackBerry, a letter from Mandela on his desk, and an e-mail from Spielberg in his in-box, says that the foundation receives 5,000 pieces of mail a week, 20% of them requests for help. “If it’s a malady the body can have, they’ve come to us,” says foundation CEO Lindsey.

If it all sounds a bit grandiose, could it be any other way? As Lindsey says, “It’s the nature of the beast. We work for a man who sees big problems and wants to tackle them.”

On a Thursday in late August, Clinton’s Harlem office is a frenzy of activity. People are streaming in and out of the conference room, where a gigantic purple orchid blooms against the Manhattan skyline. Clinton is in the house, and a string of events are in full swing to celebrate his 60th birthday, which began on the day itself, Aug. 19, and will conclude with a private Rolling Stones concert fundraiser in October. Today Clinton’s staff threw him a surprise party, and Bono sent a singing telegram delivered by famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan, who sang what amounted to a history of the Irish in America. Clinton teared up. (No, he isn’t Irish.)

Clinton’s office is an oasis of calm. Lining the windowsills and covering the walls are framed memorabilia and photographs. It seems more like a museum than a working office, and indeed, Clinton isn’t there often. He travels roughly half the year, and when he’s in New York State he works mostly out of Chappaqua, spending one day a week in the Harlem office.

Clinton’s health problems in the fall of 2004 don’t seem to have slowed him down. He looked exhausted in the wake of his surgery but now appears fit-and remains absurdly active. In addition to the foundation, there’s the Bush-Clinton Katrina fund, his work as the UN’s special envoy for tsunami relief, and-oh, yes-politics. It is an election year, after all, so his calendar includes time for campaigning. “I knew I would want to help as much as I could,” Clinton says. And then there are the things that just pop up, like today’s meeting with a Make-A-Wish child whose wish was to meet Clinton. (“He’s so smart,” says Clinton. “He’s read all the books I have.”) He also finds the time to read four or five books a week. On the trip to Africa, he talked constantly about Robert Wright’s Nonzero. (“It contradicts people’s sense of themselves to have to share the future with the other,” Clinton said. “But there is no conceivable alternative.”) Of course, he also golfs, although he says, “If I played more than once a week, I’d get bored.”

Clinton says he spends more than half his time on the foundation, and he’s trying to get to the point where that’s all he does. “I don’t see how we could have exploded this any faster and had more impact that we have,” he says. “We started with me, a handful of people, and $10 million in debt.” When asked if he has any fear of failure, he says, simply, “No.” Then he offers a line that you might hear from a motivational speaker. “If you try enough things and are ambitious enough, you’re going to fail at some. The thrill of this is trying to do it.” He insists that his foundation is not an attempt to atone for past sins or compensate for lost power. “I promised myself when I left the presidency that I would not spend one day sitting and moping and wishing I was still President,” he says. He repeats a variation of this a little too often for it to be believable, though, and while he’ll discourse on the limits of presidential power, he also recounts a telling anecdote. Someone recently asked him if he thought he would wind up doing more good as a former President than he did as President. “Only if I live a long time!” he said.

In truth, no explanation of Bill Clinton’s motives can do them justice. Is he trying to help Hillary by generating goodwill and building support among both Republicans and Democrats? He’ll deny that Hillary needs any help. He is sensitive to charges that he didn’t put a stamp on his time as President, and he acknowledges a few failures-about Rwanda, he says, “I do think I have a debt there, and I don’t think it can ever be fully discharged.” But if he has any sense of mission not accomplished, he won’t admit to it.

Clinton casts his motivations in moral and religious terms-and frequently mentions his own mortality. In a speech a year ago, he said, “It will benefit us economically if we do this. But we need a little humility here. If we really have our religious teachings grounded, well, we will do this because it’s the right thing to do.” He also said, “I’ve reached an age now where it doesn’t matter whatever happens to me. I just don’t want anybody to die before their time anymore.” In Harlem, he picked up a picture of himself and Hillary back in Arkansas. “I was only 39 then, and I didn’t look it,” he said. “I didn’t look my age until I was 45, and then it all went to hell.” He’s been saying things like this since 1996 or so, when he seemed to realize that his graying-now white-hair lent him a gravitas he’d lacked. But after quadruple-bypass surgery, who can say he hasn’t earned it now?

Flying through African skies after a long day in Malawi, Clinton went on another extended monologue about his motivations. “Always in my life, I’ve had a consuming interest in people, politics, and policy. I’m out of politics now except for whatever use I am to Hillary. But I’m not out of people and policy. My primary motivation is that I love this stuff.” For the people in Malawi, he said, there was but one choice: to work to live. “That’s the way 99% of people in human history have lived. If you’re in that narrow class who can live to work, you are privileged not just now, but in any single moment that ever existed.” He added, “If you can do something that makes a difference, you have a moral obligation. But it’s not a burden, it’s a joy. I think those are my motives,” he concluded. “But who can really know?”

Having attended similar meetings eg Davos before we view their power to change things with a jaundiced eye but there is something invigorating about Clinton’s bonhomie, and the powerbrokers of the world are here. He seems sure to “make a difference”, although given his record so far on HIV∫AIDS he will likely add to that problem rather than solve it.

In Toronto, Clinton also announced that his goal was “universal access [to ARVs] by the end of the decade.” It is almost impossible to comprehend the enormity of that goal – the billions that would be needed to pay for drugs, delivery, training, and infrastructure. In one small instance, Dr. William Bicknell, a professor at Boston University who also works in Lesotho, calculates that Lesotho will be able to treat up to 45,000 people a year with the roughly $9 million it is expected to have available. But upwards of a quarter-million people in Lesotho will need treatment by decade’s end.

The proceedings can be viewed from your desk in Cuernavaca or Kuala Lumpur by going to Clinton Global Initiative and watching it streamed in a live webcast from a link on that page.

After angling for a word with Clinton, Gates or Buffett at today’s event we are toying with the idea of visiting CUNY this evening for tips on how an activist might jump on board tomorrow and hijack this ship, since the Anthropology department is running a film, Pills, Prophets, Protests, on the antics of protesters agitating for their beloved pills:

Pills Profit Protest

18 September 2006

Don’t miss a screening of Pills Profit Protest: Chronicle of the Global AIDS Movement, a film by Center for Religion and Media Fellow Shanti Avigran, with Anne-christine d’Adesky and Ann T. Rossetti, at the CUNY Gradute Center this Wednesday, September 20, from 6:30 to 8:00 pm. Pills Profit Protest documents the battle for access to HIV treatment by depicting the struggle between the marginalized and the powerful and is an essential commentary on one of the largest global crises we face today. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with filmmaker Shanti Avigran, Shirley Lindenbaum (Department of Anthropology, CUNY Graduate Center), and Jennifer Klot (HIV/AIDS Program, Social Science Research Council).

But probably after exposure to this insanity we will be forever discouraged from associating with activists of any type, and let the good ship HIV∫AIDS/Clinton/Buffett/Bono/NIAID sail on unperturbed.

The chances of getting any of these key citizens or their staff to look at the medical literature or even its more popular exposition in books and on the Web and related commentary in NAR seems minimal in an age where video streaming seems so much more exciting and relevant.

The man they might listen to – but don’t

And of course, the one politician on the world stage who has shown the intellectual capacity and fortitude to look behind the scenes in the matter of global HIV∫AIDS is not likely to be asked to contribute.

After all, we have all just heard anew from the Los Angeles Times on the subject of “Dr Beetroot” – Her Ideas on AIDS Are Called Bad Medicine – along the following lines. First, how Mbeki’s capacity for independent investigation and judgement has now blighted his reputation irrevocably:

In the late 1990s, Mbeki warned of the toxicity and harmful side effects of antiretroviral treatments, and in 2000 he questioned the link between the human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS. He has never publicly disavowed those views, although government spokesman Themba Maseko said this month that the government thought HIV caused AIDS.

“I don’t think he understands how much it has damaged his presidency,” said William Gumede, the author of a biography critical of Mbeki. “Even his closest allies, if you speak to them, don’t see it.”

Other observers think that the more pressure from activists and international experts, the less likely Mbeki is to dismiss Tshabalala-Msimang because he finds it difficult to admit he was wrong about AIDS.

“I think there’s a certain degree of vanity here,” said political analyst Tom Lodge, a former political science professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “He’s like a lot of politicians: He really finds it difficult to say, ‘Look guys, I made a mistake.’ “

Not much here to encourage other politicians to follow his example.

Then we have the authoritative opinion of a UN envoy and a comedian in the matter:

With 600 to 800 people dying of AIDS in South Africa daily, (UN envoy Stephen) Lewis said the government had much to atone for, but added, “I’m of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.”

Cape Town comedian Peter-Dirk Uys, known for his scathing stage show, “Foreign AIDS,” has gone even further, calling his country’s antiretroviral program “the new apartheid” because so many poor people are dying of acquired immune deficiency syndrome from a lack of drugs…

Finally we are told in effect that Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang’s opinion is completely uninformed by the medical literature and merely a matter of being a loyal partner of Thabo Mbeki’s, having fought in the trenches with him in the early days.

Political analyst Lodge said Tshabalala-Msimang held conventional views on HIV and AIDS before she was named health minister, but she had since echoed Mbeki’s opinions, adding her spin about garlic, lemons and beets as a treatment for AIDS.

“In the case of the president, who likes to think independently of experts and who often is in quite an isolated position intellectually, it is possible to see — and it’s also possible to regret — where he has ended up,” Lodge said.

“It’s in some ways all the more unforgivable in her case because, unlike the president, she has a conventional medical training. She is going against the conventions and the professional protocols of her own background.”

What does one call a world where the reporter for a respectable newspaper believes X, reports as authoritative the beliefs in X of a UN envoy and a comedian, confirms the beliefs in X of the most powerful individual financial movers and shakers in the world, and all of them feel free to ignore and even despise the views of the one global player who has actually checked the medical literature, the one source of authority in medicine and science that all must defer to, which says Y is true, not X?

Instead, they choose to follow the authority of a director of NIAID, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is incapable, as he showed recently in a panel in New York, of getting straight what that literature says about the simplest issue in HIV∫AIDS, how the Virus supposedly causes damage to the immune system, and when asked from the audience by Robert Houston to explain, proceeds to state propositions now contradicted by the mainstream HIV∫AIDS literature, let alone the review critiques of Peter Duesberg which are now twenty years old and as viable and unaswerable as ever.

What does one say about a world which rejects black Thabo Mbeki’s views in favor of white Anthony Fauci’s?:

Her Ideas on AIDS Are Called Bad Medicine

South Africa’s health chief favors a treatment of beets, lemons and garlic over proven drugs. The president resists calls to fire her.

By Robyn Dixon, Times Staff Writer

September 19, 2006

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The United Nations special envoy for AIDS has likened her to the “lunatic fringe,” while a well-known comedian derides her as the “angel of death.”

She is South Africa’s top health official and one of the most important front-line fighters against AIDS in a country beset by an epidemic. But Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang has been widely criticized for questioning the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs to combat AIDS, advocating instead a treatment using beets, lemons, garlic and sweet potatoes.

She has been criticized in international forums, and dozens of global health experts recently called for her to be fired. But South African President Thabo Mbeki has remained steadfast. Some analysts suggest he is being loyal to a longtime political ally, others say he is satisfied with her performance because her views are similar to his own.

In the late 1990s, Mbeki warned of the toxicity and harmful side effects of antiretroviral treatments, and in 2000 he questioned the link between the human immunodeficiency virus and AIDS. He has never publicly disavowed those views, although government spokesman Themba Maseko said this month that the government thought HIV caused AIDS.

“I don’t think he understands how much it has damaged his presidency,” said William Gumede, the author of a biography critical of Mbeki. “Even his closest allies, if you speak to them, don’t see it.”

Other observers think that the more pressure from activists and international experts, the less likely Mbeki is to dismiss Tshabalala-Msimang because he finds it difficult to admit he was wrong about AIDS.

“I think there’s a certain degree of vanity here,” said political analyst Tom Lodge, a former political science professor at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. “He’s like a lot of politicians: He really finds it difficult to say, ‘Look guys, I made a mistake.’ “

This month, Mbeki ignored a call for Tshabalala-Msimang’s dismissal from 81 international AIDS experts, including David Baltimore, who won a Nobel Prize, and Robert Gallo, who developed the first blood test for HIV and identified the virus as the cause of AIDS.

In a letter to Mbeki, they called for an end to South Africa’s “disastrous, pseudoscientific policies,” saying the health minister was an embarrassment.

At the International AIDS Conference in Toronto last month, U.N. envoy Stephen Lewis described the South African government’s approach as “wrong, immoral, indefensible.”

“It is the only country in Africa,” he said, “whose government continues to propound theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state.”

With 600 to 800 people dying of AIDS in South Africa daily, Lewis said the government had much to atone for, but added, “I’m of the opinion that they can never achieve redemption.”

Cape Town comedian Peter-Dirk Uys, known for his scathing stage show, “Foreign AIDS,” has gone even further, calling his country’s antiretroviral program “the new apartheid” because so many poor people are dying of acquired immune deficiency syndrome from a lack of drugs.

In South Africa, 5.5 million people are infected with HIV, second only to India. The government estimates it treats 140,000 South Africans with antiretroviral medicines. Of those, 40,000 are funded through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, an initiative started by President Bush.

Gumede said Mbeki did not want to fire Tshabalala-Msimang under pressure, but noted that her power had been curbed when the government set up a committee of ministers this month to oversee the AIDS treatment plan.

“Mbeki is very sensitive,” he said. “If he feels one of his loyal supporters or loyal allies is under siege, it’s real unlikely that he will fire such a person.”

Mbeki and Tshabalala-Msimang have been friends since the early 1960s, when they and other students went into exile. Mbeki is also close to the health minister’s husband, Mendi Msimang, treasurer of the ruling African National Congress and the ANC’s London representative when Mbeki was in exile in Britain during apartheid.

Mark Gevisser, author of a forthcoming biography on Mbeki, said the president had been asked why he appointed Tshabalala-Msimang health minister. Mbeki reportedly pointed to a photo of himself, Tshabalala-Msimang and other young exiles and said: “She’s been with us from the start, and she’s a doctor. She could have gone into private practice; she could have left the movement, but she has stayed with us.”

Gevisser said trust was a key factor.

“It’s history that the two of them as youngsters went into exile together, and that’s significant, but not as significant as the fact that he feels that she’s someone that he can completely trust,” he said. “I would imagine that there’s a deep, enduring bond and a sense of loyalty, and a sense of, ‘We were with each other in the trenches, so I can trust this person absolutely.’ That becomes a measure, as much as a minister’s competency in a portfolio.”

Political analyst Lodge said Tshabalala-Msimang held conventional views on HIV and AIDS before she was named health minister, but she had since echoed Mbeki’s opinions, adding her spin about garlic, lemons and beets as a treatment for AIDS.

“In the case of the president, who likes to think independently of experts and who often is in quite an isolated position intellectually, it is possible to see — and it’s also possible to regret — where he has ended up,” Lodge said.

“It’s in some ways all the more unforgivable in her case because, unlike the president, she has a conventional medical training. She is going against the conventions and the professional protocols of her own background.”

*

robyn.dixon@latimes.com

Charlie LeDuff reports reality at Times

September 18th, 2006

Change of pace for readers used to HIV∫AIDS fictions

Let’s hope Altman, Broad and Wade read it

A literary gem of a story, Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls by Charlie LeDuff today (Mon Sep 18) is a nice change of pace for those readers of the New York Times who like us are tired of reading of fantasy represented as fact in the paper that coined the phrase “HIV the virus that causes AIDS.”

The most interesting fact in this gritty encounter with the actuality of existence is Mike the corpse collector’s report that “80 per cent of people die naked and 70 per cent die in the toilet.” Apparently it wasn’t just Elvis.

A tough reminder that we are all human and that old age and/or death will be upon us one way or another, however fervently we may share Woody Allen’s sentiment that “I am not afraid of dying. I just don’t want to be there when it happens”. We will be there perforce, and all our earthly acquisition of money and power won’t amount to half a can of baked beans, whether gained through public lies or not.

This is something which joins all of us in our humanity and as far as we are concerned it makes a pleasant reminder of that shared predicament given all the trivial, hysterical and irresponsible emotions aroused by the HIV∫AIDS debate which are so inappropriate when put in the proper context, which is this is a life or death matter for many.

Good for LeDuff. Let’s hope the story gets read and has a salutary effect of Larry Altman and also William Broad and Nicholas Wade, who seem to forgotten what they wrote in 1982 in Betrayers of the Truth: Fraud and Deceit in the Halls of Science”, which described everything that is happening today in HIV?AIDS and cancer research, and ends with this comment:


Time and again, the truth has been betrayed by scientists, whether unintentionally, or for their owns ends, or because they presumed to lie on truth’s behlf. Scientific authorities deny that fraud is anything more than a passing blemish on the face of science. But only by acknowledging that fraud is endemic can the real nature of science and its servants be fully understood.”

Well, as Bacon remarked, “truth is the daughter not of authority, but time”, and much time has passed since they wrote those lines together. What is it that now prevents their older and wiser selves from seeing the truth of what they wrote as young men?

What is it that, with these well informed old hands of science sociology who presumably know of the barefaced censorship of review of the blatantly inconsistent HIV?AIDS theory by the NIAID’s director, Anthony Fauci, prevents them from recognizing that we now have the greatest fraud ever perpetrated in the history of biology, and perhaps in the history of science?
Maybe they should hobnob with Charlie LeDuff a little while, just to regain contact with the reality that they so easily observed 24 years ago.

The New York Times September 18, 2006
American Album
Body Collector in Detroit Answers When Death Calls
By CHARLIE LeDUFF

DETROIT: With all the spectacular ways to die in this dying city, the fate of a man named Allan was almost pathetic. There he lay, in a weedy lot on the notorious East Side, next to a liquor bottle, his pockets turned out.

But as it goes with such things, one man’s misery is another man’s money. The body retrievalist for the county morgue had arrived on the scene. He was happy. He sang strange little ditties. Cracked odd little jokes. Said things like: “We got plenty of room in this here van, yes sir.”

Do not judge him. A happy attitude is necessary in his profession. It keeps the mind from shattering, salts one’s sanity. Call the job dirty. Call it 14 bucks the hard way. $14 a human body, $9 an animal. He said he made $14,000 last year. He made most of it at night.

His tax forms officially read ‘body technician. Unofficially, Mike Thomas calls himself body snatcher, grim reaper, night stalker, bag man. Whatever you call it, it is one man’s life.

For Mr. Thomas, the demise of Allan was a cheerful occasion because, you see, work had been dead. There had been an odd lull in homicides, suicides and even natural passings here in one of the most violent American cities. It was the height of summer and people were supposed to be outside and killing each other, dropping dead from sunstroke, etc. Mr. Thomas wondered how he was going to feed his children the next week.

“I ain’t making nothing on these bodies,” he said on his porch, the screen door half gone. “I know that’s kind of weird to hear; I mean waiting around for somebody to die. Wishing for somebody to die. But that’s how it is. That’s how I feed my babies.

script>StartShowHide();He is happy to have the job, there are so few in Detroit. Unemployment hovers around 14 percent, more than twice the national average, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. The slow death of the car industry has led to the slow death of the blue-collar Motor City and now the State of Michigan in general. About 300,000 jobs have disappeared from the state since 2000 and another 65,000 factory jobs are expected to be gone by next year. Mostly car-related jobs.

One of the few people working long hours most weeks, it seems, is Mr. Thomas.

There used to be money in Detroit. Known in the 50’s as the Paris of the Midwest, it had a population of 1.8 million, 83 percent white. It now has fewer than 900,000 and is 83 percent black. It is the poorest big city in the nation, with a third of the population living below the poverty line.

Detroit is an annual competitor for the ignominious title of Murder Capital. Last year there were 359 homicides. Halfway through this year, there were 220. There are about 10,000 unsolved homicides dating back to 1960.

Mr. Thomas, 34, subscribes to a simple theory: Unemployment leads to drugs. Drugs lead to misplaced passion. Misplaced passion leads to death. And that’s where he comes in.

“There’s 360 ways to die, and I done seen them all,” he said, dressed in black, waiting on a hot evening to be summoned to the latest body. “I seen an old lady standing dead at her stove, her purse hanging on her elbow. I done picked up the pieces of a man who stepped in front of a train. I done picked up people just around this corner, here, from my house.

People he knew. People from his neighborhood, like Steve, who Mr. Thomas said should have known better than to rob a stripper. Like a prophet on the hill, Mr. Thomas explained the meaning not of life, but of death to guys from the neighborhood congregated on the porch, who robbed the beer truck in the afternoon and so came bearing gifts.

“You see,” he begins, “80 percent of people die naked and 70 percent die in the toilet. That means most people die naked in the toilet. I can’t explain it. It’s like Elvis. But as far as the afterlife goes, I believe through what I seen that those who commit horror and sin are doomed to repeat life, which is hell.”

He is a macabre observer of the economic times. Mr. Thomas and some of his workmates say they notice some disturbing trends. By midyear, 8,559 people had died in Wayne County, which includes Detroit, and more and more, technicians see bodies remaining in the cooler longer because family members don’t come to pick them up. They attribute this to the breakdown of family values as well as the lack of financial resources of people to bury their loved ones.

According to state statistics, the vast majority of homicides occur in the predominately black city, and the preponderance of suicides occur in the mostly white suburbs.

“My theory?” Mr. Thomas offered. “White people kill themselves. Black people kill each other. Chinese people don’t die.”

“True, true,” shouted one young pilgrim, though no sighting of a white or Chinese man could be made within a 20-block radius of the porch.

Michael Thomas was born in rural Alabama in 1972 and moved with his family to Detroit a year later when Coleman A. Young was the city’s first black mayor. Like most people in the city, black, white or Arab, the Thomas family came for the factory jobs and achieved the middle-class life. Mr. Thomas grew up on the East Side, raised through his teenage years by a white stepfather, for whom he was always having to go to fists with the other black kids in the neighborhood. He is short and broad-shouldered.

After graduating from high school, Mr. Thomas was sent to prison at the age of 17 for carjacking. He served four years, kept to himself, got out safely and worked a string of hamburger jobs until his uncle connected him with the job at the morgue five years ago. He supports three children and has a fledgling rap career on the side. The autobiographical song Transporters is a neat little trick that can be found on the Web (www.myspace.com/gangstaclyde).

“One thing my stepfather taught me was the value of work,” Mr. Thomas said on his way to another scene. “A man who don’t have work don’t feel much like a man. A man without work, well, he takes the only way he can and that’s usually no good.’

A call came from the southwest side of town, with its Tudor style homes with brick and aluminum siding. A man had killed himself. He was white. Early 50’s. He had lost his job at the boat yard earlier that day, a detective said. He came home, drank himself into a depression and put a bullet in his head, the second white man to kill himself this day.

It was a sad, quiet scene on the street. The man’s family standing there silently stunned. Cans of cheap beer in their hands.

Mr. Thomas was sanguine. “We got plenty of room.”

Beautifully written, capturing reality on several levels.

Celia Farber’s view of the reality of AIDS

September 11th, 2006


AIDS “most dangerous reporter” does not take scientific position, but she has clear view

Her responsibility is to report what has happened, she says

Jon Cohen as repugnant parrakeet

The great rush to attack the Harper’s article Celia Farber wrote for the March issue this year, on the grounds that it was wrong to imply that Duesberg was credible and HIV was extremely suspect as the cause of AIDS, has always mystified Celia Farber, she has said, because nowhere in the article did she assert that claim herself.

Now in her new interview with Bookslut, at this page Interview with Celia Farber by Joanne McNeil, she says the same thing repeatedly, just to make sure everybody hears her:

An Interview with Celia Farber”I have never written that HIV does not cause AIDS. I don’t think I’ve ever said that HIV does not cause AIDS. I took one semester of journalism in college. The first thing one is taught is to answer the question: what happened? What happened in 1987 was that a top virologist — Peter Duesberg — published a paper in which he argued that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. That was the news event that I reported on. It is not for me to say as a journalist — as a nonscientist — what causes or doesn’t cause AIDS. But it is for me to say as a journalist what’s going on the landscape of AIDS dialectic.” by Joanne McNeil

That’s the headline and subhead of the piece at Interview with Celia Farber by Joanne McNeil, which makes it plain that Celia wants to “get off the meat hook here”, as she puts it.

You are constantly described as an AIDS dissident that does not believe HIV causes AIDS — but nowhere in your book is this explicitly stated. So how would you describe your views?Thank you for noticing that critical detail. I have never written that HIV does not cause AIDS. I don’t think I’ve ever said that HIV does not cause AIDS. I took one semester of journalism in college. The first thing one is taught is to answer the question: what happened? What happened in 1987 was that a top virologist — Peter Duesberg — published a paper in which he argued that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. That was the news event that I reported on. It was my second column in Spin magazine. It came out in 1988. It immediately became clear to me that interviewing Peter Duesberg, who argued HIV does not cause AIDS could not and would not be distinguished from the writer saying HIV does not cause AIDS. Because the stance then and now of mass media was that to interview Duesberg, to describe what he was saying, was exactly tantamount to endorsing him and agreeing with him.

It is not for me to say as a journalist — as a nonscientist — what causes or doesn’t cause AIDS. But it is for me to say as a journalist what’s going on the landscape of AIDS dialectic. And this was a huge event on the landscape.

By the end of the piece it is clear that Celia’s real engine is more a rich literary sensibility devoted to the human experience and not that of an investigative science reporter, as such. At least, not when the cost exacted on her and her family is so great:

That’s a good question. I am asked often, if I had known what the cost would be to my life and my career, would I nonetheless have done it? My quick answer is usually yes, of course. But it’s unanswerable… What I wish I had done differently, in retrospect, was to calculate the damage and the blight, both on myself and on my family and ask myself, “Is it fair to do to others?” Because what you actually do is you invite financial ruin…

…But for the sake of the story itself, which absolutely had to be told, I’m very glad I did it and very proud to have been involved in it.

But in fact it turns out she has a very clear idea as to what the cause of AIDS is, and says so. It is a view we entirely support here at NAR:

Are there any medicines you see as beneficial?I always want to pull back so I don’t start sounding like a self-declared doctor… but if I had to commit to a causation camp, I would be some kind of multi-factorialist. What that means is AIDS is caused by an assault on the immune system over time from many sources, both chemical, nutritional, psychic, and social. It is always affected by the people pushed out into the margins of society — isolated and alienated.

I am most enthusiastic about the data I’ve seen — and this is mainstream data — about mass nutritional replenishment: limited antibiotic use and basically gradual rebuilding of the immune system. I know countless people for whom that has worked. Now, I don’t mean, you’re not eating your string beans. But if you are exposed to extreme toxic assaults on your body, you will cease to absorb nutrients properly. If we are absorbing nutrients properly, then our bodies are designed to fight infections and to live.

Nutritional answers excite me very much especially in Africa, where the idea drives most people insane. How we can have a world where the left is opposed to clean water, core nutrition and basic health care to poverty-stricken Africans? It just boggled my mind. If anything, it’s a traditionally left-wing position that people poor, marginalized, and starving are going to get sick — as they always have.

Where this leaves her parallel statement that she doesn’t wish to deny HIV a role in AIDS we are not sure, but that doesn’t matter. Celia Farber has not, it turns out, spent twenty years under heavy fire in the trench of honest HIV∫AIDS reporting without coming to the proper conclusion indicated by the mainstream scientific literature, as opposed to the unfounded claims of NIAID and the scientists who lead the field and exploit the HIV theory.

This lioness of a reality seeker has nothing but contempt and rightly so for the chicken hearted, NIAID fellow travellers who have led HIV∫AIDS mainstream journalism into the current mire:

Any journalist today who looks at the landscape including science journalism, conferences, the rigging of clinical trials, the cooking of data, the cover-up of deaths — all this stuff, for which there are just reams of evidence — to look at that and to declare fault on the part of those journalists, writers, and filmmakers who decry it: that is denialism. That’s pervasive and severe denialism.Jon Cohen strikes me as a journalist who has so abjectly identified with the ideological agenda of mainstream medicine and the pharmaceutical industry that he can’t seem to distinguish from what they say and from what he thinks. He’s just the official parakeet.

[Later, Farber e-mails me a link to Jon Cohen’s “repugnant” article in the July 28 issue of Science magazine about recruitment for AIDS vaccine trials in Peru.

Finally, a literary magazine gives Farber her writerly due.

Bookslut

September 2006

Joanne McNeil

features

An Interview with Celia Farber

Normally, when someone researches and writes about a topic obsessively for over twenty-years, he or she is considered an expert. But Celia Farber’s “obsession” with AIDS has been unfairly characterized as an eccentricity by a more-dilettantish mainstream press.

Things changed when Lewis Lapham published her 15-page article, “Out of Control: AIDS and the Corruption of Medical Science,” in the March issue of Harper’s, his last as editor. Rodger Hodge, Lapham’s successor, told the New York Times, “The fact that she’s been covering this story does not make her a crackpot — it makes her a journalist. She’s a courageous journalist, I believe, because she’s covered the story at great personal cost.”

So what about her reporting would make anyone think she’s a “crackpot”? Well, where to begin? In the Harper’s feature alone she cites a high rate of HIV false-positives (as many as one in four) testing pregnant women, questions the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs, suggests a pharmaceutical conspiracy comparable to The Constant Gardner, and interviews a doctor who believes HIV alone may not cause AIDS.

This summer, Melville House published a collection of her reports, Serious Adverse Events: An Uncensored History of AIDS. I talked to Farber by phone and asked her about the book and its unavoidable controversy.

You are constantly described as an AIDS dissident that does not believe HIV causes AIDS — but nowhere in your book is this explicitly stated. So how would you describe your views?

Thank you for noticing that critical detail. I have never written that HIV does not cause AIDS. I don’t think I’ve ever said that HIV does not cause AIDS. I took one semester of journalism in college. The first thing one is taught is to answer the question: what happened? What happened in 1987 was that a top virologist — Peter Duesberg — published a paper in which he argued that HIV was not the cause of AIDS. That was the news event that I reported on. It was my second column in Spin magazine. It came out in 1988. It immediately became clear to me that interviewing Peter Duesberg, who argued HIV does not cause AIDS could not and would not be distinguished from the writer saying HIV does not cause AIDS. Because the stance then and now of mass media was that to interview Duesberg, to describe what he was saying, was exactly tantamount to endorsing him and agreeing with him.

It is not for me to say as a journalist — as a nonscientist — what causes or doesn’t cause AIDS. But it is for me to say as a journalist what’s going on the landscape of AIDS dialectic. And this was a huge event on the landscape.

As someone without a science background are there times you feel overwhelmed by the data?

What I feel overwhelmed by is actually not the “science” so much as the politics of the science and the sociology of the science… Scientific data doesn’t come alive until the people who are fighting for it come into focus. I always relied very much on the old-fashion techniques of making sure I got into the room with the scientist or the doctor in question — so that I could hear the voice, see the face, see the facial expressions. Really pick up — with a receptive satellite dish — all the things going on — and what they really meant to say.

The nature of journalism is that you are reporting on a deadline and looking for good quotes. It is easy to see how science journalism can turn out like a game of telephone.

It is disembodied from the human, the emotional, the psychic and social context in which someone is speaking to you… It’s so sterile. As I look back on years and years of interviews, I remember the emotion. Of course the data is embodied in the emotions and vice versa — but when I read straight, respectable, kosher, approved science journalism, I can’t connect to it. I don’t know how the interviewer feels or the interviewee feels. It’s very gee-whiz: “Gee-whiz: scientists have discovered x, y, z.” Or a gene that causes this and causes that… In most cases, what it should say is X scientist, working for X interest, totally governed by X biases said to me on this date that X is true, but all of those are leaps that shouldn’t be taken quite so easily

Do you wish you had taken a different approach reporting? Is there anything you would have done differently?

That’s a good question. I am asked often, if I had known what the cost would be to my life and my career, would I nonetheless have done it? My quick answer is usually yes, of course. But it’s unanswerable… What I wish I had done differently, in retrospect, was to calculate the damage and the blight, both on myself and on my family and ask myself, “Is it fair to do to others?” Because what you actually do is you invite financial ruin.

I wish that I had found a way to keep the storm at bay — keep it from totally shattering the vessel that is my life, for I am also responsible for my son and making sure he has a sort of sane ordered life. He’s had a mother since he was three-months-old who is under extreme attack including a federal court trial that was very much about the AIDS column. Strictly for his sake, I’m almost prepared to say I wish I never got involved in any of it. But for the sake of the story itself, which absolutely had to be told, I’m very glad I did it and very proud to have been involved in it

[The federal court case was a sexual harassment trial against Farber’s then-employer Bob Guccione, Jr. at Spin Magazine (with whom she once had a relationship). Farber said in the interview, “I can exactly see why they would think that and why they would jump to those conclusions that that was how I got my job, but I dare say that if my work had not been covering the dissidents’ side of the AIDS debate, it wouldn’t have happened.” She wrote about this experience in Salon, after a jury rejected the charges.]

As a non-gay male AIDS reporter and Westerner investigating Africa, did you have to deal with identity politics?

I never got that kind of guff from any Africans, [but] certainly from the gay community. Those that were opposed to what I was doing — that was one of the charges: that I wasn’t gay and how the hell could I know what I was doing and what right did I have to say anything? But that’s inconsistent with the core belief system, which is that AIDS is everybody’s disease, and everyone should react, and everyone should care, and everyone should have compassion. But we did! We cared like hell! Bob and I were alone in that. I remember Bob used to say AIDS was the Vietnam of our generation. We started the AIDS column because we felt it was our problem.

I wasn’t one of those intrepid dissidents who never wavered and never broke down. I was breaking down all of the time. I would go to AIDS conferences and go through an immense crisis each time, “Am I crazy or are they crazy?” And since there are far more of them I figured I was crazy. So then I would go back to the data and the story, and the interviews and just keep beating and beating and beating — in a way try to pull myself to a place where the story looked different: where the conclusions were different, where I could get across that bridge of respectability where they all were saying all that the evidence is overwhelming that HIV causes AIDS and so on.

When I was much younger I really wanted to get there. But I could only get there on a bridge built on evidence. And evidence included people, voices, and testimony. My bridge took me consistently to this other place. The real, uber-question is: do we as human beings only build these bridges out of material that will in some way vindicate what we already believe? And what we already staked our reputations on? I hope that’s not the case. I work really hard at seeing clearly. I can say categorically that I’ve lived through so many years that some of the huge questions we put out have since born out that we were correct and they just don’t talk about them any more

Could you give an example?

Chief among them is that there was going to be an explosion of heterosexual AIDS spread by unprotected sexual encounters.

In the book you compare that to Y2K.

Well, it’s as nonexistent. It did not happen as much as Y2K did not happen. It was a classic mass panic. There is nobody on the orthodox side who with a straight face can say, “Yes, our vision of heterosexual AIDS bore through.” If you notice what they said — Tony Fauci, Matilda Krim, Life magazine, Oprah Winfrey — this is just one statistic to give you a sense of the scale of what we are talking about: seventy million Americans were supposed to be dead from AIDS by 1990. The heterosexual spread we all agree did not happen.

[Another example is AZT.] At the time, the FDA agreed to approve it after only 17 weeks of testing [without any of the standard procedures that used to take up to 10 years]. And it flooded the community. Our side says AZT was a catastrophe; AZT killed a generation of AIDS patients. There are orthodox doctors who say that, there are gay activists who silently concede that… To be more concrete, I lived through and reported very carefully about that story and I have a few gay friends who were around then who are still alive today and simply put, they say, categorically, everybody who went on AZT in the early years died. It is the most toxic drug ever approved for human use. It is DNA-terminating chemotherapy that kills all categories of cells. And high doses especially were un-survivable — most people died around nine months, a max two years.

Of course [ACT UP and other activist groups] meant well! Of course they wanted to save their loved ones and brothers! Of course they didn’t know! But it was a disaster and we have to face it. The really weird thing about this whole thing is if you got on the phone with one of them, they would say people like me are responsible for mass deaths for planting the notion that HIV does not cause AIDS — which we discussed at the beginning — and for scaring people away from antiretrovirals. All I can say is only data speaks.

[Farber begins to read from an Aug. 5 Lancet article, “HIV treatment response and prognosis in Europe and North America in the first decade of highly active antiretroviral therapy: a collaborative analysis” (it looks at 20,000 patients in Europe and North America on cocktail therapy, also known as HAART therapy). “Virological response after starting HAART improved over calendar years, but such improvements has not translated into a decrease in mortality since 1996” (the year these drugs were launched).]

AIDS is immune deficiency. AIDS is immune collapse. There are many roads that lead to Rome; there are many roads that lead to immune collapse. What we were saying about AZT in the early years is that, for god’s sake, this is a chemotherapeutic agent — an old cancer drug from the ’60s that was shelved as too toxic for human use. Chemotherapy obliterates the immune system. AIDS is a disease described as obliteration of the immune system caused by a virus. Protease inhibitors are a different kettle of fish. While they also greatly undermine the immune system they also weren’t total killers like AZT. They didn’t just mass destroy the cells; they brought some benefit as well. They’re broad-spectrum microbials. They did clear up infections and they absolutely did bring people back from the precipice of death. But what I just told you about is a ten-year perspective study. And when they looked over those ten years the utopian dream did not pan out. Their HIV levels are going down, whoop-dee-doo, but they are not living longer. It’s a very strange position to be in. Those of us on the skeptical side have never been more right but we have never been more hated.

Are there any medicines you see as beneficial?

I always want to pull back so I don’t start sounding like a self-declared doctor… but if I had to commit to a causation camp, I would be some kind of multi-factorialist. What that means is AIDS is caused by an assault on the immune system over time from many sources, both chemical, nutritional, psychic, and social. It is always affected by the people pushed out into the margins of society — isolated and alienated.

I am most enthusiastic about the data I’ve seen — and this is mainstream data — about mass nutritional replenishment: limited antibiotic use and basically gradual rebuilding of the immune system. I know countless people for whom that has worked. Now, I don’t mean, you’re not eating your string beans. But if you are exposed to extreme toxic assaults on your body, you will cease to absorb nutrients properly. If we are absorbing nutrients properly, then our bodies are designed to fight infections and to live.

Nutritional answers excite me very much especially in Africa, where the idea drives most people insane. How we can have a world where the left is opposed to clean water, core nutrition and basic health care to poverty-stricken Africans? It just boggled my mind. If anything, it’s a traditionally left-wing position that people poor, marginalized, and starving are going to get sick — as they always have.

The cocktail era involves mixing and matching all these drugs in infinite combinations to infinitely unknowable results. So the best thing I can say about cocktail therapy is that I do concede it has worked to stop imminent death for those that are very far-gone.

What do you think about Jon Cohen characterizing your book, Sonia Shah’s The Body Hunters, and The Constant Gardner as “pharmanoia” in Slate?

Any journalist today who looks at the landscape including science journalism, conferences, the rigging of clinical trials, the cooking of data, the cover-up of deaths — all this stuff, for which there are just reams of evidence — to look at that and to declare fault on the part of those journalists, writers, and filmmakers who decry it: that is denialism. That’s pervasive and severe denialism.

Jon Cohen strikes me as a journalist who has so abjectly identified with the ideological agenda of mainstream medicine and the pharmaceutical industry that he can’t seem to distinguish from what they say and from what he thinks. He’s just the official parakeet.

[Later, Farber e-mails me a link to Jon Cohen’s “repugnant” article in the July 28 issue of Science magazine about recruitment for AIDS vaccine trials in Peru. Cohen reports on a “perplexing epidemiology — the epidemic is concentrated among men who have sex with men.” A “contentious” study will evaluate whether antiretroviral drugs can lower HIV transmission rates if uninfected people take them daily.]

Do you think The Constant Gardner was able to voice political dissent as it is shielded as fiction?

I would caution people against assuming that John le Carre is writing fiction. Let me make a generality: fiction writers today like John le Carre are doing journalism, and the journalists are writing fiction.

Who are the writers you most enjoy?

I love the South African journalist Rian Milan. Anthony Brink is a personal friend; I think he’s fantastic. He’s another South African. Totally putting aside the war, I do like a lot of what Christopher Hitchens writes. I used to read pretty much everything Hunter Thompson wrote, even at the end, even at his most confused. I read him for the originality of style and language.

[Among] writers who I feel have addressed what is actually the hell going on — Philip Roth. When he wrote Human Stain, I just went crazy. He became a writer of redress. And there was something enormous that needed to be redressed and punctured… And I think Tom Wolfe is nailing a lot of stuff that is important. But we think of these guys as fiction writers.

And John Strausbaugh has just written a book. It’s called Black Like You. Whatever he writes, I read it with interest and relish. I really like Armond White’s film criticism in the New York Press. I really like John Halpern’s theater criticism in the New York Observer. I rarely see movies or plays, I but I find their writing, raw and non-compromising.

You’ve listed a couple South African writers. Are they more open to dissenting opinions?

South African writers, of course, cut their teeth on apartheid. They cut their teeth on total evil and horror. They aren’t soft like American journalists tend to be… because we’ve never experienced true dictatorship — I mean, true dictatorship –we don’t really have a culture so much of investigate, threatening-to-power-structures journalism. There are so many writers that are clever and have great style, and are biting and witty; but what I look for are writers who are alarmed.

I remember you wrote some thoughtful pieces for Ironminds — one about the decline of courtship that I forwarded to all of my girlfriends — and you’ve interviewed O.J. Simpson. Do you ever wish you’d pursued lighter topics?

Yes, I do. The sad thing is that when I wrote about those other things I got a whiff of what it might be like to be heard and understood and not be in a gulag. I wish that I were not thought of as being obsessed with AIDS. I’d love to write about other things, but I’m not sure I can right now. The Harper’s article, and the phase we’re in — which includes The Constant Gardener — we’re in some kind of civil war and paradigm shift, and I’m caught up in this very powerful wave. There are a lot of things that still have not sorted out but there is a lot of rage and hysteria in the air.

I do wish that I could crawl away, quietly and turn up on some completely other part of the beach. I find it’s hard, because right now I’m so angry and my anger is keeping me from returning to that levity — the voice that I had. There wasn’t levity in the O.J. piece, but there was in that one you just cited — the courtship piece is overwhelmingly the most popular I ever wrote. And I’d like to write more about that but I don’t really know how to get back to that as an identity.

Actually the book that I’m imagining, that I’d like to write next is about very small things. I want to write kind of along the lines of that courtship piece: civility, grace, and manners, and decency — it sounds a bit pious, but I want to do it with variations of people and sort of funny stories over the years. I’m kind of obsessed with language and passive aggressiveness and rudeness — of course I live in New York City. And political correctness brought us to extreme lows of human language and behavior.

So yeah, I want to return to all that stuff, if I can just get off the meat hook here.

South Africa takes pressure off Manto

September 11th, 2006


Baltimore, Gallo, TAC manage to force concession

Committee will oversee AIDS program

But Mayo Clinic study backs Dr. Beetroot as correct – beetroot very relevant

Apparently the AIDS drug friendly, activist Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in South Africa, having enlisted Baltimore, Gallo and 79 other scientists loyal to the “HIV is the only cause of AIDS” cause, have scored a success with the asinine letter they sent to Mbeki this week.

They have managed to force Mbeki’s hand and have him remove overall responsibility for the country’s AIDS program from the relatively enlightened Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to a commission headed by the Deputy President.

Government spokesman Themba Maseko defended the minister, but said Friday the Cabinet had appointed a committee headed by Deputy President Phumzilie Mlambo-Ngcuka to oversee the implementation of the country’s AIDS program…

Maseko, the government spokesman, said the health minister had made it clear that South Africa’s program included anti-retrovirals and nutrition, but that she might have given the impression the focus was on nutrition and specific nutrients.

”Nutrition is not an alternative to anti-retrovirals or forms of treatment. This has always been the government approach on this matter,” Maseko said. ”Equally, the misconception that anti-retrovirals are a cure for AIDS is not only misleading but dangerous as it creates false hopes.”

We imagine this is just a sop to ease the political pressure and remove Manto as a target for the TAC and its scientist friends, which won’t have much effect on South African policy in practice.

For that policy appears to be to allow people to have ARVs if that is what they insist on, but to point out they do not save anyone’s life (the Lancet having confirmed that only last month) and that nourishing food may be more appropriate, according to the overall scientific review of mainstream HIV∫AIDS that is denied by Gallo, Baltimore and the other not unbiased people in the roll call of infamy that is the List of 81.

The statement of the government spokesman seems to embody this fudged position, which arises out of the involvement of Mbeki with the rethinker view which started before the AIDS Conference in Durban in 2001, when he was tipped off to the dissident position by a female journalist and reviewed the matter on the Web, and was suitably impressed.

Mbeki is an intelligent man (he is an economist with an English university degree – Sussex MA – in the field) and one of the few politicians who are capable of thinking for themselves when faced with this issue. Here is Thabo Mbeki’s CV if you would like to read it:

Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki

President of South Africa

President, ANC

Member, National Executive Committee, ANC

Member, National Working Committee, ANC

President of South Africa

People like to identify Thabo Mbeki as an independent and original thinker, but one who remains close to the more visible leadership. His profile as a policy shaper and mediator in the movement has been built up over a lifetime of involvement. “I was born into the struggle,” he says. His birth took place in Idutywa, Transkei, in June 1942.

Both his parents were teachers and activists. His father is a university graduate and there were many books in his home which Thabo read at an early age. Govan Mbeki was a leading figure in ANC activities in the Eastern Cape. Believing that sooner or later they would be arrested, Mbeki’s parents decided that family and friends would also be responsible for bringing up the children. Mbeki therefore spent long periods away from home.

He joined the Youth League at 14 and quickly became active in student politics. After his schooling at Lovedale was interrupted by a strike in 1959, he completed his studies at home. Thereafter he moved to Johannesburg where he came under the guidance of Walter Sisulu and Duma Nokwe.

While studying for his British A-levels he was elected secretary of the African Students’ Association (ASA). He went on to study economics as a correspondence student with London University. The ASA collapsed following the arrest of many of its members, at a time when political movements were coming under increasingly severe attack from the state. Mbeki’s father was arrested at Rivonia and sentenced to life imprisonment.

He left the country in 1962 under orders from the ANC. From Tanzania he moved to Britain where he completed a Masters degree in economics at Sussex University in 1966. Remaining active in student politics, he played a prominent role in building the youth and student sections of the ANC in exile.

Following his studies he worked at the London office with the late Oliver Tambo and Yusuf Dadoo before being sent to the Soviet Union in 1970 for military training. Later that year he arrived in Lusaka where he was soon appointed assistant secretary of the Revolutionary Council. In 1973-74 he was in Botswana holding discussions with the Botswana government about opening an ANC office there. In 1975 he was acting ANC representative in Swaziland. Appointed to the NEC in 1975, he served as ANC representative to Nigeria until 1978.

On his return to Lusaka he became political secretary in the office of Oliver Tambo, and then director of information. From this position he played a major role in turning the international media against apartheid. His other role in the ’70s was in building the ANC in Swaziland and underground structures inside the country.

During the ’80s Mbeki rose to head the department of information and publicity and co-ordinated diplomatic campaigns to involve more white South Africans in anti-apartheid activities. When delegations of sports, business and cultural representatives visited Lusaka for talks they all expressed surprise to meet a man deeply engaged in the issues they brought to the table.

From 1989 Mbeki headed the ANC Department of International Affairs, and was a key figure in the ANC’s negotiations with the former government.

Mbeki was hand-picked by Nelson Mandela after the April 1994 general election to be the first Deputy President of the new Government of National Unity.

At the 50th Conference of the ANC at Mafikeng, from 16-20 1997, Thabo Mbeki was elected as the new President of the African National Congress.

Thabo Mbeki was elected President of South Africa on 14 June 1999 and was inaugurated as President on 16 June 1999.

Profile of Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki

Personal

Date of birth: 18 June 1942, Idutywa, Queenstown, one of four children of Govan and Epainette Mbeki

Marital status: Married to Zanele Dlamini (1974)

Academic Qualifications

* Attended primary school in Idutywa and Butterworth

* Acquired high school education at Lovedale, Alice

* Expelled from school as a result of student strikes (1959) and forced to continue studies at home

* Sat for matriculation examinations at St John’s High School, Umtata (1959)

* Completed British “A” levels examinations (1960 and 1961)

* Undertook first year economics degree as an external student with the University of London (1961 – 1962)

* Master of Economics degree, University of Sussex (1966)

Career details

* Joined ANC Youth League (ANCYL) while a student at Lovedale Institute (1956)

* Involved in underground activities in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand area after the ANC was banned in 1960

* Involved in mobilising the students and youth in support of the ANC call for a stay at home in protest against the creation of a Republic (1961)

* Elected Secretary of the African Students Association (December 1961)

* Left South Africa together with other students on instructions of the ANC (1962). Went to the then Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), the then Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and the United Kingdom to study

* Continued with political activities as a university student in the UK, mobilising the international student community against apartheid

* Worked for the ANC office in London (1967 – 1970). Underwent military training in the then Soviet Union during this period

* Served as Assistant Secretary to the Revolutionary Council of the ANC in Lusaka (1971)

* Sent to Botswana (1973). He was among the first ANC leaders to have contact with exiled and visiting members of the Black Consciousness Movement (BCM). As a result of his contact and discussions with the BCM, some of the leading members of this organisation found their way into the ranks of the ANC

* The focus of his activities during this time was to consolidate the underground structures of the ANC and to mobilise the people inside South Africa

* Engaged the Botswana government in discussions to open an ANC office in that country. Left Botswana (1974)

* Sent to Swaziland as acting representative of the ANC. Part of his task was the internal mobilisation and the creation of underground structures

* Became a member of the National Executive Committee (NEC) of the ANC (1975)

* Sent to Nigeria (December 1976) as a representative of the ANC. Played a major role in assisting students from South Africa to relocate in an unfamiliar enviroment

* Left Nigeria and returned to Lusaka (February 1978)

* Political Secretary in the Office of the President of the ANC (1978)

* Director of the Department of Information and Publicity (1984 – 1989)

* Re-elected to the NEC (1985). Served as Director of Information and as Secretary for Presidential Affairs

* Member of the ANC ‘s political and military council

* Member of the delegation that met South African business community led by the Chairman of Anglo American, Gavin Relly, at Mfuwe, Zambia (1985)

* Led a delegation of the ANC to Dakar, Senegal, where talks were held with a delegation from the Institute for a Democratic Alternative for South Africa (Idasa) (1987)

* Led the ANC delegation which held secret talks with the South African government from 1989 and which led to agreements about the unbanning of the ANC and the release of political prisoners

* Part of the delegation which engaged the government in “talks about talks”. He participated in the Groote Schuur and Pretoria deliberations, which resulted in the agreements which became known as the Groote Schuur and Pretoria Minutes (1990)

* Participated in all subsequent negotiations leading to the adoption of the interim Constitution for the new South Africa

* Elected chairperson of the ANC (1993). The election to this post meant succeeding the late former President and chairperson of the ANC, OR Tambo, with whom he had a close working relationship over the years

* Executive Deputy President of the South African Government of National Unity (May 1994 – June 1999)

* Elected President of the African National Congress, 18 December 1997

* Inaugurated as President of South Africa, 16 June 1999

Source: Office of the Deputy Executive President, 26 August 1994 (Confirmed, 13 September 1996)

One of the questions he reportedly asked early on was, why was there a sudden switch from urban gay AIDS in Africa, which is what it started out as, to poor rural heterosexual AIDS? This inexplicable switch, according to our informants, is what made Mbeki take the dissidents seriously from the start.

Whatever the truth in that, it is clear that Mbeki is possibly the only international politician with his head screwed on straight as far as AIDS is concerned, and whatever concessions he has to make to the TAC led mob, he is not going to stop offering healthy atlernatives to the drugs the activists love so much.

Dr Beetroot is a name to be proud of

One of the more ridiculous things about this lunatic affair is that the ignorant activists’ label for Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, Dr Beetroot, is, truth be told, nothing to be ashamed of, according to the scientific literature, for the important ingredient in beetroot is betaine, and mainstream researchers have found it is indeed very beneficial to the liver, which is the chief organ attacked by HAART, the resulting deterioration being the cause of death or transplant in many AIDS cases in the US. Liver damage is not an AIDS symptom.

For example, the paper at the top of the pile at NAR HQ is “Betaine, a promising new agent for patients with nonalcoholic steatohepatitis: results of a pilot study”, from the American Journal of Gastroenterology, September 2001 (96.:2534-6).

Drs Abdelmalek et al from the Mayo Clinic found that the vile condition of fatty liver (steato means fat) was significantly improved if patients (ten of them in this study over 12 months) were given betaine orally in two doses daily. Their conclusion: Betaine is a safe and well tolerated drug that leads to a significant biochemical and histological improvement in patients with NASH (nonalcoholic steatohepatitis). This novel agent deserves further evaluation in a randomized, placebo controlled trial.

Of course, that placebo controlled trial wouldn’t be possible in the grim fairy tale kingdom of HIV∫AIDS, since no placebo-controlled trials have ever been carried out in the era of HAART, since “ethics” bar the witholding of HAART from anyone with “AIDS”.

So it would not be much good the Mayo group buying tickets from Rochester to South Africa and conducting a trial for Dr Beetroot in the very agent she recommends and they have tested and found beneficial. TAC and the generous and ethical NIAID trial administrators wouldn’t allow anyone to try betaine on any of the hapless Africans without making sure they got liver damaging ARVs in the bargain.

By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Published: September 9, 2006

Filed at 10:53 p.m. ET

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (AP) — South Africa’s government scaled back the influence of its minister for AIDS policy, pilloried for questioning the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drug treatments and promoting beetroot, garlic and African potatoes as ways to fight AIDS.

A group of international scientists called for Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, nicknamed ”Dr. Beetroot,” to be fired and they labeled South Africa’s program ”inefficient and immoral.”

Government spokesman Themba Maseko defended the minister, but said Friday the Cabinet had appointed a committee headed by Deputy President Phumzilie Mlambo-Ngcuka to oversee the implementation of the country’s AIDS program.

”We need to shift focus from saying the problem in the program is the minister of health,” Maseko said.

In an open letter to President Thabo Mbeki on Wednesday, 81 international AIDS scientists called the health minister an embarrassment to South Africa who has undermined HIV science and who has no international respect.

The scientists include American Nobel Laureate David Baltimore and Dr. Robert Gallo, a co-discoverer of the virus that causes AIDS and developer of the first HIV blood test. They called for an end to South Africa’s ”disastrous, pseudoscientific policies” and urged Mbeki to remove the health minister immediately.

With the letter the scientists joined mounting calls by AIDS activists and opposition parties for the president to fire Tshabalala-Msimang.

South Africa has an estimated 5.5 million people infected with HIV, a number second only to India and one that amounts to about an eighth of estimated cases worldwide. On average, more than 900 people die of the disease each day in South Africa. The government said Thursday that the adult death rate had climbed significantly over a seven-year period, largely because of AIDS.

Mbeki previously has expressed doubts about the connection between HIV and AIDS, and along with Tshabalala-Msimang has questioned the effectiveness of anti-retroviral drugs in treating the disease.

Tshabalala-Msimang’s office said in a statement Friday that there was a campaign aimed at deliberately misrepresenting the government’s program to fight the disease.

Her statement and the Cabinet reacted not only to the scientists’ letter, but also to other attacks on its policies at the International AIDS conference in Toronto last month, including a scathing one by Stephen Lewis, the U.N. special envoy for AIDS in Africa.

”It is the only country in Africa … whose government is still obtuse, dilatory and negligent about rolling out treatment,” Lewis said. ”It is the only country in Africa whose government continues to promote theories more worthy of a lunatic fringe than of a concerned and compassionate state.”

The scientists noted that at the AIDS conference, the South African exhibition featured garlic, lemons and African potatoes, ”with the implication that these dietary elements are alternative treatments.”

Maseko, the government spokesman, said the health minister had made it clear that South Africa’s program included anti-retrovirals and nutrition, but that she might have given the impression the focus was on nutrition and specific nutrients.

”Nutrition is not an alternative to anti-retrovirals or forms of treatment. This has always been the government approach on this matter,” Maseko said. ”Equally, the misconception that anti-retrovirals are a cure for AIDS is not only misleading but dangerous as it creates false hopes.”

The government, which did not provide AIDS drugs until forced to do so by a 2002 court ruling, said its AIDS program is now the largest in the world. It estimates it treats 140,000 people with anti-retroviral drugs.

However, that number is less than half of the target of 380,000 the government set in 2003 and well below the 500,000 South Africans that the scientists estimate now need the drugs to survive.

Francis Bacon’s Guide to Blog Manners

September 10th, 2006


Wise and clever science guru explains human frailty in discourse

Advises NAR staff how to manage Comments

Although the distinguished commentators here are renowned for their expert familiarity with the literature and history of the vexed issue we address, and for their informed and elegant posts in Comments, lately a few interchanges in Comments have grown a tad overheated, and words have been let loose which some participants may have later regretted.

So we placed a phone call to Heaven and asked to speak with famous Frank Bacon for his advice in managing this problem with respect to all concerned, since the participants are all superior in mind and knowledge to the NAR staff.

Although we were told by whoever answered – cute voice! – that Bacon was on the Web and too busy to talk to us just then, soon afterwards he called back and spoke to us as follows:

NAR: Milord Bacon, thank you for calling back. We would like to get right to the point. There is too much waffle in the Comments, especially by Truthseeker. Is there anything we can do about that?

Bacon: Some, in their discourse, desire rather commendation of wit, in being able to hold all arguments, than of judgment, in discerning what is true; as if it were a praise, to know what might be said, and not, what should be thought.

NAR: But can we do anything about it? OK, apparently not, we take it. But what about the posters who just have one axe to grind and don’t seem to have much else to say, even when it is pointed out more than once where they have gone wrong?

Bacon: Alas, some have certain common places, and themes, wherein they are good and want variety; which kind of poverty is for the most part tedious, and when it is once perceived, ridiculous.

NAR: Well, we certainly feel our hands are tied, because we have to be polite and helpful to encourage people to comment, otherwise what evidence is there that anybody thoughtful reads it?

Bacon: The honorablest part of talk, is to give the occasion; and again to moderate, and pass to somewhat else; for then a man leads the dance.

NAR: We’ll try to stay out of it, then, and just encourage interchange, especially with the benighted who question what we have already demonstrated. But should we try to stir the pot with a few jokes and personal stories?

Bacon: It is good, in discourse and speech of conversation, to vary and intermingle speech of the present occasion, with arguments, tales with reasons, asking of questions, with telling of opinions, and jest with earnest: for it is a dull thing to tire, and, as we say now, to jade, any thing too far.

NAR: Yes, it is easy to turn into a bore on this immovable topic. On the Web it is impossible to see the giveaway sign of eyes that glaze over like dead fish. We will try and follow your advice. But how about the cruel jokes? Some of the jibes seem to be rather sharp, especially from one distinguished poster?

Bacon: As for jest, there be certain things, which ought to be privileged from it; namely, religion, matters of state, great persons, any man’s present business of importance, and any case that deserveth pity.

NAR: So those who try and show they are superior by making cutting remarks should be curbed?

Bacon: Yet there be some, that think their wits have been asleep, except they dart out somewhat that is piquant, and to the quick. That is a vein which would be bridled:

Parce, puer, stimulis, et fortius utere loris.

NAR: Our Latin is a bit rusty but we take that to mean, Boy, go easy on the goad, and pull in the reins. So you think they should curb themselves, then? Try and be nicer?

Bacon: Generally, men ought to find the difference, between saltness and bitterness. Certainly, he that hath a satirical vein, as he maketh others afraid of his wit, so he had need be afraid of others’ memory.

NAR: You know, we have to admit we try to flatter people to see what they have to say when encouraged. We try to acknowledge and respect the qualifications and intelligence of the dunderheads who cannot take our point.

Bacon: He that questioneth much, shall learn much, and content much; but especially, if he apply his questions to the skill of the persons whom he asketh; for he shall give them occasion, to please themselves in speaking, and himself shall continually gather knowledge. But let his questions not be troublesome; for that is fit for a poser.

NAR: Of course, when we flatter them, we find they may talk too much!

Bacon: And let him be sure to leave other men, their turns to speak. Nay, if there be any, that would reign and take up all the time, let him find means to take them off, and to bring others on; as musicians use to do, with those that dance too long galliards.

NAR: Sometimes people talk as if they are experts, and then you find out they are just newcomers.

Bacon: If you dissemble, sometimes, your knowledge of that you are thought to know, you shall be thought, another time, to know that you know not.

NAR: Very few talk of themselves, though. Not sure if that is bad or good.

Bacon: Speech of a man’s self ought to be seldom, and well chosen. I knew one, was wont to say in scorn, He must needs be a wise man, he speaks so much of himself: and there is but one case, wherein a man may commend himself with good grace; and that is in commending virtue in another; especially if it be such a virtue, whereunto himself pretendeth.

NAR: Yes, milord, we compliment people as often as possible. Luckily we haven’t had much flaming on this site, as it happens. People try not to be too personal. Rather a civil crowd, not the usual blog rabble throwing raw vegetables at the stage and each other.

Bacon: Speech of touch towards others, should be sparingly used; for discourse ought to be as a field, without coming home to any man. I knew two noblemen, of the west part of England, whereof the one was given to scoff, but kept ever royal cheer in his house; the other would ask, of those that had been at the other’s table, Tell truly, was there never a flout or dry blow given? To which the guest would answer, Such and such a thing passed. The lord would say, I thought, he would mar a good dinner.

NAR: Not sure what that story means. We will have to think about that. Does it make any sense at all, except for the first sentence? But tell us, shouldn’t truth take precedence over tact, do you think? As a man of science, presumably you think it should.

Bacon: Discretion of speech, is more than eloquence; and to speak agreeably to him, with whom we deal, is more than to speak in good words, or in good order.

NAR: Oh. Well, should we encourage posters to be short and sweet, or to explain fully so that all can understand?

Bacon: A good continued speech, without a good speech of interlocution, shows slowness: and a good reply or second speech, without a good settled speech, showeth shallowness and weakness. As we see in beasts, that those that are weakest in the course, are yet nimblest in the turn; as it is betwixt the greyhound and the hare. To use too many circumstances, ere one come to the matter, is wearisome; to use none at all, is blunt.

NAR: Well, milord, that sounds like wisdom, but we need a little time to digest it. And we hear You Got Mail. So thank you for calling back. It has been very useful. But tell us, one final question, is it all cakes and ale in Heaven, or does it get tedious rather quickly? Is there sex?

At this point, unfortunately. the line was interrupted, possibly through divine intervention, so we never found out the answer to that question.

Ask Mama – clever Bialy initiative

September 8th, 2006


Simple way to emphasize why low risk people may be positive: test mothers too

No, John, you didn’t necessarily have unguarded sex with a stranger, and nor did your mother

The Cuernavaca Roman candle of HIV∫AIDS debate, Dr. Harvey Bialy, the most damnably imaginative prodder of the elephantine beast that is HIV∫AIDS, has come up with another devilishly clever way to make a point.

As noted previously innumerable times it is the clear conclusion of Peter Duesberg, Bialy and the rest of the HIV∫AIDS reassessment movement (such as your faithful blogger), that the scientific literature shows that the notorious deadly Virus, contrary to the worldwide HIV∫AIDS panic, is not sweeping the universe in a deadly infectious spread, does not show any genuine sign of causing any trouble, in fact, is merely a harmless passenger transmitted for millennia between mother and child.

So it would be appropriate, Dr. Bialy suggests, to test the mother of anybody who scored positive on their first HIV antibody test.

The proposal is posted on the AIDS Wiki, mathematician Darin Brown’s home for accurate information on HIV∫AIDS, where it is safe from changes by those hostile to paradigm review, and an accurate counter balance to the misleadingly titled site led by John Moore of Cornell, AIDSTruth, which in a few short months has become the peerless source of HIV∫AIDS misinformation on the Web.

Here is what it says on Mom Is Positive too:

Retroviruses (of which HIV is a classic example, see Correlation But Not Causation: HIV Is a Conventional Retrovirus Without an AIDS Gene) are normally transmitted in the wild through perinatal routes (that is from mother to child), making them endemic rather than epidemic microbes. A virus that depends on such transmission for its survival is, as would be expected, essentially a harmless passenger. Killing the only host it depends upon, and having no other transmission route that is even slightly efficient, is a dead end evolutionary strategy.

Thus, quite the opposite of what you have been told, HIV is an old, established virus in the United States and not a newly introduced killer from Africa. The US government/WHO certified figures to prove this can be found at Incidence of AIDS and Prevalence of HIV in the US Population.

It is a firm prediction of the “harmless, passenger HIV hypothesis” that for those who are not obviously at risk from the known causes of a positive test (biological and artefactual), their test result has a chance of being reproduced in their mother.

If after your first antibody test, you were told you were positive, you may have been that way all your life and not known it, and it is possible your mother is as well. Since HIV does not cause any harm in a human body, she would never imagine she was an “AIDS victim”.

So, if you inherited HIV from your mother, there is nothing for either of you to worry about, and of course neither she nor you are to be blamed, nor should either of you be made to feel guilty about anything. Quite the opposite. This is good news, not bad.

Since this alternative hypothesis, like so many others in the field of “HIV/AIDS”, has never been allowed to be tested, we have no idea how many first-tested, antibody positives outside of known risk groups might be expected to have this surprising good news with which to enlighten their family and friends. Until enough people are savvy or brave enough to try, neither will anyone.

You are not being asked to participate in any kind of study. This is an individual empowerment exercise only.

But, even a few positive pairs might be enough to start a chain reaction, that could result in sufficient pressure being brought to bear on the US government agencies to force them to conduct a proper, epidemiological survey – something that ought to have been done long ago.

For this reason we encourage anyone who wins this reverse HIV lottery to contact the wikimaster here so that we may figure out the most appropriate way of making results of this campaign known.

Harvey Bialy adds a note pointing out that this suggestion dates from 2000, when it was purportedly agreed to by the CDC, but soon politically scotched.

Evidently, it appeared to be a threat, understandably so, to the status quo, vulnerable as ever to almost any trial of its validity.

Perhaps it is worth noting that in 2000, the South African Presidential Advisory Panel on AIDS unanimously recommended that a mother-child tracing of this very sort be undertaken using the pool of subjects provided by the US military. I was appointed a coordinator of this project along with Dr. Helene Gayle (at the time the director of the Africa AIDS division of the CDC). Unfortunately, after several months were spent on preliminary logistics, I was informed, for reasons never made clear, that the study was “not technically feasible”. Harvey Bialy, Cuernavaca, 8 Sept. 2006

Would this little study, so easily carried out, have weakened the paradigm or even brought it down all by itself?

Will it now?

It certainly will bolster the case of the rethinkers immensely.

But one wonders what the reaction of the mothers might be when one by one they all score positive too. Will they march on the NIH, like the mothers of the disappeared in Argentina?

Will the HIV∫AIDS tower pancake?

Like Bialy’s other devilish proposals, it is not easy to map the boundaries of what might happen. Bialy himself has a clear idea of what would be the most powerful outcome, though. He writes to us that

“The real need is to educate the black American community about these points because they are targeted for large scale HIV testing right now… and if enough of them smarten up quick, they could turn the tables on their persecutors. And of course every healthy positive Mom whose Mom is living has a positive Mom .. EVERY ONE OF THEM!”

“This could bring them down,” he concludes.”Three positive pairs and I could make more hay than you can imagine. And more trouble too.”

This fearsome prospect should give Anthony Fauci, John P. Moore and other paradigm propagandists pause. And the possibility seems very easy to bring about. All the dissenters need to do is persuade three HIV positive black Americans to persuade their Mom and grand Moms to tested too!

Then Dr Harvey S. Bialy, the most effective warhead on the Rethinking AIDS missile, can be aimed and fired directly at the HIV∫AIDS citadel, with an effect that one only imagine. As we approach 9/11/06 one cannot help but envision the collapse of that huge structure like a pack of cards.

But this time, it will be a blow struck on behalf of reality and true science against the religious impulse.

Bialy’s previous challenges

His most striking previous proposal was to suggest that the editor of Nature and of Science poll their readers to ask if they would support a public debate on the HIV∫AIDS issue between Dr. David Baltimore, Nobel prize winner, and Dr Peter Duesberg, Nobel prize winner manque.

He renewed this proposal recently in the aftermath of John Moore of Cornell’s refusal to debate him publicly, declining on the weak grounds that anyone who wanted to deny that HIV caused AIDS was by definition not a credible scientist, a sly bit of self serving logic.

I’ll expand a very little…about why it’s not appropriate to ‘debate’ with HIV denialists who also happen to be scientists, by profession or self-proclaimed… The principal reason is that there’s nothing to debate… A secondary one is that there’s nobody worth debating with. One should only debate science with credible scientists, and no credible scientist could ever dispute the causative role of HIV infection in AIDS.

Darin Brown has written up the story on the AIDS Wiki at Who Are the Real AIDS Denialists? — Testing the “Moore Assertion”

“In the interests of once and forever ending the disquieting and possibly harmful pseudo-debate over the cause of AIDS that has been simmering at the margins of the journals and popular media for almost two decades, we urge you to use your good offices to take an electronic straw poll of your readers in which you simply ask them to respond to the following question. Would you support a series of debates between David Baltimore and Peter Duesberg, to be organized by, and held under the auspices of, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, on the etiology of AIDS?”

If you would like to see this experiment performed, you may meaningfully contribute by sending a joint email to Don Kennedy (scipak@aaas.org) and Philip Campbell (exec@nature.com), (the editors of Science and Nature respectively) expressing your agreement with the letter above (and carbon-copying me at darincbrown@yahoo.com) so we can, in the words of Prof. Moore, “keep at the maths…someone has to do it, after all.” (Please address them by name in your email.) In contradistinction to the “Moore Assertion,” we present the “Brown/Bialy Conjecture”:

“No matter how many emails are received by the editors of Science and Nature in support of the above experiment to test the ‘Moore Assertion,’ they will never allow such an experiment to take place.”

We speculate that the reason is because they know full well what the uncomfortable result would be.

The remarkable AIDS Wiki

Who Are the Real AIDS Denialists? — Testing the “Moore Assertion” by Darin Brown was first published on Lew Rockwell, but it is now on Darin’s Brown’s AIDS Wiki.

Hit this link Who Are the Real AIDS Denialists? — Testing the “Moore Assertion” to go to the page and its reference links on the AIDS Wiki, and explore the rest of what is now the encyclopedia of reference on AIDS Truth (the genuine kind) on the Web).

Searching the AIDS Wiki for “Bialy” for example will yield the complete contribution of Peter Duesberg’s most authoritative and combative colleague.

Here is the text, but without links:

Who Are the Real AIDS Denialists? — Testing the “Moore Assertion”

by Darin Brown

LewRockwell.com

21 June 2006

A very interesting and instructive exchange between myself, Harvey Bialy and the New York Times-celebrated Op. Ed. author Prof. John P. Moore, self-appointed “Major General in the War on AIDS” and spokesperson for “The Scientific Community,” recently appeared on the AIDS Wiki. The exchange was prompted by an offer to Prof. Moore to participate in a moderated debate with Dr. Bialy, who wrote in part:

I propose a simple debate at the AIDS Wiki on the etiology of AIDS. I further propose it take the following form:

I will present one fully referenced (with PDF files that the moderator can hyperlink) challenge to your favorite and livelihood-sustaining hypothesis, and you can demolish my feeble arguments in the same fashion. We will continue this for one additional round, and then move on to the next challenge. I have maybe seven such challenges.

At the end, we will have produced the first fully documented, real scientific debate on the cause of AIDS. Interesting that after 25 years none has ever been held before, Bob Gallo’s promise in the PNAS in 1989 not withstanding.

Within the hour, Prof. Moore had replied to me by email:

Participating in any public forum with the likes of Bialy would give him a credibility that he does not merit. The science community does not ‘debate’ with the AIDS denialists, it treats them with the utter contempt that they deserve and exposes them for the charlatans that they are. Kindly do not send me any further communications on this or any related matter.

Despite Prof. Moore’s expressed wish to discontinue communication, he in fact continued conversation with Dr. Bialy and myself for several days thereafter. By the end of this exchange, Moore had produced (and “more” than thrice) what we now call “The Moore Assertion.” In the professor’s inimitable style,

… I’ll expand a very little…about why it’s not appropriate to ‘debate’ with HIV denialists who also happen to be scientists, by profession or self-proclaimed… The principal reason is that there’s nothing to debate… A secondary one is that there’s nobody worth debating with. One should only debate science with credible scientists, and no credible scientist could ever dispute the causative role of HIV infection in AIDS. I repeat, in case you have missed the point: Any scientist who claims that HIV does not cause AIDS (or that HIV does not exist) is simply not credible, essentially as a point of definition. The evidence is so overwhelming that a credible scientist could not fail to understand and accept it… Would astrophysicists and geologists debate with people who believed the moon was made of green cheese?

More succinctly, “The Assertion” denies that there is any scientific reason to doubt HIV as the cause of AIDS because a vaguely defined “scientific community” has already pronounced on the matter ad nauseum. This is vigorously defended by the ultra-orthodox AIDS cadres that Moore represents, even though the only semblance of a “real” debate in the literature occurred in the journal Science in 1988.

It ran under the logo of a “Policy Forum,” with Peter Duesberg arguing against, and William Blattner, Robert Gallo, and Howard Temin arguing for, the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. In his book Oncogenes, Aneuploidy, and AIDS, Bialy gives an entertaining and accurate description of this “heavyweight science fight.” Here is the last paragraph of the linked excerpt

After the ‘Policy Forum’ appeared, Peter all but begged Dan to sanction another round, to no avail. And so just when it was getting good, the bout was declared a technical draw on an inexplicable and non-appealable decision of commissioner Koshland. There was never to be a rematch. The failure to extend the discussion in the pages of Science was significant. Most scientists have neither time nor inclination to follow specialist literature in fields outside their own. They depend, consequently, on journals like Science and Nature to tell them what is considered important. Having read, as best they could at the time, the arguments of the Policy Forum, and then seeing nothing more than vulgar anti-Duesberg editorials in the scientific press and worse in the popular media, even a partially persuaded non-specialist could and would eventually concur with the ‘overwhelming evidence’ of Team Virus, although it has become even less overwhelming now than it was in 1988.

The truth of the “Moore Assertion” is a key point of dispute between the two camps. Indeed, in the absence of a satisfactory resolution of its validity, it remains the principal impediment to ever discovering the real scientific merits of the virus-AIDS hypothesis that have nothing to do with the consensual basis of the claim. Until now, assertions of this type were like the Riemann hypothesis in number theory — important but impossible to resolve due to a lack of technical tools. With the ascendance of the internet, however, the “Moore Assertion” is readily testable as a scientific hypothesis. All that is required is to take an anonymous, electronic straw poll of the readership of Nature and Science, the world’s two most prominent science journals, asking whether they would support a series of debates, organized and held under the auspices of the National Academy of Sciences, between Peter Duesberg and David Baltimore (the two most prominent and best-credentialed spokespersons for the two sides) on the cause of AIDS.

The goal of such an electronic straw poll would not be to generate an actual debate between Duesberg and Baltimore, but to test the “Moore Assertion” that “there is nothing to debate and no-one worth debating with, and the issue has already been decided by ‘overwhelming evidence’ by the ‘scientific community.’”

To take this experiment out of the gedenken, we propose the following letter to the editors of Nature and Science:

“In the interests of once and forever ending the disquieting and possibly harmful pseudo-debate over the cause of AIDS that has been simmering at the margins of the journals and popular media for almost two decades, we urge you to use your good offices to take an electronic straw poll of your readers in which you simply ask them to respond to the following question. Would you support a series of debates between David Baltimore and Peter Duesberg, to be organized by, and held under the auspices of, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, on the etiology of AIDS?”

If you would like to see this experiment performed, you may meaningfully contribute by sending a joint email to Don Kennedy (scipak@aaas.org) and Philip Campbell (exec@nature.com), (the editors of Science and Nature respectively) expressing your agreement with the letter above (and carbon-copying me at darincbrown@yahoo.com) so we can, in the words of Prof. Moore, “keep at the maths…someone has to do it, after all.” (Please address them by name in your email.) In contradistinction to the “Moore Assertion,” we present the “Brown/Bialy Conjecture”:

“No matter how many emails are received by the editors of Science and Nature in support of the above experiment to test the ‘Moore Assertion,’ they will never allow such an experiment to take place.”

We speculate that the reason is because they know full well what the uncomfortable result would be.

© 2006 by Darin Brown

Roll call of infamy – 65 scientists demand Manto resign

September 7th, 2006


In a new Declaration, leading HIV∫AIDS apologists adopt activist role

Disgraceful intimations that funding sources are relevant

The shamelessly misleading HIV∫AIDS “AIDSTruth” site run by John Moore of Cornell and friends is now an indispensable reference on what the leading paradigm apologists are up to, and this week it comes through with flying colors by headlining the new letter to Mbeki sent by 65 scientists “deeply concerned” over the South African response to the supposed HIV∫AIDS pandemic. They want the Health Minister fired, as their partner activists, the Treatment Action Campaign, have been agitating for since Toronto.

Here is what the letter says, and the list of scientists who have put their name to it.

Since NAR exists to review the accuracy of claims and literature concerning the HIV∫AIDS paradigm, we have annotated with signs, which can be expanded on as necesary ie where not repeating previous overlong posts. V=Valid. NV=Not Valid. Q=Questionable.:

Letter to South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki

EXPRESSION OF CONCERN BY HIV SCIENTISTS

Mr Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki

President

Republic of South Africa

Union Buildings

West wing

2nd Floor

Government Avenue

Pretoria

4 September 2006

By fax: +27 12 323 8246 and +27 21 461 6456

Dear President Mbeki

EXPRESSION OF CONCERN BY HIV SCIENTISTS

We are members of the global scientific community working on HIV/AIDS who wish to express our deep concern at the response of the South African government to the HIV epidemic.

HIV causes AIDS.(NV1) Antiretrovirals are the only medications currently available that alleviate the consequences of HIV infection. (NV2)The evidence supporting these statements is overwhelming and beyond dispute. (NV3) Much credit for the impressive advancement of HIV science belongs to scientists and clinicians based in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent. Their expertise should play a critical role in alleviating the awful consequences HIV has caused to South African society. (Q1) We are therefore deeply concerned at how HIV science has been undermined by the South African Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Before and during the XVI International AIDS Conference, Dr Tshabalala-Msimang expressed pseudo-scientific views about the management of HIV infection.(NV4) Furthermore, the South African government exhibition at the Conference featured garlic, lemons and African potatoes, with the implication that these dietary elements are alternative treatments for HIV infection. (NV5) There is no scientific evidence to support such views. (NV6) Good nutrition is important for all people, including people with HIV, but garlic, lemons and potatoes are not alternatives to effective medications to treat a specific viral infection and its consequences on the human immune system. (NV7) Over 5 million people live with HIV in South Africa. According to the best estimates of South African actuaries, over 500,000 people without access to antiretrovirals have reached the stage of HIV-disease (NV8) when they now require these medicines to save their lives. (NV9)

We commend the South African Department of Health’s Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care, Management and Treatment for South Africa released on 19 November 2003. This plan committed to treating over 380,000 people by this time in the public health sector. Unfortunately, fewer than half of that target number are currently receiving treatment in the public sector. Many people are therefore dying unnecessarily. (NV10)

We are also deeply concerned by the proliferation of unproven remedies being marketed in South Africa, some of them with the implicit or even explicit support of the Minister of Health. Slick marketing practices cause people not to take proven medications, or at best to waste money on false hopes. We condemn all those who profit from this type of quackery, at the expense of the sick and dying. (NV11)

We echo the words of Mr Stephen Lewis, special advisor to the UN Secretary General, that South Africa’s response to AIDS is “obtuse, dilatory and negligent”.(NV12)

Dr Mark Wainberg, chairperson of the XVI International AIDS Conference, stated in his Closing Address:

“We went to the Durban meeting, expecting a South African government that would be on the same side as us. Instead, we found a denialist president who turned his back on us…(NV13) and who began to convene committees that would articulate on his behalf that somehow it was in dispute whether or not HIV was truly the cause of AIDS … We were all completely taken aback, we were all insulted. … I for one am no longer prepared to take a back seat as a scientist and not express my personal concern that this situation seems to have continued unabated.”

We support and endorse Dr Wainberg’s words.

To deny that HIV causes AIDS is farcical in the face of the scientific evidence;(NV14) to promote ineffective, immoral policies on HIV/AIDS endangers lives (NV15); to have as Health Minister a person who now has no international respect is an embarrassment to the South African government (NV16). We therefore call for the immediate removal of Dr Tshabalala-Msimang as Minister of Health, and for an end to the disastrous, pseudo-scientific policies that have characterised the South African Government’s response to HIV/AIDS.(NV17)

NV 1-17: Read this blog to see how invalid every one of these statements is.

As far as we are concerned, this is a roll call of infamy, and it is entirely suitable that its most prominent signatory is Nobelist and CalTech President (till September 1, when he retired from the position, so he is now Emeritus) Dr David Baltimore.

If you would like to see who else signed this warped screed, here is the news report and then the list:

Letter to South Africa’s President Thabo Mbeki

EXPRESSION OF CONCERN BY HIV SCIENTISTS

Mr Thabo Mvuyelwa Mbeki

President

Republic of South Africa

Union Buildings

West wing

2nd Floor

Government Avenue

Pretoria

4 September 2006

By fax: +27 12 323 8246 and +27 21 461 6456

Dear President Mbeki

EXPRESSION OF CONCERN BY HIV SCIENTISTS

We are members of the global scientific community working on HIV/AIDS who wish to express our deep concern at the response of the South African government to the HIV epidemic.

HIV causes AIDS. Antiretrovirals are the only medications currently available that alleviate the consequences of HIV infection. The evidence supporting these statements is overwhelming and beyond dispute. Much credit for the impressive advancement of HIV science belongs to scientists and clinicians based in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent. Their expertise should play a critical role in alleviating the awful consequences HIV has caused to South African society. We are therefore deeply concerned at how HIV science has been undermined by the South African Minister of Health, Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

Before and during the XVI International AIDS Conference, Dr Tshabalala-Msimang expressed pseudo-scientific views about the management of HIV infection. Furthermore, the South African government exhibition at the Conference featured garlic, lemons and African potatoes, with the implication that these dietary elements are alternative treatments for HIV infection. There is no scientific evidence to support such views. Good nutrition is important for all people, including people with HIV, but garlic, lemons and potatoes are not alternatives to effective medications to treat a specific viral infection and its consequences on the human immune system. Over 5 million people live with HIV in South Africa. According to the best estimates of South African actuaries, over 500,000 people without access to antiretrovirals have reached the stage of HIV-disease when they now require these medicines to save their lives.

We commend the South African Department of Health’s Operational Plan for Comprehensive HIV and AIDS Care, Management and Treatment for South Africa released on 19 November 2003. This plan committed to treating over 380,000 people by this time in the public health sector. Unfortunately, fewer than half of that target number are currently receiving treatment in the public sector. Many people are therefore dying unnecessarily.

We are also deeply concerned by the proliferation of unproven remedies being marketed in South Africa, some of them with the implicit or even explicit support of the Minister of Health. Slick marketing practices cause people not to take proven medications, or at best to waste money on false hopes. We condemn all those who profit from this type of quackery, at the expense of the sick and dying.

We echo the words of Mr Stephen Lewis, special advisor to the UN Secretary General, that South Africa’s response to AIDS is “obtuse, dilatory and negligent”.

Dr Mark Wainberg, chairperson of the XVI International AIDS Conference, stated in his Closing Address:

“We went to the Durban meeting, expecting a South African government that would be on the same side as us. Instead, we found a denialist president who turned his back on us… and who began to convene committees that would articulate on his behalf that somehow it was in dispute whether or not HIV was truly the cause of AIDS … We were all completely taken aback, we were all insulted. … I for one am no longer prepared to take a back seat as a scientist and not express my personal concern that this situation seems to have continued unabated.”

We support and endorse Dr Wainberg’s words.

To deny that HIV causes AIDS is farcical in the face of the scientific evidence; to promote ineffective, immoral policies on HIV/AIDS endangers lives; to have as Health Minister a person who now has no international respect is an embarrassment to the South African government. We therefore call for the immediate removal of Dr Tshabalala-Msimang as Minister of Health, and for an end to the disastrous, pseudo-scientific policies that have characterised the South African Government’s response to HIV/AIDS.

Signed (in alphabetical order):

1. Abdool Karim, Quarraisha, Professor, Head, CAPRISA Women and AIDS Programme, University Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

2. Anastasi, John, MD, Associate Professor, Director, Residency Training Program, University of Chicago, USA

3. Aubertin, Anne Marie, PhD, Directeur de recherche INSERM 778, Institut de Virologie, Université Louis Pasteur, France

4. Baltimore, David, President Emeritus, California Institute of Technology, USA

5. Bardeguez, Arlene, MD, MPH, Director, HIV Services, Department Obstetrics, Gynecology & Women’s Health, New Jersey Medical School, USA

6. Barin, Francis, Professor, Virology lab and National Reference Center for HIV, Université F Rabelais, France

7. Barnett, David, Dr , Consultant Clinical Scientist and Honorary Senior Lecturer, UK

8. Barnett, Tony, ESRC Professorial Research Fellow, London School of Economics, UK

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This website was developed in March, 2006, by Bob Funkhouser of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Nathan Geffen of The Treatment Action Campaign, Dr. John P. Moore of Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Professor Nicoli Nattrass, Director of the AIDS and Society Research Unit, University of Cape Town, Richard Jeffrey of the Treatment Action Group, Jeanne Bergman of HealthGAP, Gregg Gonsalves of the AIDS and Rights Alliance for Southern Africa, and Dr. Bette Korber of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Duesberg’s math incorrect, say bloggers

September 4th, 2006


Are HIV dissenters refusing to admit imperfection?

What is correct formulation, then?

Interesting comment sparked today by our humungous Comment thread after the Larry Altman’s Guide to AIDS Conferences post on the Good Math Bad Math blog comment and thread Pathetic Statistics from HIV/AIDS Denialists by Mark Chu-Carroll, which Tara Smith points to in Aetiology in her post today on AIDS denial and creationism–common thread of bad statistics.

Tara C. Smith (she of the beautiful and bounteous physique as displayed prominently on every page of her in consequence always delightful blog) is an epidemiologist who deplores HIV∫AIDS rethinkers as setting a very bad example in their reasoning in many respects:

Regular readers are very familiar with my refrain that many science deniers use the same tactics: bad arguments, quote-mining, appeals to authority, castigation of originators of respective theories, etc. etc. Another common thread is the complete bastardization of statistical analysis.

Not sure what “castigation of originators of respective theories means”, but her decisive rejection of HIV∫AIDS rethinking has been a feature of her blog for some time. Now she is pleased to find that HIV∫AIDS rethinkers may have perpetrated an incorrect mathematical formulation, and that Mark has jumped on it after Chris Noble, in the wake of the discussion here, alerted him.

The basic point is that Duesberg is said to be wrong and statistically naive to have said “Thus, all positive teenagers would have had to achieve an absurd 1000 contacts with a positive partner, or an even more absurd 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.”

The blogger, Mark C. Chu-Carroll, self-described as “a Computer Scientist working as a researcher in a corporate lab. My professional interests run towards how to build programming languages and tools that allow groups of people to work together to build large software systems’, writes:

“While I was on vacation, I got some email from Chris Noble pointing me towards a discussion with some thoroughly innumerate HIV-AIDS denialists. It’s really quite shocking what passes for a reasonable argument among true believers.

“The initial stupid statement is from one of Duesberg’s papers, AIDS Acquired by Drug Consumption and Other Noncontagious Risk Factors, and it’s quite a whopper. During a discussion of the infection rates shown by HIV tests of military recruits,” he says:

(a) “AIDS tests” from applicants to the U.S. Army and the U.S. Job Corps indicate that between 0.03% (Burke et al.,1990) and 0.3% (St Louis et al.,1991) of the 17- to 19-year-old applicants are HIV-infected but healthy. Since there are about 90 million Americans under the age of 20, there must be between 27,000 and 270,000(0.03%-0.3% of 90 million) HIV carriers. In Central Africa there are even more, since 1-2% of healthy children are HIV-positive (Quinn et al.,1986).

Most, if not all, of these adolescents must have acquired HIV from perinatal infection for the following reasons: sexual transmission of HIV depends on an average of 1000 sexual contacts, and only 1 in 250 Americans carries HIV (Table 1). Thus, all positive teenagers would have had to achieve an absurd 1000 contacts with a positive partner, or an even more absurd 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission. It follows that probably all of the healthy adolescent HIV carriers were perinatally infected, as for example the 22-year-old Kimberly Bergalis (Section 3.5.16).”

Computer Scientist Mark continues: “Now, I would think that anyone who reads an allegedly scientific paper like this would be capable of seeing the spectacular stupidity in this quotation. But for the sake of pedantry, I’ll explain it using small words.”

Special note: Here (click “show” below) follows a step by step analysis of what Computer Scientist Mark and Blog Commentator Noble argued was incorrect about the phrase highlighted in bold.

[TS interjects: Thanks, Mark, for the promise to use small words, since we are glad to see spectacularly bad math corrected, but find probability one of the deeper mysteries of life. But let’s remember that even though the math may be wrong, perhaps because the phrasing is incorrect, the basic point, that sexual transmission is too rare to support an epidemic, may still stand. If it does, the error is not particularly important, though it may be imperfect math/stats. Duesberg is not a mathematician. However, it was presumably questioned and checked by his friendly colleagues and by the peer reviewers so you are certainly exposing a lot of people as having missed a “spectacular error”.]

“If the odds of, say, winning the lottery are 1 in 1 million, that does not mean that if I won the lottery, that means I must have played it one million times. Nor does it mean that the average lottery winner played the lottery one million times. It means that out of every one million times anyone plays the lottery, one person will be expected to win.

[TS: Obviously correct, and well phrased. But is it a match for what Duesberg said?]

“To jump that back to Duesberg, what he’s saying is: if the transmission rate of HIV/AIDS is 1 in 1000, then the average infected person would need to have had sex with an infected partner 1000 times.

[TS: OK, but let’s be clear. He is saying that on average an infected person must have been exposed 1000 times to an infected partner. Is that not true? Apparently you don’t think so, so let’s see.]

“Nope, that’s not how math works. Not even close.

Suppose we have 1000 people who are infected with HIV, and who are having unprotected sex. If we follow Duesberg’s lead, and assume that the transmission rate is a constant 0.1%, then what we would expect is that if each of those 1000 people had sex with one partner one time, we would see one new infected individual – and that individual would have had unprotected sex with the infected partner only one time.

This isn’t rocket science folks. This is damned simple, high-school level statistics. “

[TS: Certainly seems likely to be true. If 1000 people all screwed once with a positive partner, with a 1 in 1000 chance, one should become positive. Now is this meaningfully different from the above, or simply a variation on the way of looking at the problem? How long would it take for all the 1000 people to become positive? Presumably for ALL of them to become positive, it would take 1000 screws each, before the last one converted. Obviously if they stopped when they became positive, only the last one would need 1000 screws. But if they didn’t know and just kept on screwing, wouldn’t it take 1000 screws for all? And if the chances of their partner being positive was 1 in 250, wouldn’t it take 250,000 screws in all?

Isn’t that what Duesberg is saying? That for any number in the population to become positive, taken as a whole every one of them would have to screw 1000 times until the very last one was infected by a positive partner. And if there are Y positives in the population Z to start with, then it would need 1000 (Z/Y) screws – in this case, 250,000?]

Mark continues with an evisceration of TS’s evidently moronic try at refuting his friend Chris Noble:

“Where things get even sadder is looking at the discussion that followed when Chris posted something similar to the above explanation. Some of the ridiculous contortions that people go through in order to avoid admitting that the great Peter Duesberg said something stupid is just astounding. For example, consider this from a poster calling himself “Truthseeker”:

If Duesberg had said that, he would indeed be foolish. The foolishness, however, is yours, since you misintepret his reasoning. He said, as you note

Most, if not all, of these adolescents must have acquired HIV from perinatal infection for the following reasons: sexual transmission of HIV depends on an average of 1000 sexual contacts, and only 1 in 250 Americans carries HIV (Table 1). Thus, all positive teenagers would have had to achieve an absurd 1000 contacts with a positive partner, or an even more absurd 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.”

[TS: This states the average transmission requires 1000 contacts, not every transmission. With such a low transmission rate and with so few Americans positive – you have to engage with 250 partners on average to get an average certainty of 100% for transmission, if the transmission rate was 1. Since it is 1 in 1000, the number you have to get through on average is 250,000. Some might do it immediately, some might fail entirely even at 250,000. But the average indicates that all positive teenagers would have had to get through on average 250,000 partner-bouts.

But Mark evidently thinks this is wrong. Darned if we can see it!]

“Truthseeker is making exactly the same mistake as Duesberg. The difference is that he’s just had it explained to him using a simple metaphor, and he’s trying to spin a way around the fact that Duesberg screwed up.

[TS: This is disappointing, since we had hoped Mark was going to explain where we went wrong. Does it imply that we were right? Surely not. But he doesn’t actually SAY we were wrong. Phew! We got off lightly, with not even a “moron” in the dismissal.

But were we right? He implies we are not. But what is wrong with what we said? That is what we need to know.

Perhaps Duesberg’s “all” is wrong too, as in” Thus, all positive teenagers would have had to achieve an absurd 1000 contacts with a positive partner, or an even more absurd 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.” Perhaps “all” should be “typical”.

What would the correct statement have been, then? Mark doesn’t say. The trouble is any way we look at it, it looks OK to us. We vaguely remember looking at this striking statement in the draft of Duesberg’s article, and double checking to see if it was true, and deciding it was. Apparently this was an error, but we still cannot see why.

Surely it is true to say, “Thus, since there is a 1 in 1000 chance of transmission, any positive teenager would have had to achieve an absurd average 1000 contacts with a positive partner to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.”

Isn’t it then true to say, if there are only 1 in 250 in the population at large who are positive, “Or an even more absurd average 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.

Whatever, we cannot fathom the error, and nor can a consultant who is not a mathematician but pronounced the statement in his opinion “flawless”.]

Mark continues: “But it gets even worse. A poster named Claus responded with this indignant response to Chris’s use of a metaphor about plane crashes:

CN,

You would fare so much better if you could just stay with the science points and refrain from your ad Duesbergs for more than 2 sentences at a time. You know there’s a proverb where I come from that says ‘thief thinks every man steals’. I’ve never seen anybody persisting the way you do in calling other people ‘liars’, ‘dishonest’ and the likes in spite of the fact that the only one shown to be repeatedly and wilfully dishonest here is you.

Unlike yourself Duesberg doesn’t deal with matters on a case-by-case only basis in order to illustrate his statistical points. precisely as TS says, this shows that you’re the one who’s not doing the statistics, only the misleading.

In statistics, for an illustration to have any meaning, one must assume that it’s representative of an in the context significant statistical average no? Or perphaps in CN’s esteemed opinion statistics is all about that once in a while when somebody does win in the lottery?

Mark says “Gotta interject here… Yeah, statistics is about that once in a while when someone wins the lottery, or when someone catches HIV, or when someone dies in a plane crash. It’s about measuring things by looking at aggregate numbers for a population. Any unlikely event follows the same pattern, whether it’s catching HIV, winning the lottery, or dying in a plane crash, and that’s one of the things that statistics is specifically designed to talk about: that fundamental probabilistic pattern.”

But never mind we’ll let CN have the point; the case in question was that odd one out, and Duesberg was guilty of the gambler’s fallacy. ok? You scored one on Duesberg, happy now? Good. So here’s the real statistical point abstracted, if you will, from the whole that’s made up by all single cases, then applied to the single case in question:

Thus, all positive teenagers would have had to achieve an absurd 1000 contacts with a positive partner, or an even more absurd 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.

This is the statistical truth, which is what everybody but CN is interested in.

Mark rejects this out of hand:

“Nope, this is not statistical truth. This is an elementary statistical error which even a moron should be able to recognize.”

Reminder: Whenever somebody shows a pattern of pedantically reverting to single cases and/or persons, insisting on interpreting them out of all context, it’s because they want to divert your attention from real issues and blind you to the overall picture.

Mark: “Reminder: whenever someone shows a pattern of pedantically reverting to a single statistic, insisting on interpreting it in an entirely invalid context, it’s because they want to divert your attention from real issues and blind you to the overall picture.

“The 250,000 average sexual contacts is a classic big-numbers thing: it’s so valuable to be able to come up with an absurd number that people will immediately reject, and assign it to your opponents argument. They can’t let this go, no matter how stupid it is, no matter how obviously wrong. Because it’s so important to them to be able to say “According to their own statistics, the HIV believers are saying that the average teenage army recruit has had sex 250,000 times!”. As long as they can keep up the pretense of a debate around the validity of that statistic, they can keep on using it. So no matter how stupid, they’ll keep defending the line.”

[TS: OK, Mark, but what is the correct statement and why?

The Comments don’t seem to reveal the answer so far:

Comments

see probability tree for putative rate of infection given rate assumptions.

caution! unrealistic!

Posted by: ekzept | September 4, 2006 02:31 PM

Well… Okay, then what would a valid analysis of the numbers indicate?

Assuming the articles sources weren’t afflicted by similar bad logic, we have that between 0.03% and 0.3% of the (presumably all healthy, as I doubt anyone with full-blown AIDS is applying to the USMC) applicants to the USMC present as HIV positive. Meanwhile, a stat. that is used (without background source) is that 0.4% of the population as a whole is HIV-positive. (the vast, vast majority of those without any symptoms)

So where does this lead us? Frankly, I don’t know. If we assume that prior to being tested, each teenager’s number of partners and number of unprotected intercourse occasions/partner followed a poisson distribution, then in theory one could come up with estimates for both the number of partners and number of encounters/partner. (Though the two estimates might depend on each other)

However, I don’t think I could. At this point I’d reach for the discrete computer simulation and just let it crunch.

Posted by: Daniel Martin | September 4, 2006 04:10 PM

the point of my tree is that with the assumptions Duesberg makes, it’s not likely anyone could get HIV, let alone AIDS. thus, his assumption of independence is not correct.

for example, assuming that indeed the risk of HIV given random unprotected couplings in a U.S.-like population is 1 in 250000, the inverse cumulative probability of a binomial model seeking the number of couplings needed to have a 0.9 chance of acquiring HIV suggests 100000.

unbridled assumptions of independence will necessarily make the risk estimates smaller.

Posted by: ekzept | September 4, 2006 04:50 PM

At this point I’d reach for the discrete computer simulation and just let it crunch.

that won’t work unless the prevalence of HIV among preferred sexual partners is modelled. it’s just not correct that everyone in the population has as much likelihood of coupling with a particular person as any other, even correcting for gender preferences. is there an epidemiologist in the house? 😉

Posted by: ekzept | September 4, 2006 04:56 PM

BTW, the emphasis has been on Duesberg’s misuse of statistics, which is bad enough, but it’s important to understand why he’s doing that. he’s trying to do an argument that not only isn’t HIV not related to AIDS, it isn’t even a coherent disease. that’s his motive. in short, he’s trying to do a “climate change denier” kind of thing on HIV and AIDS.

Posted by: ekzept | September 4, 2006 04:59 PM

One poster does say what everyone knowledgeable, such as Bialy or Brown, on our thread seemed to say, that a correct statement isn’t possible.

Well… Okay, then what would a valid analysis of the numbers indicate?

Assuming the articles sources weren’t afflicted by similar bad logic, we have that between 0.03% and 0.3% of the (presumably all healthy, as I doubt anyone with full-blown AIDS is applying to the USMC) applicants to the USMC present as HIV positive. Meanwhile, a stat. that is used (without background source) is that 0.4% of the population as a whole is HIV-positive. (the vast, vast majority of those without any symptoms)

So where does this lead us? Frankly, I don’t know. If we assume that prior to being tested, each teenager’s number of partners and number of unprotected intercourse occasions/partner followed a poisson distribution, then in theory one could come up with estimates for both the number of partners and number of encounters/partner. (Though the two estimates might depend on each other)

However, I don’t think I could. At this point I’d reach for the discrete computer simulation and just let it crunch.

Posted by: Daniel Martin

We conclude for the moment that Duesberg may have been wrong in his formulation of the low odds that any one person would achieve a positive status with heterosexual sex, but that the mathematically inclined don’t have a simple corrected formulation, and that the force of his important point remains the same: the chances of heterosexual transmission are too low to support an epidemic, let alone a pandemic.

If this is true, it seems silly not to have a simple correct formulation of the risk. This post will be updated if this puzzle is properly solved.

UPDATE 1 Sep 5 3.11 pm: A couple of interesting points stand out from Aetiology in the Comments following Tara Smith post:

None of the “rethinkers” have really admitted to the mathematical mistake inherent in the Duesberg Fallacy. Most of them still insist that in some way Duesberg is still correct. The few that have sufficient mathematical training choose not to comment on this issue. They neither admit to the error nor attempt to refute anything that I stated. -Chris Noble

Also

But I was making an entirely different point – that 1 in 15 or 1 in 1000 makes a huge difference in whether the virus could account for a pandemic. Huge.”

———-

Really? Here’s some assumptions: 1 in 250 americans has HIV. 1 million people. If 1 in 10 of them has unprotected sex on a given day, that is 100,000 people. So, 100 people would get HIV every day, based on a 1/1000 infection rate. In 1000 days, you have 100,000 new cases, which is a lot. Is this end of the world stuff? No. A serious health problem? A good sized city getting a mortal disease every 3 years? Yeah. – Seth Manapio

But a “pandemic”? No. Even with those assumptions, giving you the complete benefit of the doubt…

35 million African AIDS cases… hmmmmmm. I’ll leave the facts about HIV causing AIDS to those who know the science. Just don’t try to sell me on the fact that what’s happening is primarily due to sexual transmission. Duesberg was COMPLETELY WRONG in his use of the statistics as Tara says. But the statistics STILL show that there is no AIDS pandemic caused primarily through sexual transmission. – End Times

The line of reasoning followed by Seth Manapio is interesting. There is apparently more potential for an epidemic that one might suppose. Using the same logic, in the US, supposing every one of the million positives engaged in one sex act with a negative. If as the mathematicians say, a chance of 1 in 1000 means that for every 1000 bouts, one transfer of HIV will take place, this means that a million would result in 1,000 more positives. Ignoring the fact that some of the million are in high risk groups, this might mean that at the rate of sex twice a week, you could get 2,000 a week, or 100,000 a year.

This offers the outside chance of an epidemic, it seems, although the assumptions are rather optimistic. For rethinkers to deny the possibility outright, it may be necessary to emphasize that Padian in fact found no transmission at all in more than a score of couples who took no methodical precautions over six years. The 1 in 1000 rate was purely a tipping of Nancy Padian’s hat to the paradigm, in the form of retrospective calculation of supposed HIV transfer earlier in couples included in the trials. The actual data showed no HIV transmission whatsoever.

Some other points worth noting:

None of the “rethinkers” have really admitted to the mathematical mistake inherent in the Duesberg Fallacy. Most of them still insist that in some way Duesberg is still correct. The few that have sufficient mathematical training choose not to comment on this issue. They neither admit to the error nor attempt to refute anything that I stated. -Chris Noble

But if you accept that it would take 1 in 1,000 sexual encounters with an HIV+ person in order to pass on HIV, while any ONE CASE would indeed only need come from ONE single sexual encounter, it would be mathematically improbable to have a wide-spread epidemic.

This isn’t rocket science either. You would need a thousand million incidents of HIV- persons having unprotected sex with HIV+ partners in order to have just a million new cases of HIV. Now think of the “35 million African AIDS cases” and see if the math works for sexual transmission at the root of the plague. – End Times

Additionally, the 1 in 1000 stat hasn’t been found in all studies. Others have found it to be much higher in Africa, as much as 1 in 80 encounters. Additionally, I’ve mentioned before that it can increase due to other factors as well, such as co-infection with herpes virus, which increases the odds by as much as a factor of 5.- Tara C. Smith

If you want to start claiming at the actual math in Africa is actually about 1 in 15 when you factor in herpes, then we have a whole different argument that would probably start with some pretty strong challeges to those numbers, but nonetheless is, again, a wholey different subject.

A world-wide epidemic based on 1 in 1000 is astronomically improbable.- End Times

I’m not arguing the actual numbers at all. It doesn’t matter what the actual figure is, whether it’s 1 in 15 or 1 in 1000. What matters is the way Duesberg applies that: that you’d have to actually go *through* 15 parters, or 1000 partners, in order to become infected. That is the problem with it. -Tara Smith

You are absolutely right if the only point you want to make is that Duesberg’s math was wrong.

But I was making an entirely different point – that 1 in 15 or 1 in 1000 makes a huge difference in whether the virus could account for a pandemic. Huge.

Steve’s well-taken insights about stats and evolution don’t apply to this. If it was 1 in thousand 20 years ago and is 1 in 1000 today, it has little chance of creating a pandemic. I can say this with confidence, even while fully accepting that anyone could have unprotected sex one time and contract HIV.

Posted by: End Times |

Duesberg also makes completely false assumptions. He assumes that all of the HIV+ 17-19 year old military recruits acquired HIV through heterosexual contacts. This is unlikely to be true. Other acts have much higher risks and would be likely to account for a large proportion of seroconversions. Duesberg also assumes that HIV prevalence is randomly distributed through the entire population. It isn’t. It is largely confined to specific risk groups such as men who have sex with men and injecting drug users. Teenagers that also belong to these risk groups are a) going to experience higher risks per contact and b) see a much higher prevalence of HIV than the ~1/250 national average.

Of course “rethinkers” will debate these issues but the totally damning thing in this case is that the maths in itself is totally and utterly wrong. There is no weasel room for “rethinkers”.

Posted by: Chris Noble

As Chris Noble points out, in the real world, people do not have sex with random samples of the general population. Truck drivers in Africa with untreated STDs who regularly have unprotected sex with truck-stop prostitutes, and a men who very frequently have unprotected receptive anal sex with numerous men in bath-houses, are at very high risk of infection. HIV infection does not spread randomly through the general population but is correlated with a number of other factors, such as those in my examples. Furthermore, as more people become infected the probability of transmission increases exponentially, and as more people receive treatment and live longer the more chance they have of spreading infection.

Posted by: DeanOr

But I was making an entirely different point – that 1 in 15 or 1 in 1000 makes a huge difference in whether the virus could account for a pandemic. Huge.”

———-

Really? Here’s some assumptions: 1 in 250 americans has HIV. 1 million people. If 1 in 10 of them has unprotected sex on a given day, that is 100,000 people. So, 100 people would get HIV every day, based on a 1/1000 infection rate. In 1000 days, you have 100,000 new cases, which is a lot. Is this end of the world stuff? No. A serious health problem? A good sized city getting a mortal disease every 3 years? Yeah. – Seth Manapio

But a “pandemic”? No. Even with those assumptions, giving you the complete benefit of the doubt…

35 million African AIDS cases… hmmmmmm. I’ll leave the facts about HIV causing AIDS to those who know the science. Just don’t try to sell me on the fact that what’s happening is primarily due to sexual transmission. Duesberg was COMPLETELY WRONG in his use of the statistics as Tara says. But the statistics STILL show that there is no AIDS pandemic caused primarily through sexual transmission. – End Times

I just had an amusing thought.

Perinatal transmission is 25-50% efficient. If as Duesberg claims the 17-19 year old military recruits all acquired HIV perinatally then they must have on average been born 2 to 4 times according to his “logic”. – Chris Noble

Just don’t try to sell me on the fact that what’s happening is primarily due to sexual transmission.

Well, that’s a rather separate topic. In fact, we know it’s not primarily sexually transmitted in some areas of the world. The maps here, for instance, emphasize that the epidemic in China and Russia is due largely to IV drug use, while in India and Africa it’s largely sexually transmitted. It’s difficult to make any generalizations about the epidemiology from one place to another.

Posted by: Tara C. Smith

Isn’t a “pandemic” just an outbreak of a disease that is new, infectious and capable of spreading sustainably throughout the population? If so, HIV/AIDS seems to qualify, even at 1/1000 transmission rates with infected people having one sexual encounter every 10 days… an absurdly low number, considering that 1/3 of americans have sex twice a week or more and we would expect a disproportianately high number of HIV positive people to fall within this group.

But yes, I would agree that if you see transmission rates far higher than expected from sexual transmission, it is probable that either there are other vectors at work or else there is a novel variant of the pathogen that is more easily transmitted. Is this a controversial point? – Seth Manapio

IF HIV is passed, genome to genome, then the relatively stable number of nationwide cases of HIV infection would be explainable based on a 25-50% rate with an average of about 3 births per mother (a little higher than the national average. About what you might expect in poorer families).

Just a thought for discussion. – End Times |

No, you need somewhere on average of around 3 daughters per mother all of whom live long enough to have children.

Men don’t give birth.

At 3 daughters per mother the population would triple every generation! – Chris Noble |

t is also rather ironic that the link that Bialy gives for this claim:

Retroviruses (of which HIV is a classic example) are normally transmitted in the wild through perinatal routes (that is from mother to child), making them endemic rather than epidemic microbes

contains this sentence:

Since the virus is not endemic in the U.S., it is transmitted more often by parenteral exposures associated with risk behavior (see below) than perinatally. – Chris Noble |

SOLUTION to the Problem Found (Sept 7 Thu 10.08 AM)

After extended discussion in the Comments to this post, Robert Houston contributed the definitive correction to Duesberg, which revealed that the objections of Chris Noble and Mark Chu-Carroll while correct were trivial and had no effect on the argument advanced by Duesberg. The implication of the stats for heterosexual transmission were as absurd as ever.

Here is the conclusion from in Comments:

Final conclusion: No great error, and the significance stays the same.

Robert Houston has demonstrated that it is indeed not a very great statistical error, and not one which changes the thrust of Duesberg’s point, which is that whichever way you look at it, Duesberg, Noble or Houston, the amount of sex necessary to make sexual transmission a primary route of transmission is absurd.

This is his correction to Duesberg’s paragraph:

“Sexual transmission of HIV depends on an average of 1000 sexual contacts and only 1 in 250 Americans carries HIV… Thus all positive teenagers represent the achievement (by the teenager or his group) of an absurd average of 1000 contacts with a positive partner or an even more absurd 250,000 contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.”

In Comments, Noble’s ineffective response indicated he was unable to quarrel with this, Houston’s correct reformulation of Duesberg’s point.

Houston’s reasoning:

The chances of one person contracting HIV from random sex is still 1 in 250,000. In fact, if you take into account Nancy Padian’s study five years later (1997) the chances for negative males to catch HIV in a contact with a positive female are properly 1 in 9000, not 1 in 1000, so the number of random contacts would have to be 2,250,000, which is indeed “even more absurd”, in Duesberg’s phrase.

Noble correctly noticed that the 1 in 3000 positive recruit was part of a group of 3000 that included 2999 negatives, and the chance of contracting the Virus from random contacts had to be spread over the whole group, so the average number of random contacts needed per recruit would not be 250,000 but 250,000/3000 = 83.

The restatement is the outcome of the simple four assertions Houston made:

1) Given Duesberg’s assumptions, the chances for a particular individual to contract HIV heterosexually remain 1:250,000.

2) The chance for such transmission to occur to anyone in a group at the proportion found in teenage recruits (0.00034 or 1/3000) would be one in 250,000/3000 or 1 in 83.

3) Each HIV positive case would still represent an average of 250,000 contacts occurring in the group.

4) But the group average of 83 contacts per member would yield one positive case (83 x 3000 = 250,000).

Does not change absurdity Duesberg referred to

The only significant issue is whether this is still an absurd level of sexual contacts. Is it unexceptional that recruits into the Army aged under 20, by definition, – ie 17.5-19.9 years – could get through an average 83 encounters before being inducted?

If it is not absurd but a reasonable assumption, then heterosexual transmission of HIV might be a significant factor in the spread of the Virus, and perinatal transmission wouldn’t be the only conventional (not high risk ie not IV drug use with dirty needles or gay sex) route indicated.

Well, fairly obviously the absurdity is still there, analysis will show. With the 1997 Nancy Padian correction of 2,250,000 contacts the whole group needs to yield one new positive, that means 750 encounters per male, average. Absurd on the face of it for any 17-19 year old.

Using the original assumption of 1 in 1000 risk for female to male, the 250,000 total contacts needed for one positive and the 2999 that accompany him, or 83 contacts per male, all 3000 of them, might seem more or less possible at a huge stretch as average experience at 18. However, the US Job Corps study quoted by Duesberg in the same paragraph showed a ten times higher rate among their recruits, who were disadvantaged youths, ie mostly blacks and Hispanics. Among them the rate of HIV positivity was 1/300 (actually 1/270), ten times as much as the 1/3000 of the Army recruits, which would require an average 830 total sex encounters per male.

Since there is also information that one third of youths at 18 are or were virgins, or to be more precise 35%, you have to add 50% to the total, which would make it 1277 sex encounters. This is equivalent to saying that the average 18 year old recruit had 13 years of happy marriage under his belt (that would be twice a week or 100 per year).

Not very likely, in fact, quite impossible. In fact highly absurd. Especially when you look at Padian and find the 1/1000 risk applies to women, and the risk for men infected by women is 1/9000. So Padian would add nine times more sex bouts for men, as opposed to women, which comes out as 11,492 each – 115 years of happy marriage for each active adolescent!

At the age of 18, that is to say, they would need 115 years of sexual experiences at the outstanding happy level of twice a week.

Supporters of the paradigm attempt to argue that the 2005 Uganda study by Wawer et al changes this picture for Africa at least by showing a higher risk of transmission of 1/833, but the male use of condoms in the study was negligible, and there is no information as to whether the 1/833 risk estimate is for male or female.

So the level of sexual experience demanded to account for the positives at this young age is still absurdly high and it is clear that perinatal transmission has to be the overwhelmingly important vector for HIV transmission, with added contributions from IV drug use and gay sex. This was Duesberg’s point, precisely, still supported by the figures he used, and even more glaringly by the updated figures from later studies (Padian 1997 etc).

In a nutshell, the figures for black and Hispanic recruits to the Job Corps are ten times higher than for whites, and one third are virgins. So the rate of sexual activity required to account for the 1/300 black recruits found to be positive at 18 would be 12 times a week – from birth.

AS Duesberg worked out, the idea that sexual transmission accounted for most of these positives, rather than perinatal transmission (with a few from IV drug use and gay sex, of course) is indeed absurd.

An unwitting tribute to Duesberg’s quality

So what can the insulting Web mathematicians really claim as an error in Duesberg’s mistaken phrasing? Not much, beyond a misstatement of the probabilities which overreached in making his point more striking than it deserved. But it remains irrefutable, and there is no change relevant to the great debate.

So if anything the strenuous efforts over years by small players who have limited understanding of the entire debate to shoot holes in Duesberg’s massively constructed critique are exposed by themselves as especially ineffective by their behavior in this case. For apparently his errors are so rare that they must crow, insult and wax ecstatic over a trivial correction which doesn’t change Duesberg’s point one iota.

Even mathematicians can be caught

Indeed, even the probability correction that has to be made – and a comment poster reveals that the point was granted by Duesberg six months ago – doesn’t provide anything to crow about. This may be elementary statistics and probability, but it isn’t obvious, and there is no reason to be childishly scathing and triumphant, as Mark the Computer Scientist is, and some of the posters in Comments below. Puzzles like this have caught droves of otherwise smart people. The correct apprehension of risk and probability is famously one of the least intuitive perceptions for most people.

Fo example, the notorious problem of the Monty Hall game show, where two closed doors hide a worthless prize, such as an apple, and the third closed door hides a Lamborghini. The contestant chooses a door and the game show host Monty flings open one of the other doors to reveal an apple.

Monty then asks the contestant if he/she wants to change the door they picked for the other closed door, as if that might change their chances. Would you change?

The reasoning on the right answer is simple and obvious once you think about the problem enough, but droves of people got it wrong when the New York Times featured the puzzle on the front page a decade ago, after the woman with the highest IQ in the world, Marilyn vos Savant put it in her Parade column, and tons of people got it wrong there too.

Among the university professors scolding her for innumeracy were mathematicians, so we suggest that readers here don’t automatically credit Duesberg’s Web critics, especially the ones who are snotty, which quite often goes with a mistake, amusingly enough.


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