Damned Heretics

Condemned by the established, but very often right

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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blog, insofar as it seems to believe both in science and the importance of intellectual imagination, uncompromised by out of date emotions such as the impulse toward conventional religious beliefs, national aggression as a part of patriotism, and so on.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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Circumcision cuts African AIDS! – Times


Editors excited about way for heterosexuals to evade HIV

Millions will want the $20 operation, major funds ready to give – but is Padian so wrong?

Precisely why the editors of the Times made the HIV-circumcision story the top story on their Web front page and top right hand above the fold print edition front page headline yesterday is a matter of speculation, but we assume it is because the story involves a) heterosexuals b) African sex c) danger to the genitals d) a simple but effective solution to AIDS and e) women’s revenge (photo, left, is of a Somali woman parading against Ethiopia with an AK-47).

Not to mention it allows readers to indulge their envious prejudice, which the Times editors and reporters like to reinforce monthly, against Africans for supposed sexual excesses.

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” contains an unnerving but hilarious account of his own Xhosa circumcision, by spear blade, as a teenager. Although he was supposed to shout, “I am a man!” he grimaced in pain, he wrote…Dr. Mark Dybul, executive director of President Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, said in a statement that his agency “will support implementation of safe medical male circumcision for H.I.V./AIDS prevention” if world health agencies recommend it…

AIDS experts immediately hailed the finding. “This is very exciting news,” said Daniel Halperin, an H.I.V. specialist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development, who has argued that circumcision slows the spread of AIDS in the parts of Africa where it is common.

In an interview from Zimbabwe, he added, “I have no doubt that as word of this gets around, millions of African men will want to get circumcised, and that will save many lives.”

The Times editors are so excited about this revelation (a questionable result which has been around for some time) that they devoted an editorial to it as well, Rare Good News About AIDS comparing it to “the holy grail” of AIDS research, the long heralded but still AWOL vaccine:

For years, the holy grail of AIDS prevention has been a vaccine, even one that is only 50 to 60 percent effective. A real vaccine is years away. But as of yesterday, we know its near equivalent exists. International donors and governments should join together to spread the good news about circumcision and make the procedure available everywhere.

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The New York Times

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December 14, 2006

Editorial

Rare Good News About AIDS

The announcement yesterday about the results in two African studies of male circumcision may be the most important development in AIDS research since the debut of antiretroviral drugs more than a decade ago. The National Institutes of Health halted studies in Uganda and Kenya when it became overwhelmingly clear that circumcision significantly reduces men’s chances of catching H.I.V.

The studies recruited men willing to be circumcised and randomly assigned them to immediate surgery or to a control group. In both studies, the circumcised men acquired half the number of H.I.V. infections as their uncircumcised counterparts did. The studies confirm the results of a trial that ended last year in South Africa, in which circumcision prevented 60 to 70 percent of new AIDS infections.

Until now, efforts at AIDS prevention have largely failed. Little wonder. It requires people to resolve — every day — either not to have sex or to use condoms. Circumcision, by contrast, is a one-time procedure. It is familiar and widely accepted all over the world, even by groups who do not practice it. And safe circumcision does not require a doctor. Community workers and traditional healers can be trained to do the operation safely and given the correct tools.

Based on the South African results, groups like the United Nations AIDS program and the World Health Organization were already discussing how they might promote circumcision in countries around the world. They should now move as quickly as possible.

Governments and international donors should also work urgently to provide new financing to help high-risk countries train community workers to do safe circumcision. News of the South African results has already led to a surge in demand for the procedure across Africa, and clinics that now offer it have long waiting lists.

Any campaign will have to be coupled with warnings that circumcision offers only partial protection against H.I.V. and should not become a license for risky sex. Governments must continue to promote condoms and partner reduction.

For years, the holy grail of AIDS prevention has been a vaccine, even one that is only 50 to 60 percent effective. A real vaccine is years away. But as of yesterday, we know its near equivalent exists. International donors and governments should join together to spread the good news about circumcision and make the procedure available everywhere.

Even if one is not a dissenter from the holey (as in Swiss cheese) HIV∫AIDS paradigm, this initiative looks fat headed. Soap would achieve the same result, any doctor will tell you. And do we really need to do unaesthetic surgery on millions of Africans to prevent the transmission of a virus which after billions of dollars worth of research has not yet been proved to cause any harm, although that assumption is built into most of the thinking on the subject? Are trainloads of foreskins going to be useful for interferon or other immune factors, is that it?

Anyhow, as far as HIV∫AIDS science critics are concerned, circumcision is a non solution to a non problem, ever since Nancy Padian demonstrated in her landmark 1997 study the heterosexual non transmission of HIV.

Of course, Padian has had to ‘clarify’ this result since it was noticed and taken up by HIV∫AIDS dissidents and used as a club to bash the paradigm and its defenders, one which knocks away the basic prop of the global pandemic. Without significant heterosexual transmission, there is no global pandemic and no need to circumcise millions of Africans.

Padian’s clarification was published a few months ago on the leading AIDS truthiness site run by John P. Moore of Cornell and other HIV apologists, AIDSTruth.org, the specific page being HIV heterosexual transmission and the “Padian paper myth”,and it reads as follows, with our corrective comments:

HIV heterosexual transmission and the “Padian paper myth”One of the more egregious myths perpetrated by AIDS denialists is that HIV is not heterosexually transmitted.

The debate on the validity of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm is a hall of mirrors, where the defense of the paradigm is very often conducted by co-opting the arguments of the critics and turning them back on their originators (who do the same to them, rather more tellingly, by pointing out that it is the paradigm defenders who are the true “denialists”, for their ostrich like approach to the myriad objections to HIV∫AIDS).

In this case, the word “myth” as in “The AIDS Myth” or “The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS” is appropriated, but rather ineffectively, since it inevitably calls attention to the possibility that the HV∫AIDS paradigm itself may be the greatest myth of all in the field.

Part of the “evidence” that underlies this myth is a 1997 paper by Dr. Nancy Padian and her colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco (Padian NS, Shiboski SC, Glass SO, Vittinghoff E. 1997. Heterosexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Northern California: results from a ten-year study. Am J Epidemiol 146, 350-357) (1).

A thorn in the flesh of the paradigm apologists indeed, this study, for its results accounted for the biggest flaw in the HIV∫AIDS explanation for the outbreak of immune deficiency in the US, which is that it cannot explain away the absence of a heterosexual AIDS epidemic in this country, and moreover, it is a study which is now a prime justification for rejecting the standard interpretation of events in Africa, which is that a heterosexually transmitted HIV pandemic has swept the continent and the world.

The denialists either misinterpret or misunderstand this paper. Some internet sites/Blogs even go so far as to suggest that the “HIV/AIDS establishment” (sic) finds Dr. Padian’s work inconvenient and has suppressed it, to the detriment of her professional career.

On the contrary, the skill with which Dr Padian has navigated between the Scylla of the establishment disowning her and her research and the Charybdis of renouncing it herself is a marvel to behold and an inspiration for the many other establishment researchers who have come out with embarrassing results which contradict the paradigm, such as those who came out wih the HAART and the JAMA studies this summer, and Dr Gisselquist.

The following commentary from Dr. Padian addresses HIV heterosexual transmission, discusses what her seminal 1997 paper does actually say and, ipso facto, speaks to the absurdity of the notion that her work has been suppressed, or is inconvenient to other AIDS researchers.Heterosexual transmission of HIV

Nancy Padian, PhD

University of California, San Francisco

HIV is unquestionably transmitted through heterosexual intercourse.

This kind of statement is increasingly a characteristic of HIV∫AIDS papers which these days typically come up with findings which do not fit into conventional wisdom. First, there is this kind of obligatory obeisance to the reigning belief, the sine qua non of HIV∫AIDS research, which is that all symptoms are first and foremost caused by the dread Virus itself, however much other factors may enter into the picture. For example, patients may die of drug effects such as liver rot, but HIV is really the cause, even though liver problems are not on the CDC list of HIV∫AIDS symptoms.

Indeed, heterosexual intercourse is now responsible for 70-80% of all HIV transmissions worldwide (2). The current likelihood of male to female infection after a single exposure to HIV is 0.01-0.32% (2, 3), and the current likelihood of female to male infection after a single exposure is 0.01-0.1% (2). These estimates are mostly derived from studies in the developed world. However, a man or a woman can become HIV-positive after just one sexual contact.

Rates of between 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 3,000 , or between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 1,000 for woman to man, are not high enough to sustain a spreading epidemic.

In developing countries, particularly those in sub-Saharan Africa, several factors (co-infection with other sexually transmitted diseases, circumcision practices, poor acceptance of condoms, patterns of sexual partner selection, locally circulating viral subtypes, high viral loads among those who are infected, etc.) can increase the likelihood of heterosexual transmission to 20% or even higher (4).

These factors might raise the transmission rate but to a level of 2000 per 10,000 – ie 2,000 times as much – is unlikely, on the face of it.

Evidence that specifically documents the heterosexual transmission of HIV comes from studies of HIV-discordant couples (i.e., couples in a stable, monogamous relationship where one partner is infected and the other is not); over time, HIV transmission occurs (5).

Not in this study.

Other studies have traced the transmission of HIV through networks of sexual partners (6-9). Additional evidence comes from intervention studies that, for example, promote condom use or encourage reductions in the numbers of sexual partners: the documented success of these interventions is because they prevent the sexual transmission of HIV (1,10,11).

Such results are inconsistent wth her study which was the largest ever conducted.

In short, the evidence for the sexual transmission of HIV is well documented, conclusive, and based on the standard, uncontroversial methods and practices of medical science. Individuals who cite the 1997 Padian et al. publication (1) or data from other studies by our research group in an attempt to substantiate the myth that HIV is not transmitted sexually are ill informed, at best. Their misuse of these results is misleading, irresponsible, and potentially injurious to the public.

The intemperate language suggests a political and emotionally driven stance, and that an unproven belief (that HIV is the cause of AIDS) is acting as a premise in addressing the counterarguments. Here Padian is protesting that her study does not suggest that the paradigm is incorrect. Methinks she doth protest too much. The reason is that her results are in direct conflict with the paradigm. Substantial heterosexual transmission is a pillar of the HIV∫AIDS paradigm, a sine qua non of the supposed global panademic. Her study demonstrated it was so insubstantial that it didn’t appear at all.

A common practice is to quote out of context a sentence from the Abstract of the 1997 paper: “Infectivity for HIV through heterosexual transmission is low”. Anyone who takes the trouble to read and understand the paper should appreciate that it reports on a study of behavioral interventions such as those mentioned above: Specifically, discordant couples were strongly counseled to use condoms and practice safe sex (1,12).

As many as 47 couples did not consistently use condoms or any other means of interfering with transmission for up to six years.

That we witnessed no HIV transmissions after the intervention documents the success of the interventions in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV.

Again, as many as 47 couples did not consistently use condoms or any other means of interfering with transmission for up to six years.

The sentence in the Abstract reflects this success — nothing more, nothing less. Any attempt to refer to this or other of our publications and studies to bolster the fallacy that HIV is not transmitted heterosexually or homosexually is a gross misrepresentation of the facts and a travesty of the research that I have been involved in for more than a decade.

To say “Nothing more, nothing less” is blatantly misleading, and we suspect his was written by John P. Moore, rather than Padian. In fact as many as 47 couples did not use condoms or any other means of interfering with transmission. Yet still for these couples there was no transmission during the study. This without question demonstrated the “fallacy” in heterosexual transmission. There was none for these couple in six years.

If safe sex practices are followed, and if there are no complicating factors such as those mentioned above, the risk of HIV transmission can be as low as our studies suggest…IF.

Of course, this is presumably true. Using condoms does block transmission of any live organism pretty effectively, depending on using them properly. But the problem is that her study showed that even if safe sex practices were not followed there was also nil transmission.

But many people misunderstand probability: they think that if the chance of misfortune is one in six, that they can take five chances without the likelihood of injury. This “Russian Roulette” misapprehension is dangerous to themselves and to others.

The Russian Roulette factor only means that an individual can escape the average, and possibly, even if the chance of an event is 1 in 1000, hit the 1 time the first time, or the 1000th time, or never. This doesn’t change the average, which in this case was nil, a rather conclusive result which shows the chances of transmission of the supposed agent are far too low to initiate any epidemic, since according to her study, normal healthy heterosexuals are virtually incapable of transmitting HIV even if they are not taking any precautions.

Furthermore, complicating factors are often not evident or obvious in a relationship, so their perceived absence should not be counted on as an excuse not to practice safe sex.

The phrasing of this remark is telling. Although it is on the surface merely a practical observation, it continues the fundamental defense of the paradigm in religious terms ie have faith (and fear) that there is something there even though you cannot see any evidence for it.

Finally, it is a complete fallacy to allege or insinuate that this work has been “suppressed” or “ignored” by the AIDS community or unsupported by UCSF or any other institution with which I have worked. To the contrary, these findings have been seen as central and seminal to the problem of heterosexual transmission rates and the development of interventions to lower the rate of transmission and infection worldwide, many of which are being conducted by my research group. The success of my working group has been fueled, not hindered, by our research on the heterosexual transmission of HIV, attested to by our long record of peer-reviewed publications.

Yes, the record of Padian’s work as fundamentally disruptive to the conventional wisdom in HIV∫AIDS yet somehow turned into a piece which fits into it without a ripple is a prime exhibit of how HIV∫AIDS’s double think, Orwellian fantasy works. While the embarrassing inconsistency of her results is recognized and various escape hatches are opened – genital sores, African “dry sex”, HIV piggy backing on other diseases and so on – Nancy Padian has managed to stay a member of the club despite her study being the best argument of all against belief in the paradigm.

Nancy Padian is a Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California and she has worked on the heterosexual transmission of HIV since 1984. She is a frequent participant in annual NIH Office of AIDS Research planning workshops and has chaired the workshop on international research for the last four years. She is an elected member to the Institute of Medicine and the American Epidemiology Society. She served as vice-chair of the University of California task force on AIDS and currently directs international research for UCSF Global Health Sciences, the UCSF AIDS Research Institute and she is co-director of the Center for Reproductive Health Research and Policy.

An impressive list of appointments which is a tribute to the political skills of Dr Padian and the way she has exchanged reinterpretation of her results to conform with the paradigm for membership of the club, a club which like the English aristocracy knows that the best way to defeat revolutionaries is to bring them in from the cold.

Unkind cut would save very few

Going back to look at the paper, we find something interesting – the numbers involved in this great halving of the risk are very small fractions of the population.

The two trials were being conducted by researchers from universities in Illinois, Maryland, Canada, Uganda and Kenya and involved nearly 3 000 heterosexual men in Kisumu, Kenya and nearly 5 000 in Rakai, Uganda. None were infected with HIV. They were divided into circumcised and uncircumcised groups, given safe sex advice [although many presumably did not take it] and retested regularly.The trials were stopped this week by the NIH Data Safety and Monitoring Board after data showed that the Kenyan men had a 53 percent reduction in new HIV infection.

Twenty-two of the 1 393 circumcised men in that study caught the disease, compared with 47 of the 1 391 uncircumcised men. In Uganda, the reduction was 48 percent.

Even if the figures for transmission reached somehow in this and other studies are valid, and HIV is a threat backed by the literature, instead of being called into question by even paradigm-based papers without valid rebuttal, mass circumcision seems an overreaction.

For example, in the two trials, the trumpeted halving of the rate of new HIV infection was 53 per cent in Kenya and 48 per cent in Uganda, which sounds good but in fact represented only 25 men in 1393 total saved from HIV, a reduction of less thn 2%.

Of course, the remaining question is how accurate was the testing and what did it represent if the difficulty in transmission is as high as Nancy Padian found it was in her study? Presumably the tests are cross reacting with other transmissible diseases, the most likely one being TB, which is very widespread in Africa.

Nancy Padian Hero of AIDS

Encounterimg her at the party following the HIV/NET trials conference in Washington this last spring, we congratulated Nancy Padian on her outstanding research, which had made her a hero of AIDS in our view. “Oh I don’t think I am that!” she demurred, “Why do you say so?”

We explained it was because she had been the first to demonstrate that HIV did not transmit heterosexually very significantly if at all.

She seemed taken aback, and after gathering her wits, pronounced feebly, “But it transmits more in Africa!”

Could it be that Dr Padian has a special interest in emphasizing heterosexual transmission in favor of her own strategy in combating HIV transmission in Africa?

Surely not. But in 2002 she won the largest single private grant ever made to UCSF, $28 million, from the Gates Foundation, “to examine the effectiveness of the diaphragm in slowing the spread of the AIDS virus.”

Director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s HIV/AIDS and TB Program at the time was Helene Gayle, who said “finding additional barrier methods that are female-controlled is a public health priority.”

Not, of course, if heterosexual transmission without any barrier is virtually absent.

Padian’s references:

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1. Padian NS, Shiboski SC, Glass SO, Vittinghoff E. Heterosexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Northern California: results from a ten-year study. Am J Epidemiol 1997;146:350-7.

2. Downs AM, De Vincenzi I. Probability of heterosexual transmission of HIV: relationship to the number of unprotected sexual contacts. European Study Group in Heterosexual Transmission of HIV. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol. 1996 Apr 1;11(4):388-95.

3. Wiley JA, Herschhkorn SJ, Padian NS. Heterogeneity in the probability of HIV transmission per sexual contact: the case of male-to-female transmission in penile-vaginal intercourse. Stat Med 1989;8:93-102.

4. Gray RH, Wawer MJ, Brookmeyer R, Sewankambo NK, Serwadda D, Wabwire-Mangen F, Lutalo T, Li X, vanCott T, Quinn TC; Rakai Project Team. Probability of HIV-1 transmission per coital act in monogamous, heterosexual, HIV-1-discordant couples in Rakai, Uganda. Lancet. 2001 Apr 14;357(9263):1149-53.

5. Ellerbock TV, Lieb S, Harrington PE, et al. Heterosexually transmitted human immunodeficiency virus infection among pregnant women in a rural Florida community. N Engl J Med 1992;327:1704-9.

6. Hunter DJ. AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa: the epidemiology of heterosexual transmission and the prospects for prevention. Epidemiology. 1993 Jan;4(1):63-72. Review.

7. Venkataramana CB, Sarada PV. Extent and speed of spread of HIV infection in India through the commercial sex networks: a perspective. Trop Med Int Health. 2001 Dec;6(12):1040-61.

8. Adimora AA, Schoenbach VJ, Doherty IA. HIV and African Americans in the southern United States: sexual networks and social context. Sex Transm Dis. 2006 Jul;33(7 Suppl):S39-45.

9. Latora V, Nyamba A, Simpore J, Sylvette B, Diane S, Sylvere B, Musumeci S. Network of sexual contacts and sexually transmitted HIV infection in Burkina Faso. J Med Virol. 2006 Jun;78(6):724-9.

10. Ghys PD, Diallo MO, Ettiegne-Traore V, Kale K, Tawil O, Carael M, et al. Increase in condom use and decline in HIV and sexually transmitted diseases among female sex workers in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire, 1991-1998. AIDS 2002;16(2):251-58.

11. Katzenstein DA, McFarland W, Mbizo M, Latif AS, Machekano R, Parsonnet J, et al. Peer education among factory workers in Zimbabwe: providing a sustainable HIV prevention intervention. Paper presented at the 12th International Conference on AIDS, Geneva, June 28-July 3, 1998.

12. Padian NS, O’Brien TR, Chang Y, Glass S, Francis DP. Prevention of heterosexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus through couple counseling. J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 1993 Sep;6(9):1043-8

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The New York Times December 14, 2006 Circumcision Halves H.I.V. Risk, U.S. Agency Finds By Donald G. McNeil Jr., who is a reliable conduit at the Times for all official pronouncements on HIV∫AIDS, SARS, Bird Flu, and similar alarms.

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The New York Times

December 14, 2006

Circumcision Halves H.I.V. Risk, U.S. Agency Finds

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr.

Circumcision appears to reduce a man’s risk of contracting AIDS from heterosexual sex by half, United States government health officials said yesterday, and the directors of the two largest funds for fighting the disease said they would consider paying for circumcisions in high-risk countries.

The announcement was made by officials of the National Institutes of Health as they halted two clinical trials, in Kenya and Uganda, on the ground that not offering circumcision to all the men taking part would be unethical. The success of the trials confirmed a study done last year in South Africa.

AIDS experts immediately hailed the finding. “This is very exciting news,” said Daniel Halperin, an H.I.V. specialist at the Harvard Center for Population and Development, who has argued that circumcision slows the spread of AIDS in the parts of Africa where it is common.

In an interview from Zimbabwe, he added, “I have no doubt that as word of this gets around, millions of African men will want to get circumcised, and that will save many lives.”

Uncircumcised men are thought to be more susceptible because the underside of the foreskin is rich in Langerhans cells, sentinel cells of the immune system, which attach easily to the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS. The foreskin also often suffers small tears during intercourse.

But experts also cautioned that circumcision is no cure-all. It only lessens the chances that a man will catch the virus; it is expensive compared to condoms, abstinence or other methods; and the surgery has serious risks if performed by folk healers using dirty blades, as often happens in rural Africa.

Circumcision is “not a magic bullet, but a potentially important intervention,” said Dr. Kevin M. De Cock, director of H.I.V./AIDS for the World Health Organization.

Sex education messages for young men need to make it clear that “this does not mean that you have an absolute protection,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, an AIDS researcher and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Circumcision should be used with other prevention methods, he said, and it does nothing to prevent spread by anal sex or drug injection, ways in which the virus commonly spreads in the United States.

The two trials, conducted by researchers from universities in Illinois, Maryland, Canada, Uganda and Kenya, involved nearly 3,000 heterosexual men in Kisumu, Kenya, and nearly 5,000 in Rakai, Uganda. None were infected with H.I.V. They were divided into circumcised and uncircumcised groups, given safe sex advice (although many presumably did not take it), and retested regularly.

The trials were stopped this week by the N.I.H. Data Safety and Monitoring Board after data showed that the Kenyan men had a 53 percent reduction in new H.I.V. infection. Twenty-two of the 1,393 circumcised men in that study caught the disease, compared with 47 of the 1,391 uncircumcised men.

In Uganda, the reduction was 48 percent.

Those results echo the finding of a trial completed last year in Orange Farm, a township in South Africa, financed by the French government, which demonstrated a reduction of 60 percent among circumcised men.

The two largest agencies dedicated to fighting AIDS said they would now be willing to pay for circumcisions, which they have not before because there was too little evidence that it worked.

Dr. Richard G. A. Feachem, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which has almost $5 billion in pledges, said in a television interview that if a country submitted plans to conduct sterile circumcisions, “I think it’s very likely that our technical panel would approve it.”

Dr. Mark Dybul, executive director of President Bush’s $15 billion Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, said in a statement that his agency “will support implementation of safe medical male circumcision for H.I.V./AIDS prevention” if world health agencies recommend it.

He also warned that it was only one new weapon in the fight, adding, “Prevention efforts must reinforce the A.B.C. approach — abstain, be faithful, and correct and consistent use of condoms.”

Researchers have long noted that parts of Africa where circumcision is common — particularly the Muslim countries of West Africa — have much lower AIDS rates, while those in southern Africa, where circumcision is rare, have the highest.

But drawing conclusions was always confounded by other regional factors, like strict Shariah law in some Muslim areas, rape and genocide in East Africa, polygamy, rites that require widows to have sex with a relative, patronage of prostitutes by miners, and men’s insistence on dangerous “dry sex” — with the woman’s vaginal walls robbed of secretions with desiccating herbs.

Outside Muslim regions, circumcision is spotty. In South Africa, for example, the Xhosa people circumcise teenage boys, while Zulus do not. AIDS is common in both tribes.

Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” contains an unnerving but hilarious account of his own Xhosa circumcision, by spear blade, as a teenager. Although he was supposed to shout, “I am a man!” he grimaced in pain, he wrote.

But not all initiation ceremonies are laughing matters. Every year, some South African teenagers die from infections, and the use of one blade on many young men may help spread AIDS.

In recent years, as word has spread that circumcision might be protective, many southern African men have sought it out. A Zambian hospital offered $3 circumcisions last year, and Swaziland trained 60 doctors to do them for $40 after waiting lists at its national hospital grew.

“Private practitioners also do it,” Dr. Halperin said. “In some places, it’s $20; in others, much more. Lots of the wealthy elite have already done it. It prevents S.T.D.’s, it’s seen as cleaner, sex is better, women like it. I predict that a lot of men who can’t afford private clinics will start clamoring for it.” (S.T.D.’s are sexually transmitted diseases.)

Male circumcision also benefits women. For example, a study of the medical records of 300 Ugandan couples last year estimated that circumcised men infected with H.I.V. were about 30 percent less likely to transmit it to their female partners.

Earlier studies on Western men have shown that circumcision significantly reduces the rate at which men infect women with the virus that causes cervical cancer. A study published in 2002 in The New England Journal of Medicine found that uncircumcised men were about three times as likely as circumcised ones with a similar number of sexual partners to carry the human papillomavirus.

The suspected mechanism was the same — cells on the inside of the foreskin were also more susceptible to that virus, which is not closely related to H.I.V.

139 Responses to “Circumcision cuts African AIDS! – Times”

  1. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    It’s a very good way to go, Patrick. You can argue it from the point of his liver function tests alone — clearly his liver needs a break, and you only have one liver, so you’ve got to protect it. His doctor will tell him that the SMART study concluded that treatment breaks are bad. It was a rotten study. See this very good website for info on the controversy surrounding that study and on other studies involving treatment breaks — this may help, as they discuss the liver toxicity issue:

    http://www.smartattack.org

    Good luck. Tell him there’s no way a break will kill him, and nobody develops “AIDS” overnight. Suggest a month off, then repeat the liver function tests. If they’re improving, and his t-cell count is okay, suggest taking the break further and defining a t-cell set point for re-initiation of the meds (this too makes taking this risk a bit more palatable initially). A good set point that won’t put his doctor’s panties in a wad is 300. The one I have used in the past is 200, although most docs will say that’s too low. If he’s like me, his t-cells will show a quick, substantial drop, then level off — so if he does this, warn him about that and tell him not to freak. My best break lasted for 3.5 years. Best of luck and let us know how it goes.

  2. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    And tell him to email me if he wants to talk about it.

  3. Truthseeker Says:

    Sometimes, TS, hitting someone over the head with the existential question of whether or not HIV exists is not the best first choice for intervention. It’s a little much to hear that after years of being scared shitless by doctors and the like — it’s just unlikely to engender the desired response. Much easier to start slow, and suggest dumping the meds for a while. You need to try to understand what things might look/feel like from the inside.

    Sorry, Mark, didn’t mean to sound so bare of understanding, it was a one liner because it was very very late in the night/morning with no time to spare that it was written. There are times when one thanks God for your participation here and this is one of them. Your above posts are much appreciated as expert and sympathetic, and utterly illuminating on the most vexed question of all, how to help where it counts. You and Celia are beacons in the darkness with a light that should shine every day of the year, which is the essence of Christmas spirit, as Otis wrote.

  4. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Thanks, TS. That was very lovely. Means a lot. Merry Christmas to you.

  5. Martel Says:

    Happy holidays to all, and I do hope that some of you are enjoying some vacation as much as I.

    The above posts have convinced me that TS was (as so often) correct: I am indeed fighting a straw man when it comes to the HIV/HERV story. If all Gene is saying is that HIV and HERVs have some sort of evolutionary relationship, then no one would disagree, least of all I. But it seems that he, along with de Harven, is saying much more than that: that HIV does not exist as a single entity and that the grab-bag that foolish establishment types like Martel call HIV has evolved in our lifetimes from endogenous retroviruses and other genomic sequences.

    It further would appear (to me, anyway) that Gene and de Harven are standing more-or-less alone as scientists who think this way.

    I protested TS’s “straw man” earlier by pointing to my internet encounters with the HIV/HERV hypothesis, assuming (wrongly, I find) that numerous science-fluent rethinkers had assumed this position. Just when it appeared that no one here (except maybe MacDonald, although I suspected he was merely being contrarian) agreed with HIV/HERV, Gene suddenly appeared. After my embarassingly lengthy post on Friday, I still felt unsatisfied…and curious, curious as a kitten. Who was “Gene,” and how would someone so obviously intelligent and familiar with scientific terminology espouse this hairbrained hypothesis?

    I then committed a tragic mistake: I wasted yet another hour of my life. I “googled” Gene and some of the words and concepts he used and (abused). Voila: there were ALL of those many instances of HIV/HERV I had mentioned. I hadn’t noticed when I read these posts separately, days or weeks or months apart, but ALL had been placed by some permutation of Gene: “Gene,” “Gene Semon,” “Eugene Semon,” “Gene Simon,” “Grad Student,” “GS,” etc. He (associates revealed his gender several times) has posted in the past year and more on a wide variety of web sites, including NAR, YBYL, Esmay, a page moderated by one Tara Smith (a female academician whom rethinkers denigrated as “blondie” and “prom queen” merely because she is female), and many more. I even found him plugging the HERV hypothesis (not necessarily off-topic, when you think about it) on a creationist web site! Tellingly, Gene never explained his hypothesis clearly. As here on NAR, he simply flung impressive-sounding phrases into the ether and, when challenged, responded with vague (and, I would argue, irrelevant) references to papers and monographs that have nothing to do with HERVs, hypermutation, or his other pet topics. This is no surprise, of course, since Gene must be a very busy man: he variously claims to be a chemical engineer, some sort of volunteer medical practitioner who works with gay AIDS patients, a graduate student of B-cell immunology at a university not in Australia. This in addition to the gossip column he writes (as “Subversive Grad Student”) as yet another insidious pawn of Otis/Bialey.

    In any case, I will post a more scientific (and final) response within a week. I will also address the topic of my own identity, thanks, Mark!

  6. Otis Says:

    Martel,

    I beg your pardon. GS (Subversicve Grad Student) is no relation to the Gene family to which you ascribe him.

    I hope your professional deductions are better than your internet ones.

    If you want to wager something substantial on my claim, by all means.

    And referring to contributors to YBYL as “pawns of Otis/ Bialey” (whoever he is) is a turn of phrase that does a great deal more to identify you than them.

  7. kevin Says:

    Martel wrote:

    Tara Smith (a female academician whom rethinkers denigrated as “blondie” and “prom queen” merely because she is female)

    I can assure you that Tara Smith’s denigration at the hands of rethinkers is well-deserved and has less to do with the fact that she is female and far more to do with the fact that she is smug and extremely dogmatic. In fact, to my mind she is the quintessential poster child for what ails modern science; she personally profits from the current status quo and vociferously defends it on her blog, thus further legitimizing the practice of marrying academic research to corporate profiteering.

    I happen to find this to be the essential contributing factor to the many failures of modern science, particularly where human health is concerned, and I am disgusted by individuals such as Tara Smith, for they are merely one step below Gallo and the other high-profile goons who continue to soil the reputation of “good science”.

    Kevin

  8. Truthseeker Says:

    The above posts have convinced me that TS was (as so often) correct:

    This statement though highly questionable automatically earns a green border.

    rethinkers denigrated as “blondie” and “prom queen” merely because she is female)

    and the pic. But most of all her mentality, as Kevin says.

  9. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    Actually…

    I remember both those terms (blondie and prom queen) being used by a very irate believer in the faith who was posting on quite a long, contentious thread at Tara’s.

    Tara seemed strangely unphased by these choice words. I believe he also called her a bitch. Maybe she’s got thick skin, or doesn’t get too ruffled as long as somebody still believes deeply in the paradigm.

    Although I can’t recall any “rethinkers” calling Tara “blondie” and “prom queen”, that doesn’t mean nobody did.

    Martel’s attempt to paint “rethinkers” in a certain light is disingenuous.

  10. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Oh Wily! That really is darling. YOU calling someone else, disingenuous. That’s my Holiday present from NAR. Thank you!

  11. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Martel,
    I understand your reaction — but my advice would be to let go of the detective work, and let go of debating the elusive Gene, whomever he is. You’ve stated your points clearly. The same cannot be said of Gene, who writes his science out in such a way that it is completely inaccessible to someone like me. Now, I don’t claim to be the greatest intellect — not even close. But I understand what you write.

    What I’m trying to say is — don’t take it personally and don’t go on any quests to unmask or unmake Gene or Wily or anyone like them. Who cares who they/he/it is/are? Understand? It’s not relevant. I don’t know your name, but your posts contain a certain genuine quality that makes me believe you’re sincere. The same is not true, again, of Gene Whomeversville. You continue to do what you do so well — explain hard-to-understand scientific concepts. Add insight and perspective. Bring positive energy. You’re a good presence here in my book. Don’t let the turkeys get you down.

  12. kevin Says:

    Martel, I must say that I am beginning to question your motives for posting on this blog. It is true that your posts are well-written, and I’ve enjoyed reading and learning about the science behind the HERV/HIV discussion. You’ve explained much with elegance and patience; however, your most recent posts have seemed to harbor more ulterior motives than I had previously noticed. You seem to be engaging in, dare I say, manipulation. Perhaps, you are just losing your patience when engaging some of the more smug posters here on NAR. I hope that is case and that you aren’t simply an establishment shill with a capable pen.

    That said, I happened to find your recent “lenghty post” quite interesting. It was insightful and typically well-composed. Curiously, I found one passage to be quite relevant when considering your last post, the one where you slyly defend the honor of Tara Smith. Once again, I’d like to assert that my primary interest in setting the record straight regarding Tara’s blog is due to her “poster child” status; thus I offer the following for consideration:

    You wrote in the “lengthy post”:

    Here, the writer ejaculates a few jargon-rich sentences for the purpose of establishing authority and ushering into the debate a sense of finality, i.e. shutting everyone up. With a few keystrokes, she convinces the audience that she is a wise sage, possessing knowledge they cannot possibly attain with ease, since they haven’t even heard these terms before, or at least not in this combination or in relation to this debate. Significantly, she makes no attempt whatsoever to explain herself.

    Maddeningly, the non-specialist (and even the specialist) is often challenged to distinguish #1 (the honest but audience-inappropriate use of appropriate jargon) from #2 (the intellectually dishonest use of inappropriate “jargon” that really means nothing).

    I find it difficult to believe that a commentator who is as sharp as yourself could fail to see that many of the posters on Tara’s blog are most certainly perveyors of #2 (as referenced above, not the brown stuff).

    In case you are sincere, here is a quote from Tara that I think proves her lack of sincerity:

    When I first heard about “alternative” theories such as intelligent design and Duesberg’s ideas, I approached them with an open mind, looking for the science that went against the mainstream. All I found was, well, garbage and logical fallacies (such as those I’ve mentioned to you previously). My mind remains open, but don’t expect such arguments as those you and others have presented to convince scientists who are knowledgeable in these areas.

    Obviously, Tara thinks that comparing rethinkers, like Duesberg, to creationists is an appropriate tactic. To my mind, such a tactic is appalling. If I’m not mistaken, Duesberg, the retrovirologist, is “knowledgeable in these areas” and that he has never publicly espoused intelligent design. Regardless, her insincere “open-mindedness” has been revealed several times, including one blog entry that is manipulatively entitled, “AIDS denial and creationism–common thread of bad statistics” (another favorite smug entry, “Do “rethinkers” ever have a point?”).

    Tara is actually not the worst offender from her blog. Many of the regular posters there are far more insidious and far more likely to resort to credentialism to end an argument with an “illiterate rethinker”. Tara is more of a naive sycophant, but, even so, I find it hard to stomach that you, Martel, could find her admirable, albeit my respect for you and your contributions here is nascent and open-ended. I hope that you will continue to contribute without resorting to dishonorable tactics like credentialism.

    Kevin

  13. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Why are we devoting any time to talking about Tara Smith here? Really, why?

  14. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    Because she looks so good in that tank top. Rrrooowwwrrr

  15. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    I understand why you dislike Tara Smith, Kevin. We all dislike Tara Smith. Martel doesn’t seem to me to think much of her intellectual prowess from the passage you quote above — I’m not sure where he slyly defends her. And why give space to Tara Smith here? Honestly? We’re just advertising for her blog when we do this here. If you want to engage with her and her chump squad — I say, go for it — over at her place. Can’t NAR be a Tara-Smith-Free-Zone?

    I don’t think that Martel has engaged in any sort of “credentialism” here so far — and I think it’s pretty clear he probably has some good credentials. But he certainly hasn’t lorded them over anyone here, as far as I’m aware. Why the pre-emptory accusation of condescension? It seems unnecessary. Why not just stick to your “nascent and open-ended” respect for now? Why all of this “j’accuse!” Do you really suspect Martel of having ulterior motives or being a “shill?” Really

  16. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    Do you really suspect Martel of having ulterior motives or being a “shill?” Really?

    Yes

  17. MacDonald Says:

    At the delightful prospect of appearing smug and the even more delightful one of being contrary, I must once again point out to Martel that,

    1. What I protest is your misrepresentations of other people’s (like deHarven) positions.

    2, As a consequence of that, what I defend is not the narrow HIV/HERV possibility, but the broader HIV/artefact hypothesis – if of no other merit, at least in the sense that in the process of ‘debating it to the max’, as TS puts it, we have revealed even more glaring fundamental holes in the HIV/AIDS hypothesis.

    The entire thrust of your deHarven critique is summed up in these words from Duesberg ’96 in a follow-up to the first response relentlessly posted by NAR’s hit or miss meister par excellence, the inimitable McK.

    The weakest point of the HIV-non-existentialists is their failure to explain the origin of “19 sequences encompassing the full-length, 10 kb-HIV-1 genome”

    You promise to return with a more scientific comment would certainly be a welcome change from your less than captivating accounts of irrelevant internet searches, interspersed with one-sided and equally misplaced comments on rethinker sexual harrasment, ‘gossip columns’ at YBYL, the fascist underpinnings of postmodern philosophy, somehow also meant to strike home with rethinkers, and last but not least, the inevitable rethinker-creationist connection, hallmark of the goon school graduate.

    I suggest you direct the advertised final scientific comment at Perth’s answer to Duesberg’s challenge rather than your previous strawmen and unrelated rants, then we may all truly learn something.

    Alternatively you could analyze and discuss the aforementioned scholarly contribution to the field of gay emotional maturity made by your loyal pupil and staunch defender here on NAR as prelude to the also advertized behavioural studies on sex, bath houses and drugs.

  18. MacDonald Says:

    I guess that’s field study

  19. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    I’m honored that you bothered to read my article, Mac. I didn’t know you cared about the only extant empirical refutation of a key component of Freud’s theory of homosexuality — I mean, who knew? I certainly never would have suspected it. Did you note that the press release for the article was translated into 6 different languages after the study was released, or that it was reviewed in the “Advocate?” Indeed — the fact that you have read it should indicate to you that it is quite likely that Dr. Duesberg could have relied on scholarly literature rather than anecdote. But he didn’t. Merry Christmas.

  20. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    And by the way — who are you? How about a lovely Christmas gift — your identity. Looks like I’m gonna ask you for it every time you decide to take a swipe at me. In general, I like to know who is putting me down. I’m sure you understand, seeing as you appear to understand everything.

  21. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Oh, and before I forget — please do give my regards to Harvey. Thanks.

  22. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    And Wily, darling – thank you yet again for your most recent Christmas gift to us all — you accusing someone else of having ulterior motives — that’s an adorable little package tied up with a lovely ribbon of hypocrisy. There’s one gift I won’t be returning this season. Too precious. Thanks again.

  23. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    Mark,

    there’s no hypocrisy on my part.

    It’s not difficult to ascertain my views on the subject of AIDS through my commentary here. I’m not pretending to be neutral, and then showing my true colors.

    Your comment is meritless.

  24. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Well that certainly is rather judgemental coming from an anonymous poster whose masterful comments on how Tara Smith looks in tank top certainly show the level of maturity the participants in my study showed (not).

    My comments may be meritless to whomever-you-are. I don’t think others would agree. And as for my true colors — what would you know about those? I’m nothing but straight up here, and that’s beyond dispute. Have you not seen any of the hissy fits I’ve thrown? Kind of embarassing in retrospect — but quite open, honest, sincere — and known. You might not like my viewpoint, but that’s okay — I don’t like you. So we’re kind of equal.

    In any case, please don’t direct any more of your commentary in my direction, Mr. Same E. Mail as Gene. Not interested in your assessment. Remember — I don’t let the turkeys get me down. Or the Wile-E-Coyotes. Or the WilyRetroviruses, or the….etc., etc., etc. You want some legitimacy, Wily. Try being who you actually are. Until that time — don’t lecture me about hypocrisy.

  25. ghost of wiley Says:

    Mark Biernbaum,

    You did write this:

    “I’m nothing but straight up here,”

    Yes?

    I just pissed my pants or pantys,

  26. MacDonald Says:

    I like to know who is putting me down. I’m sure you understand, seeing as you appear to understand everything.

    who am I?

    I am that I am

    I am a stag: of seven tines

    I am a salmon in a pool

    I am and infant

    Eldest am I

    But not as old as Wily Harvey, although I may be Outis, the wily Homeric hero, and he most assuredly a famous filmic barrister

    I love cooking, cleaning and holding hands to country music. I go to bed early and late and I stuff my own Xmas socks.

    Don’t you know my name yet? There’s the answer.

  27. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Funny, guys. Adorable. Cute, cute, cute. You two should hook up — but there might be some fighting about who would be the top and who would be the bottom. Heck, no — you’re both so versatile . I’m sure you’d work it out. Any other mud you’d like to sling? Sling away. But I’m done for now. Waiting on some more interesting posts at this point. But do feel free to continue with the homophobic jokes and the not-so-good-will-name-hunting. Makes for scintillating reading. Really.

  28. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    In fact, I’m feeling so good right now — let me help you out, Wiley. I’m am peeing my little panties, as I run around my apartment, snorting coke, sucking cock, and prancing to Madonna! Later I plan on redecorating my neighbor’s apartment while shooting up and sharing needles with some of my friends. Then we’ll have our gay drug orgy! Can you picture it? I’m sure you can. Fun fantasy. Does it get you off? If not, try your right hand and that picture of Tara you like so much. Gotta run — people to do and places to see. We gays are oh-so-busy, doncha know! As we are so wont to say: Ciao, darlings!

  29. Wilyretrovirus Says:

    Later I plan on redecorating my neighbor’s apartment

    When you’re done with that, please help me with my apartment. It really needs some work.

  30. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    At your service, Wily. It’s part of the oath we swear when we join the secret club and get our own copies of the Gay Agenda: Leave no apartment undecorated! I’d get in terrible troubled if I declined. You don’t want to mess with the Gay Mafia. They make the Jewish mafia look like a bunch of faggots.

  31. Truthseeker Says:

    In fact, I’m feeling so good right now — let me help you out, Wiley. I’m am peeing my little panties, as I run around my apartment, snorting coke, sucking cock, and prancing to Madonna! Later I plan on redecorating my neighbor’s apartment while shooting up and sharing needles with some of my friends. Then we’ll have our gay drug orgy! Can you picture it? I’m sure you can

    No one is allowed to have such fun, Mark, you hadn’t heard? However, the comment gets a green border for being in the Christmas spirit and also for spelling panties properly.

    Christmas greetings to all distinguished posters, enlightened or not.

  32. MacDonald Says:

    Dear Dr. Biernbaum,

    I’d like to think I’m as indiscriminate as the next guy, but I really think you’ve overstepped the line in your latest posts. Picture having sex with Tara Smith, that’s totally uncalled for. GROSS!!!

  33. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Hmm. Yeah, I don’t like the idea of having sex with Tara Smith either. Blame Wily. Apparently he does like the idea.

  34. Clouds O'Sugar Says:

    You (Martel) continue to do what you do so well — explain hard-to-understand scientific concepts. Add insight and perspective. Bring positive energy. You’re a good presence here in my book. Let me suggest, Mark, that you may be the missing the boat. I spotted his error as pointed out in my post (remember “gasp” – not too difficult to understand). You demand credentials or that I spoonfeed you while the entire Internet is at your disposal to check it out for yourself. Your complete trust in martel’s explanation of V(D)J recombination as settling the matter of retroviral hypermutaion and recombination is naïve. Do I have to explain critical reading and thinking to YOU?! It seems to me that you missed the part in ordinary language (all too brief – point taken) so here I add: I would re-characterize his “positive energy” as dissembling on the subject of hypermutation.

    hitting someone over the head with the existential question of whether or not HIV exists is not the best first choice for intervention. It’s a little much to hear that after years of being scared shitless by doctors and the like — it’s just unlikely to engender the desired response. Much easier to start slow, and suggest dumping the meds for a while. You need to try to understand what things might look/feel like from the inside. Really, mark, do you know how EVERONE’S mind works when confronted with the HIVAb problem. One size fits all, according to your prescription? My own experience tells me that the first order of business involves the debunking of the tests considering the findings of Perth AND Duesberg, from which many intelligent people derive questions on the phenomena retroviruses …

    the rethinkers are about as tolerant of divergent views as the Establishment is (which is to say, that they are pretty much completely intolerant). See below comments re Hooper et al.

    Gene, who writes his science out in such a way that it is completely inaccessible to someone like me. Robert Houston says he finds Gene’s comments sensical. That’s good. That makes one of us. How can I possibly vet what he has written? He throws important names around — names of people whose reputations are well-known. Why doesn’t he use his own full name, so that we can all benefit from knowing how well he knows what he says he knows? Mark, I appreciate your problem and the desire to vet and then presumably believe my comments, if you only knew my “credentials” and bonafides. Let me be clear that as a certified lazybones, I want to be “spoonfed” as much as the next person. But why bother with the fine details of retroviruses if you think the tragic problem of serving up toxic drugs for no reason can be solved in a different manner? I’ve simply come to the conclusion that any literate person, with sufficient interest and intention to get to the bottom of the matter, can make the inaccessible texts accessible. Yes, this requires hard work, arrrgghh , but the reward is a revelation on the deep politics of science. If this doesn’t interest you, fine.

    that HIV does not exist as a single entity and that the grab-bag that foolish establishment types like Martel call HIV has evolved in our lifetimes from endogenous retroviruses and other genomic sequences.
    Very good Martel, you’ve got it. And here’s just one of many “HIV papers” that support it. Now, you can say it’s irrelevant till the cow’s come home, but maybe, just maybe, this will make sense to those very special people known as critical thinkers: “(E)ven though intersubtype recombinant viruses are quite common and appear to be transmitted, very little is known about the biological properties and fitness of these viruses. The results here suggest that the proportion of these viruses that is being transmitted may be relatively stable over the course of an epidemic that includes multiple circulating subtypes.” Here I would substitute “endemic transmission” for “an epidemic”. (Rainwater et al, No evidence for rapid subtype C spread within an epidemic in which multiple subtypes and intersubtype recombinants circulate. Aids Research and Human Retroviruses; 21, 12, 2005, 1060-65.) Martel, here, I trust you are intellectually above the tired old “your meaning is not the author’s meaning” response.

    On the matter of the famous 20+ percent of the human genome made up of retroelements: If these are molecular fossils, meaning indirect measurements of billions?! of long-gone chemical reactions that can only be MODELED in the test tube or in silico; what is it that’s so difficult to understand? It is precisely analogous to reconstructions from paleo-fossils to make the best determination of the history of higher animals. Is it too much for you, Martel, visualizing the metabolic complexity of a cell?

    Notwithstanding your error out-of-the box on the Los Alamos dating, I would also welcome anything you have to say on the Hooper-Ellswood-Stricker-Kyle theory on the origin of human exogenous retroviruses. (Really, in all sincerity – I mean this)

    * * *

    I was indeed at Dean Esmay and did ask this question of the good Dr. Bennett many moons ago: “Now, I respectfully ask you, as an expert on retroviruses, can you exclude the production of HIV sequences (as stated by Gallo’s original HTLV papers 80 to 84) in cell cultures by complementation in trans from TODAY’S known endogenous retroviral, LTR retrotransposons, LINEs, etc. sequences?” Even though, to the best of my knowledge, it has been masterly evaded by learned men such as Martel, I would certainly appreciate it if anyone can show me where it has been answered. And, not having the stamina of my good friend Chris, I have not relentlessly repeated this question over the many months. I’ve chosen instead to develop my own reasons why the answer should be no; especially considering silly ideas like careful experimentalists who shouldn’t assume their own conclusions and all that.

    I also posted this: “Additional ‘complexity’ of HIV is covered by Duesberg under the no AIDS gene argument in Harvey’s book, page 152, ‘the presumably specific genes of the HIVs are alternative reading frames of essential genes SHARED BY ALL RETROVIRUSES. Their apparent novelty is more likely to reflect new techniques of gene analysis than to represent HIV-specific retroviral functions.’” For my good friend Mck, who likes to repeat Duesberg on isolation, take note of the plural. Also, for obvious reasons, this is a critical hinge-point for the current discussion. And we’re all still waiting for a good reason why Peter Duesberg can no longer stand on this point.

    As far as the elusive hypermutation, my bad not providing this: “After two decades of research my colleagues and I now have good evidence that the tell-tale signs of ‘soma-to-germline genetic impact events’ have been etched into the very fabric of our chromosomes. This conclusion is quite the opposite to that expected under the ruling neo-Darwinian genetic paradigm based on Weismann’s Doctrine. The data have arisen from our research on the molecular genetics of the immune system, the system which allows our body to produce disease-fighting antibodies in the bloodstream. The quality of this evidence is now as strong as our confidence that the origin of craters on the surface of the moon or earth are the impact sites of large cosmic bolides such as comets and asteroids. Thus the molecular genetic evidence derived from the immune systems of higher animals point to ‘Lamarck’s Signature’, identified as the imprint of numerous soma-to-germline genetic impact events written into the DNA of our chromosomes encoding antibody genes. Such events which have repeatedly occurred over 400-million years of evolutionary time.” (E. J. Steele, QUADRANT March 2000 No. 364 Vol XLIV Number 3 pages 47 – 56. http://www.erim.org/qas2001/quadrant.html)

    “ANTIBODY GENES ARE SPECIAL RETROGENES. . . our main conclusions reside in the immune system. We find that there are many features of the ‘somatic mutation pattern’ literally written into the ‘germline configuration’ at least for antibody genes. The simplest interpretation is that all these genetic patterns have arisen by the reverse transcriptase-mediated soma-to-germline flow of genetic information. Lamarck’s legacy in modern biology we believe is now quite pervasive. It is written as ‘soma-to-germline genetic impact signatures’ into the DNA of our chromosomes.” (E. J. Steele, ibid)

    And yes, I confess to posting on one of the notorious Dembski websites an argument AGAINST a “design inference”.

    * * *
    Thanks to Martel for wasting his time into researching little ol’ me, since, as we can see from the top, I’m going through a severe identity crisis obsessing over the established HIV theories. Anything investigators, should they actually care, can tell me about myself – really, I’m touched – would be most welcome.

    Towards resolving my identity crisis, I must give thanks to the brilliant Robert Houston for restating so well what I meant about human retroviruses. My aspiration is to attain similar accomplishments and reach his level of mastery in writing. Martin Walker (Dirty Medicine) is another hero of mine.

    Special thanks to McK, my dear old friend who I initially met here. You really think I’m Harvey Bialy? I can only say thanks for the compliment.

  35. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    Look, Clouds. I don’t have the time to read your enormous post, deconstructing everything I’ve written over the past week. Really. Plus, I’m not interested in reading one word from someone whose identity is a slippery as an eel. I don’t care who you are. And you COMPLETELY missed the point, that TS did not miss, regarding the following:

    hitting someone over the head with the existential question of whether or not HIV exists is not the best first choice for intervention. It’s a little much to hear that after years of being scared shitless by doctors and the like — it’s just unlikely to engender the desired response. Much easier to start slow, and suggest dumping the meds for a while. You need to try to understand what things might look/feel like from the inside. Really, mark, do you know how EVERONE’S mind works when confronted with the HIVAb problem. One size fits all, according to your prescription? My own experience tells me that the first order of business involves the debunking of the tests considering the findings of Perth AND Duesberg, from which many intelligent people derive questions on the phenomena retroviruses …

    Put simply, Clouds, you’re totally, utterly, and completely wrong.

    You don’t tell a patient who for 10 years has bought into the Establishment hook, line, and sinker, that the tests are meaningless. That’s utter bull crap. YOU DO try to get them off their meds. Clearly, you don’t give one shit about individuals, but only about your one cause. You are no different than John Moore, just on the other side of the debate. There is no place for extremism like yours.

    And I don’t “believe” everything Martel writes. I print the stuff out so I can look into it myself. Your extraordinarily biased view of me is worthy of investigation. Why is it that I get under your skin so terribly? That is something that would be worth your time to investigate. Becausee it ain’t about me, that’s clear. I’m just some proxy for a little internal rage of yours that needs stoking. Understanding that — I don’t take a word you write seriously, and never will.

    Best wishes.

  36. Mark Biernbaum Says:

    You seem to think, Clouds, that insulting someone is an effective way of teaching. I don’t think I need to tell you that it’s not. If you had wanted to communicate something to me that you felt I should know, then you chose the wrong way to do it. Would you listen to me if our positions were reversed, and I devoted substantial time to insulting you? I don’t think so.

    And understanding the mind of someone who has been treated for 10 years by the Establishment — let’s see, who would know more about that? You? Nah. Don’t think so. Get real.

  37. patrick moore Says:

    Perhaps TS could write a “Poster’s guide to the Blogsphere”. Something like:

    Think, write, pause, reconsider, re-write, pause again, think anew and re-rewrite and then and ONLY THEN…post it!

    To edit means to keep anything writen from straying from the intended point. It means cutting out all the emotional shit.
    My typical post starts out very emotional (whatever the flavor of the day) and may at first be 1000 words long and after careful review could be cut alltogether; which is mostly the norm. Take a recent post of mine; it reads only:
    “Oh, pleeeeeeeeeeeeease”
    That one took me a whole hour to write and consider. No joke (ADD perhaps).
    It’s alot like film making.
    An anecdote:
    Vancouver, three days of shooting…350 takes and NONE of it made the final cut simply because it didn’t support the story. Ask Celia Faber, she could only agree.
    Also if you do not intend to convince anyone of your argument then keep it to yourself. As Mark points out:

    “You seem to think, ******, that insulting someone is an effective way of teaching. I don’t think I need to tell you that it’s not.”

    for a great many examples of this verb(log)iage simply visit thathorribleScienceblogs.comsitethatmaynotspeakitsname (with few exceptions. ..apologies Mark, but people really need to see the lowliness of that site for themselves).

    PS: Clouds… Mark and I agree on this; It’s unescapable virtue:

    “hitting someone over the head with the existential question of whether or not HIV exists is not the best first choice for intervention. It’s a little much to hear that after years of being scared shitless by doctors and the like — it’s just unlikely to engender the desired response. Much easier to start slow, and suggest dumping the meds for a while. You need to try to understand what things might look/feel like from the inside.”

  38. McKiernan Says:

    Dear Clouds O’ Sugar,

    With respect to Robert Houston, it was error on his part when he wrote:

    “With all due respect, McK, I don’t believe that Gene is Harvey Bialy. I recognize Gene’s technical telegraphic style as that of the commentator “Gene Semon” who used to post here”.

    Accordingly, it wasn’t an error requiring defending by McK, so he thought. His comment had read :

    “The notion that Harvey Bialy PHD will disclose his multiple blogospheric nomenclature borders on naivete. Bialys are seemingly the personnae in charge—los controlleros—the control freaks.”

    Careful perusal will disclose that there are no indicators present whatsoever that assign Gene Semon to any of the multiple monikers used by HB that can be attributed to McK.

    Sometimes one wonders if any of those with the rose colored glasses ever started at ground base zero two years ago on December 28, 2004.

    And sometimes I think I am still living under the curses of my old chemistry and microbiology teachers whose standard default answer was: “go look it up you might learn something”.

  39. Truthseeker Says:

    Perhaps TS could write a “Poster’s guide to the Blogsphere”. Something like:

    Think, write, pause, reconsider, re-write, pause again, think anew and re-rewrite and then and ONLY THEN…post it!

    To edit means to keep anything writen from straying from the intended point. It means cutting out all the emotional shit.

    Glad to PM. But on a preliminary basis, we agree that reviewing and tweaking what one writes is best, just as it has always been best in days of yore to stash a furiously rude letter under one’s desk blotter for a day or two, and rewrite accordingly or even throw into the circular filing cabinet. Emotions of the moment only last with the recipient, whether they are good or bad. Best to keep on the rails of politeness at all times. And why not? Half the fury and flaming on the Web arises from misunderstanding, as the study reported in Wired News that I posted in a recent comment told us, because email tone is misinterpreted 50% of the time even by husbands and wives.

    The emotional shit however is fine we believe if it is written humorously. Adding humor is the best way to take oneself less seriously and not offend. For what are we trying to do anyway? Reach a common understanding and correct misunderstanding, no? Only the superannuated schoolboys relish the brief pleasure of insulting idiots as they deserve. The long lasting satisfaction comes from teaching them and ourselves something we didn’t know or realize.

    The intelligence and wit of some of the people writing here is unprecedented, we have to say, and the witty shouldn’t be thought insulting too readily. There are times when one laughs out loud and it is often when the renowned Dr B cracks his whip, though it is more amusing when it is on someone else’s back, of course.

    The whole point is to avoid being sucked into the void of the screen and let one’s standards go down the plug hole in the adolescent rush of viciously lashing the person who has said something certifiable.

    The internet, like success, is designed to go to one’s head and drag out of one the stuff that lurked inside all the time, but one’s common decency (and fear of a punch on the proboscis) held back.

    You can see this scientifically by the effect of measurable geographic distance on email. A certain Mexican madman is well known for writing email to colleagues that leaves them needing skin grafts. This is because the distancing of the Web is compounded by the distance his rear end is from New York LA and other US cities where his recipients wear extremely heavy winter boots that might otherwise be put to good use.

    So Patrick don’t hold back your emotinalism completely, though it does set a very good example. Houston’s almost entirely factual statements are certainly among the most effective here, we have noticed, and when he says anything at all adjectival it is usually complimentary.

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