Friday, July 30, 2010

The state budget and AIDS policy

By Frank Stoppenbach
Red Hook
Published: Friday, July 30, 2010 2:14 AM EDT
Though unable to craft a balanced state budget, New York’s fractious legislature voted unanimously to no longer require written consent for HIV tests.

I would have voted against the bill.  First, because of the life-changing (and permanent) implications of a positive HIV test.  Second, and more important, because there are many unresolved questions about HIV tests that really call for a reexamination of them.

I can actually prove the need for a reexamination.  How can someone who is neither a doctor nor a scientist do so?

The same way business people and legislators who are not technical experts do – by asking reasonable questions (often formulated for them by technical experts).  If reasonable answers do not come back, something is wrong.

For HIV and AIDS, 38 questions raised by doctors and scientists were put into a presentation and sent, along with a cover letter summarizing ten of the questions, to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS).

HHS did respond to seven of the questions, and you can see the correspondence back and forth at  I think it is evident that HHS was not able to resolve the ten questions, with one exception.

Three of the questions were (1) Why do criteria for a positive HIV test, unlike any other test, differ by geography; (2) Dr. Henry Bauer’s finding that positive HIV tests in the U. S. correlated with race, even in low risk populations, suggesting that the tests indicate general immune system activity, not the presence of a microbe; (3) The fact that most babies who test HIV-positive at 9 months (after maternal antibodies have disappeared) turn negative by 24 months, seemingly curing themselves of incurable HIV.

A few months ago, HIV co-discoverer Dr. Montagnier, seeking to explain the high rates of HIV in Africa, and low rates here, in effect said that a healthy immune system can get rid of HIV[1].

Which raised the question: why are we spending huge sums (nearly 3 percent of New York state’s entire budget, an incredible $3.2 billion), mostly on very costly anti-HIV drugs, if basic nutrition and health measures can solve the problem?

It may come as a surprise that the HIV tests, which form the basis for an AIDS or HIV diagnosis, have unresolved concerns.  Or that the role of HIV in AIDS is unproven.

The latter point was made by Nobel Prize winner Kary Mullis, who discovered that there was no scientific reference that could back up the statement, “HIV is the probable cause of AIDS”.

Dr. Robert Gallo, the co-author of the original and widely referenced paper linking HIV with AIDS, acknowledged under oath that it was not sufficient for proof.

In normal science, such questions get resolved by debate and new experiments.  But HIV/AIDS has really transcended science, and is now almost beyond questioning.

This situation is due to HIV/AIDS’ dual role: (1) as an explanation for certain illnesses; (2) as a cautionary tale to promote sexual responsibility.  Questioning the first undermines the second, so we are caught in what might be termed a policy trap, doomed to continue spending outrageous sums that amount to a wealth transfer from taxpayers to the drug industry.

Slowly, though, the questions are getting asked, as in the documentary “House of Numbers”.  And perhaps New York’s budget problems will finally lead to hearings on the questions surrounding AIDS policy and spending.

Questioning AIDS dogma is controversial, but it is not clear why.  All other policies undergo review and audit, and the scientists who have raised questions have only asked for a fair hearing.

The worst that could happen, if the concerns are unfounded, is that a small amount of time and money would have been spent gaining more confidence in the current policy.

On the other hand, if the HIV skeptics are proven correct, it is possible that tens of millions will have stigma lifted, and the chance to be cured, likely saving many billions of dollars annually.

Thoughtful comments are welcome (  For critics, do try to include an explanation for the self-curing babies.

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