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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

HIV/AIDS – A Response to Elisa: Part II

Apologies for spending so much time on this subject:

Why am I doing so? Well, Elisa deserves it. Not because she is stunningly beautiful or because she is frighteningly intelligent; but because she has asked me for my opinion and my justifications therefore.

Well now. On Shakespeare's birthday 1984, A US government bureaucrat, Margaret Heckler announced that the probable cause of AIDS had been discovered – in spite of what you have read in the previous post.

The very next day the New York Times removed "probable".

There had been no peer review (not that I place much reliance on peer review- not a hoop that Newton ever had to jump through); there had been no scientific paper; there had been a press conference. Gallo invented the HIV theory of AIDS, Heckler endorsed it, the New York Times confirmed it and the rest of the scientific community rolled over. But not quite – Peter Duesberg and Kary Mullis (Nobel Laureate) refused to give in. Of the two, Duesberg has suffered the most. Having a Nobel Prize confers a certain degree of immunity.

[Oh dear, Paul Krugman has a Nobel Prize (Economics) and he is certifiable. He won't debate Robert Murphy. Why not?]

AIDS was a sexually transmitted virus and we were in the middle of an epidemic.

Viral epidemics have a well defined trajectory. A few people get the disease, others have natural immunity, yet others develop immunity from contact with the virus. The curve goes up, peaks and declines. In the case of AIDS the numbers remained flat. There was some confusion because "AIDS diseases" were added to the original definition; but essentially AIDS did not behave like a "normal" epidemic".

Normal epidemics do not discriminate. When syphilis or smallpox enters a population, males and females suffer equally. Not so with AIDS – the victims remained resolutely within the gay community.

Intelligent gays were disquieted by the facts. Are our friends getting sick because of our lifestyle? Or is there a deadly microbe out there which will kill regardless of sexual preference? A gay activist will be drawn inexorably to the second hypothesis. The first implies a criticism of the new gay lifestyle. The second puts the wind up heterosexuals. They will spend money to address the problem.

Is one true and the other false? Which one will kill gays? If our friends are getting sick and dying because of their lifestyle, then they will continue to die as a result of the second hypothesis.

Where did AIDS come from?

The conventional answer as to why a new syndrome arose alongside a new lifestyle was not that the former was the result of the latter – not an unreasonable supposition. Occam's razor – essentially that the fewer factors you call upon to explain a phenomenon the better – was cast aside. Monkeys and clandestine CIA operations were called upon. Africa seemed promising and Africa was it!

Africans are not more promiscuous than Europeans or Californians but they are (for the most) part poor, ironically and tragically, because their continent is so rich in natural resources. Being poor means that clean drinking water doesn't come out of your taps – you don't have taps (or flush toilets) and your faeces contaminate your drinking water and that of your neighbours. You and they get sick. This was the situation in Europe two/three/four hundred years ago. It was in Africa one/two/three hundred years ago. We got sick, they got sick. We are rich; they remain poor. We stopped getting sick. They still get sick. There is no new sickness in Africa.

You have to be racist to blame sickness on Africans' inability to keep their trousers fastened. We are the ones who teach promiscuity to our children.

AIDS is not decimating Africa. Check this out for yourself. Since the eighties the population in every African country (except Ruanda!) has risen. Check this out for yourself. All Africans have had more to eat in the past quarter century – until recently, when subsidies for bio-fuels have raised the cost of food for everyone. You might not notice it; but an African who spends most of his income on food certainly has.

Rian Malan has lost friends by comparing alarmist AIDS death statistics to actual death rates. "AIDS" deaths in South Africa are not increasing – coffin makers are going out of business.

Charles Geshekter is very good on African AIDS statistics.

Good night. More tomorrow, I'm afraid.

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