There are several reasons why I’ve decided NOT to include any AIDS related statistics on my site. For the first three reasons, I’ll show you the proof. The fourth & last reason doesn’t come with any proof, it’s just my gut reactions, those of a non-doctor/scientist, which increase my wariness in putting forth information I’m not in a position to confirm myself.
REASONS WITH PROOF
Reason # 1 : AIDS statistics are notoriously unreliable.
From the New York Times article of 11/20/07 entitled “U.N. to Say It Overstated H.I.V. Cases by Millions” athttp://tinyurl.com/3bqza9 :
“The United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency plans to issue a report today acknowledging that it overestimated the size of the epidemic . . . Some epidemiologists have criticized for years the way estimates were made, and new surveys of thousands of households in several countries have borne them out. . . ‘This is not a surprise,’ said Daniel Halperin, an expert on H.I.V. infection rates at the Harvard School of Public Health and co-author of an article published three years ago arguing that estimates of infection rates were too high. ‘The writing was on the wall years ago,’ he said. . . In the past, global health officials have treated the epidemic as a cyclone spiraling ever upward with no end to new infections in sight. But better surveys . . . have driven the figures down.”
From the Washington Post article of the same date entitled: “U.N. to Cut Estimate Of AIDS Epidemic – Population With Virus Overstated by Millions” at http://tinyurl.com/32yu27
“The United Nations‘ top AIDS scientists plan to acknowledge this week that they have long overestimated both the size and the course of the epidemic, which they now believe has been slowing for nearly a decade, according to U.N. documents prepared for the announcement. . . But the far-reaching revisions amount to at least a partial acknowledgment of criticisms long leveled by outside researchers who disputed the U.N. portrayal of an ever-expanding global epidemic.”
From two Boston Globe articles 3 years earlier, in 2004:
The first is from a 6/7/04 story about a UN report released a week in advance of the 15th International AIDS Conference to be held in Bangkok, entitled AIDS numbers rise around worldat http://tinyurl.com/2d4v3o :
“Many AIDS specialists outside the UN have been sharply critical of the past estimates, suggesting that the figures have been inflated by 25 to 50 percent.” . . . Jim Chin, an epidemiologist who helped devise WHO’s original models for estimating HIV prevalence, criticized UNAIDS and WHO for not emphasizing more positive trends in the report. ”The words ‘peak’ and ‘leveling off’ are not in their vocabulary,” Chin said by telephone fromCalifornia. ”They are still doing this very fancy soft-shoe dance around the numbers. Outside of Africa, it seems they are not admitting to any serious reduction to the estimates anyplace else. It’s just not consistent with the epidemiology. Maybe it doesn’t suit them to say it beforeBangkok, where they are beating the drums of a gathering storm.”
The second Boston Globe article, from 6/20/04, is entitled “Estimates On HIV Called Too High – New Data Cut Rates For Many Nations” at http://tinyurl.com/ypo3k4 :
“Estimates of the number of people with the AIDS virus have been dramatically overstated in many countries because of errors in statistical models and a possible undetected decline in the pandemic, according to new data and specialists on the disease. In many nations, analysts are cutting the estimates of HIV prevalence by half or more. . . A significant downward revision in AIDS and HIV numbers calls into question many of the lessons on fighting AIDS that are based on prior estimates. It also is likely to affect future budgets and cause many countries to consider revising strategies on how to prevent and treat the disease. “It is fundamental that we have accurate information of what we’re up against,” said Robert R. Redfield, cofounder of the University of Maryland’s Institute of Human Virology and a leading AIDS specialist. “If you are overestimating the epidemic, you may attribute positive impacts to things that have nothing to do with it.” . . .“Chin said he thinks the global rate is inflated by 25 percent to 40 percent, while two US health officials working on AIDS said they think the global numbers may be 50 percent inflated. The two spoke on condition of anonymity.”
See also this 2003 article from Rian Malan “Africa Isn’t Dying of Aids” at http://tinyurl.com/36ztky which has details on the specific computer modeling used and how it varied greatly from real, on-the-ground data. His 2007 update to that article is linked to below, at the bottom of reason #2.
Reason # 2: Those seeking funding for AIDS related efforts have been shown to intentionally misrepresent the science and hype it. Why should they be trusted now?
See, for example, this Pulitzer Prize winning article in the Wall Street Journal entitled “AIDS Fight Is Skewed By Federal Campaign Exaggerating Risks” athttp://www.pulitzer.org/year/1997/national-reporting/works/2.html : The article demonstrated that heterosexuals are very unlikely to get AIDS, but a public relations campaign intentionally convinced everyone of the exact opposite, that AIDS could hit anybody.
“The emphasis on the broad reach of the disease has virtually ensured that precious funds won’t go where they are most needed” . . . “I don’t see that much downside in slightly exaggerating [AIDS risk]” says John Ward, chief of the CDC branch that keeps track of AIDS cases. “Maybe they’ll wear a condom. Maybe they won’t sleep with someone they don’t know.”
Journalist Rian Milan asks in his February 2007 update athttp://tinyurl.com/yqgapv :
“What’s wrong with a bit of fibbing, if that’s what it takes to raise money for a good cause? Well, apart from conning donors who might have spent their money better elsewhere, on the scale we’re talking about, it seriously distorts social priorities and government planning. Told that they face appalling problems, governments have diverted pitifully scarce resources from other needs to combating an Aids threat that in several instances has turned out to have been grossly exaggerated. An example: faced with UNAids’ warning in the nineties that their teachers were about to be decimated by Aids, several African governments responded by training armies of replacements. The result, according to UK researcher Paul Bennell, is millions wasted and a glut of unemployed teacher trainees in countries like Botswana and Swaziland. Meanwhile, the poor continue to die of ordinary diseases that could be cured for a few cents if medicines were available.”
That example, of limited funds squandered due to inaccurate AIDS statistics and projections, leads us to Reason # 3.
Reason # 3: More importantly, the focus of relief efforts on AIDS has actually hindered efforts to provide people with THE BASIC NECESSITIES of life. It can actually do more harm than good!
When people are dying, relief efforts should produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people, not relief just for the squeakiest wheel. AIDS is the squeakiest wheel due to the public relations campaign just briefly touched upon in the Wall Street Journal article above. As you’ll see below, AIDS relief actually appears to be doing more harm than good!
That’s a big charge. Here’s evidence to support it, both from admissions of AID relief foundations themselves and in the results of an extensive Los Angeles Times investigation, whose results were written up in a 12/16/07 article entitled “Unintended Victims of Gates Foundation Generosity” athttp://tinyurl.com/2sy635 , where there are also links to photographs and video. Below I’ve copied relevant and telling excerpts. But first, here is the LA Times explaining what their investigation entailed (at http://tinyurl.com/3532s4 ):
“This story, the latest installment in an 18-month investigation of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is based in part on a review of hundreds of foundation grant descriptions, policies, evaluation reports and tax returns. Reporting included more than 130 interviews with patients, medical professionals and administrators in Lesotho, Rwanda and other African nations and with global health experts in Europe, Africa and the United States. More than 240 scholarly articles, books and studies on health conditions in Africa were reviewed, along with thousands of pages of financial and performance data, reports and evaluations from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the GAVI Alliance and other financing groups and aid organizations. Statistical data on health conditions in Africa were obtained from the World Health Organization, the World Bank and UNICEF, as well as national ministries of health and nongovernmental organizations.”
And now, some of the investigation’s results:
. . . because of the priorities of global health groups, including GAVI and the Global Fund (Gates’ funded) – key measures of societal health have stalled at appalling levels or worsened.” Dr. Peter Poore, a pediatrician who has worked in Africa for three decades, is a former Global Fund board member and consultant to GAVI (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization). He says they and other donors provide crucial help but overstate the impact of their programs. “They can also do dangerous things,” he said. “They can be very disruptive to health systems — the very things they claim they are trying to improve.” . . .Joe McCannon, vice president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, a U.S.-based nongovernmental aid organization, or NGO, with operations in Africa, said, “You have to ask: ‘Net, are we having a positive effect?’ It’s a haunting question.” . . .
A “haunting question”, whether their relief efforts actually help or hurt! What is he talking about? How can they hurt? He’s talking about things like what the LA Times refers to as the “Brain Drain”:
Sub-Saharan African nations face desperate shortages of doctors and nurses. . . The narrow approach of the Global Fund and other aid groups compounds the problem, according to global health experts and African officials. . . .The Global Fund pays for salary increases for clinicians who provide antiretroviral drug therapy, known as ART, for HIV/AIDS patients. Doctors and nurses move into AIDS care to receive these raises, creating a brain drain. “All over the country, people are furious about incentives for ART staff,” said Rachel M. Cohen, mission chief in Lesotho for Doctors Without Borders, which operates health facilities in partnership with the government. Because of the brain drain, responsibilities for education, triage and low-level nursing pass down to lay people, particularly in rural areas that rarely if ever see a clinician. In much of Africa, task-shifting is the key response to staff shortages. “But there are limits,” Cohen said. “Some things shouldn’t be done by lay people.” The situation is as bad or worse elsewhere inAfrica. . . Florence Mukakabano, head nurse at the Central Hospital of Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, said she loses many of her staff nurses to United Nations agencies, NGOs and the hospital’s own Global Fund-supported AIDS program.
These Gates’ funded foundations understand the ‘brain drain’ effects of their efforts, but they simply don’t care:
In some cases, salary increases targeted to certain types of care “may have had a distorting effect,” Kazatchkine acknowledged. But the AIDS crisis justifies such dislocations, he said. “We are a global fund for AIDS, TB and malaria. We are not a global fund that funds local health.”
Kazatchkine is the director of the Gates’ funded Global Fund).
The LA Times indicates that the country of “Botswana offers an example of how a special Gates initiative, narrowly applied to a specific disease, may have disrupted other healthcare.” :
In 2000, the Gates Foundation joined with the drug firm Merck & Co. and chose Botswana as a test case for a $100-million effort to prove that mass AIDS treatment and prevention could succeed in Africa. Botswana is a well-governed, stable democracy with a small population and a relatively high living standard, but one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world. By 2005, health expenditures per capita in Botswana, boosted by the Gates donations, were six times the average for Africa and 21 times the amount spent in Rwanda. Deaths from AIDS fell sharply. . . But AIDS prevention largely failed. HIV continued to spread at an alarming pace. . . Meanwhile, the rate of pregnancy-related maternal deaths nearly quadrupled and the child mortality rate rose dramatically. Despite improvements in AIDS treatment, life expectancy in Botswana rose just marginally, from 41.1 years in 2000 to 41.5 years in 2005. Dean Jamison, a health economist who was editor of Disease Control Priorities in Developing Countries, a Gates Foundation-funded reference book . . . added thatthe Gates Foundation effort, with its tight focus on the epidemic, may have contributed to the broader health crisis by drawing the nation’s top clinicians away from primary care and child health. “They have an opportunity to double or triple their salaries by working on AIDS,” Jamison said. “Maybe the health ministry replaces them, maybe not. “But if so, it is usually with less competent people.”
These AIDS only relief-ers are ignoring the fundamentals: “In recent interviews in Lesotho and Rwanda, many patients described hunger so brutal that nausea prevented them from keeping their anti-AIDS pills down.” Please read aloud the words of one of the nurses interviewed by the LA Times and hear her:
Eyes brimming with tears of frustration, Majubilee Mathibeli, the nurse at Queen II hospital who gives Moleko her pills, said four out of five of her patients ate fewer than three meals a day. “Most of them,” she said, “are dying of hunger.” . . . Mathibeli is grateful to the Global Fund for its AIDS grants but said the fund was out of touch. “They have their computers in nice offices and are comfortable,” she said, nervous about speaking bluntly. But “they are not coming down to our level. We’ve got to tell the truth so something will be done.”
The LA Times’ investigation continues:
When the food runs out, the hunger returns. At that point, said Epiphanie Nizane, a lay counselor in Rwinkwavu, a village in eastern Rwanda, many women with AIDS turn to prostitution. (Did you catch that? Starving aids patients turning to prostitution so they can buy food, prostitution which can spread AIDS.) “The Haitians have a saying: Giving a patient medicine without food is like washing your hands and drying them in the dirt,” said Dr. Jennifer Furin, the Lesotho director for Partners in Health, a Boston-based NGO.
MORE ADMISSIONS QUOTED IN THE LA TIMES INVESTIGATION:
WHAT GOT WORSE:
“Health delivery systems in Africa are now weaker and more fragmented than they were 10 years ago,” said a 2006 report commissioned by the Global Fund and the World Bank. The weakening has been “exacerbated as the Global Fund and other programs now promote universal access to [AIDS] treatment.” . . .
Pregnancy-related deaths often have been the highest in nations where most aid has gone to treat AIDS, TB and malaria, said Dr. Francis Omaswa, special advisor for human resources at the WHO.
The 2006 Global Fund-World Bank report the LA Times quoted from above can be read in full here: http://www.eldis.org/go/display&type=Document&id=33897)
and it also notes that:
“Recent studies of global health programs, while acknowledging their many contributions, conclude that “their collective impact has created or exacerbated a series of problems at the country level . . .The cumulative effect of these problems is to risk undermining the sustainability of national development plans, distorting national priorities, diverting scarce human resources and/or establishing uncoordinated service delivery structures. This is a most serious indictment. . . . The disease-specific interests of external donors have further drained domestic resources from the funding of health systems maintenance, family planning, child health and other broader health requirements. . .It is entirely likely that lives of AIDS patients saved through expensive anti-retroviral drug treatments, to say nothing of the millions of other sick people neglected by the diversion of funding to stand-alone disease programs, may be lost to diarrhea or other health problems which are easily prevented by a functioning basic health delivery system.”
WHAT STAYED THE SAME AND WAS NOT IMPROVED:
Using the most authoritative available data, maternal and child mortality and life expectancy show no statistical relationship — for better or worse — to Global Fund grants or to overall Gates Foundation spending in Africa. Key health measures in countries that received less money per capita have been just as likely to improve or decline as in countries that received more money, according to data from the World Health Organization, World Bank and UNICEF.
Concluding quotes from the LA Times article:
Donations “could be five times more beneficial,” Omaswa (Special advisor for human resources at the WHO) said, if they better supported health systems.
“Who chose the human right of universal treatment of AIDS over other human rights?” asked economist William Easterly, co-director of the New York University Development Research Institute, in his book “The White Man’s Burden.” He added: “A nonutopian approach would make the tough choices to spend foreign aid resources in a way that reached the most people with their most urgent needs.”
So that’s why I’ve decided not to put AIDS statistics on my site.
And now I’ll just ramble a bit:
ADDITIONAL REASON TO BE WARY BASED ONLY ON GUT FEELINGS
Reason # 4
In the first couple of decades, it seemed to me that AIDS was an easy way for those like us (who have the basic ingredients to sustain life like food, water, shelter, electricity, etc.), to dismiss outright the mind boggling death occurring in the ‘Third World’ with the mistaken idea that all that unfortunate death was really caused by an incurable disease, forgetting that so many in the Third World lacked the very basic necessities of life. The diagnosis, to this non-doctor, also seemed a suspicious catch-all. AIDS is a disease you can’t scientifically test, you can only test for “antibodies” to HIV. You don’t die of AIDS per se, but of an opportunistic infection like tuberculosis, meningitis, pneumonia, Kaposi’s sarcoma, etc. The World Health Organization’s definition didn’t even require an HIV test. In ‘third world’ countries they instead merely looked for a list of signs and symptoms such as weight loss, diarrhea, and fever, you know, things that people without food and clean water will also experience. And AIDS is a disease which could take years or decades before it manifests any symptoms. All of this non-traditional disease classification stuff combined with the distraction it provided to well-intentioned others from the facts that huge chunks of humanity still don’t have the very basics needed to sustain life made me wary. Additionally, now that medication has been created for AIDS patients, my general distrust of profit-seeking pharmaceutical companies, which have been shown time and again to put ineffective and even harmful drugs on the market, combined with the notion that it seems counterintuitive to give people who have compromised immune systems toxic drugs leads me not to champion something I’m not absolutely sure is actually helpful. (See for one example, this article in the New York Times“ questioning a possible effect of AIDS medications: “Worrisome New Link: AIDS Drugs and Leprosy” from 10/24/06 at
I am absolutely sure, though, that people need food and water to live, and that indoor plumbing prevents disease, and I champion only what I am certain. Shouldn’t relief efforts do likewise, deal with what we are certain of and start with the basics? It really isn’t rocket science, you know. It’s FIRST THINGS FIRST. As shown above, relief efforts which ignore the basics – like the Gates’ Foundations AID relief efforts, can actually harm the people they say they are intended to help, so those efforts and their faulty statistics will not be trumpeted here.
For another example of relief efforts hurting the people we were told they’d help, see the page on Hunger – “A Shame on Humanity”.