Tuesday, July 26, 2011

HIV Spread Through Deliberate Misinformation

A Tanzanian MP, Mr Ally Keissy Mohamed, has said in parliament that HIV positive people get infected deliberately. After all the research and money that has been poured into this single disease, how could someone be so misinformed about HIV as to think that it would even be possible for someone to 'get infected deliberately'?

Well, there is a very good reason. UNAIDS, the UN agency tasked with bringing together efforts to prevent and treat HIV, collecting and disseminating information about it, advocating for the rights of those affected and at risk, mobilizing resources, developing strategies and supporting countries to implement them, consistently misleads the world about how HIV is transmitted.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that UNAIDS consistently misleads the world about how HIV is transmitted in Africa. In most Western countries, and even a lot of developing or middle-income countries, HIV is mostly transmitted by intravenous drug use or by anal sex. But according to UNAIDS, HIV is almost always transmitted through heterosexual sex in African countries.

There is plenty of evidence that HIV is not solely, perhaps not even mostly, transmitted through heterosexual sex in African countries but this is either flatly denied or ignored. UNAIDS claims that only about 1% of HIV is transmitted through contaminated blood transfusions and perhaps 1.5% through unsafe injections. Other medical and cosmetic procedures are generally not even mentioned in the literature.

So, many people 'deliberately' have sex, in the sense that having sex is consensual. But others don't have much choice whether to have sex or not, with whom, under what conditions and the like. This aspect of sex seems to have escaped the notice of the MP. You could say that others 'deliberately' go to health and cosmetic facilities, in the sense that they choose to do so. The MP can be forgiven for not knowing that HIV can be spread through a number of non-sexual routes.

UNAIDS skate over the problems with their blanket blame-game, even concerning vital issues such as mother to child transmission. But they deny entirely the significance of non-sexual modes of transmission, to the extent of manufacturing data to force their point and trying to discredit anyone who raises questions about the status quo.

People who are at risk of being infected with HIV through unsafe medical or cosmetic procedures are usually completely unaware of such risks. If they were aware, they might be able to avoid them and to protect their families and friends. But UNAIDS feels that warning them about non-sexual risks would 'dilute' their favorite subject, African sex and sexual behavior.

And Africans are then doubly misinformed. Because they are warned against having 'unsafe' sex. Yet most of the people in high prevalence countries are infected through ordinary everyday sex. Most of them only have sex with one main partner, the frequency of sex is similar for most people in African and non-African countries alike, etc. In other words, most African people don't engage in the incredible levels of dangerous sexual behavior that could explain massive rates of transmission.

This is the picture that the unfortunate Mr Mohamed was probably thinking of when he made his statement. The chairman of the National Council for People Living with HIV and Aids (NACOPHA), Mr Vitalisi Makayula, has described the statement as 'inhuman', but he himself doesn't get beyond sexual transmission. And Dr Emmanuel Kandusi, chairman of a prostate cancer pressure group, said there was an element of truth about the statement, but it was 'blunt'.

But Mr Mohamed was not right in any sense. Nor do Mr Makayula and Dr Kandusi shed much light on the problem. Dr Kandusi even cites UNAIDS's favorite reflex about HIV in Africa: that 80% (sometimes 90%) of transmission is from heterosexual sex. Another 18% is said to be transmitted from mother to child. That leaves 2% for unsafe medical practices and even for intravenous drug use and anal sex, the most common modes of infection outside of African countries.

A lot of credence is given to modes of transmission surveys, which claim to use empirical evidence. However, their figures come from carefully selected and highly biased research, not from any useful estimation of the relative contribution of each mode of transmission. The MPs and other Tanzanian social leaders have been misled, in the same way as all other Africans and non-Africans. The relative extent of sexual and non-sexual transmission of HIV is not known because UNAIDS does not wish to estimate it.

It is not clear why Africans are held in contempt by UNAIDS. But it is even less clear why Africans themselves don't question something that amounts to little more than racism. But the few who have tried to question the orthodoxy have been rubbished and branded as 'denialists'.

Sure, some of them were misinformed, for example, Thabo Mbeki. But who misinformed him? He could not understand why a virus should infect Africans in huge numbers but non-Africans in small numbers and why it should almost always be spread heterosexually in Africa but hardly ever anywhere else.

These are pertinant questions and making a laughing stock of those raising them only makes things worse. A Zimbabwean senator, Sithembile Mlothshwa, has suggested that scientists should "look into the issue of trying to inject men with a substance that will make them lose appetite" for sex. But it's not really surprising that people should come up with such crazy sounding 'solutions' when they are being fed so many lies, lies that don't even add up.

In fact, Mr Mlothshwa is in good company. Some HIV 'expert' not long ago suggested that if all Africans were to give up sex for one month every year, HIV transmission would drop substantially. This expert said it was what Muslims do during Ramadan, although they only give up sex during the day. Are we to believe that Africans are so promiscuous that they spend their days engaging in rampant sex, as well as their nights?

Another HIV commentator, Dr Sam Okuonzi, a Ugandan MP and 'health consultant', comes up with all sorts of confused arguments about the 'origin of HIV/AIDS'. And there are others, plenty of them, some who point to obvious inconsistencies in the orthodox view, others who go off on complete flights of fantasy that even UNAIDS would be proud of.

If the purpose of UNAIDS were to spread misinformation about HIV, they have done a very good job. Political, religious and social leaders, even health professionals and scientists in African countries seem to be oblivious to the fact that they are the victims of a racist propaganda. And the few who have challenged this propaganda have been ridiculed. It's UNAIDS that is ridiculous and it's time this useless and expensive institution was abolished.

[For more about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the disinformation machine that is the AIDS Industry, see my other blog.]


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