Sunday, August 7, 2011

AVAC, Big Pharma Front Group, Anticipates Healthy Returns from HIV has an article subtitled: 'how [Uganda] lost the global lead in combating HIV'. And it is a question well worth asking. Uganda, probably more than any other African country, said and did all the 'right' things, everything they were told to say and were well funded for by what became the multi-billion dollar AIDS industry.

The article, naturally, makes it sound as if it has only recently been realized that efforts in Uganda are not really having much impact on the epidemic. But even in the early 2000s it was clear that Uganda hadn't really had any success since the first few years of the epidemic, before the HIV industry had evolved.

In the early days, and not just in Uganda, those involved in healthcare recognised that HIV was spread in a number of ways, one of the most important of which was through contaminated blood, especially in the healthcare context. After all, it was in the 1980s that haemophiliacs in wealthy countries were infected in tens of thousands.

There were other massive outbreaks of HIV in healthcare settings, such as the one in Romania, where thousands of teenagers are now coming of age having lived with HIV all their lives. Thousands more have died of AIDS. Few will forget Libya's notorious outbreak, but there were still more outbreaks that received less press attention.

In addition to the current tens of thousands of Chinese people who were infected with HIV through contaminated blood, blood products and other healthcare procedures, there are the uncounted hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Africans, who continue to be infected because the AIDS industry ceased talking about and funding efforts to reduce non-sexual HIV transmission.

In the 1980s, the Ugandan government was rightly praised for raising the alarm about HIV and doing everything in their power to reduce transmission, however it occurred. But in the 1990s HIV was hijacked by political, religious and commercial interests in a scenario where if sex wasn't involved, it wasn't worth talking about. HIV prevalence decreased rapidly in Uganda in the 90s because death rates rocketed. But since the mid to late 1990s up to the present, HIV incidence and prevalence have remained fairly steady.

This means that the money pouring into the country, and pouring into other medium and high prevalence countries, is having little or no impact. No country has succeeded in controlling its HIV epidemic by ranting about, or even by throwing buckets of money at, sexual behavior; no African countries, no Asian countries, not even Western countries, and certainly not the US, which spends the most on such ranting but has the highest HIV rates in the Western world.

If only Uganda hadn't attracted the attention of the hoardes of politicians, business people, bureaucrats, religious leaders and assorted cranks, has beens and what not; the country might have continued to monitor conditions in health facilities and improve medical procedures that potentially involved exposure to blood or other bodily fluids contaminated with HIV.

Uganda is not the only medium prevalence country where HIV prevalence has stagnated for quite a few years. Kenya and Tanzania are in a similar position. In fact, prevalence in all three countries has barely changed in the last 10 years if you take into account the fact that death rates were only peaking in the early 2000s there, whereas rates peaked in Uganda in the 1990s. Reducing HIV prevalence through high death rates is hardly something to boast about.

But the article bemoaning how Uganda is 'falling behind' comes out with the same HIV industry rubbish about HIV being almost always sexually transmitted, claiming that this accounts for 76% of all infections and another 22% is accounted for by mother to child transmission. This leaves 2% for a combination of healthcare related transmission (such as blood transfusions, reused syringes, etc), men having sex with men, heterosexual anal sex and intravenous drug use.

The 76% figure is in serious need of investigation. This is the sort of figure that has been blowing any efforts to reduce HIV transmission off course for over twenty years. The article itself puts a finger on the problem, but without realizing it. It is because Uganda has been doing everything the AIDS industry expects of it that they have been failing. Just how many more years do they have to continue proving how wrong their strategy is?

Report after report shows that the people becoming infected in largest numbers are people who do not engage in 'unsafe' sex, that those who are infected are often those with one, or even no partners, they are often the ones who use condoms and know just about everything they have been told about how the HIV industry says HIV is transmitted.

Uganda is one of the countries where a lot of the early HIV research took place, where people were followed around, without necessarily being told they were HIV positive, to see how long it took them to infect their partner. Yet this Tuskegee style experiment appears to have left researchers in the dark as to how HIV is actually transmitted, rather than clarified the matter.

The article closes with a remark from Mitchell Warren, director of AVAC, the pharmaceutical industry front group which purports to advocate for prevention: “new prevention options – medical male circumcision, PrEP, microbicides and eventually vaccines – will play a critical role in reducing the cycle of new infections. As we look toward the next 30 years of AIDS, investment in prevention research has never been more important. Going forward we need funding structures that are flexible, agile, and generous enough to adapt rapidly to new opportunities.”

Roughly translated, this means that 'the pharmaceutical industry is very happy that HIV is not being eradicated and they expect to sell a hell of a lot of drugs and make even more billions than they have made so far, especially as they have persuaded those with the money that giving out endless rounds of drugs is all that is needed to solve the problem'. It won't reduct transmission, of course, but why would the pharmaceutical industry want to do that?


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