The extremely attentive reader will have noticed an interesting story this week about the international AIDS crisis. In case you didn’t find it buried in the news, here it is in a raw chunk from the Associated Press:

“The number of AIDS cases worldwide fell by more than 6 million cases this year to 33.2 million, global health officials said Tuesday. But the decline is mostly on paper. Previous estimates were largely inflated, and the new numbers are the result of a new methodology … UN officials could not rule out future downward corrections.”

I dare say they can’t, for as many of their critics have long argued, the numbers were always a crock. Dr Jim Chin, for instance, a former WHO staffer who is now a clinical professor of epidemiology at U.C. Berkeley, wrote the book on the issue. It is entitled, The AIDS Pandemic: The Collision of Epidemiology with Political Correctness.

The long and short of it is, that the funding for the UN’s anti-AIDS efforts is directly linked to the victim numbers. Moreover, these numbers are also used to build a powerful emotional case through the world media, as a way of squeezing western politicians into giving more money to the UN. This is the usual way of doing things in the UN bureaucracy, and is the sufficient explanation for extremely corrupt methods of statistical research.

In this case, the inflated victim numbers were produced by such devices as taking AIDS rates among especially afflicted segments of a national population—drug abusers, for instance—and then extrapolating them to the whole population. Anyone who objects is then demonized as if he were in favour of spreading AIDS.

Determined, naturally, to put the best face on this week’s revelations, Dr Kevin De Cock, the director of the WHO’s AIDS department, claimed, “for the first time we are seeing a decline in global AIDS deaths.” Yet thanks to the statistical efforts of his own department, we have no reliable way to know if that’s true. While he now admits that “much” of the decline in AIDS may be attributed to what is euphemistically called “the result of new methodology,” we are left without any clear idea what the previous baseline was.

The number of new AIDS cases reported has, indeed, fallen to half over the last few years (to 2.5 million last year), but here again the critics have searching questions about what constitutes a reported AIDS case, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in India (where despite more careful reporting procedures, the overall number of cases was suddenly cut from 6 million to 3 million after statistical review).

The crisis in “AIDS methodology” goes deeper. For there are even questions about whether the international effort is everywhere treating the same pathology. These questions are plausible ones: for AIDS in developing countries has spread among men, women, and children, chiefly among the poor. Whereas, in the developed West, it is largely confined to homosexual males, intravenous drug users, and prostitutes of both sexes. How sure are our virologists that different HIV strains are not more radically different in origin? The possibility of a colossal misdiagnosis is something that ought to haunt the WHO bureaucracy, but apparently doesn’t.

We do know that, in Africa, the virus acts most potently in combination with background epidemics of tuberculosis, and other more “conventional” diseases. We also know that field clinical standards in Africa are often very low. Whatever the virus, is it possible that transmission has more to do with unclean needles than with sexual mores? For this is another area where questions from the critics are met with a stonewall of denial from the WHO.

Now, whether or not sexual promiscuity is the leading path of transmission, a huge moral question intrudes. Does it make sense to devote so much of the AIDS-fighting effort to promoting the use of condoms? The most obvious success story on the continent, in reducing the spread of AIDS, has been in Uganda, where the propaganda effort was turned to fighting sexual promiscuity, instead of promoting that condoms offer reliable protection against infection.

I do not know the answers to any of the questions I have posed above. I only know that they are valid questions, and that it will be impossible to get answers as long as the UN persists in making every health problem into an ideological crusade, attached to a fundraising campaign, fuelled by lies.

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