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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 7/27/08

Propaganda and the South African AIDS Crisis

By Mike Volpe  Posted by James Murtagh (about the submitter)   3 comments
Organized AIDS denialists threaten doctors working to treat and prevent AIDS
Back in the 1500's, the Black Plagues swept through Europe. It took nearly a century for the population to regain their pre Black Plague levels. Now, AIDS is sweeping through Africa. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2003 one in four people will have AIDS in South Africa. 
I am surprised that an organized group is trying to suppress the truth about the AIDS epidemic, how to treat it, how to suppress it, how to avoid it. In response to a recent article, I received the following:
Read this about kevin. He is not your friend.
The author then linked a demonstrably false "report," accusing anyone trying to treat and prevent AIDS as being part of a conspiracy!
Kevin, the subject of the piece, and the piece referenced by this commenter is by an individual named Clark Baker. Baker is loosely affiliated with a group of scientists and other medical experts that have hypothesized that AIDS and the HIV virus don't exist. The group is lead by two doctors, Dr. Celia Farber and Dr. Peter Duesberg, and both have written extensively hypothesizing that HIV does NOT cause AIDS. Both were subject of an award by the Semmelweis Society. This is what Kevin   objected to. This is what caused Baker, a former police officer in Los Angeles, to write this scathing critique of Kevin.
For his part, Kevin said that any attack by Baker or anyone in his group is a badge of honor. To me, the debate over the existence of AIDS is beneath me. That said, the spread of AIDS throughout the Sub Sahara Africa and especially in South Africa, and wittingly or unwittingly this group played their own small role in allowing the government of South Africa to look the other way.
The statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) are stunning. They estimate that 80% of males between 18-35 are afflicted with the HIV virus. Some of the problems have to do with the culture that Rondini talked about. The demographics of South Africa are such that blacks account for almost 80% of the population while whites account for just less than 10%. Of course, years of Apartheid left much of the black population uneducated and poor. The so called male dominated societies that Rondini spoke of simply meant males that were promiscuous and refused to wear condoms. Many of them were married and after they visited numerous prostitutes they invariably passed the disease along to their spouses and often to then to their unborn children.
Throughout the late 1980's and 1990's this disease was gripping the country and the Sub Sahara around it. The ruling governments of South Africa and its neighbors were looking for any propaganda that would allow them to look the other way while this disease gripped the country. Here is the position of then President Mbeki in 2001.
President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa has written to Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang, ordering her to consider a cut in the AIDS budget. He claims to have discovered World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics from 1995 on the Internet showing that HIV/AIDS causes only a relatively tiny number of deaths in
South Africa—2,653.
Mbeki cynically warned her that the figures would “provoke a howl of displeasure and a concerted propaganda campaign from those who have convinced themselves that HIV/AIDS is the single biggest cause of death in our country.” He continued, “These are the people whose prejudices led them to discover the false reality, among other things, that we are running out of space in our cemeteries as a result of unprecedented deaths caused by HIV/AIDS.
“Nevertheless, whatever the intensity of the hostile propaganda that might be provoked by the WHO statistics, we cannot allow that government policy and programmes should be informed by misperceptions, however widespread and well-established they may seem to be.”
This is where both Dr. Duesberg and Dr. Farber became unwitting accomplices in their propaganda. Dr. Duesberg wrote several books in the late 1980's and 1990's denying the existence of AIDS. Their theories were embedded in another hypothesis that most gays were also heavy drug users and their so called "AIDS", as Dr. Duesberg at least saw it, was usually simply the degeneration of the body from years of drug use. This theory, laced with homophobia, became the perfect tool for any government looking to deflect any responsibility for dealing with the disease. (a government just like that of South Africa) These books along with much of his other statement became the subject of propaganda for the South African government. Here is what Dr. Duesberg said at one such conference.
According to the WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Records, the whole continent of Africa has generated between 1991 and 1999 a rather steady yield of 60,000 to 90,000 AIDS cases annually, on average about 75,000 (WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Records since 1991). Based on the last available data from South Africa, 8,976 cases were reported there between 1994 and 1996 by the WHO, corresponding to about 4,500 cases per year (WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Records 1998 and 1995). The WHO does not report how many of these cases are deaths, how many survive with, and how many recover from AIDS.
However, it is evident from the WHO data that the African AIDS epidemic is not following the bell-shaped curve of an exponential rise and subsequent sharp drop with immunity, that are typical of infectious epidemics. Instead it drags on like a
nutritionally or environmentally caused disease (Seligmann et al., 1984), that steadily affects, what appears to be only a very small percentage of the African population.
Given a current African population of 616 million (United Nations Environment Programme, June 15, 2000), and an average of 75,000 African AIDS cases per year, it follows that only 0.012% of the African population is annually suffering or dying from AIDS. Likewise only 0.01% of the South African population was suffering from AIDS between 1994 and 1996, based on the 4,500 annual cases and a population of approximately 44 million (US Agency for International Development, "HIV/AIDS in the developing World", May 1999). This means that the new African AIDS epidemic only represents a very small fraction of normal African mortality.
Dr. Duesberg then went on to make the case that AIDS is not real because it doesn't follow the same statistical models as all other epidemics. (you can read the entire diatrobe by clicking the link provided) This sort of hypothesis along with his book, Inventing the AIDS Virus, were used by the South African government for more than a decade as part of a well coordinated propaganda machine so that they could sit by and do nothing while their population repeated the pandameic of the Black Plagues that Wil Rondini spoke of.
It was only in the last two years that the government finally acknowledged the crisis.It was only in the last few years that the South African government finally acknowledged the crisis that is killing off their population.
The South African government yesterday announced a dramatic reversal of its approach to the country's Aids crisis, promising increased availability of drugs and endorsing the efforts of civic groups battling the disease.
"We must take our fight against Aids to a much higher level," the deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, told a conference of Aids activists, who until recently had been ignored and even denounced by the government. "We must tighten up so that ARV [antiretroviral] drugs are more accessible, especially to the poor. Education and prevention of HIV infection must be scaled up. Our people want us to unite on this issue in the best interests of the health and wellbeing of our nation. Working together we can defeat this disease," she said to cheers from a crowd of health professionals, church leaders and labour officials.
Experts said the government's policy change could save thousands of lives. An estimated 5.4 million of South Africa's 47 million people are infected with HIV, one of the highest ratios in the world. "This is a sea change," said Mark Heywood, director of the Aids Law Project. "We're not across the ocean yet, but now the government is sailing in the right direction."
Of course, after looking the other way for nearly two decades while the disease gripped their nation, the measure maybe too little too late. No doubt AIDS deniers like Duesberg and Farber played their small roles in killing millions.
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James J. Murtagh, Jr. is a doctor of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine, and the Medical Director of several sleep laboratories in Southern Ohio. Dr. Murtagh extensively writes on medical ethics. Dr. Murtagh is the founder of a new (more...)
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