Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Local AIDS denialism!

If you don't pay a lot of attention to the lunatic fringes, you may not be aware that there are a fair number of people out there who deny the well-established link between HIV and AIDS.

Sure, there are the crackpots like Jeremiah Wright who think that the government invented HIV, but they're not the ones I'm talking about. Rather, I'm talking about people like Peter Tocci of Leominster, who in addition to being a local "holistic healer," just wrote a horribly misinformed letter to the editor that appears in the S&E today.

Fisking time!

Tocci starts off in the realm of reality. Don't worry, it won't last long.
On Jan. 30, the Sentinel & Enterprise ran a story about AIDS activist John Chittick's return from his awareness campaign in Africa.

On March 11, a Fitchburg march for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was reported.

Dedicated people like Mr Chittick, as well as Dorine Russo, who courageously told her story at the march, convey official AIDS information in good faith.
Well, that's pretty factual. See here for Chittick's website if you like. He's a good guy, doing good work, and is from Fitchburg.

Sadly, Tocci's use of the phrase "official AIDS information" suggests what's to come. So let's get on with it.
However, many qualified, even distinguished, scientists such as Nobel laureates Walter Gilbert and Kary Mullis, question HIV/AIDS. HIV was never isolated, and no study proves it causes AIDS.
There we go!

Our letter-writer gets his facts wrong right from the start. While Walter Gilbert did win the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1980, and was indeed an AIDS denialist, it appears that he changed his mind no later than 2006, due to the efficacy of antivirals in dealing with HIV/AIDS.

Kary Mullis, on the other hand, is not only the winner of the Chemistry Nobel in 1993, but remains an AIDS denialist. That's far from his only batshit-crazy belief, though.
In the lab, Mullis kept his beer in the radiation refrigerator, scoffing at safety regulations. He disputes that humankind can do anything to harm the environment. He believes in alien abductions; that he was visited by a radiant raccoon ET; in astrology; in telepathy; in “astral planes.” He happily recalls synthesizing experimental psychedelic drugs—and trying them out on himself. “It takes all kinds,” they say, and Mullis is in his own category. Colorful, creative, no doubt quite intelligent, he is many things…but not exactly a reliable guide to scientific facts and clear thinking, as the above examples show.
So our letter-writer has cited a guy who doesn't agree with him and a total nutcase as evidence for his claim. He pretty much had to go with these guys, though. After all, Mullis is the only Nobel winner to deny that HIV causes AIDS, and Gilbert at least used to agree.

How about "HIV was never isolated"? That's not true either, though it indeed hasn't been isolated to the very restrictive and largely arbitrary specifications that AIDS denialists demand. Go figure.

"[N]o study proves it causes AIDS"? Almost too absurd to even respond to. If you want to see some such studies, you could start with this and then dig into the references it cites. That's a tiny fraction of the studies out there, of course.

Phew! That was a lot of crap in one little paragraph. Let's move on.
No one denies people are sick. Cause(s), definitions, and approaches are what's being challenged.

Ralph Moss, Ph.D., author of The Cancer Industry, said, "The paradigm that was laid down for how to milk the cancer problem is basically the same paradigm which is being followed in milking the AIDS problem."
Hey, we're back to quoting crazy people! First, let me note that Moss's Ph.D. is in classics, nothing even remotely science related. He's a quack, who wants you to have coffee enemas and eat shark cartilage to prevent cancer (because sharks supposedly don't get cancer, even though they do).

So I'm pretty comfortable just dismissing him out of hand. I'll make sure to look him up if I ever have any questions about Jane Eyre or something, though.

More from our letter-writer:
Many people are taking highly toxic "anti-retroviral" (ARV) drugs. The DNA-chain terminator AZT was originally a cancer drug so toxic it was shelved. But the deadlier the disease definition, the deadlier the drug allowed, so AZT was revived.
The lies and misinformation just keep coming!

First, AZT is a reverse transcriptase inhibitor. It's not primarily a DNA chain terminator, for reasons too esoteric to get into here (see here if you're curious).

Second, it wasn't shelved because it was too toxic. Here's what its inventor had to say about it:
"It proved to be completely inactive in all of the test systems [Dr Sartorelli] employed. In my laboratory I found AZT incapable of inhibiting the growth of Jensen sarcoma cells in vitro at very high concentrations. Thus, AZT showed no activity as a potential anticancer drug at that time."
In other words, it was shelved as an anticancer drug because it was pretty crummy as an anticancer drug. Go figure.

Back to Tocci:
The lone AZT study used to manufacture FDA approval was a shambles. But treatment cost $18,000 a year at the time.
Those two statements don't go together, and have absolutely no relevance to the issue. Moving on.
Certain ARVs, such as Nevirapine/Lamivudine/Zidovudine, also contain the politically approved neurotoxin-carcinogen aspartame.
I have no idea if those drugs "contain" aspartame, but I can say that aspartame is neither a neurotoxin nor a carcinogen, so who cares?

Also, this isn't relevant to the topic either. At this point, Tocci is just running through a series of his misconceptions about health. I know who I won't be visiting next time I need a "holistic healer" (which is never, because they're quacks).
Officially, HIV antibodies (revealed by unreliable tests) are a death sentence. But you can "live with HIV" if you take toxic drugs whose effects, if they kill you, will be blamed on the virus.
Seriously? I have trouble believing even Tocci believes that nonsense. If you die from drug toxicity, it will be blamed on drug toxicity. That's why they do studies like this one that examine AZT and liver function. Because they recognize the dangers.
Authority recommends mandatory HIV testing and flu vaccinations (mercury-laced) for pregnant women: Pregnancy, flu vaccines and flu itself (among numerous other things) give false-positive HIV tests.
Oh boy, he's an antivaccination loon too! Jackpot!

Yes, some of the flu vaccines available contain thimerasol. Not that this matters either, since thimerasol isn't dangerous in these doses. Of course, that link comes from "Authority" (AKA people who know what they're talking about), so I'm sure Tocci would reject it.

As for false positives, a lot of things can conceivably cause them. Which is why any positive HIV test is followed by a confirmatory test. When using the Western Blot confirmation, the false-positive rate in a low prevalence area is about one in 250,000.

Once again, though, this isn't relevant to the topic. Tocci just likes to vomit his ignorance everywhere.

Wait, there's more!
My contact in South Africa doggedly researches HIV/AIDS. She says the millions of HIV-positives there may be false. This, and widespread depletion of CD4 cells, she says, are likely attributable to genetically modified (GM) corn.

GM organisms were introduced to Africa in 1985 as "food aid," coinciding with the onset of AIDS. There was also epidemiological correlation early on with the World Health Organization Smallpox Eradication Program.
Oh boy, he has a "contact" in South Africa (where they shower to avoid HIV) who has an utterly insane idea about corn!

That idea isn't backed up by any research I could find, though I did find this Onion piece about how "Generic Candy Corn Will Give you AIDS." Maybe that's where Tocci is getting his information!

I couldn't find any information about the supposed correlation between corn and AIDS. Probably because there isn't one, but even if there is it hardly matters. Correlation is a far cry from causation.

Getting tired, let's wrap this nonsense up.
Society must thoroughly rethink the HIV/AIDS hypothesis. Please look carefully into this before acting on official pronouncements.
Mr. Tocci clearly doesn't follow his own advice. If he did, then he wouldn't be promoting so many utter falsehoods.

Of course, actually following the science and the massive body of evidence tying HIV to AIDS would be detrimental to Mr. Tocci's quack healing business. And we wouldn't want that, would we?

That's it. Hopefully nobody was too tempted to take medical advice from some "holistic healer" who wrote a letter to the editor of a crummy paper in a small community. But just in case, now you know better.