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AIDS Hype In Africa? No HIV Test Required, Disease Defined Differently Than In U.S.

By Jon Basil Utley

Although Ex-President Clinton declared AIDS, particularly in Africa, to be a national security threat to the U.S., it turns out that AIDS in Africa -- which doesn't even require an HIV test to diagnose -- may be a very different condition than AIDS in America.

Evidence shows that "AIDS" in Africa is just a new description of many age-old diseases common to nations in misery and war with starvation, wrecked economies and ruined public health services. HIV tests, essential to any diagnosis of AIDS in the United States, aren't even given in Africa, except to tiny samples of the population.

For Africa, there is the "Bangui Definition." Decided upon at a World Health Organization meeting in October, 1985, it's almost never mentioned in major media alarms about exploding AIDS cases.

The meeting was organized by an official of the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Joseph McCormick. He explains in his book, "Level 4, Virus Hunters of the CDC," "... no virus tests suited to widespread use, yet existed. ... We needed a set of guidelines ... The definition has proven useful in areas where no testing is available."

Indeed, the definition served to explode the number of "AIDS cases." Panic stories began to abound of entire populations at risk with 30 or 40 percent rates of infection and "22.5 million victims now infected with HIV." (Boston Globe, Oct. 10, 1999)

To have AIDS, according to the Bengui Definition, the patient must have two of these three symptoms: "prolonged fevers for a month or more, weight loss over 10 percent, or prolonged diarrhea," combined with any one of several minor symptoms -- chronically swollen lymph nodes, persistent cough for more than a month, persistent herpes, itching skin inflammation or several others.

But many of these symptoms show up from other African diseases, now vastly spread because of the political chaos. Poor sanitation, poverty, malnutrition and parasitic diseases were always common and are now endemic. In America, AIDS is a name for 30-odd diseases found together with a positive test for HIV antibodies. Consequently, being HIV positive is the requirement for a diagnosis of AIDS in the U.S.

In addition, there's even a credibility problem with such HIV testing as it is done. The U.S. Government's CDC report, "HIV, AIDS, and Reproductive Health," explains on page 99 "the high rate of false-positive screening tests" and the need for subsequent confirmatory tests. It also states, "All HIV testing is subject to error and laboratory workers with less experience have high rates of false results."

False positive test results with the common HIV ELISA tests can come from many causes, including pregnancy and diseases endemic to poverty-stricken Africa, such as malaria, tuberculosis and leprosy. The Western Blot is a more precise follow-up test, but expensive and rarely done in Africa.

Test results derived from small, infected groups are extrapolated to include whole populations in Africa. In 1994, an article in the Journal of Infectious Diseases concluded that HIV tests were useless in central Africa because the prevalence of these microbes caused a 70 percent false positive rate.

Transmission to infants from infected mothers' milk is reportedly widespread, but can't really be checked until 15 months after birth, when the infant develops its own antibodies.

There does, however, exist a strict tally of AIDS cases actually reported to the World Health Organization. The Nov. 26, 1999, "Weekly Epidemiological Record" reports a cumulative total of 794,444 cases of AIDS in Africa since 1982.

"It's also a money game, and Africans learned to play it," says Michael Fumento, author of "The Myth of Heterosexual AIDS" -- "going to places with high rates and then extrapolating positive test results over the entire nation, because that's where the money is. If diseases are diagnosed as traditional, few Westerners care, but if they are described as AIDS, money and help come flowing in from Western nations."

For example, tuberculosis deaths have now been reclassified as AIDS deaths in many African statistical reports. It's the same disease, but now it qualifies for help.

These facts are amazingly unreported in America. Tom Bethell, Washington editor of the American Spectator, writes in a recent article titled, "Inventing an Epidemic," how Newsweek, the New York Times and other major media write long, learned reports, but somehow never mention the absence of HIV testing in arriving at infection statistics.

Now South Africa's President, Thabo Mbeki, has raised a political firestorm by questioning the conventional "wisdom" about African AIDS -- supposedly infecting 10 percent of South Africa's population -- and has brought the wrath of the AIDS establishment upon himself. He argues that African AIDS may not be the same disease as in the U.S. Mbeki also said he is surprised how people claiming to be scientists "are determined that scientific discourse and inquiry should cease, because 'most of the world' is of one mind."

In questioning the reason for what appears to be gross exaggeration of AIDS statistics, experts bring up the old legal term of "Cui bono" -- who benefits? The list is very long.

In money terms, first there is the pharmaceutical industry. If AIDS in Africa is now a national security threat, as President Clinton has declared, American money will be appropriated for the very expensive AIDS drugs to spend in Africa -- billions of dollars of potential profits. If Washington doesn't appropriate funds, there's the fear that African nations might buy generic, foreign-made copies of U.S. drugs.

Then there is the public health establishment. More billions can go for salaries, offices, staffing, travel and long reports. The World Health Organization budget has skyrocketed along with African AIDS statistics. Many public health officials are well meaning, seeing AIDS fears as the only way to get money to help the misery afflicting so much of Africa. In America, government AIDS money is spread far and wide. Federal spending now tops $10 billion and is increasing yearly even as case loads fall.

One of the most pernicious effects of the scare tactics is the wish to "prove" that AIDS is a heterosexual disease that "anybody can get," distracting from its most recognized form of transmission -- intravenous drug needle sharing and unprotected anal sex.

As Bethell writes, "The failure of American AIDS to 'explode' into the general population led the authorities to look for the phenomenon elsewhere. New AIDS cases in the U.S. began falling before the introduction of 'protease inhibitor' therapy, and from 1997 to 1998 dropped from about 60,000 to 48,000. Of teenagers diagnosed in 1998, only 68 were classified as 'heterosexual contact.' Among women, AIDS diagnoses fell from 13,000 in 1997 to 11,000 in 1998. ... If the very high AIDS spending by the U.S. government is to be sustained, the emergency would have to be drummed up elsewhere, ... so Africa beckoned."

Also, writes Bethell, the CDC's McCormick was interested in trying to prove that AIDS was a heterosexual disease, contagious from regular sex, and claiming, "There's a one to one sex ratio in Zaire."

However, contradicting the highly-publicized "heterosexual" AIDS infection rates in sub-Saharan Africa, HIV is difficult to contract. Under normal, healthy conditions, the chances of an infected man transmitting the virus to an unprotected woman are less then 2 in 1,000, according to the World Bank. And the August 15, 1997, "American Journal of Epidemiology" reported that male-to-female transmission of HIV is extremely difficult, requiring on average one thousand unprotected sexual (non-anal) contacts, and female-to-male requires on average 8,000.

Although helping alleviate the human misery in Africa is widely regarded as a worthwhile endeavor for Western nations, it now seems likely that this help is being engineered by vested interests that participate, however nobly, in gross distortion of statistics.

WorldNetDaily called the White House AIDS policy director's office three times, specifying the question about how AIDS statistics were arrived at without HIV tests. Calls were not returned.

The New York Times public affairs office did send copies of articles about the scarcity of AIDS testing in Africa, but none of them questioned the relationship between scarce testing and high numbers of supposed HIV positive cases.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta referred questions about African AIDS statistics to UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS operation. UNAIDS sent extensive material about AIDS testing methods, but didn't answer the questions about African AIDS statistics.

Jon Basil Utley, formerly a foreign correspondent in South America for Knight Ridder newspapers and associate editor of the Times of the Americas, is the Robert A. Taft Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He has also been a long-time commentator for the Voice of America.

COMMENT: Sad but apparently true as it sure makes sense to me. Inflate the statistics in Africa and do not tell the public the numbers are not even generated on lab tests so the drug companies can generate more huge profits by selling their "cures" for the epidemic

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