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Denial is Not Refutation: HIV Industry Needs to Investigate Medical Transmission

An article about “the role of blood-borne HIV infections from unsanitary healthcare procedures” is a couple of years old now, but it’s so rare to read anything about non-sexually transmitted HIV written by an institution connected with the UN, it’s still worth reading. It could be years before they cover the subject again.

This article responds to research published in the International Journal of STDs and AIDS which shows that risks of hospital acquired HIV infection are very high in many developing countries, particularly those in Africa which have the highest prevalence rates in the world.

The authors of the research try to understand why non-sexual HIV transmission, through unsafe medical procedures, is so understudied. In fact, UNAIDS and other well funded bodies even deny that such risks play a part in serious HIV epidemics, though they have never succeeded in explaining how serious epidemics arise in the first place.

The usual explanation is that individual sexual behavior is responsible for about 80% (or even 90%) of HIV and most of the other 20% is transmitted from by mothers to their children. But no one has ever found people who engage in high enough levels of sexual behavior to explain the 80% figure. And some countries have found that up to 20% of HIV positive infants have HIV negative mothers.

While the well funded HIV institutions either imply or state that infants must have been infected sexually, perhaps by their father or another relative, such levels of sexual assault have never been identified anywhere, nor would very high levels of these kinds of behavior be enough to give rise to HIV prevalence rates found in Swaziland, Botswana, South Africa and other sub-Saharan African countries.

Enough research has been carried out to show that medically acquired HIV transmission certainly occurs, and that it might even occur a lot. And while sexual transmission of HIV is very inefficient, medical transmission is many times more efficient, with some procedures carrying up to 100% probability of transmission, for example, contaminated blood transfusions.

The only thing missing is proper investigation. Those who fund HIV research and carry it out seem unwilling to do research that would either confirm their contention that medical transmission hardly ever occurs, or indicate that HIV prevention efforts need to concentrate a bit less on individual sexual behavior and more on what goes on in hospitals and other health facilities.

The debate goes on. One might expect scientists, or anyone with at least some small acquaintance with scientific research, to give greater credence to those who have carried out and published research. But this doesn’t appear to be the case, not yet anyhow. Those opposed to the view that non-sexual HIV transmission could be more common than currently estimated are also strongly opposed to investigating or researching the issue.

In addition to suggestions that non-sexual transmission is ‘kept off the international agenda’, others have pointed to double standards in research ethics, healthcare safety and scientific studies; evidence showing that hospital acquired HIV transmission is common has been knowingly withheld in African countries, evidence that would be made public in Western countries, even in the countries who have funded the research in question.

An ‘expert’ called Francois Venter took the usual option chosen by defenders of the HIV industry status quo: he branded those who disagreed as conspiracy theorists. Yet he accepted that too little work has been carried out in this area. However, there is no hint of conspiracy in the published work of those who are calling for further investigation. This kind of ad hominem response does nothing to strengthen the case for the HIV industry.

The same expert even claims that unsafe needle practices in health facilities does not explain why relatively wealthy countries like Botswana and South Africa have more severe HIV epidemics than less wealthy countries in Africa. This shows that he really doesn’t understand the claim that is being made. Far more people in high HIV prevalence countries like Botswana and South Africa have access to health facilities, and therefore face more risks than those in countries where the majority of people hardly ever get near a health facility.

The idea that most people in countries like Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya are protected from HIV infection because their health services are so poor is a terrible indictment on the understanding that Venter and his colleagues have of HIV transmission in Africa. But a number of studies have shown that proximity to urban areas, roads and health facilities is associated with higher HIV prevalence. Those in rural areas, away from roads, health facilities and other services, are far less likely to be infected.

Lying about non-sexually transmitted HIV, or keeping people from researching and publishing about it, is not going to protect people who are currently being infected. Nor is it going to reduce the levels of stigma that build up around a disease that is said to be mainly transmitted sexually. UNAIDS and the rest of the industry needs to come clean and do some convincing investigative work.

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