[T]he Organizing Committee deserves a substantial credit for having accepted Rethinking AIDS as a legitimate association involved in the fight against AIDS. In fact, the Organization accepted the Italian member of the board of directors of Rethinking AIDS, Prof. Marco Ruggiero, as a qualified representative of the HIV/AIDS community and granted him free registration and access to all the events, including the sumptuous gala at the world famous Palazzo della Signoria seat of the Medici Family in Renaissance times. (Ruggiero/Crowe: The End of Dissent)
Ecco l’articolo tradotto in italiano
The latest post on Henry Bauer’s blog is introduced by this explanation of why an old affair has become newsworthy again:
The Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology has now published (volume 116 #1, supplement, 2011, p. 157) the abstract of the poster shown in AIDS Rethinking presented in Mainstream Conferences (posted on 2011/09/29). The mainstream literature now contains this summary of crucial deficiencies of HIV/AIDS theory, in a journal abstracted by PubMed.
It is indeed cause for celebration whenever dissidents get to say their piece in any public forum, but as Bauer informs us, we have already celebrated with him the inclusion of this paper in a mainstream forum, so what’s the significance of achieving a reference in PubMed in this sort of roundabout way? The honest answer is very little – apart from it being a feather in the author’s cap.
In light of this, the question becomes why does Bauer pretend that there is anything new or extraordinary in achieving a PubMed reference? We have previously documented how he and his Rethinking AIDS cronies are busy rewriting the history of dissidence to place themselves at the centre of it, and this could be seen as simply part of the effort to leave one’s scent on as many fire hydrants as possible in the battle for dissident territory. But there seems to be something even more fundamental at play. We have commented several times on Rethinking AIDS’s increasing eagerness to become accepted by or even be part of the Mainstream. Their struggle to gain access to polite society has led them to declare the “End of Dissent”, to identify themselves as disciples of Luc Montagnier, and even to support the existence of a proven Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Especially since the Duesberg et al. and Ruggiero et al. papers were retracted by Medical Hypotheses we have seen these victory dances every time Rethinking AIDS Board members manage to get anything published, no matter how inane.
As Bauer’s latest post shows, bagging mainstream references has become an end in itself, a kind of credit convertible into dissident capital. The metaphor prompts the question, how is that “capital” expended? A couple of recent examples are revealing. When asked recently by a third party whether he is closer to Peter Duesberg, to Henry Bauer or to the Perth Group on virus isolation, Marco Ruggiero offered the following “clarification”:
I agree with Prof. Duesberg and Bauer. However, I have little interest in metaphysical retrovirology. I run a laboratory and I do research;
many others just talk. (Ruggiero email, Oct 2011)
In other words, the Perth Group are not real scientists, they “just talk” and should therefore be dismissed out of hand. Profs. Duesberg and Bauer, on the other hand, are real researchers (even if none of them has worked with “HIV”), which means that Ruggiero automatically agrees with both their mutually exclusive positions. If the reader finds this kind of defensive snobbery familiar, it’s because it’s the core argument used by the mainstream against all AIDS dissidents. As we’ve pointed out in a previous post, the self-congratulatory list of journals, organisations and scientific celebrities that now “accept dissent” that gushed triumphantly from Ruggiero’s (and Crowe’s) keyboard on the occasion of the Italian Conference on AIDS and Retroviruses in Firenze, 2011 did indeed mark the “End of Dissent” as far as Ruggiero and RA are concerned. They are now openly anti-dissent and even quicker than the establishment apologists to use their mainstream credentials, real or imagined, as a club to beat dissenters with.
The recent examples aren’t confined to Ruggierio. When Bauer recently was made aware that another blogger had commented on one of his posts, his knee-jerk response was:
Since that blogger is anonymous, there’s no way to discover whether he or she has any of the background called for if one wishes to be a pundit about scientific matter. (…) To compare the credentials of “Orac” to mine, have a look at my vita, at the books and articles I’ve written, and particularly the uniformly positive reviews of my books about science and pseudoscience. (Bauer, Nov 2011)
Bauer shares Ruggiero’s sentiments: if someone cannot match his credentials, and on top of that doesn’t agree with him, why should he bother with what they have to say? (“Orac” didn’t have anything to say, in fact his argument against Bauer was similar to Bauer’s argument against him, but Bauer’s readers would never know).
In another recent email exchange, Duesberg, Crowe, Bauer and Ruggiero expressed their scientific opinions on the Perth Group’s latest Statement in this manner: ”bizarre”, “sad”, “It’s neither science nor even conventional politics. Are they getting old?”. The last comment came from Duesberg, so we gather that his lab research and the fine company he keeps has made him an expert not only on the difference between science and politics, but also on the fine distinction between conventional and unconventional politics. Here Rethinking Aids’s favourite maverick mocks the Perth Group for not being “conventional” in full agreement with Rethinking AIDS’s new brand of Respectable Rethinking. Characteristically, for all the condescension and smugness in the eight-mail exchange, there were no specifics about what the distinguished researchers found “sad”, “bizarre” or generally unscientific. There is not even the faintest hint that any of them had read and considered the statement they were commenting on, but the message is clear enough: The conventional politicians and scientists of Rethinking AIDS, in lofty pursuit of PubMed trophies, consider themselves above engaging with the group that represents the position of most AIDS rethinkers.
At this point those dissidents who still believe in dealing with the substance of people’s arguments rather than just their publication record or the number of stars on their shoulder might ask what the ”summary of crucial deficiencies in the HIV/AIDS theory” that Bauer and Ruggiero managed to get referenced in PubMed consists of. The answer is none. They list a couple of things (basically Bauer’s favourites about racial disparities in HIV prevalence) the authors find paradoxical about “HIV” epidemiology. They then proceed to offer the explanation that these “deficiencies” are actually due to:
weaknesses in HIV testing, which are the probable reason for at least some of the troubling conundrums and mutually contradictory data that seem inexplicable (Bauer/ Ruggiero)
If Bauer and Ruggiero’s theory is correct it means that the issues they list are unrelated to any deficiencies in the HIV/AIDS theory. Technically flawed tests are just that, technical problems that can never translate into deficient theory, and if the “deficiencies in HIV/AIDS theory” summarised by the authors are so easily explained away they can hardly be “crucial”. In fact, if the reader truly wishes to find PubMed-abstracted summaries of deficiencies in the HIV/AIDS theory based on epidemiology, simply do a search on Peter Duesberg. Similarly, if one wants to find PubMed-abstracted summaries (and much more) of ”weaknesses in ‘HIV’ testing” in Africa and elsewhere, one can do so here or here or here or here or here or a score of similar references.
Bauer and Ruggiero add nothing but fog to these accounts. For instance, their summary begins by stating the fundamental problem that there is “no gold standard HIV test”, and this immediately begs the first question: Why talk of a gold standard test when it is the gold standard itself that is missing? The authors even go on to claim that if such a test were in existence false-positives (contradictory test results) would not occur, which is patently absurd. The distinguished research scientists have managed to confuse gold standard and gold standard test to produce almost inextricable nonsense from the outset:
This situation has been particularly troublesome in the case of HIV, because there is no “gold standard” HIV test and the typically quantitated measure, CD4, varies widely for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with HIV infection. For example, a person pronounced HIV-positive after having some vaccinations became HIV-negative again after a time, something that is not regarded as possible if HIV- positive denotes definitely active infection, as is commonly assumed. (Bauer/Ruggiero)
One should be clear that all talk of a gold standard test involves an infinite regress. Let us say that a test that detects a certain hormone is the gold standard test of pregnancy because out of 1 million cases of pregnancy it was positive every single time, and in 1 million control cases of no pregnancy it was negative every single time. We would then need to ask how it was established that there really was a pregnancy in the positive cases and none in the negative cases to validate the hormone test. Perhaps the answer would be that within 9 months or less we were able to touch and look at a newborn baby. It is reasonable to say that the “touch and look ” test trumps the hormone marker test, but it is also quite reasonable to ask how we know that our senses are not betraying us in any number of those cases. The answer might be that our observations are confirmed by other people’s observations and by instruments that are known not to fail, for example those used in the aforementioned hormone marker test. And so on in an infinite regress or infinite circle of mutually confirmatory tests. That is why Cowen and Weiss, Bauer’s supreme reference in most of his papers, tell us that the gold standard is ultimately a matter of consensus:
Gold Standard (Reference Standard) A definitive means of categorisation, widely accepted by experts in the field, for absolutely defining the presence or absence of a condition (such as HIV infection). (Cowen and Weiss. See Eleopulos’s PS to her peer review of a Bauer paper for JPANDS)
The problem therefore is not lack of a gold standard test, that can be solved merely by sitting down and “widely accept” that a given test or test algorithm is the gold standard. The problem is that the most fundamental agreed upon gold standard test, virus isolation as described by the Perth Group in their papers on the subject as well as most virology textbooks, has not been achieved. In short, the fundamental problem is not the missing test but the missing virus, and Ruggiero/Bauer in just a few lines manage to completely obscure this simple point.
As Wikipedia explains, the ideal gold standard test is 100% correct 100% of the time in accordance with all consensus and all confirmatory testing, so what Bauer and Ruggiero are expressing when they claim that a false positive result could not occur if there existed a gold standard test (and assuming that test was used as reference test every time) is either a tautology (the test is considered correct by definition as established by consensus), or by gold standard test they mean classic virus isolation, the one test accepted even by dissidents.
However, Wikipedia also calls the gold standard test hypothetical in most cases, because the agreed upon gold standard test can occasionally be wrong or produce contradictory results in practice. In either scenario contradictory test results, with the same test or with different tests, have nothing to do with whether a gold standard is in existence or not. If virus isolation were the gold standard would Western Blot and ELISA cease to produce false positives? Of course not. It would be possible to make them extremely accurate, but there is no guarantee it would make problems like cross-reacting antibodies disappear. If the contradictory results occur on the same test, gold standard or not, it would either be because of a flaw in the particular test kit/procedure or because the object of the test truly has disappeared. Why would a gold standard test be inherently immune to either of these possibilities if the present tests aren’t?
One could object that this is what Ruggiero and Bauer really want to say, and that they are cleverly undermining the idea that “HIV” infection is necessarily permanent. Unfortunately, if that is what they are trying to do it is far from clever. First of all, what does the issue of permanence of HIV infection have to do with the performance of the tests and whether there is a gold standard? There is no connection. In their anecdotal example of a friend who tested positive after receiving vaccinations, but later negative there are two possibilities:
1. The HIV infection was transient and the test correctly detected HIV’s presence and later absence.
2. This was a false positive brought on by the vaccination or other factors unrelated to HIV, and the follow-up testing correctly identified this as a false positive.
In either case the physician will correctly rule in the end that there is no cause for concern, so what exactly is Ruggiero’s and Bauer’s problem? Perhaps they prefer a different formulation:
1. The tests have technical difficulties with cross-reactive antibodies that are not specific to HIV, especially in places like Africa.
This is not news to any of the HIV experts. The only thing that could be of interest is if there were no (proof of) HIV, and all antibody reactions therefore must be considered unrelated to it.
2. HIV was really there and now it’s gone (Montagnier HON), but the tests still pick it up.
If that is the case it means there is a real virus, that it has been isolated, and that its proteins and genetic sequence are known. In other words, there is a gold standard for the HIV tests. This is in fact (by far the most expert) co-author Ruggiero’s express opinion, and he even rejects the notion that the existence of a gold standard test would mean that the risk of false positives is eliminated:
Any test, by definition, cannot be 100% accurate. Specificity and sensitivity often are inversely related; therefore un-specific diagnoses of HIV-positivity are likely to occur as with any other test. In general, however, once such problems have been resolved, I would say that in the presence of confirmed antibodies and detection of the so-called viral load (although often over-estimated), I would say that an encounter with the virus has occurred. (Ruggiero to Celia Farber in “Over the Rainbow”)
If by the careful formulation “encounter with the virus has occurred” Ruggiero wants to leave open the possibility that the infecting retrovirus was defeated and eradicated, the issue of real interest would be to know how this is possible, and how it is possible for the eradicated virus to leave antibodies and genetic material behind for the various “HIV” tests to pick up indefinitely. If this is Ruggiero’s and/or Bauer’s true position, why haven’t they written a truly original paper on their revolutionary discovery for PubMed instead of constructing elaborate webs of almost impenetrable self-contradictions?
A final question is how Bauer and Ruggiero got this mishmash past peer reviewers and editors. Even if the finer points of “HIV” antibody testing are lost on the Italian Journal of Anatomy and Embryology, how could they fail to notice that the justifying premise for writing about it in an article on dissection for anatomy students is completely nonsensical?
An important consequence of deficient information about HIV epidemiology is that students of anatomy may fear risking possible infection in dissection laboratories when the actual risk is negligible even in respect to anonymous cadavers in South Africa where the supposed incidence of HIV is particularly high. (Ruggiero/Bauer)
Firstly, how can the authors know the risk is negligible in various contingent circumstances if there is no reliable HIV test? Secondly, vague speculations as to how many of their cadavers might test false and true positive based on indirect evidence from epidemiology are hardly relevant or reassuring to the anatomy students. If fear is born of ignorance, how could it possibly allay that fear to introduce yet more confusion and uncertainty concerning “HIV”? After reading the Bauer/Ruggiero article the students have to worry about the real number of countrywide infections, including their own status, being unknown and inherently unknowable, whereas all the epidemiology they previously needed to care about was how many accidental, real HIV infections resulting in AIDS cases have actually occurred during dissection, based on those state of the art test algorithms that at least one of the authors considers quite satisfactory. What could be more reassuring than a couple of paragraphs pointing this out if it were really unknown to the, according to Bauer and Ruggiero, perpetually terrified anatomy students?
Ecco l’articolo tradotto in italiano: http://bit.ly/ygVOKR